Comparison of Offline 4WD Maps & GPS Navigation Apps & Software

This articles compares the current range of 2021 navigation options in Australia including standalone navigators, raster mapping software for Android & Windows, and covers a large comparison of Navigation Apps for use in Australia for Android & Apple phones, tablets, iPads and PCs. Just tap the headings for each subheading below to read the full article.
Created: June 2016
Revised: February 2021
Latest Feedback: February 2021

Where to Start?

Digital mapping is quite simply, maps that you use on a digital device - a computer, tablet or smartphone. However, the complexities of digital mapping is three-fold because there are 3 parts to the system and lots of personal choice. The 3 parts are:- the device, the mapping engine (software or app), and the actual maps.

Many people don't realise how the device you use can directly limit the use of available maps you can use. The novice can mistakenly assume that most factory car-fitted or aftermarket sat/nav devices, Android Auto or Apple Car Play systems will be compatible with anything they want to load into it - sorry, nope. Same with handheld navigators such as Garmin, Magellan GPS, HX1, and Navman navigators.

So we've organised this article into sections based on device/program type to help you easily work out your options.

Standalone Navigators

WHAT ARE GPS NAVIGATORS?

These are devices that you purchase complete with a mapping program, GPS receiver, and maps installed. Whilst there are many other GPS devices on the market, they all have limitations in what maps are compatible. The following is a selection of the devices that have proven most popular with the serious offroad traveller/Australian explorer as they either include dedicated 4WD mapping by popular publishers or provide access to install raster map files which gives you choice of your preferred mapping publisher.

Hema Navigator HX-1

Current model HX-1 is a stand-alone GPS Navigation device that is effectively an Android tablet with locked features so you cannot add any other apps, or files or use services such as email, web browsing. You cannot connect a reversing camera either (like you can on HN7). It does not use the OziExplorer operating system (like previous model HN7) so no other map files can be imported other than downloading via the Hema Cloud. So no access to import EOTopo maps. It does not have an SD card slot either, so the device is fully locked to what is stored on the device locally, however with Wifi you can access maps to view on the Hema Cloud. It is pre-loaded with Hema's 150K Explorer Map and POIs and includes inbuilt GPS however. Cost around $550.

Hema Navigator HN7

Old model (no longer available for sale), is a stand-alone GPS Navigation device that uses the Windows CE operating system with the CE version of OziExplorer as its navigation program so you can import raster maps in either ECW or OZF format (including EOTopo).

MudMap M7

Older model stand-alone GPS Navigation device similar to Hema Navigator. Runs on OziCE software, which uses raster maps in OZF format. Compatible with EOTopo 2019 Raster but not the upcoming new EOTopo 2021 as it is vector only.

VMS GPS

Older model stand-alone GPS Navigation device similar to above. Uses VMS Offroad Software which requires raster maps in ECW format. Also offers OziCE if you wish to install raster maps in OZF (not sure if can update the version of Ozi to read the newer OZF4 format and might only be able to use the older OZF3).

Raster Mapping Software for Android & Windows

WHAT IS MAPPING SOFTWARE?

These are software programs (not apps) that you buy directly from the business (not via App stores) and are typically outdated programs that don't provide access to new maps. If you have a modern Windows 10 device or Android smartphone or tablet then you're better off looking at the range of Navigation Apps available from the app store.

OziExplorer

Available for Android, Windows CE and Windows PC this is a robust technical bit of software that was originally designed for use by surveyors and geologists and has stood the test of time but is not at all user friendly. Most people find it has many features that you simply don't need and is too complicated to learn to use. The user interface is very clunky and isn't easy to operate in a moving vehicle. Does not come with any maps, no POI data, no route data, and you need to add a GPS receiver. Cannot be used online, is an offline program only. Maps can be purchased separately provided they in the raster format. ECW files can be converted to the optimised OziExplorer format which is OZF. Compatible with EOTopo 2019 Raster Version but not the new upcoming EOTopo 2021 maps which will be vector only. This an old style product that is now superseded by newer technologies such as Apps.

Track Ranger

Mapping software for Windows PC. Similar to OziExplorer in function but reportedly a little easier to use. Requires additional maps in raster format and a GPS receiver. Not compatible with the upcoming vector EOTopo 2021 maps.

Navigation Apps for Phones, Tablets, iPads & PCs in 2021

These products are apps which which you get from Playstore, Apple Store, Windows Store to install onto your personal device (tablet, phone, laptop, iPad etc).

ExplorOz Traveller App

Developed by the operators of the ExplorOz website, the Traveller app has fast become the favourite. Boasting an average app rating of 4.3 out of 5 consistently across the past 5 years, the app has been updated (free) over 35 times with numerous new features added, plus constant attention to tweaking the program for optimum performance and compatibility with new OS releases. The latest versions (V 5.x) released in November 2020 featured a major UI update, which was very positively received as a major improvement. The app is also now "vector ready" for the future release of EOTopo offline vector maps.
ExplorOz Traveller is the only navigation app in the app stores that is uniquely Australian where the business owner is the app developer, who also manages production of the offline mapset, and also manages the customer/technical support. It is also the only navigation app that is available for 3 major app store platforms with an identical app experience. The supported offline mapset is EOTopo, which is exclusive to the ExplorOz Traveller app. App users only need 1 map licence to download the map across multiple devices, even on different operating systems/platforms (app however is not cross-platform, so you need to purchase a separate licence if you require the app. Purchase of the app is $59.99 and includes exceptional online maps with Level 18 zoom, plus the Base EOTopo map of Australia for basic offline use however if you need to use the app offline you are advised to also purchase the full EOTopo mapset for $49.99 to download the remaining detailed zoom levels required for offline navigation and planning. A couple of additional features also worth mentioning are the included free ExplorOz Places and Treks databases. The Places database is the POI dataset with over 90,000 POIs. The detail and accuracy is excellent and gets rave reviews. The Treks database contains 200 routes for offline navigation that have been pre-routed and ready to use. The app also features tools so you can update, comment and add new Places and Treks, plus tracking. ExplorOz Traveller has many features that significantly different to other offline navigation apps so it is worth checking the details contained on the dedicated ExplorOz Traveller webpage here - ExplorOz Traveller.
Independent YouTuber AllOffRoad 4x4 Adventures TV rated it the "Best 4WD Navigation App in Oz". Check it out here.


