Mobile: FAQ

TrailSmart: FAQ

Got questions? We got answers!

General
  1. Who is TrailSmart for?
  2. What are the requirements for TrailSmart?
  3. Do I actually need TrailSmart?
  4. Is this thing going to bankrupt me due to my provider’s outrageous roaming fees for data usage?
  5. Isn’t this thing going to eat my battery alive?
  6. So, if I get TrailSmart do I still need to carry a guidebook?
Features & Functionality
  1. Is the content in TrailSmart being updated?
  2. How do I update my content to the latest version?
  3. Is TrailSmart useful before I depart, as well as when I’m actually on the trail?
Troubleshooting
  1. I’m not getting any location-related feedback from TrailSmart – How do I fix that?
Other
  1. How was TrailSmart developed? Inquiring minds want to know!
  2. What has been the feedback on TrailSmart so far?
  3. Is that it? No more Q & A???

General

Who is TrailSmart For?

TrailSmart is a comprehensive, incredibly handy mobile app for anyone cycling or walking one of our supported long-distance trails, such as the Camino or Lycian Way.

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What are the requirements for TrekRight?

TrailSmart runs on all modern iPhones and iPads. Android support is on the way.

All content is available offline, including offline map imagery (once initially downloaded). A WiFi connection is necessary to download content updates. Google Maps imagery (including Street View where available) can optionally be used instead of the offline imagery if an Internet connection is available.

The highly detailed offline maps available for TrailSmart (with 3D contours and hill-shading) are very large. 250+ MB of space is required on your device (close to 500 MB for some maps!).

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Do I actually need TrailSmart?

No, not usually. It is entirely possible to cycle / walk most of our supported long-distance trails without any GPS app, printed maps, or guidebook. However, some trails are better waymarked than others. And sometimes you’ll get lost even on the best marked trails. The good news is that you’ll always eventually find your way. TrailSmart simply makes it much, much easier.

However, TrailSmart is much more than just maps and reference information (and, indeed, it is much more than just an ‘electronic guidebook’). We designed TrailSmart to help you get the most from your long-distance treks. You aren’t going on the trail just to walk from point A to point B! TrailSmart enables you to plan your walk better, tracks your notes, keeps you aware of notable attractions around you, and lets you focus on simply enjoying your walk. TrailSmart gives you much greater peace-of-mind, too, since it makes it easy to find hotels / pensions, water sources, and so on. And, of course, TrailSmart does help you find your way with detailed directions, interactive maps, an intelligent compass (that continually points you in the right direction based on your current location and your chosen route), and so on.

So, you do not need TrailSmart, but it sure does make it easier to fully enjoy your time on the trail and to get the most out of it. If you’re carrying a phone anyway to stay in touch with friends, family, and/or work, then TrailSmart is an amazing way to bring along a wealth of reference material and interactive functionality without actually adding a single gram / ounce of weight to your backpack.

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Is this thing going to bankrupt me due to my provider’s outrageous roaming fees for data usage?

No! Going bankrupt due to data roaming costs is entirely optional. 🙂

All content, including offline map imagery, is stored on your phone, inside the app. You only need the Internet if you want to use Google Maps imagery (which requires access to their servers). Once initially downloaded, our high-quality offline map imagery works without any need for an Internet connection.

Unless you opt to get a local SIM card (a very good idea, actually, if your phone is not ‘locked’ to your provider), we recommend you disable cellular data in your phone while on the trail. That protects you from roaming costs, but still leaves your phone’s GPS antennae operating. You do not incur any data costs for GPS usage, but TrailSmart can still determine your location and provide you with location-specific content and functionality. Also, this lets you still use wifi in many hotels, pensions, and cafés (again, without incurring any roaming charges).

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Isn’t this thing going to eat my battery alive?

The GPS antennae in your phone is notoriously power hungry and would definitely drain your battery if you used it non-stop all day. Heck, simply keeping your phone on all day drains most people’s batteries! However, there is no need to use TrailSmart like a compass – it is usually pretty clear where you are supposed to go next.

