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Field-tested app reviews: an in-depth round-up

Ungawawa

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2017-20: Francés, Norte, Francés, Portuguese Lisbon Coastal, Portuguese central
There are so many Camino apps available now but I’ve not read any round-ups, so I’ve put my own one together which will hopefully be of use to pilgrims.

It's not possible to review every app out there but these are my in-depth reviews of four of the most popular ones available for iOS. (Some of these will also be available on Android, but these reviews are based on iPhone and iPad use as that’s what I own.)

My comments are based on real-world Camino use on both the Francés and Norte -- warts and all -- and each review goes into a lot of practical detail.

A Camino app just needs to do a handful of things, but it needs to do them well and reliably. These are the functions I've rated each app on:
  • MAP: Show a map indicating your GPS location and any nearby places of interest and accommodation. Elevation profiles are a huge bonus here too. Optionally, it is an advantage if the app also has an offline function for users without mobile data in Spain.
  • MEASURING / PLANNING: Be able to tell you how far it is to a certain location ahead of you. It’s important this is measured by foot along the Camino route. Optional points earned if the app usefully lets you plan stages.
  • GUIDEBOOK: Offer information on points of interest, history, tourism, gastronomy and terrain.
  • ACCOMMODATION: Have an up-to-date directory of nearby accommodation, linked to your current GPS position. Pricing and dining indications are a big advantage here.
  • ROUTES: Offer you different Camino routes and variations. All apps service the Francés, but only some handle other routes. Within routes there may also be variations and detours, and it’s useful to have these marked as well.
  • RELIABILITY: However feature-full an app is, it’s useless if it crashes often or certain functions work unreliably.

I’ll give each app I review marks out of ten in each of these categories, and then give an overall summary based on my experience of using the app on the trail.

These are the apps I’ve looked at:
  • Buen Camino (Francés and Baztan free, other routes paid)
  • Wise Pilgrim (paid)
  • Guthook Guide (paid)
  • TrailSmart (free with paid offline maps)
... with hopefully more reviews coming soon once I get back out on the trail!

Because the reviews are about four pages each, I've had to put them in a separate PDF for you to view, so please click the download icon for the attachment on this post.

On the last page I've made a few one-line suggestions for different circumstances, if you think sixteen pages means "too long; didn't read" :)
 

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Ungawawa

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2017-20: Francés, Norte, Francés, Portuguese Lisbon Coastal, Portuguese central
By way of short summary and teaser, I'll list my scores for the apps below too. For the full reasons behind these scores, you'll need to read the reviews!

Buen Camino
Mapping: 5/10
Measuring: 5/10
Guidebook: 8/10
Accommodation: 9/10
Routes: 9/10
Reliability: 7/10

Wise Pilgrim
Mapping: 3/10
Measuring: 3/10
Guidebook: 10/10
Accommodation: 8/10
Routes: 8/10
Reliability: 4/10

Guthook Guides:
Mapping: 8/10
Measuring: 9/10
Guidebook: 4/10
Accommodation: 4/10
Routes: 4/10
Reliability: 8/10

TrailSmart
Mapping: 8/10
Measuring: 4/10 but Stage-Planning: 9/10
Guidebook: 6/10
Accommodation: 6/10
Routes: 6/10
Reliability: 8/10
 
Last edited:

stratophile

Active Member
Hi there – I'm part of the Trekopedia team that created TrailSmart. I just want to say thank you very much for taking the time to do this comprehensive comparative review! I appreciate your comments about TrailSmart (both the good and not-so-good) and you've given me lots to think about in how we can improve TrailSmart further.

Getting detailed feedback is always a challenge for any app developer. It really helps when we hear from users. One thing I've learned is that every pilgrim uses TrailSmart in completely different ways, sometimes surprisingly so. Hearing about both likes and dislikes helps us tailor the app to suit the different needs of different people.

Many of the things you commented on are things we are already working on, but some were new points. Lots to do! :)

If you have any additional feedback about TrailSmart and/or our Camino content that you want to discuss, please feel free to contact me directly. I'd love to chat about things in more detail.

Thanks again for the review.
 

