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The Guide to Mapping in Baja Using OnX Offroad

Many of us in the Race-Dezert community spend a lot of time in Mexico, from participating in races such as the SCORE International Baja 500 or just going down for a weekend off-road trip to Mike’s Sky Ranch. While there are many reasons to head down the Baja Peninsula to seek adventure, there is one certain thing: you will need to map out your routes. There are many different mapping technologies people have been using for decades; while some are intuitive and user-friendly, most are complex and downright archaic fish finders. A powerful tool we have been using in Baja has been onX Offroad, a powerful mapping software meant for off road adventures and exploration. 

We wanted to create a guide to mapping onX Offroad in Baja, from chasing races to finding your next adventure in Mexico; this is everything you need to know next time you head down. 

Let’s address the elephant in the room, we believe Lowrance makes an excellent GPS for racing, and it has its place as a powerful mapping tool, but it is neither user-friendly nor intuitive. The last thing you want to do in a chase truck is fumbling with it on a Baja road, trying to figure out where to go because you left the wrong memory card at home or didn’t bring your computer to upload the GPX file. If you want to add Baja satellite imagery or topographic map layers, you would still need to buy additional software. We believe onX Offroad is the solution for off-road maps in Baja as it includes all the base maps you would need into one single powerful app. 

Planning

Chasing a Baja race is not an easy task; you have a lot of variables at play, for instance, tracking the race car, knowing where to go in Baja with no service, on top of knowing where your pits are. It all comes down to planning. 

Onx Offroad is not just an app on your phone; it’s a web app that allows you to spend time at a computer planning your routes and making waypoints. With its organized content folder, you can upload your GPX and KML files and plan each trip and even draw routes via referencing the satellite imagery. The beauty of it all is that any changes to the map that is made it is automatically synced with the other devices logged into the account. Plan at home, head down to Baja, open onX Offroad on the phone, and you’re ready to rip.

Offline Maps

Some crucial things make off-road maps ideal—offline downloaded maps, accessibility, and a user interface that makes sense. OnX Offroad nailed every one of these items. Downloading these offline maps is what truly makes it a game-changer when you get outside of cell phone service. Simply click the [Offline Maps] feature on the app, and select the area you wish to download and one of the three options, 5 miles, 10 miles, up to 150 miles. During the 2021 SCORE Baja 1000, I downloaded up to 1200 miles of the race course and used the app to its fullest potential making pit stops for the race team and finding access roads along the race course in case of mechanical difficulties.  

This is one of the most crucial parts of the app in Baja. 80%  of the places we are traveling to in the desert likely won’t have service making the app effectively useless if you didn’t download your map. It is crucial to ensure you download your maps prior to hitting the trails.

Features and Tools

We have been using onX Offroad since 2020, and since then, we have seen great updates to the app and the constant evolution of the tools it provides. Their [Go and Track] feature records your tracks’ data such as speed, distance, and direction. You then can save it and provide additional data such as average speed and altitude duration. When shared without someone else using onX they can load it in the app and start using that GPX file as a track. 

Recently onX has allowed for GPX files to be uploaded straight from your phone, meaning you no longer have to upload exclusively from a desktop computer. 

Although we love the go and track feature, we think there is room for improvement; we wish there was a “prerun” mode that would allow a user to make marks on the fly without having to stop and add it. But, the engineering team over there is constantly making improvements to the app; we know that they will eventually have something like this in the future. 

Making a waypoint is a breeze, simply tap anywhere on the map, and you can mark your waypoint and save it. Add photos, change the icon, write notes, and even share them with friends. Currently, the app does not yet feature turn-by-turn navigation, but if you click a point on the map, there is a feature [Navigate To] that automatically opens up into Google Maps, which will route you exactly to that favorite taco spot you saw while prerunning in Baja. 

Even exploring routes and trails loaded into the app that detail information on distance, accessibility, and difficulty has been an interesting feature for those less experienced looking for new trails to explore.

Chase Truck or Prerunner Setup

While the phone is the default setup for both Android and Apple users, there are several ways to set up onX Offroad in a chase truck, prerunner, or off-road car. 

Just a few months ago, onX launched Carplay and Android Auto integrations for your vehicle, so it could be a good option and the easiest integration if your vehicle already has it. The ideal setup I have used that has performed the best has been on a 10″ iPad mounted to a Ram mount on the dash with a GPS Antenna. 

The truth is onX Offroad has been dedicated to making mapping software that is easy to use, understand, and performs incredibly. As they are based in Montana, they didn’t need to make their app work all the way down the peninsula, but we are glad they did. Paper maps that the race organizers provide can be beneficial to use once cross-referencing with Google Maps, so long as you have service. This is a tool we have been using for years, and we are excited to see how it has evolved into a powerful app that has become a necessity when we head off the grid.

Next time you head down to Baja or head out on a trip to Johnson Valley, check out onX Offroad and see for yourself onX Offroad is $29.99 per year for Premium and $99.99 per year for Elite. You can also start a risk-free trial and receive Elite features for seven days. No credit card is required.