A new collaboration between Casio and mapping tech company ViewRanger lets adventurers leave their phone at home and access detailed maps right on a watch face.
Dealing with a phone while hiking, biking, skiing, or climbing can be frustrating. Most of the time, it’s nice to have it tucked away in order to focus on the current environment. It’s just nice to leave your phone in the car, but it generally needs to tag along in case of an emergency.
On longer and more involved outings, phones can also act as a backup navigational tool. Via the ViewRanger app, it’s possible to download maps for offline use before hitting the trail. In a pinch, users can open a downloaded map and use a phone’s GPS to find their location along the route — even without cell service. Now, that tech is smartwatch-compatible.
ViewRanger + Casio Pro Trek
The ViewRanger app has been around for almost 11 years. It’s one of 250 apps that Google awarded its Android Excellence Award. More than 5 million explorers around the globe use this GPS navigation app (including 400-plus search-and-rescue teams) to plan, navigate, and share outdoor adventures.
Do you have an iPhone or an Android? No problem either way. The ViewRanger for Wear OS app is designed for both smartphone systems or can be used by itself. Features include offline maps for use without a cell or Wi-Fi signal, interactive route guides, and augmented reality. (The Skyline function uses your phone camera to name surrounding peaks, lakes, and other features.)
Last April, ViewRanger launched an updated app with optimized features for Casio’s newest smartwatch, the Pro Trek WSD-F30. Chief among them is the ability to find or build routes, then select and download more than 20 offline map styles directly to the smartwatch.
With the Pro Trek WSD-F30’s OLED Display and touch screen, this means that users can keep their adventures on track without a smartphone connection. You can view your recorded track on a full-color, offline topographic map on your watch, a capability that no other smartwatch app currently has. Once the maps are downloaded on the watch, there’s no need for a Wi-Fi or cell signal.
Downloaded routes on the watch aren’t just GPS tracks. Some routes come with photos, waypoints, and descriptions that auto-populate into the watch. When hiking, you can view your stats (altitude, distance, duration, elevation gain/loss) directly on the watch and then sync your track to your ViewRanger account when you’re back in service.
What’s more, Casio’s Pro Trek WSD-F30 smartwatch is built with the brand’s signature durability, including 50m water resistance, low- and high-temperature resistance, and vibration and shock resistance. It’s a rugged piece of hardware that can handle expedition-level excursions.
User Experience on the Trail
The ViewRanger app is able to find routes near your GPS location, or you can search for specific places. These can be user-uploaded routes or routes uploaded from one of ViewRanger’s publisher partners (e.g., local tourism boards, outfitters, guiding companies, etc.).
Once a trail is found, you are able to select which type of map to download to the watch. There are over 20 offline map types to choose from, and you can download more than one (e.g., Satellite, Terrain, Street, etc.). It’s now possible to sync the watch with the app, uploading the map directly to your wrist.
This combination is ideal for keeping pace and staying on the proper trail. The watch incorporates a vibration function that provides guidance at trail intersections. This helps to create peace of mind in the backcountry, especially if you’re on a trail that isn’t well-signed. This functionality allows you to forget about the nagging feeling of being lost and truly engage with the surroundings.
The vibration function doesn’t solely work for intersections, as it also marks various waypoints. It marks specific peaks or destinations (potentially iconic) within the area so you don’t miss them. The brand notes this is helpful in poor, cloudy weather when visibility is low. Many times, bad weather can dull the effect of being in such a beautiful place or have you looking in the wrong direction.
Along with obscuring views, bad weather might also mean you want to be on the move. The pinch motion on the touchscreen watch allows users to zoom in on maps to accurately depict where they’re located. A swipe up from this interface will show the remaining mileage and elevation of the route. This makes it easier to decide if you should keep going or weather the incoming storm.
When back at the trailhead, review the GPS track and stats provided. Want to hit up another trail that day but don’t have service? No worries. The offline capabilities of the watch and maps you downloaded previously work without a connection.
For an easy and well-marked trail, the ViewRanger smartwatch app may be a bit overkill. However, for longer and more remote backpacking trips (or even hunting), the ability to download detailed, full-color maps for offline use can become extremely valuable. It’s important to have a backup navigational tool, and the smartwatch ViewRanger app is now another option to add to the mix.
Plus, the route-finding and sharing aspect is a way to provide or glean helpful route tips, easily repeat a route you loved, or complete a friend’s suggested path.