Instead, the way we recommend using TrailSmart is ‘as-needed’. When you come to a junction where it isn’t clear which way to go (such as the waymark being blocked, moved, or faded away), pull your phone out and do a quick check. When you are in a pension or tent in the evening, look up the route for the next day – take note of interesting things to see along the way and make plans. When you come to a new town, check to see what services are available (where is that water fountain..?). Finding you are progressing faster or slower than expected? Update the stages in your route to reflect your actual pace. See something notable? Add a note to that item in the Trekopedia (automatically gives context to your note). Add your own notes on the map as needed. And so on.

In our opinion, the best place for your phone while on the trail is in your pocket, not in your hand! The beauty of TrailSmart is that it is there when you need it, without relying on an Internet connection and without the bulk and weight of printed material – leaving you free to fully enjoy the trail.

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So, if I get TrailSmart do I still need to carry a guidebook?

TrailSmart does not necessarily replace your guidebook, though it will for many people. Most good guidebooks give well-researched history and context to the attractions and places you pass on the way, plus some great ‘insider’ tips. TrailSmart gives you information on each attraction and place, but doesn’t always go into the same detail. And some of our trail datasets are far more detailed than other trail datasets. That said, we are constantly updating and expanding the volume, scope, and quality of the content in TrailSmart, so for many people TrailSmart will be all they need (especially since you can add your own notes to every item in the Trekopedia, including copying-and-pasting from websites).

Whether you also want to carry a printed guide will largely come down to whether you feel the added weight of a printed guide is worth the additional history / context that guide might provide.

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Features & Functionality

Is the content in TrailSmart being updated?

Yes. Information changes constantly on long-distance trails. The route itself can change, places to stay come and go, and so on. The content in TrailSmart is actively updated and expanded with the help of many in the Trekopedia community (you know who you are – thank you!). Periodically, we release updated content files that TrailSmart can download directly from our servers (without you needing to update TrailSmart itself in the App Store). This way, you always have the most up-to-date information available.

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How do I update my content to the latest version?

TrailSmart periodically checks our server to see if there are updates to the content. If an update is available, you’ll get a message asking if you want to download it. You can also manually check by tapping on the ‘Dataset’ area of the Dashboard and then tapping on ‘Check for Updates’. TrailSmart will tell you the approximate size of the update before downloading it (in case you want to leave it for later, such as when you have a WiFi connection). Note, if there are new versions of the app itself available, you may need to update it as well before you can download the new content (if we’ve changed the way TrailSmart handles data internally, for example).

When you do an update, any notes you’ve added to items in the Trekopedia, as well as your customizations to routes, etc., are all saved. Only our reference information is replaced.

No information is sent to us when you do an update – TrailSmart simply downloads an encrypted file from our server and then installs it inside the app. Your app itself is not changed.

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Is TrailSmart useful before I go on the trail, as well as when I’m actually on it?

Yes, definitely! TrailSmart makes it much easier to plan and prepare for your trip. For example, you can use TrailSmart to plan your route, such as deciding which sections you want to include, how far you plan to go each day, where you want to stop for the night, and so on. As you configure your desired route, TrailSmart keeps track of the details, such as the total distance and total ascent / descent (overall, by stage, and by section). You can view elevation profiles of any stage or route you create, to see how challenging it looks. You can access convenient summary statistics as well.

You can also use TrailSmart as the ‘repository’ for all of your trail-related notes. For example, if you’ve pre-booked a hotel, you can add the reservation number as a note to that hotel’s Trekopedia record. You can add as many notes as you want to each Trekopedia record (as well as to sections and stages of your route – or even to the overall route itself!). Even better, when you are on the trail TrekRight makes available a convenient listing of all Trekopedia entries in your current section / stage for which you’ve added notes – no hunting around trying to remember which items have notes. (Likewise, listings are also available for items in your current section / stage to which you’ve assigned a flag or marked as a favorite. Very handy!).

When you are doing research, you can easily copy-and-paste notes into TrailSmart. Even if you are doing your research on your desktop computer, you can simply copy the desired information, email it to yourself, then copy-and-paste from your email app into TrailSmart. This is a great way to ensure you remember something special you wanted to check out in a certain town, or to have handy some historical information you’ve found about some ruins, or to remind yourself of the address / details of that hideaway restaurant you heard about. Best of all, by tracking this type of information directly in TrailSmart it is always organized, has context, and will definitely be with you on the trail.

