Columbia GPS Pal App Review

Easy and Fun to Use - for IPhone and Android

Columbia GPS Pal
The free Columbia GPS Pal iPhone app lets you track, store, and share route, distance, time, map, and more. Image courtesy of Columbia Sportswear

Outdoor activities of all types can be more fun and more memorable if you "journal" your route and images and videos. Saved trips can also serve as a great resource for the next time you visit an area. The Columbia GPS Pal app for iPhone and Android operating system smartphones is a good, free way to get into e-journaling. The app also provides an easy way to share your trip journals on Facebook, Twitter, or by e-mailed links.

GPS Journaling Makes It Easy to Document and Share Trips

What is a GPS journaling app? The best way to describe it is to list its features. The Columbia GPS Pal app includes:

- Use videos, notes, and photos to set GPS tags at favorite spots.
- Track and store route, distance, time, pace, and elevation automatically.
- Rate and describe events.
- Organize and label events on Columbia's GPS Pal website.
- Share your trips via Facebook, Twitter, or by e-mailed link to Columbia's site.
- Save routes for later review.
- Store data in both the app and on your own GPS Pal site.
- Automatic sync with website account.

The "make a note" option invokes a simple lined notes page and your smartphone's keyboard. No muss, no fuss. Simple and easy to use and to save notes into your journal tied to specific locations.

Using Columbia GPS Pal

I downloaded and installed Columbia GPS Pal from the Apple iTunes store. I found it to be easy to complete the initial setup, both on the app itself and on the website.

The app's controls are intuitive and easy to use, with the opening screen presenting you with large buttons for beginning and ending a trip, as well as the "take a photo," "record a video," and "make a note" options. The top half of the opening screen shows the vital stats, including total time tracked, speed, distance, elevation, current pace, and average pace.

Tapping a globe icon takes you to the real-time map page, which shows your current location and highlighted track. You may view the map in the familiar standard, satellite, and hybrid options. The map screen also shows the pace, speed, distance stats at the bottom, as well. I like the setup of having the vital stats still appearing with the map screen, a well-thought-out touch.

When you choose to take a photo, the app opens your smartphone's default camera app, and after you take the photo, you may choose to use the shot, or to preview it before deciding. When you are finished making your selection, the Columbia GPS Pal app reappears where you left off, for seamless integration. Same with the take a video option. Still photos and videos are presented in nicely ordered sliding panels including clickable thumbnails. This is one of the app's better features and is in keeping with its fun and easy-to-use theme. Your photos and videos also show up on the route overview maps as little clickable still camera and video play button icons.

Columbia GPS Pal Companion Website

Columbia's GPS Pal website includes "my journal" and "my dashboard" sections. The journal section shows all of your synced trips. You may filter the trips by activity type. Activity types include gaming, cycling, golfing, hiking, and 21 other categories, including an "other" category, so you should be covered. Within your GPS Pal journal, you may also filter and sort entries by date and by your own star rating for the outing. The journal section also shows each of your trips in a thumbnail map version, to make it easy to see and select them.

The "my dashboard" section of the GPS Pal website provides a convenient and thorough way to view your trips, with a console including notes, images, and videos, as well as trip vital stats including speed, time, pace, elevation, etc.

GPS Pal is available for Apple iOS devices and for Android operating system smartphones. It will run on a device that does not have GPS, but you won't really experience its best features unless your device has GPS capability. Overall, Columbia's GPS Pal app is a fun and easy-to-use way to create compelling multimedia trip journals that are easy to share. For the more serious outdoors person who wants more precise mapping, navigation, and location-sharing capabilities, I recommend a more serious and full-featured tool, such as MotionX GPS.