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)
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) 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.
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.
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, 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.)
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) 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.