There’s always a chance you’ll get lost when going off the beaten path, and this is where off road navigation devices or applications come in.
When you are exploring the Australian outback, the average GPS app on your phone isn’t going to cut it..
That’s where specialised 4WD App comes in, offering features and functionality that can help you safely and confidently navigate even the most challenging landscapes.
A 4WD map app is a dedicated app that has in-built data on topography, street maps, popular trails and off-roading hazards. This data is stored offline so that you will have access to navigation, no matter the reception.
However, with several 4WD map apps available in Australia today, it can be challenging to decide which one to go for, which features to look out for, and how each one fares against the others. As such, we have created this brief guide to help you make an informed decision on the best GPS and navigation apps for your next trip.
Grab your pen and paper and read below to learn more about offroad GPS.
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Why Do I Need a 4WD Map App?
As there is little to no reception across much of Australia, a 4WD map app is essential for navigating to and from your destination and finding your way home if you get lost.
A 4WD map app is one of the essential 4WD accessories in Australia, whether you’re sticking to your area or tackling a long-term 4WD trip. These apps will help you navigate the hundreds of off-road tracks scattered throughout Australia. Some 4WD tracks are located off the beaten path, where you can easily get lost. Publicly known tracks that are driven or driven regularly have markers along their pathways to guide you back to civilisation, but ‘hidden gems’ that are less commonly visited do not. To get the most out of off-roading and stay safe 4WD camping in Australia, you’ll need to find your way around.
This is where a 4WD map app comes in. 4WD map apps have features that cater to beginner and enthusiast 4WDers alike. Standard Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are generally not sufficient since they only provide information on roads that are meant to be driven on (asphalt and gravel roads), buildings, and landmarks. These are things that you do not find on off-road tracks. Off-road map apps have both street and topographic mapping.
Topographic mapping shows the user the geographic features, contour lines, unsealed roads and known 4WD tracks. Standard GPS does not have many details on national parks and 4WD tracks, where practically all off-roading activities occur. If you’re towing an off-road caravan or camper trailer, you’ll definitely want to know what terrain lies ahead.
GPS also relies on a stable internet connection to give real-time information on the map. However, due to the location of most 4WD tracks, reception is not as good as in the city. This is why the ability to download and store maps of 4WD tracks is the key to navigation when travelling by 4WD.
How Do I Choose a 4WD Map App in Australia?
The best 4WD map apps are those with topographic maps, points of interest and stored information to provide offline mapping. All three of these factors are required to ensure that you’ll always be able to find your way home no matter where you are.
It is important to remember that not all 4WD map apps offer the same features. While some 4WD map apps have similar features, they still differ from each other in varying degrees. Some of the most useful 4WD map app features are:
- Topographic Maps – Most serious 4WDers will agree that this is a non-negotiable feature. This enables users to see the contour lines of the landscape and other relevant geographic features that may assist in navigating the tracks. If anything, proper use of topographic maps will make sure you do not get stuck in a deep gorge or driving up a cliff.
- Points of Interests – As the name suggests, it refers to locations that may be of interest during your time on the road. Standard GPS will include petrol stations, shops, restaurants, rest stops, cafes, and ATMs. However, the dedicated 4WD map app will include more specific locations; campsites, caravan parks, national parks, waterfalls, dump points, 24-hour fuel stations, heritage sites, reserves, and lakes.
- Offline Mapping – This feature will allow users to download and use maps when at a location where there isn’t any internet connection or cellular coverage available or where the signal is too weak to establish a stable connection.
What Are the Best 4WD Map Apps in Australia?
The 12 best 4WD map apps in Australia are:
Memory-Map App is a general outdoor navigation map created by Memory-Map — a software development company that focuses on recreational mapping software for outdoor pursuits.
- Support for GPS and compass sensors
- Partnered with premium map publishers worldwide, providing a secure platform for the use of encrypted content
- Ongoing support and development that keeps all versions of the app up to date
2. Hema 4WD App
Also referred to as ‘4X4 Explorer’, the Hema 4WD App was developed by Memory-Map for Hema, which means it is basically a branded version of Memory-Map.
- Access to more than 100,000 points of interest throughout Australia (includes campsites, caravan parks, national parks, and lookouts)
- Seamless transition from laptop to mobile and vice versa. You can begin your 4WD planning at home using your computer and be able to access it outside your home using your mobile phone.
3. Mud Map
Mud Map offers one of the most advanced and powerful navigation apps for your devices. The app comes bundled with award-winning 4WD maps of Australia and comes equipped with powerful navigation features.
It is available for iOS devices and offers the following features:
- It can be used offline
- Allows manual marking of points of interest with pins
- It keeps track of where you’ve been through logs
Australia Topo Maps is an easy to use outdoor GPS navigation app with access to the best topographic maps and satellite images for Australia. The app has a free and pro version with advanced features for those who need more customisation.
The app is available for Android and offers the following features:
- It has premium map layers for certain states
- Allows the creation and editing of waypoints, with a ‘Go to Waypoint’ navigation
- GPX/ KML/ KMZ Export
- Customisable data fields in Map View and Tripmaster
The Off-Road Escape app was launched by BFGoodrich and developed with Melbourne-based technology company Transpire. The app allows both live tracking and offline mapping and gives the ability to plot routes, save pins with notes, and search for locations within the offline maps.
The app is only available for iOS devices and offers the following features:
- Users can create a profile with vehicle information
- Provides access to 4×4 tips and advice from BFGoodrich
ExplorOz Traveller is a map and navigation app targeted explicitly toward users in Australia and New Zealand. The app has all the essential local maps of the countries mentioned, with a free and paid version.
