There’s quite a number of 4WD track apps out there today, and a few years ago a new one came to market called Newtracs. I’ve been using this for a little while now, and wanted to share a review, with a funny, personal story that ties into the app.
Back in 2018 was doing some thinking about the existing 4WD mapping apps that are out there, and realised that there was a big gap in the market, with nothing out there showing up to date conditions, photos, or videos of the actual tracks, and I wondered how hard it would be to fill.
The thing is, its great to know where the tracks are, but if you have no idea how difficult they are, how long they take or whether you are even remotely close to being able to do it, what good is the information?
If you ask someone how hard a 4WD track is, how do they quantify their answer? My idea was simple; Wikicamps, but for 4WD tracks, where users could add their own information and you’d get up to date data.
I went as far as getting quotes for building an app, and despite the 100k + price tag that I was quoted (by a company that failed a year later!) I did seriously consider doing it. I wasn’t overly keen to part with that sort of money, and just a few months later Newtracs came out on IOS, which essentially filled the gap.
Looking back, I chuckle, but we were beaten to the punch even if I had committed the money (and that might have been even worse).
How long have we had Newtracs?
I’ve had Newtracs installed on my phone for a long time now, although I do recall it was only available on apple devices for a long time, and I forgot about it. Up until recently though, I’d never really used it, because Exploroz Traveller was doing the job just fine.
What’s the benefits of Newtracs?
Up to date track difficulty information, from multiple people
After spending about a week in the Victorian High Country, and being made completely and utterly dizzy with the number of different 4WD tracks around, I was thinking how nice would it be if you actually knew how hard the tracks were, and Newtracs popped into my head again.
I loaded it up, and spent some time trying to get the offline maps to download for Victoria, and when I went to the filters it was saying you need a premium membership to see the track difficulty (although on their sales pages they say otherwise, so I’m not really sure).
Either way, I subscribed to the premium version and downloaded the updated information, and sure enough, you get track difficulties displaying on all of the tracks. You can click on them and it tells you how many people have rated it easy, medium, difficult or very difficult, and that’s really neat.
For us in the Victorian High Country, this is the ultimate resources, as I can look at where we are, and find tracks nearby that are enough to have some fun, but not so hard that we end up on our lid.
I must admit I was a little cautious of what tracks we tackled simply because we had no idea how difficult they’d be, and I want to keep travelling Australia, and not write my vehicle off because I took it down a track that was way out of its league.
It gives track distances, estimated time frames and speeds
We discovered really quickly in the Victorian High Country that some 4WD tracks take a lot longer than you might imagine. Our idea was to head up Mt Terrible and across to Mt Matlock, but after doing the first part of the trip we realised it would be a very long day, and headed back to camp.
On Newtracs, it shows you an estimated time frame for each track, the distance and what the average speed is. Do you know how helpful that sort of information is for trip planning? It’s information you can’t get from anyone else except a local, or speaking to someone who’s done the track before, recently.
This feature allows you to plan a day out with some reasonable confidence around time frames, and makes it hugely helpful when compared to other 4WD track apps.
What’s the downsides of Newtracs?
Not always accurate in terms of difficulty
Knowing how difficult a track is would have to be one of the most important, and useful pieces of information. For us, when we are travelling around Australia we have zero local knowledge, and knowing whether our mildly modified Dmax is going to make it through unscathed is of huge importance to me.
Whilst I love the idea of the track difficulty, I’ve found that its not always overly accurate, and there’s a heap of different factors that contribute to this. For starters, there’s nothing to deviate between summer and winter, or wet and dry weather, and that is a game changer for a huge number of 4WD tracks.
Beyond that, 4WD tracks regularly get maintained, and knowing when the track ratings are left would be hugely helpful.
We’ve done some easy 4WD tracks that you could do in a bog stock corolla, and then there’s been difficult 4WD tracks that weren’t hard at all, and medium ones that were surprisingly technical. I like the idea that people get to interpret how difficult it is, but you need to take the information with a grain of salt, and experience it for yourself.
On the positive side, it does seem that they are over rated, in that difficult tracks are generally doable without any massive lifts, or huge tyres, or insane technical driving skills. It’s better this way than the other!
Several tracks are impassable
Despite some tracks showing updated recently, we drove a couple around Walhalla that were completely blocked off and overgrown, or that you’d struggle to fit any normal 4WD down, and you shouldn’t assume that the tracks are always correct, and open on the app.
There’s no comments section
I’d love to see an easy to access section where you can read comments. Track difficulty ratings are helpful, but some comments would make it a lot better. You can easily write easy track, even after 50mm of rain, in a standard Hilux, or comments to that affect that give you real, meaningful information.
Knowing that Billy Goats Bluff is a difficult 4WD track, and hearing some people say it’s a walk in the park and others that its really hard makes for difficult interpretation, but some comments to justify the information is very helpful.
It makes my phone really hot
One really surprising side affect of this app is that it makes my phone really hot, even in cold weather. I’ve never experienced this with any other app, and it makes me wonder how its been designed, as it doesn’t seem normal.
I can use it without moving and I have no issues with it warming up, but if its tracking you as you’re driving, every time I pull my phone out of the cradle its like its been in the sun for 15 minutes, and it certainly hasn’t.
It can be slow
The app isn’t exactly lightning fast either. You can click on a track, and sometimes you’ll click again, thinking it hasn’t registered, but it has.
You can type something into the search bar, and you literally have to wait for it to go through the database before a result appears. Sure, its nothing overly major, but it is frustrating and annoying, and worth mentioning.
It is missing a HUGE number of 4WD tracks
Around the Victorian High Country, there’s a heap of tracks on Newtracs, and its actually insanely helpful. However, the further you go north, the less tracks are on it, and its missing some really well known, big 4WD tracks in Queensland.
Now, this will change and grow over time, but if you are looking for 4WD tracks in a specific location, you may or may not be disappointed with Newtracs, until a lot more tracks are added.
What does it cost?
Newtracs is completely free, if you want it that way. However, for a few more features you pay $100 for a year (or you can do monthly for $20). Both come with a one month trial period and you can cancel at the end of that for no cost. It’s not cheap, but I reckon its reasonable.
How does it compare to Exploroz Traveller?
Some of you will have read our Exploroz Traveller review that we did some time ago, and I really like the app. What I don’t like though, is trying to work out what are main roads, what are good gravel roads, what are 4WD tracks, and then guessing how long, and how hard each track is going to be.
Exploroz can also get awfully confusing with its red dots and lines, and whilst it works really well, if you are purely after finding 4WD Tracks, Newtracs leaves it for dead, and I don’t say that lightly.
Is Newtracs worth getting?
Overall, it’s a fantastic app, and I look forward to seeing it progress, improve and become even more useful than it already is. Looking back I don’t think I had the guts to spend that sort of money on developing an app that would have been similar to this, and I’m glad someone did!
If you don’t have Newtracs, you should absolutely download it. Try the free version, and perhaps it will do what you need it to. Either way, for $100 a year, that’s a tiny cost to reducing, or eliminating panel damage that could be prevented by knowing what tracks are around, and how difficult they are!