“Leave your electronics at home where they belong..”
“It’s not camping if you have your phone with you..”
In our industry, we hear these arguments a lot. Camping or hiking is typically a time where you look to connect with nature and your surroundings, and escape the rush of the big city.
However, it’s hard to ignore just how useful your smartphone can be during these times. Having one in your pocket is almost like having a digital Swiss-army knife. Cameras, maps, GPS, books, music, game systems, voice recorders, notepads, trail maps, - you get the point - have been shrunk into a single item thinner than a pencil. And with 90% of North American campers bringing a smartphone with them into the woods, it’s a good idea to use it as designed.
We’re not saying you should spend your camping trips scrolling through Instagram, or binge watching Netflix, but there are some great apps that will help you get the most out of your trip. Here are some of our favorites.
The weather is probably the largest variable that can affect your camping or hiking trip. Solar panels can be rained out, or campfires can be extinguished, or hikes can be brought to a soggy end. Stay ahead of the weather with AccuWeather - a free weather app that can give you minute-by-minute precipitation forecasts in your exact location.
AllTrails provides users with a collection of more than 50,000 worldwide mapped trails complete with photos and reviews. Users can upgrade to a pro version to add offline maps.
GAIA is another great hiking app loaded with hiking maps. With this app users can easily upload and share their hikes with the GAIA community, perfect for finding information or inspiration for your next trip.
Helios - Magic Hour Calculator - Available on iOS
Some of the most incredible photos captured are based around nature. This app allows photographers to plan their shoots ahead to take advantage of Golden Hour, or ideal sunlight for photos while on the move. It even uses your phone’s compass and GPS to help users face the perfect direction to capture sunlight in their shots.
HikerAlert - Available on iOS and Android
HikerAlert is geared to outdoor adventurers. It automatically notifies your emergency contacts via SMS and email if you do not return from trip at your planned time.
Not everyone is good at impressions. iHunt is a sports hunting and game calling app with over 750 calls from more than 55 species. The sounds are even pre-loaded so you can access them when service is not available, you can still mimic animal calls that you’re seeking.
Merlin allows users to easily identify birds by submitting photos, or answering a few quick questions. It even suggests what birds you’re likely to find based on your location and time of the year.
Offline Survival Manual - Available on Android
Replace heavy, bulky survival guides with an easy to navigate electronic version. This survival manual contains information on how to make a fire, find food, first aid, and more in an all-offline format. Perfect for deep treks where cell-service may not be available.
With minimal light pollution in the backcountry, stargazing apps are a great tool to explore beyond our planet. SkyView is an excellent stargazing app that uses your phone’s camera to precisely spot and identify celestial objects and constellations in the sky, day or night.
We’ll keep adding to this list as we discover more and more apps that help us out in the backcountry. Have a favourite app that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.