Ungawawa

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2017-20: Francés, Norte, Francés, Portuguese Lisbon Coastal, Portuguese central
Thanks Stratophile. I've been using your app since when it was TrekRight, and have seen it's functionality come on in leaps and bounds. Whatever critique I may have made about getting a little lost in the app, it's pretty amazing that you have put all this time into such a well-featured guide and have given almost all of it away for free, so a big thanks for that!

Please let me know if I've got anything wrong or have misunderstood any of the app functionality, and I'll happily correct my review.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I've used TrekRight, Wise Pilgrim and Buen Camino.
I like Buen Camino best because it's really well integrated. I don't understand why you say that the map feature is strangely hidden. It's easy to access the map from almost every screen that you are on. You can always tell how far from the next stop you are from the bar at the top that tells you how many km to the next place. Also, I can't test this at home, but if you continue to swipe the screen to the left it will tell how far the subsequent stops are from your current location.

I noticed in your reviews that you said that it and Wise Pilgrim use Apple maps, but I assume that is only the iPhone app. The Android apps use Google maps.

I didn't use TrekRight on this year's Camino, but as I recall I could see where I was on the trail on the map, but it only showed the Camino path, and didn't show the other streets, so it was harder to find my way back to the Camino if I strayed. Since Buen Camino uses Google Maps it was easy to find my way back to the Camino if I got off of it.

Another positive about Buen Camino is the ability to call albergues and pensiones directly from the app. You don't need to go to your phone dialer to enter the phone number. You just tap on the phone number from the Buen Camino app.

I didn't have much luck with Wise Pilgrim or Wisely on my Caminos. Last year when I tried to use Wise Pilgrim maps on my Android phone it always crashed. This year, I was unable to download the maps with the Wisely app, even when I was on wifi. I did like the ability to read reviews of the albergues, but there aren't many to read.

I also liked the ability to create and save my own stages, and alter them as I went.

And another great feature is that the app sends you notifications based on our location, such as "A long stage awaits tomorrow, with no villages in between. Remember to bring your food and water supply!"
 
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stratophile

Active Member
Hi @H Richards – I think your comments were all fair. You clearly put a lot of time and effort into creating your reviews – it's appreciated! Please keep the feedback and suggestions coming.

Personally, I find it is a lot of fun trying to create something that makes the Camino that much more enjoyable for people. I try hard to incorporate ideas and suggestions that are sent to me. And, in particular, I like trying to find ways of adding 'intelligence' to the content (such as the built-in yellow arrow) so that it is not just a digital version of a traditional guidebook.

You touched upon one of the things we've been focusing on recently: streamlining things so that all of that functionality (the 'behemoth' to use your apt word!) doesn't get in the way of the things that matter most to everyone. For example, we just did a huge iOS release a week ago that overhauled the Dashboard module to make it cleaner and more accessible. (We're still finalizing the Android version of those changes). Comments like you posted today help us with that process.

By the way, I think TrailSmart is unique in supporting the ability to walk the Camino in reverse: any route can be reversed so that all stats, waypoints & milestones, elevation profile charts, etc., adjust automatically. That feature will be a huge relief to all five of you considering a reverse Camino! LOL

Everyone's needs and preferences are different. It's fantastic that there are so many great books and apps available these days.
 

Ungawawa

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2017-20: Francés, Norte, Francés, Portuguese Lisbon Coastal, Portuguese central
I've used TrekRight, Wise Pilgrim and Buen Camino.
I like Buen Camino best because it's really well integrated. I don't understand why you say that the map feature is strangely hidden. It's easy to access the map from almost every screen that you are on. You can always tell how far from the next stop you are from the bar at the top that tells you how many km to the next place. Also, I can't test this at home, but if you continue to swipe the screen to the left it will tell how far the subsequent stops are from your current location.

Yes, Buen Camino is a great app, and a strong contender for best overall app for the average user. You made some good extra points there too about functionality I'd missed.

I'll be taking it out on the Frances soon, so I'll have a chance to retest some of the problems I was having with it. It'll be interesting to see if the location and distance functions I had problems with work better on the Frances than on the Norte.

I stand by my comment that the maps are kept in a weird place though. To see where you are on the map you have to open a town/village page, scroll to the bottom past all the albergues, click the yellow "view on map" link and then click the recentre icon top right to refocus on your location. I'd like to see this as one tap from the main menu myself :)
 

wisepilgrim

Guidebook Author
Year of past OR future Camino
Many
Michael here, publisher of the Wise Pilgrim app and books. I wanted to thank you for the feedback.
In fact the Wise Pilgrim Apps are undergoing a complete rewrite to make them better than ever and your review helps me to get there.

