If you love hiking, you’ve probably used one of the many hiking apps out there to navigate trails and track your progress. Two of the most popular are Avenza and AllTrails.
But which one is better for your needs?
This comprehensive comparison examines the key features and differences between Avenza and AllTrails to help you decide.
A Brief Comparison Table
|Offline Maps||Accesses official topo maps from leading brands||Compiles own topo maps from various sources|
|Trail Guides||None||Extensive trail guides with reviews, photos, conditions|
|Recording Tracks||Basic tracking via GPS||Robust recording with stats and sharing|
|Social Features||None||Active community forums and content sharing|
|Free Version||Unlimited offline maps with 3 download limit||Limited offline map downloads and quality|
|Paid Version||$39.99/year for unlimited offline map downloads||$29.99/year for unlimited high-res map downloads and extra features|
|Ease of Use||Simple, clean interface focused on maps||More features make initial learning curve steeper|
|Battery Usage||Efficient for pure offline map navigation||GPS tracking and social features use more power|
|Privacy||Minimal data collection and no ads||More usage data collected, ads on free version|
Overview of Avenza and AllTrails
Avenza Maps and AllTrails are mobile apps that allow you to download maps for offline use, track your hike in real-time, record distance traveled, view elevation profiles, and more.
Avenza focuses purely on maps and navigation.
It partners with a variety of map publishers to offer digital maps for outdoor recreational use.
You can use Avenza on your mobile device to navigate trails offline without cell service.
AllTrails goes beyond just maps to offer a more social experience.
It provides trail guides and reviews from its large community of users.
You can browse curated hiking trails, read reviews, view photos, record your own tracks, and interact with fellow hikers.
Both apps have free and paid subscription options. Let’s dive into the details of each one.
Key Features and Tools
- Maps and Offline Use
The core functionality of both Avenza and AllTrails is downloading maps for offline use on the trails.
Avenza offers access to maps from a variety of topographic map publishers such as National Geographic, USGS, and more. You can download free and paid maps based on your location. There are detailed topo maps available for most hiking destinations.
AllTrails has its own topographic maps compiled from various sources including USGS. You can download free low-res overview maps worldwide and subscribe to download detailed topo maps offline. The paid Pro subscription ($29.99/year) offers access to download unlimited high-res topo maps.
The advantage of Avenza is the access to maps from leading mapping brands. AllTrails has the convenience of compiling various maps in one place, but the selection is more limited unless you pay for Pro.
- Recording and Sharing Hikes
While Avenza focuses purely on navigation, AllTrails puts more emphasis on recording and sharing your hikes.
With AllTrails, you can easily track your hike on a trail using GPS, viewing details like distance, elevation gain, and live location. It records the route on a map which you can then save and share publicly or privately with the AllTrails community.
Avenza also uses GPS to track your real-time location on a downloaded map for basic navigation assistance. However, it does not have built-in tools to record or share hike details and stats. You would need to use a separate fitness tracking app for recording routes, distance, etc.
So AllTrails is better for recording and looking back on your hike details, while Avenza is more limited to live navigation assistance.
- Trail Guides and Social Features
A major advantage of AllTrails is the wealth of information provided by its large community of users. For each trail, you can browse user-generated guides with route maps, photos, reviews, and recent conditions reports. It really helps with trip planning.
Avenza purely focuses on maps and does not offer any trail guides or social components. You are mostly on your own when it comes to researching and planning your hike.
The social features give AllTrails the upper hand if you want to leverage other hikers’ knowledge and share your own experience. But Avenza may appeal more to you if you don’t need the community aspect.
- Subscription Options
Both apps offer free limited versions and paid subscriptions that unlock additional features.
The free version of Avenza allows you to access a wide variety of free basemaps and some paid maps. You can download up to 3 maps for offline use.
With the paid Avenza Unlimited subscription ($39.99/year), you get unlimited offline map downloads and access to premium map sets.
For AllTrails, the free version allows you to view overview trail maps and guides. You can record your hike and share on web/mobile with GPS tracking. Offline topo map downloads are limited.
The AllTrails Pro subscription ($29.99/year) unlocks unlimited downloads of high-res topo maps, printable maps, route creation tools, and no ads.
