Best Mobile Apps For The Outdoors

Aug 18, 2014

Lost in the woods? There’s an app for that.

You’re driving a Forest Service road at night. You’re looking for a sign. Your headlights land on a sun bleached, bullet-riddled one, and the number is impossible to read. No problem, you think, and whip out your iPhone.

Google can help.

It always does.

PeakFinder

Then you see the blue dot on a gray grid. Your heart, it sinks a little bit. That one reception bar is not doing the trick. Maybe the clouds will part or the stars will shift, and your reception will improve, you hope.

Been there? Done that?

We’ve all felt the drawbacks of smart phones in the woods. They seem to fail as soon as you arrive out of reception, far from status feeds, trending topics, likes, and tweets.

That’s why these select apps rule. They’re designed for the backcountry, and will prove their usefulness as soon as you get off the grid.

MotionX-GPS — ($1.99)

When you can’t find the trailhead, MotionX-GPS can bail you out. They have a huge selection of maps that you can download to your phone. What’s more is you can turn your phone into a GPS unit, compass, and fitness tracker. You can mark waypoints ahead of time and track your speed, elevation, and distance along your route. The app makes it easy to share your maps and routes on Facebook or Twitter, and could truly come in handy in a rescue situation.

GoSkyWatch Planetarium — ($3.99)

Have you ever looked up at night sky, pointed out the Big Dipper to friends and thought, “I wish I knew more constellations?” GoSkyWatch Planetarium has got your back. This celestial app lets you point your phone straight at the sky and shoot heavens on down to you. The easy-to-use, no touch application renders stick figure constellations in delightful drawings, which is super helpful because the ancient ones had better celestial imaginations it seems.

Jackson Lake | Photo: Justin Bailie

PeakFinder — ($3.99)

PeakFinder truly delivers for all of us who have ever stood upon a mountaintop, gazed at the sea of peaks before us, pointed, and wondered, “What’s that one?” With this app you can point it at the range and it will deliver a panoramic view of all the peaks with their names and elevations. It’s not reliant on your coverage. So when you’re on a remote peak, as long as you still have juice, the app will deliver the answer.

GoToAid — ($4.99)

Instead of immediately stabbing your buddy with an EpiPen when he breaks out in hives, you can double check the scenario on the GoToAid app. You’ll find informative, step-by-step videos that walk you through the situations you encounter in the field. The smooth operation and step-by-step instruction helps calm your nerves when the adrenaline starts pumping. You can also learn from their library of case studies so you’ll be informed before a scenario arises.

There is a huge selection of apps that can help enhance your outdoor adventures, but remember, they should never be relied upon as essential tools. Nothing beats solid instruction, preparation, and practiced skills.

Photos: PeakFinder/Facebook, Justin Bailie

 

Tim Gibbins
Tim Gibbins lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. He works as a copywriter for The Clymb, but in his spare time he runs his 20-year old raft down the Pacific Northwest’s rivers and tries to catch trout on a fly. His articles have appeared in Outside magazine, The Oregonian, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Montana Outdoors, and he has worked as a naturalist in Denali National Park. Follow him @timgibbins.