March 15th, 2021 (Updated 9/21/2021)
Does the self-proclaimed “best offroad app” beat our favorite Gaia GPS?
Sit back, relax, and start reading! Updated 9.21 – Gaia GPS Pricing – Updated 6.29 – OnX now can link out to a navigation app like Google Maps.
Reviews are opinions. See our disclaimer at the bottom of this article.
Gaia GPS has been around for over 10 years. We have been using the app for over 8 years. We constantly compare it to others. We have also made lots of suggestions to Gaia GPS through those years in the hopes of making it an even better app with features that help with off-road and Overlanding adventures
OnX Offroad is based on OnX Hunt. As of this review, OnX Offroad is a little over a year old while OnX Hunt has been around for over 5. We have been using and testing OnX Offroad since its inception.
This review was past due since our first comparison between the apps. It was inspired in part by an Instagram post we recently read. The post from a well-respected off-road company said, “OnX Offroad (left pic) is just that- oriented for the motorized trail user. Gaia (right) is hiking oriented.”
There was one problem with the comparison. It was not accurate. Had they turned on the MVUM (Motor Vehicle Use Maps) layer in Gaia GPS the screens would have looked virtually the same. See the screenshots below. Maybe they were not aware of the layer in Gaia GPS. If you would like to compare for yourself here is the lat/long for the area, 34.49176, -111.69549, The post goes on to say that OnX has better data. Gaia has the same MVUM data but it is formatted better in OnX. Gaia also has the USFS Roads and Trails Layer which includes MVUM data. The trail lines are less prominent but the detail data is formatted nicely when you tap on the trail. We discuss that later in the review.
Gaia supports standard and dark modes with the ability to do a fair amount of customizations including track color.
OnX has more of a dark mode feel. The interface has a simple layout though we find a few features to be a bit less intuitive.
For both, it really is a personal preference and we wouldn’t say one is better than the other. The trail details screen in OnX has a nice clean layout.
While we have an extensive feature comparison list below the biggest difference between the apps is the number of available maps or map layers. Gaia has well over a dozen that are oriented to off-pavement adventures. OnX offers 2 although they have recently added a snow layer and include public land data and MVUM trails on the topo and satellite views.
If you enjoy other outdoor activities while off-roading/Overlanding Gaia really shines. There are lots of layers to help with finding camping spots, hiking trails, private and public land layers, recreation sites, and more.
Trail Data/Trip Ideas:
OnX at its core sells itself as an app you can open up, find a trail, and hit the road. OnX does monthly updates which include additional curated content. The unknown is how often are those trails reviewed and updated? We have found at least one trail in AZ that has been closed for over a year that OnX still offers as a possible trip. We have provided feedback to OnX from within the app.
If you are new to an area or offroading in general the trail information in OnX is a nice resource. This would be OnX’s key strength. Especially depending on the app user. For us personally, it is not a feature we use. When looking for ideas we use Trails Offroad. OnX users could do this as well.
While Gaia GPS offers a huge database of public trails they are not segmented into trail types. Meaning you could be looking at a hiking trail or a vehicle trail. More research on your own is required to determine what the public trails are. Gaia also has a “Discover” button in the app. You can filter this database of trails by Hiking and Offroad along with a few other filters like “difficulty rating” and “distance” but the ratings for vehicle trails are not accurate. They appear to be based on an algorithm of distance and elevation change vs actual trail conditions and hazards.
Gaia GPS Trails Offroad Partnership:
This is where Gaia directly competes with the content OnX offers within its app. Trails Offroad is an excellent source of trail data. Each trail/route is well documented with a video, GPX track, waypoint details, difficulty rating, trail conditions, user reviews and more. Best of all when you see a trail you want to add to Gaia GPS you have one-click access to import it.
Our take is it is very difficult to have current data for trails. Gaia GPS has wisely partnered with an organization that is very focused on doing just that.
A Trails Offroad membership is a separate annual fee. Currently $25/yr.
Take me to the trail – OnX does not offer a link out to a direction app like Apple Maps or Google Maps. You can create a waypoint, save the waypoint, open the waypoint, copy the coordinates and then paste those into your Google Maps, for example, to get directions to the trailhead. We just find that to be cumbersome as compared to what Gaia offers. Gaia will link out to your favorite “streets” app for directions to the trail starting point.
Route Planning / Discover on Your Own
Route planning works very well within the Gaia GPS app and online via your account portal. Here’s an article we wrote on the subject. OnX Offroad offers no route planning. For us, that is a big deal.
We don’t have a crystal ball to predict what additional features OnX will be adding. Nor can we say Gaia GPS will incorporate other changes to its app that we would like to see. However, in Q1 2021 Gaia GPS is still a far superior app. Especially if you are someone who loves data and map details. If you like to discover on your own and create your own routes Gaia wins again. It’s what we like to do.
Gaia’s strengths outweigh any of the features we would like to see including the few that are available in OnX. OnX Offroad is a good app. We just like Gaia GPS a lot more especially all of the map layers along with the other features we have listed in the comparison table below. Competition is always good. We fully expect both apps to continue to make enhancements.
If you think we have written anything that is inaccurate send us a message. We will gladly review your comment and make any corrections if we agree.
Suggested Enhancements to Gaia GPS:
- Allow track widths to be set. This would make it easier to see when you accidentally go off route.
- Improve the available icons for waypoints. We would be happy to provide a list.
- When viewing a track or route online provide the ability to turn off all other tracks/routes. Folks like us have hundreds of them. When they all load in the full screen mode it is impossible to study the track we are reviewing
- Improve folder management online. We find it easier to manage folders and content from within the app.
- Improve the formatting of MVUM data. OnX has and you should too. Heck you could even filter the MVUM data like OnX
Suggested Improvements for OnX Offroad:
- Make map downloading less tedious. It’s such a pain we don’t bother doing it. At a minimum allow users to draw an area of their choosing.
