Wednesday, 24 February 2021

ViewRanger: thoughts, memories, the future

On the GR5 Through the Alps, 2018

ViewRanger, the navigation and mapping app, is changing. In fact eventually the name will disappear as it's integrated into another app, Outdooractive. Recently I asked ViewRanger about the changes and wrote a piece on this for The Great Outdoors online. This elicited a large response. Many people obviously like ViewRanger and don't like the idea of it changing. 

On the Pacific Northwest Trail, 2010

Thinking about ViewRanger I realised that the app has accompanied me on every walk, long or short, for over a decade. No piece of physical equipment has done that. ViewRanger has been on several different phones in that time and has helped me navigate on the Pacific Northwest Trail and the GR5 Through the Alps, and in the High Sierra, Death Valley and, every month, the Scottish Highlands. Sometimes it's made navigation far easier than it would have been with just map and compass. Finding the hidden start of a faint trail in dense forest on the Pacific Northwest Trail, keeping me on the right ridge during a long descent through another forest into Death Valley, crossing the Cairngorm Plateau in a white-out.

ViewRanger in 2009

Having tried ViewRanger for the first time in 2009 I was impressed enough to use it on the Pacific Northwest Trail the next year. Indeed, I bought my first smartphone in order that I could do so. (I was loaned the one for the 2009 trial). After that smartphones came and went but ViewRanger remained. It did just what I wanted it to and it did it reliably.

Death Valley, 2016

Will Outdooractive be as useful and reliable? I hope so but I don't know yet. It's a much bigger app with far more features, most of which I probably won't want. As long as I can ignore them I won't mind that, just as I don't mind the ones that have been added to ViewRanger and which I've never used. My ideal navigation app has good mapping (OS/Harveys in the UK, equivalents elsewhere), gives your position fast and accurately, and can record or follow routes. That's it.

The ViewRanger app will be around for at least a year but it will disappear. I'll be sorry to see it go. It's been part of my outdoor life.


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