Collector use in the backcountry

02-11-2016 11:26 AM
New Contributor

I'm creating an off-trail guide using ArcGIS Online. I need a system for outdoor educators to easily collect data in the field that can be updated to the ArcGIS Online map. I'd like my field collection method to be simpler than the multi-step process of using a GPS device and BaseCamp.

I need a reliable, easy-to-use data collection system that works in incredibly remote areas. Collector seems like a viable option, but I have little experience with it. I would really appreciate any help in answering the questions below:

Are there any obvious drawbacks to the Offline mode of Collector?

Does Collector drain the device's battery life very quickly? It would be used for backcountry courses ranging from 30-90 days (the device will be turned off when Collector is not in use).

I am hoping that I am not the first person to use Collector for backcountry travel. Does anyone have any suggestions for a relatively inexpensive device to use with Collector in an area without cell service/WiFi?

Thank you!

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MVP Esteemed Contributor


For us having to download the work area each time was a pain.  Esri designed this for small areas that would be downloaded and synced each day.  We wanted all the area all the time since, like you, devices might not hit wifi for a week or more.  You can only side load a basemap not any other layers.  Also can not use the sd card so it limits space.  In the end we used a 3rd party app that lets us carry all our layers and basemaps for over 3 million acres all offline.  It could also carry 30gb of offline data on a sd card.


  In our 3rd party app with a new tablet we are getting 10-12 hours or more of near constant use.  The screen being the biggest issue since sun requires the brightness to be cranked all the way up.  Turning the tablet on and off all the time can burn battery also.  30 days is asking a lot for any full color screen device these days.  That said our lighter users are down to charging every other week now.


We picked up some last model down Samsung tablets for $130 from Costco.  The newest ones with rebate are still $150 or so.  Has a good built in GPS, great screen, good battery, and a external SD card (which was critical).  Hard to beat that price.  Compared to the old trimbles they are pretty much disposable.  We are at 2.5 years now on the originals and they are still going.  Battery life is not as good as it was of course.  Had maybe 3-4 out of over 100 that died.  Also note these are WIFI only tablets - so we only sync in the office.  GPS is separate so it works fine off wifi - many cheaper tablets have no GPS anymore so be careful.