With so many mapping applications available on smartphones nowadays you are right to wonder. The short answer is that it depends on where you intend to travel. For city navigation, the Open Source/Google/Garmin maps will be sufficient, but if you plan to travel off the beaten track, like most overlanders, you will find that you cannot go without T4A, either on your GPS or tablet/smartphone.
The reason for this is threefold:
- T4A ‘specialises’ in off-the-beaten-track routes that are derived from the track logs of actual travellers.
- You can trust the data as the maps are regularly updated with verified tracks.
- You do not need a data connection to use these T4A maps.
- You can download the maps on your PC/MAC for trip planning.
Tracks4Africa is currently celebrating its first decade of selling its maps in the retail sector and over this period thousands of overlanders have come to prefer these as their prime navigational tool. Feedback from users includes comments like:
- I rely 100% on T4A for my trips into Namibia, Botswana, etc.
- I have been using T4A for the past ten years and will continue to use it for all my overlanding.
- We travelled Botswana in a group and if it wasn’t for the one guy who had T4A on his GPS, we would have been totally lost!
- My buddy said I must get T4A before our trip to Zambia.
Same data, different platforms
Their data is packaged on different platforms for different users:
- For people who still prefer hard copy, they offer paper maps(South Africa, Namibia and Botswana) and guide books(Botswana and Namibia).
- Their electronic maps are available for Garmin GPS’s on SD card (called T4A Traveller’s Africa) or for Android or Applesmartphones or tablets (called the T4A Navigator).
- Their rich content of Points of Interest is available in paper format in the guide books, or electronically as a guide app for Android or Apple devices.
It is worth noting that both the Navigator and Guide App are offline apps which mean that you download the maps and data once while you have a good data connection and then you use the app offline while in the bush. (Your device then only uses the built-in GPS to track your position.)
In a nutshell T4A offers reliable off-the-beaten track navigation and reliable travel times; we all know that road conditions in rural Africa seldom allows for speedy travel and T4A derives their predicted travel times from actual traveller experiences. They also know what information is important to overlanders; like where you can sleep, eat, shop, fuel-up, get emergency services, or what places of interest there are around you.
Do you need it all?
The next question is which of these products you need? Do you really need the maps on your GPS, on paper AND on your phone? And what about the guide information; do you need it in book form and electronically?
Truth is that your electronic device can fail; your battery can run out, it can loose satellite signal or it can simply pack up. Then you will be very happy that you have copies of the paper maps! As far as electronic devices go, I have found that the T4A map on my GPS and the guide app on my tablet make perfect travel companions; if I use both simultaneously I don’t have to interrupt our routing when I want to search for accommodation, shops or whatever travel info I need.
How regularly do you need to update your map?
The T4A GPS map is updated twice a year, in May and October. Once you have bought it, you’ll get the next upgrade free and from then for half price. The growth of the map is organic in nature; therefore you don’t need every single update. However, you will be wise to get your update shortly before an overland trip if the latest version that you have is older than a year.
Thousands of travelers have found that it is simply best to travel Africa informed!