This year was also the first year I decided to try out a few new products. The first is an application by Cabela’s called Cabela’s Recon Hunt. Though this application was designed for hunters, I found it was very useful on just about any outdoor excursion. Every trip to the field is an opportunity to scout for animals, mushrooms, walking sticks, and plants & berries.
I downloaded and installed this application, and found it a bit difficult to figure out how to start using. It is not intuitive that you have to start a trip first, then decide if you want to turn “Tracks On”. I marked the parking lot as a waypoint and was off to my favorite hunting areas. The interface was very easy to navigate and found that I really liked having options when I hit the “Mark” button. I could take a snapshot, create a way point, and a couple other options that I cannot recall at this time. Additionally I went into “Layers” and changed the map from “Arial” to “Topo” so that I could get a better feel of the terrain. The application/phone was able to get a pretty quick fix and begin navigation. I also found it helpful to click the “Target” icon on the map screen which puts the application in “Follow Me” mode, which means the map keeps updating as I move. Another nice feature is that if you are going to be out of cell signal coverage, you can pre-load your area by browsing those areas in the applications map before you go out. Be sure to zoom in and out to get those maps downloaded as well. This way you are not required to have a cell signal in your hunting areas. Another feature that earns big points for this application is how it conservatively uses system resources and the GPS to preserve battery life. I left my car with a full battery and was out for more than four hours, and only used 40% of my battery. This means I could probably get almost 8 hours of use if I were in a pinch, which rivals some handheld GPS devices.
A few features I thought were left out was a way to manage and place additional way points in a trip, without having to mark your current location. Also I noticed that zooming in to areas where there were no maps associated, it should have just maintained a low resolution image of the current or last map that was visible. Clearing the screen and placing the text “No map data available” is a bit silly. Either limit the zoom ratio or zoom the current map would be preferred. It would also be nice to be able to add information and details to the trip/mark event, such as berries, mushrooms, or other items/markers that you come across. I realize this is designed specifically for the animal hunter, but with a few small additions, this application would and does make a really good Mushroom Hunting application.
I also believe that this application should provide either links or reference material built into it. For instance if it linked to edible plant and mushroom references, animal/plant/mushroom identification based on a photo of foot print or plant. This would truly make this an amazing application. Granted this might be a stretch for this application, as I do have a survival application and and edible plant reference on my phone as well. I am thinking that it would be a one stop app for everything the hunter might need.
My overall findings were that this is a well designed user interface that needs only a few tweaks, but the core of functionality is very useful for any outdoor activity. I will definitely be using this application on my next excursion and will be tinkering with the data to see if I can add my list customizations that I think would make this an even better application.
If you have used this application, please tell me what you thought.