Gaia GPS vs. BackCountry Navigator for Android

Since the dawn of Android, BackCountry Navigator has been the market-leading outdoor app. The developer behind the app took his long experience on Windows and translated that to the new Android platform, and BackCountry Navigator was the best for a long while.

With the latest release of Gaia GPS, things have changed. I can now say Gaia GPS is competitive with BackCountry Navigator in many ways, and overall, the best outdoor GPS app for Android. If you have to make the choice, buy both. If you think I’m wrong, send an email to, and I will personally give you a refund.

What Makes Gaia GPS Better

Gaia GPS has many advantages over BackCountry Navigator now, both with regards to speed and performance, and features. Most importantly:

  1. Faster map display
  2. Sync, share, and backup with GaiaCloud
  3. Better maps

Faster Map Display

The most obvious difference between the two apps is that Gaia GPS displays maps smoothly and beautifully, while BackCountry Navigator flashes black and white as you move the map, which creates a jarring and unsatisfying map experience.

Though there are many capabilities that Gaia GPS has that BackCountry does not, it is this basic map display disparity that makes Gaia GPS obviously better on launch. BackCountry Navigator’s developer will have a hard time matching the smooth, openGL-based maps Gaia now offers.

Sync, Share, and Backup with GaiaCloud

The biggest feature difference that sets Gaia GPS aside from BackCountry Navigator is that Gaia GPS works across all of your devices (Android, iOS, and computer).

Similar to DropBox, you can share a short link to any track, waypoint, or photo, and browse your data online at And if you enable GaiaCloud, getting a new Android phone or dropping your smartphone in a river doesn’t wreck your tracks.

Better Maps

Gaia GPS has many map sources that you cannot get in BackCountry Navigator. For example, Gaia includes MapBox cloudless aerial and up-to-date road maps, which we license for use in GaiaPro. Gaia also includes Inland River Charts, Geology Maps, and National Park visitor maps. We are always working to add more public land, charts, boundaries, and other professional map sources to our catalog.

Also, while you have to purchase map packs like “Alaska Public Land” from BackCountry Navigator, Gaia conveniently makes all of this public data available to you without a hassle. You can always view all of the maps we make and license online for free, use them in the apps, and you can view them in layered fashion with a GaiaPro subscription.

Why Gaia GPS Overtook BackCountry Navigator

Bottom line, Gaia GPS performs better than BackCountry Navigator today because we put more effort into Gaia GPS than Crittermap does into BackCountry Navigator. We started out on iPhone, and we focused on making the best iPhone GPS app for years. While we did that, we outsourced the Android development.

As of May, we brought Android development in-house, and we made it our #1 priority. We put nearly 1,000 work hours into Android since then, and we’re not slowing down. Those work hours mostly come from an engineer who last worked at Google for 4 years (CTO and Founder Anna) and our lead developer Jesse, who besides being a great programmer, thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.


If you start looking into what outdoor GPS app your should buy for your Android, you’ll see several choices come up on Google, including Gaia GPS and BackCountry Navigator. Choose Gaia GPS if you want the best app, and choose BackCountry Navigator if you want the old leader.

I could list a bunch of other features, like weather overlays and heads-up display that you won’t find in BackCountry Navigator either, but it’s really the core mapping and data capabilities that will make Gaia GPS better than BackCountry Navigator over the long haul.

2 thoughts on “Gaia GPS vs. BackCountry Navigator for Android

  1. Chauncey

    will I be able to move my BCN tracks and waypoints to GAIA?

    I changed to a new phone (from the Samsung Charge to the Galaxy S5) and have not been able to get my old tracks accesses by BCN on the new phone. I have a study in process (mapping Junipers in a watershed) and this has put hundreds of hours of work out to pasture unless I can get the tracks onto my new phone. BCN seems stumped by the problems created by the new format of how the phone now will or will not access the SD card.

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