Backroads

Prepare for adventure!

What is Backroads?

Backroads is the definitive trip planner and trip companion app for the obsessive trip planner. It is designed to be the place where you gather and organize all the information you gained during planning, so that everything is readily available at your fingertips when you’re on the road.

Have you ever found yourself writing down GPS coordinates for some obscure point of interest? Saving off GPX or KML files to guide you to that unknown wonder in the wilderness? Writing down a detailed day-by-day plan for your hard-earned vacation? Or simply wishing you could visualize your upcoming trip in one place? If so, this is the app for you: Backroads was designed by obsessive trip planners to help you prepare for your own adventures.

What it is not

Backroads does not book your flights for you, provide a list of the world’s train and ferry schedules, or scan your email applying Big Data algorithms to your bookings. It does not count your footsteps or monitor your heart rate. It is not a replacement for Yelp, TripAdvisor, or for the many wonderful travel websites and apps with which modernity has gifted us. You already have apps for all that.

The price tag

Backroads is currently free and fully functional. It displays in-app advertisements on some pages. A one-time in-app purchase of Backroads Premium will remove those ads. Backroads Premium also provides access to premium features such as Track Cloud Sync.

Planning your trip

You start by creating a new trip from the Trips page. As you plan your trip, you use the Calendar page to add activities for the trip, day by day: hikes, tours, snorkels, dives, or even meetings with long-lost relatives. Activities can be color-coded to reflect different categories: for example, you might use green for must-do activities and red for activities you don’t expect to get to on a given day.

Activities can be moved around through context menus, or by dragging and dropping (on desktop Windows). If your trip needs to be re-ordered, days can be moved up or down, and you can add or delete days or change your dates entirely by editing your trip.

Automatic activities show up to fill in the gaps in your day. For example, if you have a rental car and will be hiking several sites, the app will automatically add drive activities between the respective trailheads. If desired, this functionality can be disabled by editing the trip and toggling the automatic activity setting to off.

The Logistics page is used to collect important information about your flights, hotels and rental cars. You can also add restaurants and stores that interest you, which can then be referenced when adding dining and shopping activities.

The Maps page gives you a day-by-day visual overview of where you’ll be, and can also be used for simple navigation by enabling the “track” option.

If your trip is within range of a weather forecast, the Weather page will tell you what kind of weather to expect at each location you’ll be visiting.

Alternative days

For any given day in your calendar, you might have several different itineraries in mind, depending on circumstances. Maybe the weather will turn bad. Maybe that scary-but-exciting road through the National Monument hasn’t been graded lately. Maybe the wife will be tired after that long hike the previous day. Stuff happens, and you won’t know for sure until you get there.

To be even more prepared for such eventualities, you can easily create alternative days from the Calendar page. Each alternative is essentially its own independent schedule for the day and you can easily switch between them just by tapping on the tab.

Attachments and URLs

If you’re anything like us, you won’t be using normal driving directions, and you won’t be sticking to the marked trails. Often you’ll be operating without a cellular signal. Backroads tries to facilitate this by allowing you to attach files to activities. This allows you to save off topo maps, Google Earth snapshots, or track files representing where you want to go. The app has built-in support for GPX and KML files, which you can attach to hiking, biking and driving routes. For drives in particular, you can customize your driving route with a track file, replacing automatically-generated driving routes.

You can also save the URLs of sites that describe an activity, like an interesting description of a hike. URLs will only work when your device is online, so if there are sites you’ll want offline, you should save them as PDF files and then attach them inside the app.

Full drag and drop is supported for attaching files from your local disk, as well as images from web browsers.

On the road

While you’re enjoying your trip, you can use the Calendar page to guide you day by day: seeing what’s next, getting driving directions for each driving segment, and viewing any files you might have attached during planning.

You can also view attached track files (GPX, KML or KMZ) in a convenient tracking view, to facilitate off-the-beaten-path navigation. This can be useful when hiking off the beaten path, either on foot or driving without a road map.

Tracking

Backroads includes an easy way to track and record your location as you go about your activities. This allows you to review your route later, as well as backtrack to a previously visited location during a hike or a drive.

To enable tracking, simply enable tracking in any map view, or use the toggle button on the app menu. While tracking is enabled, your route will be recorded continuously by the app as long as it is running, even if it is not displaying a map. When viewing any map inside the app, the current track will always be displayed in bright red. Past tracks are displayed using a darker shade of red, and will be visible on the same day they were recorded, or when viewing that day in the maps page.

If tracking is disabled for two hours, or if the distance between the last tracked point and a new point is greater than half a mile, the app will consider tracking to have been interrupted: it will save the track and begin a fresh track. This can be triggered manually by selecting the “save track” option from the map page’s menu. The current track can be cleared and therefore discarded by selecting the “clear track” option.

Recorded tracks are saved to your device’s database, and can be viewed by entering the tracking page, then tapping the option to view tracks on the toolbar. Tracks are displayed year by year and are retained until you delete them. Uninstalling the app or wiping the device will delete these tracks.

You will want to turn off tracking when you no longer wish to record your route. Having this option enabled may cause your device to consume significantly more power than usual. On a Windows device, the app will ask the operating system to avoid suspending it while in tracking mode (please note that this may not work if there is another app on the device already performing geo-tracking).

Track Cloud Sync

If you have purchased Backroads Premium, then the app can upload these tracks to your cloud drive. This requires you to authenticate against a cloud service provider; currently Microsoft OneDrive is supported. Other devices with Backroads Premium signed in as the same account will be able to connect to the same cloud drive and sync those tracks. Uninstalling the app or wiping the device will not delete these tracks. Deleting a track on one device will however delete the track in the cloud, and on all synced devices. Deleting a track in the cloud will cause it to be deleted on all synced devices.

Safety first!

Backroads is not intended to be mission-critical software, and should always be used with a contingency plan in mind. By using Backroads, you are implicitly agreeing that we are not responsible if something goes wrong on your trip.

If your life depends on some part of Backroads working perfectly at crunch time, please have a plan B available. You should never have just a single point of failure when lives are on the line!

Some suggestions:

  • Export your trip and extract the summary Word document from the zip file. Even if Backroads crashes or doesn’t run, you can still find your trip data in that document.
  • From the same export file, extract your attachments, including any images and track files you’ll be using to navigate. Ensure you have an alternative app that can view them in case of necessity.
  • If you’re using your phone for navigation, carry extra batteries and at least one extra phone, just in case something happens to one of your devices.
  • Make sure you test absolutely everything prior to setting out.

Making planning easier

To make the planning process easier, you can drag and drop websites from certain supported sites onto the app. When a supported URL is dropped onto Backroads, the app will automatically scrape information from the site in order to create activities or logistic resources for your trip. The following sites are currently supported for this purpose:

Hikes, Tours, Hotels
Hikes
Hotels
Locations