Huge Improvements to Next Gen Gaia GPS Hiking App

It’s no mystery that Gaia GPS is the best hiking navigation App. But the Next Gen GAIA GPS Hiking App is vastly improved. The new maps are stunningly sharp and legible. It is much faster, and easier to use. And possibly the best feature of Next Gen GAIA GPS is the full line of National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps. They are most trusted and highly-rated maps for America’s top outdoor destinations.

Lead photo: you get the exact same level of detail and quality on the Next Gen GAIA GPS as on the highly regarded paper versions of National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps. Better yet, you get ALL the NG TI maps with your GAIA PRO subscription!

Over the past four months I have been testing beta versions (and this release version)  of the Next Gen Gaia GPS from the jungles of Columba, the mountains of Cuba, technical canyoneering in Utah, and hiking the BlueRidge Mountains. Here’s my take on the pros and cons of the new version:

Pros – Next Gen GAIA GPS Hiking App

  • Addition of National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps, the most trusted and highly-rated maps available for America’s top outdoor destinations. They give you current trails, distances, and other official park info. Vs. USGS TOPO maps where this info is 50 years out of date or just missing.
  • New vector-based maps look sharp and beautiful at every zoom level, with incredible legibility! The new vector map engine is much faster than the old raster-based one.  Finally map files are much, much smaller, saving space on your phone.
  • Great battery life. In non-tracking mode, I can get 7+ days of average GPS use before recharging.  But more impressive, I can even run it in full tracking mode at around 2% battery drain per hour! That means I can generate 4+ days of beautifully detailed GPS tracks before I need to recharge my iPhone. See more detail how to best manage battery life
  • A more intuitive and faster user interface with icon-based top and bottom control bars. (There is also an option to close all menus down to get maximum map area! See screenshot below.)
  • Worldwide vector basemap so you are never without at least one map type!
  • Powerful search function that allows you to quickly jump to a location like “Yosemite,” or “Half Dome.”
  • And a great Trip Stats Bar

For more information see: How to use Gaia on your Smartphone as the Best Backpacking GPS

Next Gen Gaia GPS Hiking App

Beautiful detail: Start of the John Muir Trail in Yosemite. Screen from GAIA with NG Trials Illustrated Map of Yosemite. [click to enlarge and see the full detail]

Cons – Next Gen GAIA GPS Hiking App

  • I am not a big fan of the folder management system for maps, tracks and waypoints. It could use huge organizational improvements. I would like an “active folder” function where all new tracks, waypoints, and maps are automatically added to it. And it needs a way to bulk select and manipulate waypoints. Moving them into folders one by one, doesn’t cut it.
  • Right now there is no way to completely disable the GPS. Now this is not such a big deal since GAIA only uses it briefly to get your position.  And it is extremely battery efficient. But I am sure that some power users, wanting map viewing only, will want the option to disable the GPS.
  • If you have a large inventory of maps in the old version, the new GAIA will attempt to automatically download all of them. Many users may be fine with this. Some may want more control to only download a few of their old maps. [A work around: You can stop the automatic download, delete the old maps you don’t want, and then resume the download.]
Next Gen Gaia GPS Hiking App

Showing the new user interface with icon-based top and bottom control bars. And the excellent Trip Stats bar. [click to enlarge]

Essential Info

Important User Tips for GAIA. See: How to use Gaia and your Smartphone as the Best Backpacking GPS

Gaia GPS Website
 – the new version is iOS only at this point*

  • The classic Gaia GPS app (iOS) will no longer be available on the App Store after May 22.
  • People can continue to use the classic app with no interruption.
  • Existing app users get an extended free trial with the new Gaia GPS. The more recently they bought Gaia GPS, the longer the trial (between 30 days and 2 years free).
  • Also, existing users with “GaiaPro” subscriptions from the classic app get access to the new app at no additional cost, including all Premium maps.

Android Classic GAIA PRO users do get upgrades to include National Geographic, and NeoTrex maps. Not so bad, since the NG Maps are one of the best feature of the upgrade.


