GAIA GPS | Plan, Get In, Get Out

Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

Fat bikes are great exploration vehicles. Adventures can be as simple as heading out on a country path for a quick afternoon spin or as intricate as hitting an unknown back country trail geared up for bikepacking. Either adventure can turn quite nasty if you happen to lose your way.



Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

While a cell phone can get you out of trouble, it would not be the case if phone reception is sketchy or non existent. This is where some sort of GPS device and proper planning can get you back to civilization safely.

When looking for new bikepacking adventures my normal research would include an internet satellite image search for trails, printing the map and jotting down a few notes. This “preparation” worked rather well for me until my U24O (Under 24 Hour Overnight) adventure to Dead Wolf  that took a turn for the worse. I was fortunate that things did not go really bad, but it was an eye opener that convinced me I needed more advanced mapping tech and better planning.

Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

My initial research led me to a dedicated piece of GPS equipment. While they would provide the best mapping/tracking ability, I found that they were a little on the pricey side for my budget.

Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

I then started looking into the world of phone apps. I wanted a piece of technology that would allow me to plot a trip on my PC and upload to my phone. Being able to track distance, get elevation and look at existing maps would be great options to have as well. I tried several free apps, but they did not give me what I wanted, were not intuitive, challenging to learn and some had way to many pop ups for my liking.

Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

I stopped my search when I landed on Gaia GPS. Prowling around their site it looked like they had what I was looking for . . . and they had maps specifically for Canada. As Gaia is a subscription service I wanted to get a feel for their interface before taking the plunge, so I downloaded their free version and played with it for a little while . . . and I liked it.

Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

I reached out to the folks at Gaia GPS to see if they would like to provide Fatbike Republic with a short subscription for review . . . and they supplied a 1-year premium membership for me to try.

My parameters for the testing was pretty simple: ability to easily create routes at home, track myself when riding, data-less usage
and overall ease of use/simplicity. I did not focus on the highly technical details of the app as there are plenty of resources on the web to help – including Gaia’s own extensive GPS Help Center. 

So one year later I have to say that the Gaia GPS phone app brought me great piece of mind when going into the backcountry. As I do not have a cell phone with data, the ability to download and use maps offline was critical for me. I was also able to overlay (layer) several maps on the same trail which gave me access to different information. And these overlays can be toggled on and off as well as showing multiple at once . . . it's quite cool.


Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

I loved being able to explore and plan a route (including distance) on my laptop that would be saved to the Gaia GPS “cloud” and later downloaded to my phone for use when I get out of network range. I did this for all of my bikepacking trips.


Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike


Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

The app kept me on track when doing bikepacking adventures and more than once kept me from unintentionally taking a wrong trail. The only real challenge was seeing the map on the phone in bright sunlight, but that’s more of an issue with the phone than the app. I found that finding a shady spot cured that problem.


Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

In addition to pre-planning routes, Gaia GPS was also able to track a route when going off for an afternoon of exploring. This route can be later uploaded and shared with others.



Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

While data on a phone is not necessary to use the app (as in my case with the data-less phone) I did have to view the map on my device when connected to the internet to have it cached in the phone’s memory when I got out on the trail.



Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

The Gaia GPS app will also upload common GPS data format files - such as GPX. This was great when a buddy of mine had a route for a winter trail that I had wanted to do for several years, but never knew the appropriate route across the wide open barrens. He flipped me the GPX file and I was easily able to upload it to Gaia.



Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

The folks at Gaia GPS are also continually updating/upgrading and providing new geographical overlays and information for their app. In early 2020 Gaia introduced a Dark Mode for night navigation, in addition to a really cool Apple CarPlay integration. It’s a good feeling knowing that these folks are not letting dust settle on their great product.



Fatbike Republic GAIA GPS Bikepacking Fat Bike

While I'm sure that I will explore the finer details and capabilities of Gaia GPS app, at this point in time I am extremely happy with it's performance and it met my simple testing parameters.


If you are interested in giving the Gaia GPS a whirl, head over to their site and download their free app [CLICK HERE]. And if its something that you like, use the same link to get an exclusive affiliate discount from Fatbike Republic.

RIDE FAT !






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