Going forward the offline capabilities of the Wisely Maps will be incorporated into the full app, though your comments with regard to the zoom levels are limited in their fixability. It is not just a balance of keeping the size of the maps to a minimum, the reality is that the highest zoom levels would not fit onto any phone regardless of the storage capacity.... the camino covers a very large area. Bigger cities are included, but the countryside only includes enough to keep you heading in the right direction.

I would like to add that when I set out to make the first camino app I decided early on that it should be as basic as possible while providing quality information. I have kept up with that philosophy and to this day the app is free from logins, sharing buttons, high tech directional navigation, and predefined stages. My fondest memories of my earliest caminos (pre app, one book on the market) was of sitting down after dinner with fellow pilgrims and doing a bit of napkin math to plan the next day. I like to think that the app functions in much the same way, and it doesn´t keep you un-necessarily engaged in the digital world.

It has been 6 seasons now and I am grateful for all of the pilgrims who have supported my little indy operation over the years. Keep an eye out for the end of year update!
 

Ungawawa

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2017-20: Francés, Norte, Francés, Portuguese Lisbon Coastal, Portuguese central
@trecile Thanks. This must be a difference between the current Android and iOS versions as I don't have that main menu entry on my app! I'm glad they've added it in now.

I hadn't spotted the map icon on the place photo headers, so that is definitely easier than scrolling to the bottom of the page :)
 
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Ungawawa

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2017-20: Francés, Norte, Francés, Portuguese Lisbon Coastal, Portuguese central
Going forward the offline capabilities of the Wisely Maps will be incorporated into the full app, though your comments with regard to the zoom levels are limited in their fixability. It is not just a balance of keeping the size of the maps to a minimum, the reality is that the highest zoom levels would not fit onto any phone regardless of the storage capacity.... the camino covers a very large area. Bigger cities are included, but the countryside only includes enough to keep you heading in the right direction.

Thanks Michael. I understand that there has to be a limit on the Wisely map resolution. My issue wasn't that there was a limit, it was that the map totally disappeared when you crossed the limit. Could you instead lock the zoom when you reach the highest level and just scale/pixelate like other apps do?
 

David Manzo

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Portugese (2018)
Fabulous! Thanks for taking the time to share your reviews. I used two apps on the Camino Portugese - TrailSmart and Wise Pilgrim and was thankful to have both. A note on the Wise Pilgrim and the iPhoneX, the Wise Pilgrim app often crashes at start-up. I had to be persistent to get it to open, but once it did, it was very helpful.
 

David Manzo

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Portugese (2018)
Michael here, publisher of the Wise Pilgrim app and books. I wanted to thank you for the feedback.
In fact the Wise Pilgrim Apps are undergoing a complete rewrite to make them better than ever and your review helps me to get there.

Going forward the offline capabilities of the Wisely Maps will be incorporated into the full app, though your comments with regard to the zoom levels are limited in their fixability. It is not just a balance of keeping the size of the maps to a minimum, the reality is that the highest zoom levels would not fit onto any phone regardless of the storage capacity.... the camino covers a very large area. Bigger cities are included, but the countryside only includes enough to keep you heading in the right direction.

I would like to add that when I set out to make the first camino app I decided early on that it should be as basic as possible while providing quality information. I have kept up with that philosophy and to this day the app is free from logins, sharing buttons, high tech directional navigation, and predefined stages. My fondest memories of my earliest caminos (pre app, one book on the market) was of sitting down after dinner with fellow pilgrims and doing a bit of napkin math to plan the next day. I like to think that the app functions in much the same way, and it doesn´t keep you un-necessarily engaged in the digital world.

It has been 6 seasons now and I am grateful for all of the pilgrims who have supported my little indy operation over the years. Keep an eye out for the end of year update!