The old Gaia GPS cost $19.99 and had an optional $39.99/year GaiaPro subscription. The new Gaia GPS has a free trial, and two price levels.

  • For a limited time, the new Gaia GPS app costs $9.99/year for the Member level, or $29.99 for the Premium level.
  • The Member Level lets you use the full app, and all but a few map sources – try it free for 7 days.
  • The Premium Member Level gives you access to sources like National Geographic Trails Illustrated, hunting data, and other specialized maps.

Try the new Gaia GPS for free:     

And if this pricing seems a bit confusing here’s a FAQ on Gaia Pricing, Levels, and Features.

Many Great Maps to Choose From

One of the great strengths of GAIA is the wealth of maps available, free with your subscription. Some of my favorites are:

  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps
  • MapBox HD Maps – Outdoors, Satellite and Streets (all excellent, and vector-based)
  • GAIA Topo (also excellent vector-based topo maps)
  • USGS TOPO Maps

Other maps

  • Satellite Imagery
  • Neotreks topo maps for the US

And a growing line of special and international maps

  • Alaska TOPO
  • New Zealand TOPO
  • A number of international, official country maps for Europe. E.g. France and Spain
By | 2018-01-17T02:54:38+00:00 May 22nd, 2017|Navigation, Uncategorized|17 Comments

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  1. Cathie May 22, 2017 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    Thanx Alan; how do you keep your cell phone charged? Im hiking the PCT and the solar chargers out there are too heavy and so I won’t be able to keep it charged to use this.

    • Alan Dixon May 22, 2017 at 7:21 pm - Reply

      Cathie see How to use your Smartphone as the Best Backpacking GPS and Best Lightweight Backpacking Electronics Gear. They will have all the info you need. Have a great PCT hike. Best, -alan

    • Adrian Casamonte June 8, 2017 at 5:59 pm - Reply

      Oh hike … so much time without doing a good one 🙁 ! … btw: this rugged phones were great for its time; expensive but worth it… ruggeds were rare not so much time ago,,, Have you seen the agm line ? They remember me this one: but since they are waaaaaay cheaper but still pretty good and waterproof ! ip68 and now the x1 has a Gold version or so with a 5k battery :O Nice article! TY for sharing

      • Julián Casamonte July 26, 2017 at 10:20 am - Reply

        With my agm x1 i can use as a GPS on my hikes without needing a weatherproof case and still have battery left over; you know: rugged phone! The cool thing about it is its price: really cheap for the specs. Well, great note ! Thank you for sahring

        • Alan Dixon July 26, 2017 at 8:59 pm - Reply

          Nice, I hear that the AGM is some really nice hardware. Best, -alan

  2. Matthew Herron May 22, 2017 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    Just thought I’d let you know that I bought this on your recommendation. I have been using Backcountry Navigator, so I’ll be interested to see how this compares. Base map and vector maps seem like big pluses; I can’t wait to try it out.

    • Alan Dixon May 23, 2017 at 12:31 am - Reply

      Hope it works out for you Matthew. Be curious to see what you think vs. BC Navigator. -a

  3. John May 23, 2017 at 2:54 am - Reply

    Hi Alan, thanks for the review! I’m checking out the new features with the trial, and was wondering how you close all menus to max out the map area like on your image. I still have the record/altitude/distance, etc info bar showing when I hit maximize. Thanks.

    • Alan Dixon May 23, 2017 at 2:12 pm - Reply

      It’s a long press on the “expand/collapse” icon, 2nd from the left on the top menu. This will reveal a new menu box. In it you can display or not display things like the compass and trip stats bar. Best, -alan

  4. Thomas June 6, 2017 at 10:56 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan, I agree, a very significant improvement. Printing maps out for an upcoming Pyrenees trip, it is astonishing how much detail you get from French IGN maps for the trickier bits.

    I am not a great fan of the “snap to trail feature” of the route planning routine. It appears to snap mostly to trails that are not going to be the trails or routes that I want to hike.

