Take on the Great Outdoors
When you're prepping for vacations, holidays, and hiking and camping trips, remember to take your trusty smartphone with you. It's an essential piece of survival gear, if you know what apps to preload. Without these key apps, you could get lost or hurt and be unable to call for help. Check out our top picks for awesome outdoor navigation, first aid and survival guide apps. (Credit: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)
AllTrails - Hiking & Biking (Android, iOS: Free)
Out for a hike? The AllTrails app (Android, iOS) has got you covered with more than 50,000 trail guides for hiking, biking and more. Browse through the trail list or search for trails near you, look up trail reviews and write your own. AllTrails allows you to view topographic maps, photos and reviews. From within the trail, you can upload pictures taken on the trail, and even create and upload your own tracks using your phone's GPS tracker. An AllTrails Pro subscription allows you to download offline maps, print maps from AllTrails.com, create custom maps, and access additional map layers.
ViewRanger (Android, iOS: Free)
ViewRanger (Android, iOS) is another versatile GPS trail navigation app that offers both free and premium content. Users can download free maps and trails for offline navigation, while buying premium map data including USA and USGS Topo maps. There's also a premium "Skyline" augmented reality viewer that flags peaks, hills, and points of interest when you use your camera view. The app includes more than 180,000 trails, and users can print maps, import GPX files, track routes, plot points of interest, and view other important trip navigation stats.
MapMyHike (Android, iOS: Monthly or annual subscription)
MapMyFitness has an app for every outdoor activity under the sun, including hiking. MapMyHike (Android, iOS) uses your phone's sensors to track and log your hiking route, complete with information on pace, distance, calorie counting and route navigation. In addition to logging your own hikes, you can also search and download other nearby routes. A premium subscription, starting at $5.99 per month, unlocks other features such as customized audio training cues, and real-time location sharing to friends and family with Live Track.
BackCountry Navigator (Android: $11.99)
Another excellent resource for offroad back country maps is BackCountry Navigator, an Android app that can take map data from a variety of free and paid sources for offline use. Users can add or import GPS waypoints, record a track, and display a variety of map layers and sources. The app can take maps from a variety of sources, such as from free maps like OpenStreetMap and Open Cycle Map, various official mapping agencies for selected regions worldwide, as well as premium sources.
Spyglass (Android, Free; iOS, $5.99)
Spyglass (Android, iOS) is a multipurpose GPS navigation and augmented reality viewfinding app that serves as a heads-up display with navigation details, a smart compass, and map display all rolled up into one mobile package. Users can download offline maps, navigate toward waypoints, get coordinates and find their way to locations. You can track your GPS location data, with altitude, course, and speed, track the sun and stars, use a rangefinder feature, and take measurements with the sextant, angular calculator and inclinometer tools. The app is premium on iOS, while a free version exists on Android. (In-app purchases unlock app features.)
Maps 3D Pro (iOS: $4.99)
Not everyone has the skill or training to properly read a topographic map, so Maps 3D Pro is a helpful navigation tool for those planning an outdoor hike in rugged terrain. As its name suggests, Maps 3D Pro projects maps on a 3D view, allowing users to much more easily interpret terrain features such as hills, ridges, trails, paths, and more. Users can plan, save, and share routes, pre-load maps for offline viewing and navigation, and record their trip complete with coordinates and elevation data. If you are planning to use your iPhone as a navigation tool though, make sure you're well supplied with power (and a battery pack) and/or have a good backup guide.
Komoot (Android, iOS: Free)
Komoot (Android, iOS) is another excellent option for hikers, cyclists and mountain bikers. The app is able to help you plan routes that are perfect for you. Users can lay down routes, view surface conditions, difficulty, distance and elevation, and the app also provides turn-by-turn navigation, even on winding outdoor trails. Komoot comes with offline map support, and free users can download one detailed map region for free forever, with in-app purchases unlocking more maps and features.
MSW Surf Forecast (Android, iOS: Free)
If you're looking to get some waves rather than hit the trails, then you might want to check out Magicseaweed.com's Surf Forecast app (Android, iOS), which delivers long range surf forecasts for thousands of beaches globally. Forecasts include a quick star rating summary of conditions, surf size, swell size, period, wind conditions and temperature. Users have access to 7-day forecasts, wind and tide station data, and live webcams for select beaches, as well as related media. Premium subscribers get extended forecasts and reduced ads.
Ramblr (Android, iOS: Free)
Outdoors types who like to document and journal everything about their trip should check out Ramblr (Android, iOS), a mobile journaling app designed for hikes and mountaineering trips. Ramblr allows users to record everything from their route, statistics such as average speed, distance traveled, and highest point, as well as record geotagged audio, video, pictures or text, allowing you to easily create a blow-by-blow account or relive the trip in the future. Additional features include built-in mapping, the ability to upload and share your trips, or check out where other Ramblr users have gone to.
Yonder (Android, iOS: Free)
Yonder (Android, iOS) allows users to easily share their hiking, biking and camping experiences with a global network of other lovers of the outdoors. Users can search or browse through a database of more than 200,000 destinations, follow other hikers to view their activity streams, or explore nearby locations through the map. It's great for finding out about nearby trails and routes, as well as an opportunity to network with fellow outdoor enthusiasts.
