Maplets: GPS-Enabled Custom Maps App for iPhone

Maplets is like having a live-updating “You Are Here” marker on your actual trail map. Hands-down my favorite map app for the iPhone when it comes to hiking, biking and exploring.

What makes Maplets unique is the way the app uses actual park maps which are GPS-enabled. What this allows you to do is view for example an actual trail map for a national park on your iPhone, but with a GPS marker to show your current location. Typically, a mobile park map would be little more than a digital version of those at the trailhead kiosk. Maplets takes that exact map and aligns it to GPS coordinates, and then overlays a GPS pointer for your current location (and device dependent, your orientation as well).

Recent updates even included the ability to add GPS-style waypoint markers to the map, to note locations. It does not have any sort of GPS trail tracking/recording however. But it’s not really what this app is about. And since the maps are downloaded to the phone, you do not need to have a cell signal nor use any data while using the app, just a good GPS signal. Great for remote trails and parks (the best kind!).

Even better, you can upload your own maps and add them to the service for you and others to use with the app. This is a huge benefit for local parks, disc golf courses, and the like. The Maplets developers have a huge database of maps for larger and more popular locations, but they of course cannot have everything everywhere. The tools are free to use, and browser based. You just upload an image file of the map, and then overlay it on to a Google map to “sync” the GPS to the map image. Creating your own gives you a firm understanding of exactly how the app functions behind the scenes, if you’re interested like I was.

You’ll be surprised at the number of maps already available. There are ten for our local national park alone (Cuyahoga Valley National Park) — they cover the main park map, and all the individual detail maps for each area. Not all available maps are GPS enabled, but many if not most or all I’ve used have been. And the app isn’t limited to just parks and trails, it covers subway and bus routes, ski resorts, and much more in addition to the national, state and local park maps.

Highly recommended.

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