Overall, Avenza’s free version is very capable for basic navigation with some map limitations. AllTrails free has ads and is quite limited for planning without a paid subscription.
Ease of Use
Avenza has a clean interface focused purely on map browsing, search, and downloading for offline use.
The toolset for navigating and tracking your real-time location is straightforward.
The learning curve is small if you just need basic maps and navigation assistance on the trails.
AllTrails has a busier interface with many more features baked in.
There can be a bit more of a learning curve navigating all the trail guides, recording tools, social features, and settings.
But overall it’s very user-friendly and laid out logically. The map navigation is smooth.
For most hikers, AllTrails may take a bit more time to get used to given the expanded set of tools. Avenza offers a more stripped down mapping experience that is easier to grasp at first. But both offer a quality mobile experience.
Accuracy of Maps and GPS
When it comes to following the right route, the accuracy and reliability of the maps and GPS tracking is critical.
The offline topo maps available from Avenza and AllTrails Pro are very accurate, given they are sourced from official mapping data. Avenza may have an edge providing access to maps from brands like National Geographic. But AllTrails maps are solid too.
The GPS tracking also performs well on both platforms based on user reviews. The live tracking of your movement on the map is smooth and precise in most cases. As long as cell service is available, the GPS accuracy is quite reliable on well-marked trails.
In more remote terrain where cell service drops, some users noted occasional issues with GPS accuracy on the apps. Bringing a dedicated handheld GPS navigator is recommended for extended backcountry hikes to supplement the smartphone apps.
But for well-established trails, both Avenza and AllTrails provide accurate on-trail guidance you can count on, especially for navigation assistance where traditional signs are lacking. Just make sure to download maps in advance for offline use where cell coverage is spotty.
Battery and Storage Usage
Using any hiking app with active GPS tracking will drain your phone’s battery life and storage space. So power and storage management are important factors to weigh.
The battery drain is comparable for Avenza and AllTrails when actively tracking a hike with GPS and displaying maps. You can expect to lose around 20% battery per hour used based on user reviews.
Downloading maps for offline use in advance helps conserve some power vs. streaming constantly.
Storage usage really depends on how many maps you download for offline access. For both apps, large detailed topo maps can take up substantial storage space – often 100+ MB each.
AllTrails Pro allows for unlimited map downloads, while Avenza limits you to 3 free downloads. With the paid Avenza Unlimited, storage usage becomes unlimited.
One advantage of Avenza is giving you control over what level of detail to download for each map – you can customize lower resolution areas to save space. For AllTrails, the high-res map downloads are fixed.
Overall, Avenza may give you a bit more flexibility managing storage usage. But both apps will max out storage capacity quickly if downloading many detailed offline map regions. Using a phone with expandable SD card storage helps tremendously for offline map usage.
Pricing and Value
How do the paid subscriptions of Avenza and AllTrails compare in terms of value for money?
The Avenza Unlimited subscription is $39.99 per year and provides unlimited offline downloads of both free and premium maps. Many hikers find the paid subscription worthwhile for accessing premium National Geographic maps.
AllTrails Pro is $29.99 annually for unlimited offline downloads of high-res topographic maps along with extra trail data, route tools, printable maps, and no ads. The value is very high given all the expanded features vs. the free version.
In terms of pure offline mapping capabilities, Avenza Unlimited provides tremendous value. AllTrails Pro offers much more for trail discovery, recording, and planning. It really comes down to which additional features are worth the price for you.
These subscriptions are on the affordable side for how much useful hiking content you get. The paid versions of both apps enhance the experience substantially over sticking with the free versions.
Privacy and Advertising
Another consideration is how much the apps collect your data and if advertising is heavy.
Avenza does not display any ads in the app interface. It claims to only collect basic usage analytics and location data needed to provide the service. You can opt out of analytics in settings. There are no concerns around excessive data gathering.
AllTrails does display unobtrusive but noticeable ads in the free version. The Pro subscription is ad-free. AllTrails states it collects your location, usage, and device data to provide recommendations and improve the app. You need to agree to sharing public hike data to use social features.
So Avenza focuses purely on core map functionality without ads and collects minimal data. AllTrails gathers more data to feed recommendations and does have ads on free accounts. Keep this in mind based on your privacy preferences.