I love Wise Pilgrim and used it on the Camino Portugese. My only issue was that it often crashed at startup on my iPhoneX. I had to be very persistent to get it to work. Not unusual to have to start it 10 times to get it to work.
 

wisepilgrim

Guidebook Author
Year of past OR future Camino
Many
I love Wise Pilgrim and used it on the Camino Portugese. My only issue was that it often crashed at startup on my iPhoneX. I had to be very persistent to get it to work. Not unusual to have to start it 10 times to get it to work.
This part will definitely be fixed this Autumn, as will the maps that crash on some Android devices.

Thanks Michael. I understand that there has to be a limit on the Wisely map resolution. My issue wasn't that there was a limit, it was that the map totally disappeared when you crossed the limit. Could you instead lock the zoom when you reach the highest level and just scale/pixelate like other apps do?
I will give that a try, though from a technical standpoint it is not so easy.
 

tpmchugh

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2013)
Camino Frances (2015)
Camino Frances (2016)
Camino Frances (2018}
There are so many Camino apps available now but I’ve not read any round-ups, so I’ve put my own one together which will hopefully be of use to pilgrims.

It's not possible to review every app out there but these are my in-depth reviews of four of the most popular ones available for iOS. (Some of these will also be available on Android, but these reviews are based on iPhone and iPad use as that’s what I own.)

My comments are based on real-world Camino use on both the Francés and Norte -- warts and all -- and each review goes into a lot of practical detail.

A Camino app just needs to do a handful of things, but it needs to do them well and reliably. These are the functions I've rated each app on:
  • MAP: Show a map indicating your GPS location and any nearby places of interest and accommodation. Elevation profiles are a huge bonus here too. Optionally, it is an advantage if the app also has an offline function for users without mobile data in Spain.
  • MEASURING / PLANNING: Be able to tell you how far it is to a certain location ahead of you. It’s important this is measured by foot along the Camino route. Optional points earned if the app usefully lets you plan stages.
  • GUIDEBOOK: Offer information on points of interest, history, tourism, gastronomy and terrain.
  • ACCOMMODATION: Have an up-to-date directory of nearby accommodation, linked to your current GPS position. Pricing and dining indications are a big advantage here.
  • ROUTES: Offer you different Camino routes and variations. All apps service the Francés, but only some handle other routes. Within routes there may also be variations and detours, and it’s useful to have these marked as well.
  • RELIABILITY: However feature-full an app is, it’s useless if it crashes often or certain functions work unreliably.

I’ll give each app I review marks out of ten in each of these categories, and then give an overall summary based on my experience of using the app on the trail.

These are the apps I’ve looked at:
  • Buen Camino (Francés and Baztan free, other routes paid)
  • Wise Pilgrim (paid)
  • Guthook Guide (paid)
  • TrailSmart (free with paid offline maps)
... with hopefully more reviews coming soon once I get back out on the trail!

Because the reviews are about four pages each, I've had to put them in a separate PDF for you to view, so please click the download icon for the attachment on this post.

On the last page I've made a few one-line suggestions for different circumstances, if you think sixteen pages means "too long; didn't read" :)
Could not rate any app. Have wise pilgrim and of course google maps and earth but you know what, I never have the time or inclination to use while walking. Seldom even use my guide book. The only apps I must have are my banking app and an airline one to book my flights home
 
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benny aumala

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
may-june 2016
may-june (2019)
Some words for Android-applications:
Of many available I ended to" "Camino Companion" for
Frances. Big advantage is off-line maps. The second would
sure be "Buen Camino".
For Primitivo: "Camino Primitivo" with a map-set, and again "Buen Camino",
The third to respect is "Primitivo".
A well mastered mediocre program works better than less-known champion.
Benny
 

Ungawawa

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2017-20: Francés, Norte, Francés, Portuguese Lisbon Coastal, Portuguese central
Some words for Android-applications:
Of many available I ended to" "Camino Companion" for
Frances. Big advantage is off-line maps. The second would
sure be "Buen Camino".
Benny


This app is from the same team as did the Guthook Guide, though its functionality is different. It does look pretty damn good. Wish I had an android phone to test it out :)
 

benny aumala

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
may-june 2016
may-june (2019)
Yes, Buen Camino has the off-line maps, it works also for other Caminos than only Frances.
A thoroughly well done program.
But if you need just CF, I prefere Camino Companion. I did put this in my wifes phone. She is not
a great hobbyist of PC-programs. She went from SJPP to Estella without looking the program, and then an explosion: THIS IS GOOD !
 

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