- Online and offline use
- Includes EOTopo 2021 maps
- Turn-by-turn navigation
- Allows the upload of 4WD track files as GPX for use as tracklogs
VMS Map Explorer 3D is touted by some as the pinnacle of full-feature off-road mapping. The app’s primary selling point is the built-in 3D mapping, which gives users an overview of the terrain they’re facing ahead.
This gives 4WDers enough time to plan or change routes accordingly. Available for iOS, it offers the following features:
- Based in Australia and has Australian outback tracks maps, which provide a general overview of areas with interactive points of interest
- Provides, coordinates, contact details, and facilities
- Track information also includes locked gates, track gradients, and routes
OsmAnd is a map application with access to free, worldwide, and high-quality OpenStreetMap (OSM). All map data can be stored on the device’s memory and has some features specifically useful for offroading (but not available in the free version).
- Different overlays such as touring/ navigation GPX tracks, as well as additional maps with customisable transparency
- Vehicle parameters and specifications can be entered for car navigation, making it great for RVs and expedition trucks (with optional speed and altitude display)
- Has an option to favour (rather than avoid) unpaved roads
9. Locus Maps
Locus Maps is a 4WD map app with outdoor maps created by the best cartographic publishers in countries such as the United States, Canada, and Australia.
It is a multifunctional navigation app with offline maps that aim to offer an enjoyable outdoor experience. The app is designed not only for off-roading but also for hiking, mountain biking, cycling, running, geocaching, and other similar outdoor activities. The app allows users to create, plan, edit, record, save and even share their trips to preserve their memory.
It is available for Android and offers the following features:
- Offline navigation and guidance
- Turn-by-turn voice instructions or sound signals
- Out-of route alerts
- Beeline guidance in an open terrain
Developed by a Melbourne-based company; this app is a new way to plan out 4WD trips. The app can collate data and provide 4WDers with track grade, travelling speed and time to complete, significant obstacles, track length, last known date the track was completed, and other similar track data.
- Automated track difficulty reports by assessing user trip logs allow users to see where other 4WDers have driven
- Explore over 10,000 tracks in Australia (with various track data included)
- Works offline
MapFactor Navigator allows users to find the best route and navigate to their destination quickly and reliably. This free, multi-platform GPS navigation app has offline maps from the OpenStreetMaps project.
- Android Auto connectivity
- Free offline maps with postcodes and points of interest installed on your device or SD card
- Speed limits, camera warnings, favourite routes and places, lane guidance and different routing modes
- Intuitive turn-by-turn voice navigation in different languages
Sygic GPS Navigation & Maps is one of the most downloaded offline GPS navigation apps, with more than 200 million users. It works offline through 3D maps stored on your device, updated multiple times per year.
- Features a GPS navigation that is fully voice-guided with precise directions and spoken street names
- Real-time traffic information with data collected from millions of users
- Android auto connectivity
What Is the Most Accurate Map App in Australia?
The most accurate map app in Australia is the Sygic GPS Navigation & Maps app. The developers update its 3D maps multiple times a year and store them in your device for offline use. Constant updates ensure that their maps are as accurate as possible.
Although it may not have the most advanced set of features among its competitors in the 4WD map app scene, it ensures that its maps are as updated as possible. The app is also one of the most downloaded and retains a high ranking score of 4.6/5.0 on the Apple Store for iOS devices and 4.4/5.0 on Google Play for Android devices.
What Is the Best Free 4WD Map App in Australia?
The OsmAnd app has a rating of 4.6/5.0 on iOS and 4.7/5.0 on Android. Close behind, the Memory-Map app has a rating of 4.4/5.0 on both iOS and Android. These apps both offer paid versions — one-time purchases, subscription-based plans, or additional in-app purchases (such as maps).
Since these 4WD map apps have free versions, it is highly advised that you try them out one at a time for a couple of days and weeks and see how their features and interface work. Often, it boils down to user preference.
What Is the Best Offline 4WD Map App in Australia?
The best offline 4WD map app in Australia is the ExplorOz Traveller App. It is the only map app that is uniquely Australian regarding ownership, offline maps production, and technical support.
The Australian business owner manages all aspects of the app and is available across multiple platforms offering a similar app experience. It uses the proprietary EOTopo offline map sets exclusive to the ExplorOz Traveller app. Users only need one map licence to download maps across all their devices. It is available for iOS, Android, and Windows 10/11.
In remote areas, you may not have phone signal while travelling, so it’s important to ensure you have your maps downloaded if necessary.
Can You Use Google Maps for Offroading?
It’s not advised to use Google Maps for offroading, as it’s simply not accurate enough.
Although it is possible to use Google Maps for navigation, you are better off using a free 4WD map app.
There is a reason for dedicated 4WD map apps — standard navigation and mapping apps such as Google and Apple maps do not have the features essential to offroaders. Offroaders are advised against relying on Google Maps for their offroading sessions.
What Is the Difference Between a GPS and a Navigation System?
A Global Positioning System (GPS) is a joint name for a group of satellites orbiting around Earth, while a Satellite Navigation System (SNS) is special software that uses GPS signals.
GPS provides information based on time and location to a GPS receiver located on the surface of the Earth. On the other hand, an SNS uses satellites to provide autonomous geo-spatial positioning and allows small electronic receivers to determine locations with high precision.
In essence, a GPS is a fully-functional satellite-based navigation system that transmits continuous microwave radio signals, while a navigation system is a system based on a wide network of artificial satellites that provide navigation, positioning, and timing services globally.
Read more about navigational devices and GPS when travelling.