So you are about to embark on a 4×4 journey of a lifetime, but what about good quality maps? How are you going to find your way and navigate through rugged terrain whilst keeping your paper maps from tearing? Thats right, you could go our and buy GPS navigation system and have it installed, or buy a Handheld device, but what if you don’t want to buy anything else?
I spoke to the guys down at VMS and they introduced me to their great VMS 4×4 Explorer 3D mapping App for iOS. It is their latest offline 4WD navigation app that uses real time 3D topographical maps. It comes with a whole host of maps and features and can show you exactly what is around you basically anywhere in Australia!
The greatest advantage of the VMS system is that it includes detailed off road mapping and tracks for your off road adventures – something that Google Maps do not provide!
Have a look at their advert below…..
So, how does this mapping system perform in real life?
Let me tell you a little about my situation. As usual, I was running around like a crazy man trying to get everything organised for our epic trip to Cape York. Amongst other things, I downloaded and installed the VMS app onto my iPhone and iPad mini and thought I would have a look through the the software. I was impressed as it comes with a host of maps pre-loaded and the ability to download over 2000 off road maps for free! Thats right, FREE! Topo maps, Westprint maps, VicMaps and more. The only maps you need to pay for once you have installed the app is the W.A. Topo series (which you can get as an in-app purchase for only $69.99)
Well, after installing the App, I realised that my iPad was a WiFi model only so it did not have a built in GPS receiver… Payback for being a cheapskate when I bought the iPad! So now what? There is a simple solution to that which will make your iDevices even more powerful for use as GPS units. I went out and bought a Bad Elf GPS pro+ unit and used it as my GPS receiver for my iPad and iPhone. You can read another article about the Bad Elf product HERE.
Ok, so now that the GPS issue was fixed, I can get on with my experiences with VMS.
The VMS system worked well for me, it was fast, clear and accurate and really did what I thought it would. With on screen gestures you are able to rotate the screen, move the maps, increase the size with a single finger tap and decrease the size by tapping with two fingers as well as being able to change the angle of the 3D effect! There are also icons for settings, menu, direction of travel and GPS positioning. All become fairly easy to navigate once you become familiar with the layout.
Anyway, in my haste to get on the road, I kind of forgot to go through the VMS app and see what I needed to do to prepare for my trip. In Hindsight, I should have researched the product a little more to familiarise myself with it and make sure that I had downloaded all of the region specific maps that I needed for our journey. This is NOT the fault of VMS, just my oversight!
Here are some screen shots of our journey to give you an idea of where we were!
Now that I am back, and have time to have a “play” with the app, I can see how useful the functions are. By going into the “SEARCH” function, you can type in the name of your destination and the app gives you suggested maps to download as well as Points Of Interest in the area for you to check out – the app will even give you directions to these POI’s by linking directly to other pre-installed navigation apps such as google maps. It also has detailed information on POI’s so you can plan your trip, and you can even add your own POI’s too! Very handy indeed – I just wish I knew about this before our trip!
Other features of the VMS app include the ability to create your own routes, add waypoints, write track notes and share these with your friends. You can also get directions back to those waypoints whenever you want! Great for remembering where that “Hidden” campsite was! For the more technical among you, you can also look up your entire route on Google Earth, plot it out, export it as a GPX file and import that into the VMS app.
Overall, I found the VMS app to be a fantastic product and I would highly recommend it.
VMS also offer In Dash (vehicle specific and generic options available) as well as Handheld devices for GPS mapping
All of which are available for purchase. The major difference between the App and the other VMS devices is the option for 3D. If that is not important to you (and I usually prefer the 2D option myself!), then have a look at the VMS range here.