- Allow east importing of data from within the app. When we are sitting on the side of the road and someone shares a track with us it’s easy to import into Gaia GPS
- Add more map layers and POI data.
- Show the last time trails have been updated. The Apache Trail in AZ has been closed on the western portion for well over a year. We told you about it at least 9 months ago with no edits. Submit errors in the app is nice. Not sure how often OnX reviews these submissions.
- Improve POI data
Our next article is going to talk about how to personalize sourced trails and routes. As off-roading and Overlanding have become more popular so have the publicly known routes. Learn how to discover your own “secret spots”.
The Big Comparison Chart:
|Feature||Gaia GPS||OnX Offroad||Winner||Comments|
|Map Layers||Over 250 different map layers with a premium subscription including over 12 map layers for offroad and overlanding use. Including MVUM, private and public land data, NetGeo, USFS Roads and Trails, multiple satellite imagery||3 map layers - Topo, Satellite, Hybrid. 3D where available. OnX shows public land areas and MVUM trails by default.||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Gaia-Compare-Logo.png|
|Ability to Layer Maps||Yes||No||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Gaia-Compare-Logo.png|
|3D Maps||Yes, on gaiagps.com||Yes in app and website||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/OnX-Compare-Logo.png||OnX because they offer in app 3D. Gaia GPS is better online because of the available map layers.|
|Ability to download offline maps||Yes - Gaia GPS provides 3 methods. Select an area with detail level, draw a polygon area and download maps, download maps for your track.||Only area. Limited to set sizes and detail levels. Much less flexible.||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Edge-To-Gaia-Compare-Logo.png||Simply easier to do in Gaia. Especially for large areas|
|Waypoint Icon Library||Yes||Yes||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/OnX-Compare-Logo.png||OnX has a nice collection of vehicle specific icons|
|Import Tracks and Waypoints||Yes - via email or text link and open in-app feature. Also via GaiaGPS.com||Website Only||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Gaia-Compare-Logo.png||Gaia has multiple ways to import and share data. OnX you can only import tracks via the website|
|Export Tracks and Waypoints||Yes - In-app or share via GaiaGPS.com||Yes - OnX calls recorded tracks and waypoints||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Gaia-Compare-Logo.png||OnX provides no means to export a GPX track from within the app.|
|Create Routes||Yes - In-App and GaiaGPS.com||Website Only||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Gaia-Compare-Logo.png|
|Runs on multiple devices iOS and AndroidText||Yes - One license for all devices||Yes||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Matrix-Tie.png|
|Road Navigation (Turn-by-turn) Navigate to a waypoint||Links out to Apple or Google Maps app for directions.In-app straight-line guidance||As of June 2021. Links out to Apple or Google Maps app for directions.In-app straight-line guidance||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Matrix-Tie.png|
|Apple CarPlay and Android Auto||Yes||No||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Gaia-Compare-Logo.png||Gaia GPS Supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto|
|POI Data(Point of Interest)||Yes - with Gaia Topo Layer, USFS Recreation layer (campsites and more), NatGeo||Some data including campsites similar to Gaia but not all have tap on/pop up further details.||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Gaia-Compare-Logo.png|
|Currated Content/Suggest a trail||TrailsOffroad.com integration. If you are a Trails Offroad subscriber you can have one-click access to import tracks and waypoints from your favorite trails. Gaia also has a public track layer and a "Discover" feature where you can filter for Hiking and Offroading. The data for both public tracks and search for tracks could be improved. Public tracks are not classified by type. Discover Tracks difficulty ratings are not accurate.||OnX has a list of trails with ratings and other details as well as all MVUM trails by default. OnX provides the ability to report errors for any suggested trail within the app.||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Edge-To-OnX-Compare-Logo.png|
|Tap to Explore||Yes, Gaia will display whatever data is has for the area. Be it the national forest, park, tracks or waypoints you have saved. Where additional data is available Gaia will display it. For example National Forest info.||Yes, OnX displays what land area you are in as well as any MVUM trails nearby. Links to websites are presented for certain land areas.||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Edge-To-Gaia-Compare-Logo.png|
|Weather/Local Forecasts||No||Yes with internet connection||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/OnX-Compare-Logo.png||Although we feel there are better ways to get current weather and radar for storms when you have a data connection. OnX does store the downloaded weather data for offline use.|
|Camping Database||No - requires 3rd party app(s) on your device||No - requires 3rd party app(s) on your device||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/NA.png|
|Emergency Location Services||No||No||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/NA.png|
|Ability to share location in real-time||No||No||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/NA.png|
|Price - Annual Membership||Premium membership unlocks the entire map catalog of over 250 map layers. Premium membership is $32 for a 1 yr subscription with our 4XOA discount.||$29.99/yr||https://www.4xoverlandadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Gaia-Compare-Logo.png||Gaia GPS simply offers more features for the money|
Disclaimer: We are a Gaia GPS affiliate and have worked with Gaia GPS in the past. Some would say that makes us biased with no ability to provide an impartial review. We are NOT paid to write reviews. We do pay for many apps so we can use and review them. Gaia provides us with a complimentary premium subscription and as stated above we receive affiliate income from those that subscribe to Gaia GPS via our website. We use that money to pay for hosting costs and to pay for and review other apps and products.
If any company provides us a product or service for review we will always disclose that.
If you found what we have written useful and would like to save on your Gaia GPS membership please visit gaiagps.com/4xoa. You can save 20% on your membership!
To learn more about Trails Offroad visit, TrailsOffroad.com. If you sign up for a membership we will receive a small referral credit.
If you like OnX Offroad or would like more information visit, OnX Offroad. We don’t have any discounts available for membership.