    Thanks for the response to John above, the “baseball stats” were driving me batty and I had not yet found the place where this little trick was described in the documentation, such as it is. Getting rid of that bar cleans up the screen nicely.

    Thanks for all you do on this site.

    • Alan Dixon June 6, 2017 at 11:01 pm - Reply

      You are quite welcome Thomas. Have a great trip in the Pyrenees. It’s on our short list–Atlantic to Mediterranean. Best, -alan

  5. John Godino June 9, 2017 at 11:55 pm - Reply

    Hey Alan,
    This is a very nice complete to get concise report of the new and improved version of this wonderful app.
    Here’s another nice thing that Gaia just added – a new map layer called open topo.
    It’s based on Open Street Map, which means it has a similar look and feel to Open Cycle, but it has several significant cartographic improvements.
    – Better shaded relief
    – Up-to-date trails
    – International coverage
    – Better use of colors and symbology to show features like roads and trails.

    Check it out and let us know what you think!

    It looks like they just added it in the last few days, showing once again the development team is commitment to constant improvement of this app. I’d be curious if you give it a look and share here what you think.

    • Alan Dixon June 10, 2017 at 1:41 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the heads up John, and indeed some of the “Open” maps provided by Gaia are invaluable for international travel. I have used them extensively where sometimes even paper maps are difficult to obtain. Best, -alan

  6. P Hendrickson November 17, 2017 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    How about South Americanmaps?

    • Alan Dixon November 18, 2017 at 4:02 pm - Reply

      Hi P,
      There are a number of World Maps available in Gaia. And they work pretty durn good! The new vector based HD versions are very good. They are all variants of Open Cycle Maps, Open Street maps, etc. that are essentially the Wiki’s of online maps. They have contours, features, and a surprising number of trails. I use them whenever I can’t get the “official” county maps online. You can see what they look like here All the best, -alan

  7. Hunter Hall January 21, 2018 at 12:03 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    I bought the Suunto Amit Peak 3 and have been playing around with it for the past week along with Gaia GPS, which I have been using for a few years now.

    There’s some pretty major discrepancies between the two that I’ve noticed thus far.

 Primarily, distance and altitude on the exact same hikes at the exact same locations is significantly different.

Take a look at these photos which I have put next to each other that were snapped at the exact same time and place.

    Still around 6K’ altitude, and a whole mile MORE than Gaia GPS. 

I am using the “Fused Alti” function on the watch and have calibrated it the couple of times now.

    The difference in altitude has consistently been around 100’ to 150‘ between the two devices. Today however, Suunto said I was at 6000 feet when I was really closer to 600’. 

Also, the distance on the exact same 3 or 4 mile hike was a whole mile difference. Huge variation considering it was only three, or at most 4 mile hike.

    Any ideas?

    Check out these photos:

    • Alan Dixon January 22, 2018 at 1:15 am - Reply

      Hunter there are going to be some measurement differences between the Ambit and GAIA. I have noticed them as well. And have even done some tests to determine what’s going on. In general tho the two have agreed within 10% on mileage. Mostly based on where they are plotting locations (accuracy) and the frequency of point recording.

      I happened to have used both today on a moderate hike.
      GAIA 8.7 miles 2450 ft elev. gain
      Ambit 8.3 miles 2630 ft elev. gain
      Personally, I am not going to worry about those differences.

      1) ELEVATION – GAIA is likely doing elevation lookups based on position and 3d earth terrain/altitude models. But the Ambit is using a barometric altimeter with all that entails. So not at all surprised that there are differences. 2) DISTANCE – GAIA waypoints (on my iPhone 6+ and X) are more accurate and placed more frequently. The Ambit in best accuracy (low battery life) mode is very close to GAIA in waypoint locations and accuracy. But I if I set it to “good” accuracy (better battery life) then it is less accurate in placing waypoints and therefore, less accurate on mileage. And this is the accuracy mode I usually use.

      But the only way to truly tell what is going on between the two units to to export and compare their .gpx track filex on something like Hope this helps. Warmest, -alan

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