How to find your location without cell service

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This article was first published by Gaia GPS. To get more of their exclusive content and the entire map catalog, sign up to become a Gaia GPS Premium member.


You are on an adventure with the time of your life, until all of a sudden you are lost. You can’t find the trail and you don’t have cell service. Whether you hike, off-road, run or cycle, we’ve all been through that moment of panic. This is a big reason why Gaia GPS was born.

The mapping app has a feature to save you hours of frantically trying to retrace your steps in the vein. In fact, you can know where you are in seconds, even when you can’t get a cell signal. All you need to do is take out your phone, open Gaia GPS, and locate yourself on the map. Here’s how to do it.

Plan ahead: download maps for offline use

In order to locate yourself on the map, there is a catch. You must have downloaded your maps for offline use. Fortunately, downloading a map is easy to do. You just need a Gaia GPS Premium subscription. Then you can download maps for the entire region you’re visiting, or even an entire state.

Pro tip: Before leaving the trailhead, start recording your tracks in order to leave a breadcrumb trail of your steps directly on the map. This way you can always retrace your steps and find your way back.

Locate yourself on the map

Are you lost and you don’t know where you are? You can find yourself on the map in seconds using the “Locate” icon. Simply open the Gaia GPS app and tap on the circular icon with the four cardinal points in the very center of the app’s top toolbar. The arrow icon (called the “map arrow”) now indicates your exact position on the map. Zoom in or out and move around the map to get your bearings.

Pro tip: You can quickly see how far you are from the trailhead or the trailhead. Simply tap the desired destination on the map and a drawer will appear at the bottom of the screen showing the distance to it.

Navigate the way home

Once you’ve located where you are on the map, you can use Gaia’s GPS to find your way back to familiar terrain. If you are recording your tracks, hold your phone in front of you and turn your body until the arrow on the map points in the direction of your breadcrumb trail. Start walking along your recorded track and your arrow should move with you.

If you don’t record your tracks, don’t despair. Examine the map to find the trail, trailhead, or a particular feature on the map that you want to reach. Once you’ve located your destination, you can even drop a waypoint on the map for easy reference. Using the arrow on the map as a guide, go back.

EEven when your phone is completely offline and in airplane mode, you can locate yourself on the map, create routes, create and edit waypoints to mark important points like campsites and water sources, and save tracks and follow them back. You will never be lost again.

Gaia GPS is part of Outside Inc., the same company that owns Outside. For a Gaia GPS premium subscription, sign up here.


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