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Trimble TopoCharger converts an iPhone into an outdoor GPS


August 12, 2013

The Trimble TopoCharger provides iPhone users with extra battery life and color topographical maps for 49 US states

The Trimble TopoCharger provides iPhone users with extra battery life and color topographical maps for 49 US states

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Smartphones have all but replaced standalone GPS units for basic car and foot navigation in cities and on highways, but without apps like the ViewRanger, they aren't equipped to guide you around forests, mountains and trails. The new Trimble TopoCharger brings another such app, along with a full set of topographical maps and a full-sized back-up battery. Pop this case on, and the iPhone transforms into an outdoor GPS.

Designed to make it that much easier to use your iPhone as an outdoor mapping GPS device, the TopoCharger from Trimble Outdoors packs a full set of color topographical maps for 49 US states with 15 zoom levels, from 1:250K to 1:24K. An accompanying app works with the maps to guide you through the wilderness.

The map set is stored in a removable chip on the bottom of the TopoCharger case, the idea being that you buy a case for your home state, or wherever you adventure the most. You can then purchase other statewide map cards as needed and swap out the chips. Instead of just offering the maps in card form, the way other outdoor GPS products are packaged, the TopoCharger case includes a 1,440 mAh auxiliary battery that is claimed to double the iPhone's battery life.

The 3-oz (85-g) TopoCharger case is designed for the iPhone 4, 4S and 5 models. It will launch in November for a retail price of US$149. Versions for larger states, such as Texas and California, will cost $169.

Android users don't get the benefit of a streamlined case, but they can access the same maps with Trimble's plug-and-play SD and microSD cards, available for all US states except Alaska. Like the iPhone version, an accompanying app provides navigation functions.

Source: Trimble Outdoors

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work. All articles by C.C. Weiss

Nice Idea (not new) for a ramble, but if you are really going into the bush, get a proper GPS (much better battery life), and a paper map (no batteries needed) (oh, and a compass, and know what it is for)... Or stay on the paved road, and the graded tracks in the local park.

Phone batteries (Especially if searching for a network) are woeful, hence, for more than a half hour (up to half day) stroll (no need for GPS then) sort of Useless...


A 2400mAH solar-powered battery case can be had for $20 on eBay and, as it mentions, ViewRanger has excellent maps that are far cheaper than this, particularly France and UK.

I use GPS on my phone a lot for outdoor stuff. Most tracking apps (Strava, RunKeeper, SkiTracks etc) do indeed eat the battery very quickly, usually because they record points every second. A battery case lets it last a full day at that rate, but ViewRanger (and other apps) has a low-power mode that will track for a couple of days.


This is close to what I'm looking for. What I'd really like is something that adds a plug-in high-sensitivity GPS chip, like those found in hiking GPS devices, so I can also get better location. In a lot of my hiking areas the cell tower-enhanced GPS doesn't help because I can't get a cell signal. But I'm excited by a combination of better battery and state maps that can be changed. What I'll wait for is to see if they actually have the trails mapped out by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Association.

Chris Estes
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