Home Garden & Outdoor onX Backcountry: Safety, Navigation Tools for Hikers and Skiers | GearJunkie

onX Backcountry: Safety, Navigation Tools for Hikers and Skiers | GearJunkie

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OnX Backcountry is a GPS navigation platform that provides outdoor recreationists of all stripes with detailed route descriptions and photographs, map customization tools, and offline maps to use when cell service isn’t available.

While much of any mapping app’s utility is the ability to customize maps to suit your needs, finding new possibilities with onX Backcountry is one of its primary selling points. The app includes guides for many well-known trails while also highlighting plenty of less-traveled options.

OnX is best known for its first product, the onX Hunt app, which changed the landscape for hunters navigating complex land ownership boundaries and hunting units. The Hunt app was followed by onX Offroad, a mapping and navigation system for off-road enthusiasts who often contend with open and closed trails, complex trail networks, and the importance of knowing a route’s difficulty before leaving the trailhead.

OnX Backcountry is built on the same technology but tailored to hikers, backpackers, backcountry skiers, and other human-powered explorers.

The Backcountry app has Trail Mode and Snow Mode, two overlapping feature sets that allow users to view the maps that are best suited to their pursuits. In Snow Mode, for example, users can view slope angle data and avalanche forecasts. This information is designed to help backcountry powder-chasers stay safe and informed.

Explore the onX Backcountry App

OnX Backcontry laptop
Photo courtesy: onX Backcountry

Key Features of onX Backcountry

  • Discover trails or powder playgrounds with guidebook-like adventures
  • Reliable offline maps
  • Custom waypoints (add notes and photos then share with friends from inside the app)
  • Real-time GPS location tracking
  • Trail slope and mileage
  • Avalanche forecasts and slope angle shading
  • Satellite, topographic, and Hybrid Basemaps plus 3D maps (iOS only)
OnX Backcountry screen shots of maps waypoints weather
Photo courtesy: onX Backcountry

Read Between the Lines

The onX Backcountry app includes more than 650,000 miles of trails and 30,000 detailed guidebook maps in its expanding library. These data-rich adventures include information like comprehensive descriptions, photos, elevation changes, points of interest, and more.

With the app, viewers can choose between satellite and topographic Basemaps or the Hybrid Basemap, a view that displays topo lines on top of satellite imagery. Plus, 3D maps are also available on iOS devices.

The app also offers data-rich features like Trail Slope, which displays a color-coded view of trail inclines and allows for a quick glance to determine the difficulty or a detailed picture of where the quad-burning might kick in.

Last year, Jeff Garmire set an unsupported FKT on the Colorado Trail. This year, he ventured into Death Valley with routes cobbled together from websites. New to onX, he sees potential in the app’s detailed information for future adventures.

“With the visibility and continually updating trails in onX Backcountry, it will be much easier to plan linkups and trips in general. The planning aspect is where onX Backcountry is going to be very helpful,” Garmire said.

Going Offline

And onX Backcountry has offline maps. These provide access to your location when cell service is miles behind you. Before you head out, you can save a map area to your phone. The app allows users to save 5-, 10-, and 150-mile-wide offline map areas with the highest resolution appearing with the smaller sizes.

After saving an Offline Map before a trip, users can share any map markups, such as custom waypoints detailing a meeting point or distant campsite, with friends and family. Renowned mountain athlete Joe Grant used onX Backcountry during a trip to the Grand Canyon and provided his own testimony of its offline capability.

“The offline map function is one of my favorite features,” Grant attested. “I saved all my map segments prior to heading to the canyon and then kept my phone in airplane mode to save battery while running. Having access to high-resolution, detailed maps while being out of reception is an invaluable tool in the backcountry.”

Meanwhile, the tracker feature allows for real-time GPS tracking of a route when putting in trail miles or shredding backcountry powder. This information can then be shared with friends to help them on their next trip — or just to brag about the day you had without them.

To top it off, onX recently announced a partnership with Somewear Labs that allows users with an onX Backcountry membership and a Somewear Global Hotspot to share waypoints from within the app without the need for cell service. The brand says this novel integration will further change backcountry navigation.

OnX Backcountry Tracking Screenshot
Photo courtesy: onX Backcountry

Who Is It For?

According to onX, the Backcountry app is made for adventurers of all skill and experience levels. To that end, it offers detailed route information and up-to-date avalanche forecasts from the American Avalanche Association for gnarlier ski tours, for example. But similar attention has been given to close-to-home day hikes with notes on trailhead access and photos along the route.

Thru-hikers can designate resupply points and share them with friends through custom maps. And the tracking feature allows friends and family with the app to monitor their progress without the need for cell service.

Additional features like 7-day weather forecasts and public land boundaries provide information to help users prepare before heading into the backcountry. Safety-oriented tools such as the ability to share planned locations provide peace of mind for those waiting back at home.

OnX Backcountry Ski
Photo courtesy: onX Backcountry

The onX Backcountry app is new, and the brand said future updates will include tens of thousands more guidebook-quality adventure descriptions and additional features. It’s backed by a customer support team in Montana, ready to answer questions.

Whether you’re new to the outdoors or an adrenaline junkie in search of untouched powder, onX Backcountry has tools designed to help adventure-seekers stay safer and make more informed decisions in the backcountry. Check it out with a free 7-day trial before you decide to buy the first year of access for $30.

Explore the onX Backcountry App


This article is sponsored by onX. Find out more about its other offline GPS maps here.

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