Happy trails with navigation apps


  • Focus
  • Friday, 19 Jul 2019

Lee (right) explaining basic navigation and its importance when heading out on a trail.

HIKING or trail running is becoming popular among city residents looking for a good workout while being immersed in nature.

Since it requires one to venture into lesser-known grounds, we often have to rely on one another or go in a group to avoid getting lost.

Although there are numerous trails around the Klang Valley favoured among regular hikers, almost all of them do not have proper signage unlike those abroad.

Some have ribbons tied to trees while others are marked with paint, the significance of which might not be understood by a newbie.

In my case, I have always relied on a group or followed regular trail runners with the hope that I can memorise the routes to go alone the next time.

After signing up for the Buff Trail Race, I found out that they were organising a navigation workshop by trail running coach Ray Lee, which I felt would come in handy for anyone facing a similar situation.

Most trails are hidden and have no proper signage. (Right) The ViewRanger mobile app provides downloadable maps shared publicly by users.
Most trails are hidden and have no proper signage. (Right) The ViewRanger mobile app provides downloadable maps shared publicly by users.

Participants paid RM20 each for the class which included a 10km trail run.

On the morning of the session in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, we each had to download a navigation app into our phones.

Navigation apps allow users to follow a self-planned map, while regular fitness apps count calories and distance.

Since every participant uses a different brand of GPS watch and smartphone, Lee gave us a choice of three free mobile apps – Komoot, GPX Viewer or ViewRanger – to download prior to the class.

These navigation apps offer the same basic features, with additional add-ons for a certain price.

Runners making their way onto a trail in Sungai Buloh.
Runners making their way onto a trail in Sungai Buloh.

I chose to go with Komoot which is a no-frills app and easy to use, or like how Lee put it, “Komoot is the Waze equivalent in trails.”

He shared with the group the GPX file of the trail, which we uploaded and attached to the mobile app and able to view on our phones.

If you do not have a GPX file of a route, you may need to scour the Internet for it or ask friends who have been to the area and had created a map on their previous visit.

Lee said free maps were easily found on the Internet via sites like Wikiloc, which stores over 12 million trails from around the world.

Those using the ViewRanger app can also download maps shared publicly by its users.

After a short warm-up and a few safety tips from Lee, we were ready to hit the “Start Navigation” button on our devices.

Most of us ran at our own pace and did not have to wait for one another as we put our newly acquired app to use.

I left everything to Komoot which told me when to go straight, keep left or right and how far I was to the next turn. It was perfect. All I needed to do was ensure I remained on the blue line in the map.

Another first-timer, Azuan Abdullah, who was navigating with his watch, found it helpful that it alerted him each time he took a wrong turn.

A GPX file of the Sungai Buloh trail in the Komoot app shows the distance, elevation as well as an estimation of how long it takes to complete the route.
A GPX file of the Sungai Buloh trail in the Komoot app shows the distance, elevation as well as an estimation of how long it takes to complete the route.

Some of us met halfway along the trail to catch up with Lee, who was waiting for us midway to ensure that we were on the right track before returning to where we started.

“It is not easy to get lost on the trails if you know how to use your mobile devices properly,” said Lee, an avid trail runner.

He emphasised that during a competition, runners usually followed whoever was running in front of them without knowing where they were supposed to be heading.

“Most times we follow blindly,” he said, adding that participants should always trust their watch for directions and study the race map the night before.

Of course, Lee was hesitant to share more tips but encouraged us to join his advanced running GPS training class held every Saturday.

The class teaches advanced navigation skills, how to create maps, training zones and advanced activity analysis.

The class welcomes anyone with or without a GPS watch. You can even attend it with just a smartphone.

If you are looking at venturing into hiking or just want to discover new trails on your next holiday without having to pay for a guide, this may be a good class to sign up for.

For details, visit www.facebook.com/EcosysTotalSolution/


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