What if I told you there was a way to get completely FREE* outback maps for your iPad or tablet?
What if these maps were so good that I (Amanda) use them for anthropological and archaeological field work?
Imagine being able to search and instantly load government-quality maps for your next outback road trip (in fact, for EVERY single Australian road trip)…
I’ve found a very nifty, little-known way to get nearly EVERY outback map for free and I’m going to share it with you.
The Avenza PDF Maps App
*Some of the very popular mapsheets, such as the Uluru mapsheet, have a small cost of around $2.49. There are also many other paid-for maps in the Avenza Map store, such as the entire HEMA series.
Once you’ve downloaded your map, you can then find your location, record GPS tracks, add placemarks, and find places.
I’ve used them to navigate completely off road -and I mean OFF TRACK- cross country within remote parts of the outback whilst undertaking cultural and heritage clearances for mining exploration companies.
I’ve also used them to help me mark out waypoints and locate Geocaches.
The maps are spatially referenced, which means they can interact with the GPS inside your iPad, iPhone or Android device and you can ALWAYS see where you are even when you’ve got no Wi-Fi or 3/4G connection.
Let me show you how to use the app.
How to Use the Avenza PDF Maps app
1. Click through to the iTunes store using this link and download the app.
2. Once you’ve downloaded the app, open it and go to the store. This is the store screen:
3. Click on the green ‘FIND MAPS’ button.
4. Type in the name of a location for which you want maps. In the example, I wanted maps of the north Tanami Desert, so I typed in ‘Balgo’ – the name of a community in Western Australia
5. Preview the search results. The FREE maps you’re looking for are all labelled SXXX-XX:
6. Click ‘FREE’ and then the green ‘INSTALL’ that will appear. Your map will start to download, and you’ll see this screen:
7. Here is what the map looks like that I downloaded:
Isn’t that fabulous? And it’s for free.
You can not only download outback maps with the app, but maps for all over Australia and the world.
Finding Your Location
Finding where you are is really easy with this app.
1. Go to the main screen where your maps are located (press the little blue ‘MAPS’ icon right down the bottom).
2. Look for the black tick and the words ‘On map’. This shows you what mapsheet you are currently located on.
3. Touch the map to select it.
4. Then, in the bottom LEFT CORNER of the map touch the little blue arrow.
5. A blue spot will appear on the map and show your exact location:
Avenza PDF Maps can do many of the things that a normal GPS can do, including recording your tracks as you move, measuring distances and even importing sets of waypoints – such as Geocache coordinates.
To see a list of options, click on the little grey spanner in the BOTTOM RIGHT of the map screen.
I think that the Avenza PDF Maps is one of the best apps that I’ve ever used for travelling, exploring, and for work.
IMPORTANT UPDATE 2017
There is a LOT of misinformation about the app requiring an annual ‘subscription’ as of December 2016, and people thinking that you cannot download any more than 3 maps within the app.
This is absolutely UNTRUE.
Within Avenza’s in-app store any map that’s free, IS FREE.
If, however, you are downloading external maps (maps from outside of the Avenza in-app store), then you are limited to THREE per year – after that you must pay a subscription.
The subscription also applies if you are making your own maps in a program like ArcGis or MapInfo and importing them into the app.
If the app WASN’T free, then both the Victorian and South Australian National Parks agencies would not be releasing free maps to use with this app.
And finally, here’s what Avenza have to say about downloading maps (copied from the Google Play Store):
Avenza Systems Inc. May 30, 2017
The 3 map limit only applies to maps loaded from sources other than the in-app map store. We’d like to know more about how you are using the app so we can understand your need. Please tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you
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