I recently bought an iPhone, and like most new smartphone users, I quickly found myself sucked into the wide world of apps. With options available to help you do everything from checking your bank balance to tracking your bowel movements (yes, I’m serious), there are literally thousands of apps out there that can help you accomplish almost anything you can, or can’t, imagine.
Fortunately for the outdoor enthusiast, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of apps that cater to your specific interests and needs while you’re out exploring the wilderness you love. It might seem a little counterproductive to bring along a device that connects you with the rest of the world while you’re trying to get away from it, but take a look at the below list to see a few apps that might make your outdoor excursions a little more safe and enjoyable.
AllTrails by AllTrails, Inc. (17 ratings, 4/5 star average. Free.) — Whether you’re close to home or far from the world you know, AllTrails can help you find a nearby trail so you can get away. The app gives the user access to more than 40,000 high-quality trail guides, and the database goes far beyond just hiking trails. It includes information about trails for mountain biking, fly fishing, snowshoeing and more. Better yet, if you take a trail that’s not on the list, you can use the GPS tracker feature to record it as you go.
Outdoor Hub Mobile by Outdoor Hub LLC (13 ratings, 5/5 star average. Free.) — This app by “the outdoor information engine” provides streaming articles, blogs, news stories, videos, how-to articles, product reviews and more for a number of popular outdoor activities. With frequent updates, it’s a good resource for outdoorsy folks who like to keep their finger on the pulse of what’s happening out there.
mophie outdoor by Mophie LLC (5 ratings, 5/5 star average. Free.) — If you don’t travel with a GPS but like the information and security that it offers, this app provides the most complete public land management dataset available on any device, including 5 million square miles of hi-res maps over the continental U.S. and Hawaii with trail-level zoom. If you buy the app with mophie’s juice pack outdoor bundle, you can double the battery life of your iPhone and get one year of access to premium features. Download any grids you expect to use before you head out of range, and you’re set to hit the road or trail.
SteepandCheap.com by Backcountry.com (180 ratings, 3/5 star average. Free.) — The popular rotating deal site for outdoor gear now comes in a handy interactive app that offers customized alerts and easy navigation. Whether you want to be notified immediately every time a new product hits the site or you just want smartphone access to the deals, this app will help you find the equipment you want with flick-navigable product and detail shots as well as one-touch product info. You can also buy items immediately by securely storing your account info for future purchases. Reviewers noted a few bugs with logging in and purchasing, though, and you need to sign up for an account on the website before you can log in using the app. At the least, it’s a great way to keep on top of the constantly changing deals while you’re on the go.
National Parks Companion by Shaun J. Chu (9 ratings, 4.5/5 star average. $0.99.) — National parks are national treasures for a reason, but much of their beauty lies far beyond the beaten path. This app provides the most comprehensive mobile reference to every National Park Service attraction in the U.S. It features more than 500 NPS records that offer park descriptions, images, fees and registration details, contact information, park locations with GPS coordinates and maps, elevation data, a link to each park’s official website and much more. With all park data bundled into the app, you don’t need a signal to access the information you want — a very useful feature in remote locations.
Camp & RV – Tent Camping to RV Parks and Services by Allstays LLC (707 ratings, 4/5 star average. $5.99.) — Although more expensive than most outdoor apps, this guide to thousands of campgrounds, RV parks, truck stops, rest stops, low bridges and more is indispensable for the serious camper or road tripper. It allows users to filter maps by type and offers resources for road conditions, emergencies, state laws and other useful information for while you’re on the road. Best of all, it lets you find and filter places and related services with or without an Internet connection.
Weather+ by International Travel Weather Calculator (13,865 ratings, 4/5 star average. $0.99.) — Compared to The Weather Channel’s apps, one of which costs $2.99 and both of which have much lower ratings, Weather+ offers a significantly better app for your money. It gives current weather conditions and a 5-day forecast of all worldwide weather stations, and users can easily swipe to switch between selected locations. The app also features full-screen video loops of the weather in your selected location(s). Don’t like the layout? You can can change the widget arrangement to suit your preferences. With full details on conditions, temperature, wind direction and speed, humidity, precipitation, pressure, visibility and more, you’ll never be left out in the cold.
Simple Tides by GeoTerrestrial, Inc. (66 ratings, 4.5/5 star average. $0.99.) — As its name suggests, this simple, no-frills app offers tide graphs and tables from more than 2,200 monitoring stations across the U.S. You can browse stations using a map, check the current weather details, look ahead or back to any date and save your favorite stations for easy access. For boaters, fishermen, surfers and other outdoorsy folks who get frequently get out on the water, this app is a must.
Emergency First Aid & Treatment Guide by Digital Partners (Ottawa). (57 ratings, 4/5 star average. $0.99.) — The folks who designed this app worked with the American Heart Association and the Red Cross to bring the best and most up-to-date emergency medical information to the smartphone. Emergency situations arise whether you have service or not (often the latter for people enjoying the outdoors), and this guide works either way to give you fast access to dozens of medical resources. Topics include choking, CPR, AEDs, airway obstructions, rescue breathing, asthma attacks, severe bleeding, burns, shock, heart attacks, strokes, broken bones, head and spine injuries, poisonings, insect bites and stings, eye injuries, seizures, diabetic emergencies, environmental exposure injuries, emergency childbirth, drownings and much more — all at your fingertips, no matter where you are.
Map My Tracks OutFront by Tinderhouse (14 ratings, 4/5 star average. $0.99.) — Cyclists, runners, hikers and other people who go the distance often need details on their progress, and this app tracks speed, pace, heart rate, calories burned, duration and elevation gain/loss to help you measure and improve your performance. It also offers a broadcasting feature so your friends at home can follow your progress (think AT thru-hike or marathon). The heart rate feature requires an additional sensor, but even so, this is an extremely useful app for those who like to see how far they’ve come.
SAS Survival Guide by Trellisys.net (37 ratings, 4.5/5 star average. $5.99.) — Fans of Britain’s elite fighting force will appreciate this guide to must-know survival skills for any location on Earth. The app includes the full text of the best-selling SAS Survival Guide book (optimized for the iPhone) and 16 videos covering a range of survival tips. It also offers photo galleries of animal tracks, knots and edible finds as well as medicinal and poisonous plants, sea creatures and snakes. The app also includes a sun compass and a comprehensive first aid guide, and if you suddenly find yourself stuck in the 1800s, a Morse code signaling device can be brought into action.
State Parks Locator by Map Muse (19 ratings, 3/5 star average. $2.99.) — State parks don’t always get the fanfare of their national big brothers, but this comprehensive app shows off a lot of the cool things they have to offer. With guides to more than 3,000 state parks, users can locate and learn about each unique destination, and every listing includes the park’s contact info and website so you can find out even more. The app includes general information on each park, but users can submit reviews, photos and other background info to help amplify the existing content.
There are some definite holes in the lineup — we really need a solid wilderness medicine app, and the National Park Service needs to make more like their highly rated free app that explores the National Mall — but the ones that are out there are pretty helpful. What’s your favorite? What do you want to see?