Gear review

iPhone as a GPS or a “Standalone” GPS?

Mt RainieriPhone Topo MapAfter a few seasons in the mountains with my iPhone as my GPS, it was finally drawn to the real test. Full storm conditions on Mt. Rainier on a route I have never been on. There was never visibility farther than 20 meters and most of the time it was hard to see your hand in front of your face. The storm was wet so everything was riming and as we moved uphill we would start to sweat and the phone would condense with dripping water coming off it before it would start to freeze. I didn’t take too many pictures as the situation was waning of its fun and started to be more serious.

IMG_2989I will stay out of the technical hardware that the iPhone has and let Apple tell you what’s inside. However I will cover the practical tools and techniques that I used to navigate with the phone offline from cell reception.

First thing you will want to get for the iPhone is the LifeProof case. This case has proven itself through many drops as well as rain and snow storms in the mountains for me. I have never completely submerged the phone but have friends who have. I leave this in my sweaty pockets all day and even with a vapor pressure the phone stays bone dry.

Second, will be a back-up battery. The Morphie Juice Pack Pro is the one I carry. I didn’t use this on my 2 day trip up Rainier but have used it on 4 day trips in the past. I will charge the iPhone around 4 times. With this being said, I still go to airplane mode as much as possible. The GPS fix only takes a few seconds to find itself and this will  sustain the battery for a long time. I will also sleep with the phone in my sleeping bag to prevent it from getting too cold at night. I have only had problems with battery drain at temps less than zero degrees Fahrenheit.

topo map iconThird, will be what program to use. I have been using Topo Maps for awhile now. This app is $7.99 and is a one time fee. You can download all the maps for the U.S. and Canada with WIFI or cell signal. I tend to only download high res maps. You can import waypoints as well as export them. DropBox seems to be the way to do this most efficiently. You can read more about Topo Maps here:

The iPhone has become an indispensable tool in the mountains. From a way to communicate to a camera, to a notepad to journal, your ipod that drowns out the noise in a busy hut and now a very accurate GPS unit, I would say don’t leave home without it!

For more on the iPhone camera check out this post: Best Camera to Carry

If you have more questions feel free to email me:


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