How To Connect with Hikers, Track Hikes, and Get Motivated with Strava

Get Your hike on with Strava Chilliwack

If you love the outdoors and like to track your activities you’ve probably heard of or tried one or more of the many fitness apps on the market. One of the best apps I’ve come across for tracking hiking, running and cycling is Strava. It’s an app for those who want to track their outdoor activities including speed, elevation, distance while also comparing performance against friends and others around the world.

Join the Hike Chilliwack group on Strava and connect with other hikers and outdoor adventurers in Chilliwack

As a training tool or just a great get-fit motivational tool, Strava is unique. One of the most popular features is the built-in social network. It allows you to view your friends’ outdoor activities, photos, and comments as well as give and receive encouragement. Strava’s “segments” are also very addictive and motivating. Segments are user-created sections of a route that enable you to compare your own times, or to compare with other user’s times who have also completed (hiked, run, biked) the segment. Segments are a great way to see who is in your area and to see the types of routes others are taking.

Chilliwack trail running strava segment - wild hazel cultus lake

Here’s a sample screenshot (taken from the Android Strava app) showing a trail running segment up at Cultus Lake. You can see the complete map, route, elevation profile, all of your personal efforts on that route, where you rank “All Time”, “This Year” and compared to others you are following. Finding and travelling segments is kind of like geocaching where the segments themselves are the cache you find and successfully navigate. You can also earn trophies if you get a top ten time for a segment. If you don’t care about “going fast” and getting trophies you’ll still get lots of value from Strava. Just don’t go stealing my Wild Hazel trophy! 😉

Using Strava: Getting Started

You can sign in to Strava.com, create a free account, update your personal profile (name, photo etc), and search for others you’d like to follow. If you sign in to Strava with Facebook then Strava will search all of your Facebook friends to see who’s already on Strava. You’ll then be able to connect with those friends or invite any friends who aren’t already on Strava. Then all you need to do is download the Strava App to your phone, login with your account info, and bingo you’re ready to record your first activity.

Once you’ve got an account setup follow these simple steps:

  1. Record your activity
    using your smartphone or one of the many compatible GPS devices
  2. Upload your activity
    from the device. (I’ve got my Garmin Forerunner 220 watch setup to auto sync with Strava. After I save my activity on my watch and I’m within Bluetooth range of my smartphone it auto-uploads the data to my Strava account. If I forget to wear my watch on an activity I can just track my activity using the app on my phone. (tip: if you don’t have a fully waterproof phone case, put your phone in a ziplock bag to keep it from getting it soaked from sweat, rain etc)
  3. Analyze and compare your activity
    with your past performances and with your friends

How Do I Get Strava?

You can login to Strava.com from any Internet-enabled computer in the world. You can also load the free app onto you iPhone or Android device.

What About Privacy?

I recommend you login to your Strava account via your computer and edit your privacy settings. For example you can create a privacy zone for your home or office or any place you normally start activities from that you’d like to keep private. Also consider whether you want to just use your last name initial instead of your full last name on your account. You also have the ability to limit views of your account to signed in Strava members, and you can require people to request to follow you instead of just letting anyone follow you.

What’s Cool About Strava

I find it cool and helpful that Strava will allow you to track the age and status of all your gear and equipment. For example I have a few different pairs of runners and I can track the mileage in each pair of shoes so I can know when I get to that 500km mark when it’s time to retire ‘em. It’s also cool that with the Strava App you can travel anywhere in the world and find popular hiking, running or cycling segments and explore them. For example, are you going to Maui for holidays and plan to hike the volcano or sneak in some sunrise jogs? Check out the Strava segments on Maui and get ideas for the most popular routes, see the elevation gain for each segment and plan your routes before you leave home. Strava also offers a great way to view photos of all of your friends’ activities and your past activities.

Strava images from hikes and runs in BC

What’s Strange About Strava

Sometimes if I’m feeling nerdy I’ll track an activity with both my Garmin watch and my Strava app on my Android phone at the same time just to see how the two different systems record my route, elevation, time etc differently. Suprisingly, I’ve found that I get pretty different numbers and quite different times on segments when I do this. Typically my Strava App on my phone will give me faster times on segments which is weird. Is the gps on my phone more or less accurate than my watch? I’m not sure. Here’s what Strava has to say about the issue: “The reason Strava is different than Garmin Connect and Training Center is that we parse Garmin data and analyze the data independently of Garmin. Strava takes the same file off the Garmin, but we enter and parse the data in our own system. We enter all the numbers, then calculate out the time, moving time, average speed, segments, etc. with our own algorithms we developed.” (source)
My advice is to use the same device all of the time so your numbers are consistent over time. I just stick with my watch for tracking my activities and auto sync via my smartphone.

Sample Strava Hiking Segment in Chilliwack

Elk Mountain. Parking Lot to Peak
Hike Segment Chilliwack, BC, Canada
71 Attempts By 56 People

Mount Thom Up
Hike Segment Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada
150 Attempts By 52 People

Different Types of Segments

There are different segments for different activities in the same area. For example, on Elk Mountain there are running and hiking segments. If you record your Elk activity as a hike then you’ll see hiking segments. If, however, you record your trip up Elk as a run then you’ll only see running segments. Also remember that segments are created by users so segments can be named anything. And just because there’s a “Parking Lot to Peak” segment for hiking Elk, you won’t necessarily find the same segment for running. In this example, the most similar running segment is shown here:

Sample Strava Running Segment in Chilliwack

Marble Hill Road Climb
Run Segment Chilliwack, BC, Canada
160 Attempts By 90 People

 

If you do start using Strava and get addicted to segments, the real question you’ll need to ask yourself is do you get more endorphins from the exercise itself or from geeking out on your phone afterwards and seeing that you’ve just got one or more trophies and a handful of kudos from friends? 😉

Don’t Use Your Smartphone For Backcountry Navigation

Using a smartphone’s gps can be great for local hikes but handheld GPS devices have some advantages compared to smartphones. Handheld GPS devices are typically more durable, have longer battery life, and can be more accurate. It’s commonly recommended that you NOT use a smartphone for backcountry navigation but instead reserve the use of your smartphone for emergency calls only. Even if you have a solar charger use your smartphone sparingly as solar charging technology has a long way to go to be a reliable backup energy source. Both GPS devices and smartphones will have difficulty getting a location fix in certain locations such as thick forests and valleys so always bring a map and compass and know how to use them for when your tech lets you down. In short, don’t go off into the Chilliwack backcountry with only your smartphone and Strava and expect to use that for your navigational needs. Strava records activities, it’s NOT a navigational aid. I was a short distance into the trail in Lynn Canyon in North Vancouver recently and my smartphone’s GPS couldn’t get a signal and thus the phone was useless for navigation, even though my route did manage to accurately record in Strava. Here’s another article about not using smartphones for backcountry navigation.

Next Steps

  1. Join the Hike Chilliwack group on Strava and connect with other hikers and outdoor adventurers in Chilliwack
  2. If you use Strava you can follow me here.
  3. Join the Mt Waddingtons group on Strava and check out other Strava Groups near Chilliwack

Feedback

What about other fitness and/or hiking apps? What do you use or which are your favorites? AllTrails? Yonder? MapMyHike? PeakFinder? Google Maps in bike mode to show trails? Google Earth? Leave your comments below.

 

 

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