Support and Community
Having access to troubleshooting help and an engaged user community adds value to hiking apps.
The Avenza support site has helpful self-help resources like user guides and FAQs. You can submit support tickets for technical issues and receive personalized email responses usually within a day. Overall good customer service.
AllTrails also provides decent email-based customer support. But being such a social platform, many users turn to the community forums to get quick answers to issues from fellow users. The knowledge sharing and camaraderie between hikers on AllTrails is a major benefit.
Both apps have active user communities on places like Reddit and Facebook for further discussion. But the built-in community on AllTrails connects you right to other users enthusiasm for hiking and trip ideas tailored to your needs. Avenza’s support resources are great but lack this social component.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
There are several hiking apps that compete well with or even exceed AllTrails in certain areas, including:
1. Gaia GPS: More advanced planning and navigation tools for backcountry users.
2. Avenza Maps: Better for offline topo maps from official mapping brands.
3. Backcountry Navigator: Allows importing many map sources and works offline.
4. ViewRanger: Social features and strong augmented reality tools.
5. Trailforks: Specialized for mountain biking trail maps and data.
AllTrails is a great all-purpose hiking app but alternatives can provide benefits depending on your specific needs. As this article outlines, Avenza has advantages for certain use cases.
Gaia GPS and Avenza Maps have different strengths:
1. Gaia has more advanced navigation and planning features better suited for extensive backcountry hiking. Avenza focuses more on basic on-trail map usage.
2. Avenza provides access to premium offline topo maps from official mapping brands. Gaia combines maps from various sources.
3. Avenza is simpler to use for basic navigation while Gaia has a steeper learning curve for its expansive feature set.
4. Avenza is great for hiking at state and national parks with authoritative trail maps available. Gaia excels for areas without specialized trail maps.
5. Gaia has a web app for planning. Avenza is mobile-only.
For multi-day excursions away from maintained trails, Gaia GPS has more robust tools. But Avenza offers an easier mapping experience focused on trail-based day hiking contexts.
AllTrails continues to offer a free account option with basic functionality. However, they have introduced more limitations on the free service over time.
On free accounts, you now only get:
1. Low-resolution overview maps with limited downloads for offline use
2. Full recording and logging of your hikes
3. Basic trail guide and map browsing
4. Advertisements throughout the app
To unlock unlimited offline topo maps, route tools, printable maps, and a complete ad-free experience, you need to subscribe to AllTrails Pro at $29.99 per year.
So the free version is still very usable but is now quite limited compared to the paid Pro option. The value of the Pro subscription continues to increase as more core features are moved behind the paywall.
Some of the downsides of using AllTrails can include:
1. Detailed offline topo maps require a paid Pro account subscription.
2. Battery life drains faster than with simpler map apps when using live GPS tracking.
3. No native integration with many external sensor devices like InReach and action cameras.
4. Trail data can sometimes be inaccurate or outdated if not kept up by the user community.
5. Subscription auto-renews by default unless you manually cancel (easy to forget).
6. Advertisements on free accounts can be annoying and distracting.
7. Recording tracks publicly by default raises some privacy concerns.
8. Crowdsourcing trails depends on user participation so more remote areas lack info.
9. App can seem cluttered with many features competing for attention. Steep learning curve.
While very functional and helpful in many ways, the social nature and packed interface of AllTrails aren’t suited for every user. But it remains one of the most popular and powerful hiking apps available.
To recap, Avenza Maps excels at providing access to premium offline topographic maps for GPS navigation on the trails. AllTrails has more community-driven features for discovering hike details, recording routes, and planning upcoming trips.
Choose Avenza if you want:
- Basic offline maps from official sources for navigation
- Minimal battery and storage usage
- Simple mobile interface focused on maps
- No advertisements or unwanted social features
Opt for AllTrails if you prefer:
- Expansive trail database with photos, reviews, conditions for planning
- Recording and analyzing hike details and stats
- Sharing your hikes and engaging with the outdoor community
- Comprehensive set of map tools in one app
Both Avenza and AllTrails are excellent hiking companions that enhance your outdoor adventures in different ways. Hopefully this detailed comparison helps you determine which solution best matches your needs and preferences out on the trails!