Strava (Android, iOS: Free)
Fancy an early morning run, or a mountain bike excursion? Strava Running and Cycling (Android, iOS) is a top-notch fitness tracker with running and cycling in mind, and the app adds some pretty neat competitive and gamified features to the usual run-tracking recipe. Strava records your running speed, distance traveled, time and course taken for both useful metrics and tracking, but combines all that with leaderboards, achievements and challenges as you race against your friends. Strava supports a variety of running trackers in addition to Android Wear and Apple Watch.
UVLens (Android, iOS: Free)
The Sun's ultraviolet rays can be a cause of skin diseases and cancer, so it's important to protect your skin with sunscreen to prevent stinging sunburns and reduce the risks of overexposure to the sun. UVLens (Android, iOS) is a feature-packed UV index forecast app and sunscreen calculater that lets you create a personalized skin profile for more accurate estimates of their sunburn risk, including estimated time before getting a sunburn on a given day, as well as recommended precautions. A UV index forecast can help suggest the best times of the day to be out, and a sunscreen reminder notifies you when it's time to reapply your sunscreen.
Cairn (iOS: Free)
Cairn is a outdoors safety app that does two things. First, it crowdsources information about where you can receive mobile signal on a map (and also logs your location). Second, it allows you to leave a trip plan with your friends. If you are ever overdue, your contacts are alerted, and are given a map of location data where you were tracked to. It allows you to plan ahead for areas on the trail with mobile coverage.
Weather Timeline (Android: $1.49) / Dark Sky (iOS: $3.99)
The weather can make or break a hike, so having a reliable weather forecast (preferably with hyperlocal weather alerts) can be a lifesaver. Dark Sky (iOS) and Weather Timeline (Android) are both excellent premium weather forecast apps for their respective platforms, providing extended forecasts, as well as hyperlocal, almost down-to-the-minute warnings of rainfall thanks to data taken from Forecast.io. With clean, no-nonsense, ad-free interfaces, both apps are great tools for travel planning and all-around weather forecast use.
Audubon Birds Pro (Android: $3.99; iOS: $9.99)
The Audubon Field Guides are a storied name in wildlife field guides, and they've also been adapted into mobile apps. The Audubon Birds Pro app (Android, iOS) provides an incredibly detailed illustrated field guide that identifies 821 different bird species complete with recorded bird calls. Seasonal and migratory maps give you an idea of where to find particular species, while personalized accounts let you log bird sightings, keep a checklist, and share sightings over social media. A new Bird ID feature even helps you identify sightings, allowing users to enter information like color and size of a bird to help narrow down possible species.
Geocaching (Android, iOS: Free)
A modern day version of the Letterboxing game, Geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt where players hide caches of small items and tokens and then post the cache's GPS coordinates for other players to find, with more than 2 million active geocaches ongoing worldwide. The Geocaching.com app (Android, iOS) takes advantage of your phone's GPS features and map apps to provide a searchable database of geocaches, with recommendations for beginners, listings of nearby caches and numerous other features.
GPS Essentials (Android: Free)
GPS Essentials is a free Android GPS app that is filled to the brim with options, features, and widgets. A ridiculously configurable dashboard can be set to display a wealth of navigational and route data, while route and track functions let you set and manage waypoints on a map and import or export them into a variety of formats. An augmented reality HUD feature is even available, allowing for easier orienteering with the use of your smartphone camera as a viewfinder.
Star Walk (Android, iOS: $2.99)
Vito Technologies' Star Walk 2 (Android, iOS) is an augmented reality star chart that displays the stars and planets in the heavens above you. In addition, the app includes detailed information on the history and mythology of the various constellations, stars and planets, as well as a coordinates viewer for easy reference. A Time Machine slider lets you view the skies of the past or the future, and you can tap on individual objects for more details. A night mode allows you to stargaze without burning out your night vision, and an augmented reality view overlays the star chart over your camera view. It's a great app to have along on a clear night or when out camping.
First Aid - American Red Cross (Android, iOS: Free)
The American Red Cross' First Aid app (Android, iOS) is a free (and ad-free) app that provides a wealth of basic first aid information for burns, injuries, and other medical emergencies that might arise. A "Learn" mode lets you read up on a type of injury, basic first aid treatment, and a Q&A section, while an Emergency mode dispenses with the extra information while providing concise first aid instructions in a single page, sometimes accompanied by videos and diagrams, as well as a one-button shortcut to call 911. Additional links allow you to sign up for first aid courses, buy first aid kits, donate or volunteer for the American Red Cross.
SAS Survival Guide (Android, iOS: $5.99)
Based on the bestselling book by John "Lofty" Wiseman, the paid SAS Suvival Guide app (Android, iOS) contains the full text of the book optimized for mobile formats and covers a host of basic and advanced survival topics. It also includes extensive first aid information, as well as photo galleries of edible, medicinal, and poisonous plants. In addition, the app also allows you to download 16 instructional videos by the author. A survival quiz tests your knowledge, and helpful checklists assist in preparation. Additionally, the app includes a Morse code signalling function.
More Apps for Outdoor Fun
Need more apps for outdoor fun? Check out our best hiking apps for heading up the mountain. Or there's best fishing apps when you're content just sitting by the dock of the bay. The best space watching apps can help you make the most of a clear evening. Or if sandy shores are in your future the best beach apps may be what you're looking for.