This new iPhone/Pad app, $4.99 from the App Store, will be of interest to visitors to Kananaskis Country and the Canadian Rockies. Presented by Dave Birrell, who developed peakfinder.com, Kananaskis Trails Companion is compilation of information about Kananaskis Country’s mountains, lakes and trails. The app helps you recognize the mountain and lakes that surround you. Fire up the map and your position will be shown with icons showing nearby features. Rotate the iPhone using the compass. Tap on an icon and you are presented with information and photos of the feature. You can also search for a feature in a list to link to the same information. There is a free Banff Park Companion – Townsite app that you can download to get an idea what the paid app will look like. There are three main sections: Guide, Map and List:
- Kananaskis Peaks and Trails has links to the Kananaskis Country web sites for Kananaskis Country information, to the AMA for road conditions and Environment Canada’s weather forecast. Unfortunately the Kananaskis Country web site still uses Flash for the heading picture and menu. Other than the lack of a picture at the top, the pages are still useable.
- The Canadian Rockies briefly describes the geography, geology and history of the region.
- Wildlife and Ecoregions is probably the most interesting section of the Guide for visitors. In addition to some basic material on the ecoregions and wildlife, there are sections on common Mammals, Birds and Wildflowers.
- Hiking in the Rockies contains links to Kananaskis Country’s trail report, safety information, camping information and avalanche report.
- About the Authors features the two main authors: Gillean, who provided information and pictures on trailheads and trails, and Dave who summarized information from Peakfinder for the mountains and wrote the rest of the material.
- The other three sections give some Recommended References, User Information (on using the app) and a plug for “1% for the Planet”.
The map, a low resolution Google Map, shows icons for mountains, lakes and trailheads. Tapping on any of them will pop up the name of the feature. Tapping on the right arrow will take you to an information screen.There are two buttons on the map. The one on the left activates/deactivates the compass. The other one turns GPS navigation on or off. The compass works reasonably well for identifying mountains providing you are outside your car and not near power lines.
There are three lists corresponding to the featured icon on the map. Selecting an item from any of the lists will take you to its information screen. There are 200+ mountains, 100+ trailheads and the major lakes.
The information screen has one or more photos and information about the feature you selected. The layout changes with screen orientation. You can swipe between photos and tapping on a photo will show an enlarged view that also allows swiping. At the bottom of each screen is a “Find It” button which gets you back to the map.
This well-thought app is intended for visitors and casual users of Kananaskis Country. There is little here for those who know the area well that they can’t get from Peakfinder and local guidebooks.
There are a couple of areas for improvement; the Wildflowers section need many more flowers, and it would be nice to see the information displayed at the iPad’s screen resolution rather than a 2x of the iPhone screen. This would require the quality of the pictures upped a bit. I am told there is a limitation by Apple on app size for downloading, but I have a number of apps that are much larger. Birdjam, for instance, is 62 mb and contains a similar number of very good pictures that even look good at 2x on the iPad.