I'm excited to announce Grit, the new thruhiking app from OpenLongTrails.org! The initial beta testing version is now available on Android phones through the Google Play store. The Pacific Crest Trail is the first supported trail.
The idea behind the app is fairly simple: it's a list of waypoints, each with its own details screen and comments section. Your current mileage and your location along the waypoints list is shown based on your phone's GPS position. Grit is designed to be used alongside a dedicated mapping app, like Gaia GPS or Caltopo.
Please note that this is a beta testing version. Things will break, and it won't work on all phones. You can send feedback from in the app, or email feedback at openlongtrails dot org.
Thanks for checking it out!
How can I download the Android beta testing version?
Follow this link to the Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.openlongtrails.grit
What makes Grit different from other long distance hiking apps?
Here are some things that differentiate Grit from other hiking apps, in no particular order:
- Many long distance hikers already maintain subscriptions to one or more dedicated mapping apps (Gaia, Caltopo, etc), because we prefer the feature set and basemaps. Grit is a lightweight and inexpensive way to add crowd-sourced updates about trail conditions and the status of water sources.
- Installing Grit instead will free up several gigs of space on your phone, though if you use a third party mapping app it will use some of that space. The current total install size for OLT Grit with the complete PCT is about 70 MB, or 0.07 GB.
- Grit doesn't have long loading screens.
- Grit will run quite well and fairly quickly on any inexpensive Android phone. It will even run (and fairly well) on a $25 grocery-store-checkout-line phone.
- Grit does not track users, and doesn't share personal information with any third parties. Some other hiking apps do.
- Grit is a good choice for anyone who would prefer to use and contribute information (in the form of comments, water source updates, etc) to a free and open source, community-oriented (instead of profit-oriented) app and set of thruhiking resources, instead of to a corporation.
- Grit is free.
- Grit is a great choice for hikers who prefer paper maps, but still want to keep up to date on trail conditions and the status of water sources.
That said, as of this writing OLT Grit is still at version 1.00-beta, and does not yet have an established userbase providing information in the comments. There are many people for whom Grit, in its current form, is not the best choice.
Is there an iPhone version?
No, not currently. There are three main reasons: 1) It's easier to launch with support for one OS; 2) I have no experience with Apple products; and 3) afaik the Apple App Store charges an annual fee, and imposes various other requirements.
That said, I would like to offer an iPhone version. Grit is open source and I've intentionally written it in a cross-platform language, so we're already most of the way to having an iPhone version. If there are any interested iPhone developers who would like to work on an iPhone version, please get in touch! Email me at numbers at openlongtrails dot org.
How much does it cost?
Grit is 100% free to use, with no hidden costs. The source code is publicly available under an open source license.
If you would like to support my efforts in building OpenLongTrails.org and resources like Grit, you can buy me a coffee here: https://ko-fi.com/numbershikes.
There is currently no way to donate directly to OpenLongTrails.
Does it have a map?
No. While Grit does use your current location to show your mileage and where you are in the ordered list of waypoints, it does not include a map display, and is designed to be used alongside a dedicated mapping app like Gaia GPS or Caltopo. Built in maps take up a lot of space on users' phones, and the focus of dedicated mapping apps means they can offer many more features.
There are GPX and GeoJSON files available to download for free from https://grit.OpenLongTrails.org that mirror the data Grit uses internally, and these files can be loaded in any mobile mapping app you choose. There's also an official OpenLongTrails publicly shared PCT map in Gaia GPS that you can easily add to your account, also for free (although Gaia charges their own fees for offline use). Instructions on how to quickly and easily add the official OLT PCT Gaia layer to your account are available from https://grit.OpenLongTrails.org. An official Grit PCT map for Caltopo users is in the works.
Note that these PCT maps are available "for personal use only," as they are based on the Halfmile Media PCT data (used with permission).
(OLT Grit is not affiliated with, or endorsed by Gaia GPS or Caltopo, and receives no portion of any fees paid to these companies).
Will a future version have a map?
It's a possibility, but it's also not a high priority.
If a future version does offer maps, it will likely be in a separate "Grit + Maps" app, and OLT Grit will continue to exist in its current, lightweight form.
Are there instructions about how to use the app?
Version 1 should be fairly self-explanatory: pick a trail and download it, then click on a waypoint to see the description and comments.
A few things to be aware of in the beta version:
- You have to manually sync in order to send/receive new comments and trail updates;
- The current form of the waypoints search feature is not particularly advanced;
- There isn't a GPS "smoothing" routine yet, which means that if you're standing near multiple waypoints, your current location may jump around a bit in the list, due to regular GPS noise.
These features will be improved in future versions.
To hear news about updates to Grit, check the 'Announcements' in the app (linked from the Settings screen -- remember to sync first!), visit https://www.OpenLongTrails.org/blog, and subscribe to the OpenLongTrails subreddit.
Where does the data come from?
For future trails, the plan is to source most data from OpenStreetMap and user contributions. The app is launching with the PCT as the first trail, which is based on the public Halfmile Media data. The Halfmile team has generously given permission for OLT Grit to use their PCT data (which is normally "for personal use only"), and I can't thank them enough. David and Lon are amazing people.
What about user privacy? Does OLT Grit share user info? Does it have ads?
OLT Grit has no ads. Information about users is never shared outside of OpenLongTrails.
There is an option on the app's settings screen to share your anonymous GPS info with OpenLongTrails. This data will be used to keep the trail routes up to date, both in OpenLongTrails and, in the future, on OpenStreetMap. User submitted Waypoint Suggestions will be used in the same way.
Currently, a free account is required to use the app. Signup requires an email address and phone number. Again, these are never shared outside of OpenLongTrails in any way.
The first beta version of the app lists some extra permissions on the Play Store page that are never used in the app, such as writing to external storage. These permissions are required only as a byproduct of the libraries used in the development process, and will be removed in a future version as soon as possible.
I'd like to see Grit's source code.
The source code for the frontend is available on Github: https://github.com/OpenLongTrails/grit.
In brief: The frontend is React Native built with Expo, and the backend is all AWS via Amplify. Grit is free and open source software, licensed under the AGPLv3.
I'd like to thank the many people that have made this app possible. First and foremost: my amazing family, and my generous partner, for their endless patience and support. The people at Halfmile Media, for their incredible generosity. David and Lon are an inspiration. The thruhiking community, and all of the spectacular hikertrash that I've met and hiked with over the years and miles. The online thruhiking community, especially on reddit. The trail angels who have cared for me and who have allowed me to serve the community alongside them. The Pacific Crest Trail community. The people at the PCTA. And the team at Expo, makers of the React Native service with which Grit is built.
Disclaimer: OLT Grit is not in any way affiliated with, or endorsed by, Gaia GPS, Caltopo, or Halfmile Media.