Hema Explorer App

In a controversial move, Hema launched into the app scene naming their app with "Explorer", which is very close to the name of the "OziExplorer" mapping software already known in the industry as well as the name of Australia's most popular 4x4 and camping website "ExplorOz" who also published an app around the same time using the name "ExplorOz Traveller". This confusion of names caught many customers unawares. Despite this, many people bought this app based on the reputation and brand power of Hema who invested heavily in marketing and exposure. However, the Hema Explorer app was a complete disaster and failed to satisfy thousands of buyers who rated the app lower than 2 out of 5 stars in the app store. Despite the original Hema company being Australian, the app was not developed by Australian developers and updates and bug fixes plagued operation. Many customers were dissatisfied with the maps being "sanitised" (ie missing tracks that appear on other maps such as EOTopo) and also lacking contrast (hard to define road lines - all washed out colours). Hema also chose to use a Hema Cloud subscription process with additional costs for those that wanted access to download more detail maps using the Pro Subscription which added an ongoing cost to use rather than the one-time payment option by ExplorOz with the ExplorOz Traveller app and EOTopo map download. Hema customers who were happy and could get this app to work suddenly found that OS updates on Android and iOS devices during 2019 were unsupported by Hema so this app eventually became unusable. Much to the dissatisfaction of many Hema customers, Hema's solution was to launch a new app in 2020 rather than fix the broken app.

Hema 4x4 Explorer

The new app by Hema has not received any better positive response in the market than the previous app. Despite moving from raster maps to vector maps (an improvement in theory), the map detail is greatly criticised for being too "sanitised" and lacks contrast at low zoom scales making readability very difficult when driving. Issues with the being charged for the Pro Subscription to access the Hema Cloud remain unchanged. Hema customers still rate the new app at 2 out of 5 stars in the app stores and comments about no support or poor support are common.

Hema 4WD Maps iOS App

This is a re-packaged version of the Memory-Map app but is only available on iPads. This app uses the old 250K scale Australia Topo map that is exactly the same data as the old NATMAP 250K circa 2008 data. App with Hema maps costs $99. No access to the Memory-Map store to obtain the other files. No access to EOTopo maps. Nothing exciting here.

Gaia GPS

Gaia GPS is an American made app designed for iOS and Android devices. Whilst it is has some powerful features when online, and offers offline maps of Australia, it does not match the quality of detail and performance that is available in the Australian-made ExplorOz Traveller app with EOTopo offline maps. Independent YouTuber AllOffRoad 4x4 Adventures TV recently published a review of it here:


Avenza

Whilst this become popular a few years ago, it is ultimately too much effort downloading all individual maps and the cost and cumbersome setup makes it less appealing than more modern apps such as ExplorOz Traveller that offer simple click download buttons to access the whole of Australia maps. In addition, it is not Australian made and doesn't offer access to the best maps of Australia that are now available.

Billy Goat

This app like many other cheap apps use the free open source mapping (OSM) which is fine for street level detail in cities etc but when looking at outback and regional areas it is lacking in detail with many known 4WD tracks completely missing. When looking at outback regions you need to zoom in so far before road definitions become visible and then you lose orientation of where you are so it really becomes unusable and is not a suitable navigation app for a 4x4 traveller as a result.

Wikicamps

This app also uses freely available open source mapping that is fine if you're just a casual road tripper and don't care that the maps are incomplete. The main advantage of Wiki camps is that is it cheap but you do get what you pay for. A big negative is they don't seem to bother about data verification and what you get is a lot of unsubstantiated comments and accuracy of campsites is very dubious with many good camps missing. If you target a camp listed, chances are you'll be sharing it with every other cheap site camp chaser who have no idea that other camps nearby exist. That leaves those camps vacant for people using the other app who don't like camping with the masses. This app seems to focus on tar-accessible destinations so it really attracts a different sort of app user. If you're a cheapskate, you might like it. It's awfully designed - glaringly ugly with bright colours. Needs a lot of UI refinement.

Memory-Map

Memory-Map is a free app for iOS, Windows and Android but requires purchase of maps via a portal. The NZ/Australian company had an abrupt withdrawal from the Australian market sometime in 2019 and a lot of customers were unable to access their maps via the Australian portal or gain any support rendering their mapping program unusable. The situation seems to have been resolved by a takeover by the US operators however no access to good Australian maps such as EOTopo.

TIP

Also see Best 2021 Offline Navigation App for Australia

Comments & Reviews(16) Rating 4/5

Post a Comment
Loading...

Article Tags

Digital Topographic Maps, Free Online Maps, 4X4 Maps, 4Wd Maps, Offline Maps, Ipad Maps, Android Maps, Eotopo, Hema Maps, Oziexplorer, Carplay, Android Auto, Avenza, Hn7, Raster Maps, Vector Maps, Gps Navigation

Sponsored Links

Popular Products (12)