Clint from the Vernon ATV Club wrote an excellent article about trail navigation and ride planning tools. If you haven’t already subscribed (free to everyone) to the Vernon ATV Club newsletter do so now – the club regularly publishes informative, engaging content of value to all riders.
It takes years of experience to become a grizzled veteran trail rider that remembers all the roads, trails and intersections. A well kept secret of grizzled veteran trail riders is they are usually exceptionally good at using a GPS to track rides and have an abundance of previous ride tracks at hand when riding in the area again.
Exploring with no plan can be hugely rewarding and take you places most have never been, but it can also be fruitless and result and hours wandering forest service roads that dead end in cut blocks. Knowing how to find where trails are and then navigate those trails while riding can up your game from group ride follower to intrepid backcountry explorer.
Navigating new trails and riding areas can be broken into three steps:
- Ride Planning – how to find trails
- Ride Navigation – staying on the plotted course
- Ride Tracking – saving your track for future use
Part 1 – Ride Planning
Until you’ve built a database of trails you’re either going to do a lot of riding to find trails or you can access trails shared or published by others.
Even just a few years ago your options were basically limited to purchasing a chip for your GPS which provided a layer showing roads and trails. With the explosion of online services and apps these same trails can are available from a variety of sources with most offering free access to a limited feature set with premium paid options and in app purchases.
The homegrown success story, BRMB is based in BC and has been a popular option for ATV riders looking for trails for years. You’ve probably seen and/or used their paper mapbooks found in convenience stores, purchased a GPS chip for your Garmin or more recently accessed their information via smartphone GPS apps.
Paper Mapbooks – $29.95 + up
The 5th edition of the Thompson Okanagan Backroad Mapbook provides 51 maps at 1:200,000 scale covering the region. A good backup if your GPS quits and an effective tool for overall route planning but often not enough detail for ATV level route planning.
Also available as an ePUB or PDF file for use on your favourite smartphone, tablet or eReader. Note the ePUB/PDF is not georeferenced meaning you don’t know your position on the map.
GPS Maps – $69.95 + up
The 2020 version of Backroad GPS Maps for BC provides province wide coverage to a 1:20,000 scale. Much more than just ATV roads and trails, other information types include: lake/river/stream data, private land, wildlife management units for hunters, oil and gas location data, railway corridor markers, searchable points of interest and trails for all types of recreation users.
Compatible with Garmin Basecamp when connected to your GPS device with the SD card installed for trip planning on your Mac or Windows computer.
BRMB Web Map & App – FREE + up
BRMB has come to the party with their web enabled map and app GPS solution. It’s possible to use the Web Map / App free of charge but all the features you want and need for ride planning are hidden within the paid PRO plans. ATVBC members can try a PRO account free for 3 month without providing a credit card. Email [email protected] for the ATVBC member discount.
Once logged in at the PRO account level the features spill forth from all sides. Satellite and Topo maps are available, Backroad, Fishing, Hunting, Paddling, Park, Recsite, Trail, ATV, Snowmobile, Wildlife and Winter Adventure buckets contain numerous options that can be toggled on the map.
Pricing is listed below or visit the BRMB website:
- Free – unlimited basic platform access
- $3.50/month – month to month access to the PRO platform
- $35.00/year – year round PRO platform access
- $90.00/3 years – 3 year subscription to PRO platform
After purchasing an iPhone 7 Plus in 2016 I decided to make the move away from traditional GPS devices to using a smartphone GPS app. After testing 10+ apps that were available then, Gaia was my winner based on cost and features. Each year I review competitors and I still haven’t found a better GPS app for my purposes.
Use the webmap on your computer or tablet for planning rides. A free account is required to access the map, this limits you to basic map layers but gives the ability to view and save tracks shared by others.
Being able to search and save tracks shared by others means a nearly unlimited number of trails at your disposal.
Check out a few of my public tracks:
- Noble Canyon – 61km Loop Spring 2021
- Silver Creek Mt Ida – 38km Loop Fall 2020
- King Eddy/Harris Creek – 130km Loop Fall 2020
If after trying Gaia GPS you like it, get a discounted membership using Clint’s referral link.
The dominant player in the consumer GPS market, Garmin leads the way in dedicated handheld and dash mounted GPS products for ATVs.
On the ride planning side BirdsEye and TOPO maps can be purchased to add details to your GPS device and will load onto Gamin Basecamp when your GPS is connected to your computer. Without BirdsEye and TOPO Maps Basecamp doesn’t provide much information to do ride planning.
Basecamp is used to download tracks and send routes/waypoints to your GPS.
Garmin doesn’t currently have an online webmap or shared community trails database that I’m aware of.
Wikiloc is another excellent online community style webmap and app for all types of recreational activities.
A free Wikiloc account lets you search trails by name, activity type or location on the world map, download trails shared by others (tracks are simplified to 500 points for free accounts) track rides and upload your trails. It is possible to create a route on the webmap by using the “Draw your trail by hand” feature found under the Upload Trails option.
And all the others?
Oh ya, there are too many other options to list so we’ve stuck to the most popular tools used by ATVers for GPS navigation apps and planning tools. Let the Vernon ATV Club know what you use so we can compare and share with others.