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Troubleshooting

I’m not getting any location-related feedback from TrailSmart? How do I fix that?

Three most likely possibilities: first, your phone might not be able to pick up GPS signals due to your location. GPS gets signals from satellites. Your phone needs to ‘see’ the satellites to receive the signal. Being inside buildings or in narrow valleys can sometimes cause the signal to be lost. Thick tree-cover over you can also sometimes cause problems. The incredibly technical and complicated solution to this vexing problem is, um, to step outside and/or move six feet to your left… Sometimes waving at the satellites and smiling nicely will help (or not, but at least the friendly folks at the NSA will be cheered by your kindness). Note: if you have Internet enabled on your phone, your GPS accuracy will be stronger (since your phone can triangulate based on the cell towers as well as use the satellites).

Second, your GPS antennae might be disabled. Check that your phone isn’t in ‘airplane mode’ (which turns off all antennae, not just your data). Instead of using airplane mode while on the trail, change your settings to just turn off cellular data. You can do this in iOS by going into the Settings app, pressing on General, then Cellular, then turning off Cellular Data. That leaves your GPS antennae on (which doesn’t include roaming charges for usage) and also means you can access the Internet whenever you have a wifi signal available.

Third, you may have told iOS that TrailSmart doesn’t have permission to use your current location. iOS does not allow an app to use your current location unless you have given that app explicit permission. Without that permission, TrailSmart can’t show your location and thus cannot provide you with any location-aware feedback (such as what hotels, attractions, etc. are near you). If you told iOS that TrailSmart does not have your permission to use your current location, you have to re-set this. You can do that as follows:

  1. Open the Settings app on your phone.
  2. Press on the Privacy option.
  3. Press on the Location Services option.
  4. Scroll down until you find the TrailSmart app – make sure it is enabled.

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Other

How was TrailSmart developed? Inquiring minds want to know!

TrailSmart is the successor to our series of TrekRight apps. The idea for TrekRight grew out of our Caminopedia Project – a website providing routes and reference information on the Camino de Santiago. We wanted to build and maintain a high-quality, up-to-date online collection of information, resources, and tools to help those planning and doing the Camino.

A website is fine for planning the Camino, but it isn’t particularly useful while actually on the Camino. However, we didn’t just want to make the content portable – (that would be little more than an electronic version of a guide book). Instead, we wanted dynamic content that was location-aware and context-aware, and we wanted an easy-to-use but sophisticated app that added unique interactive functionality to that content. The idea for TrekRight was born…

Much of the initial design for TrekRight was done in 2012. Actual development began in early 2013 and TrekRight: Camino de Santiago was formally released in December 2013, with content for the Camino. A Lycian Way version was released in October 2014. Apps for multiple other trails followed in 2016.

In 2016, we decided to combine all of our supported trails in a single app. We also added some huge new functionality at the same time which we’ve released as TrailSmart: Great Trails of the World. TrailSmart is still under active development and we already have lots of great ideas for it.

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What has been the feedback on TrailSmart so far?

TrailSmart’s predecessor, TrekRight, launched in December 2013 to unanimous worldwide acclaim and instantly transformed the way people do long-distance treks. Since then there have been ticker tape parades, awards, speeches, newly announced national holidays, and even rumors of a possible Nobel Peace Prize. OK, admittedly, many of those parades, awards, national holidays, and so on might not have actually been for TrekRight itself, but we absolutely think they should have been! 🙂

We expect no less for TrailSmart!

In all seriousness, all we really care about is making your long-distance treks a little bit more enjoyable. Tell us how we can improve TrailSmart so that it can serve you better; that is what will make our day!

And, of course, tell us what long-distance treks we should focus on next. We’re already working on several more of our favorites (including long-distance bicycling routes too), but help us prioritize by telling us about some of your personal favorites.

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Is that it? No more Q & A???

You mean you’re still reading? Wow… hardly anyone makes it to the end of the FAQ!

Tell you what – TrailSmart is still pretty new, so there hasn’t been a whole lot of ‘frequently asked questions’ just yet; how about sending us some questions and we’ll expand the FAQ! 🙂

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