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The best apps for outdoor adventures and activities

February 14, 2017

The way we experience the outdoors has dramatically changed ever since the invention of technology. Indeed, once upon a time there were paper maps, a few book guides and the directions of people who had maybe wandered and explored the same woods, walls, rivers and lands we intend to explore too. Other than that, there was no way to plan ahead what to expect behind the horizon, and just a good amount of bravery and love for wilderness and adventure could drive men’s desire for exploration.

Even outdoor gear was completely different. It certainly didn’t have the same performance and the same resistance it has nowadays, from camping gear to clothes, from cooking material to outdoor activities, such as climbing, hiking, canyoning or whatever other incredible venture we are talking about.

For sure, there weren’t smartphones provided with GPS devices, maps, navigators, Google and, of course, apps. This sounds like a magic word when it comes to the great outdoors and the many resources to explore it. Indeed, there are apps of all kinds: camping apps, gps trackers, climbing apps, biking appshiking apps...and we could keep on listing an infinite number of them.

So why don't we dive straight into the big pool and pull out the best apps for outdoor adventures and activities? Here is a complete guide to all the best apps you can find.

Apps for camping

  • Camp Finder - If you are venturing in places you don’t really know and you wander where your next camping site could be, this app helps you find one even in the midst of a wood. It lists more than 17,000 campgrounds and RV parks across the US and some across the world too. Information are all detailed and up to date, integrated with Google Maps to make them even more accessible. You can also bookmark your favorite sites to keep them in mind in the future.
  • SAS Survival Guide - I’m including this among the camping apps, but of course it should be included in every single category. It’s a very precious emergency app when it comes to solving accidents and knowing what to do when something goes wrong. Indeed, it’s the ultimate guide to survival tips, enriched with videos and photos. A real must-have when it comes to extreme adventures (even if they last just two days).

Apps for hiking and biking

  • All Trails - If you want to go on a hike or a biking experience and you’re looking for new trails near you or for trails in the place you are about to visit, this free app, available for both Android and iOS, offers more than 50,000 trail guides for hiking, biking and any other sort of activity you’d like to do. You can read reviews and tips about the trails that interest you, and also give your own opinion once you’ve completed it. It also allows you to consult topographic maps and look at pictures, besides allowing you to save a trail offline, so you can access it even when there’s no phone coverage.
  • LeafSnap - How many times have you bumped into a beautiful tree, flower or plant and wondered what it was, but didn’t know who to ask to, or how to search it on google? LeafSnap will finally give you an answer. Developed by a partnership between the University of Maryland, Columbia University and Smithsonian Institution, this app is a telematic field guide to a big variety of plants. Thanks to a catalogue of high-definition pictures of leaves, barks, flowers and fruits, it will help you find what you are looking for. You can also mark your findings on a map, so you’ll remember where to find them next time.
  • Audubon Birds Pro - It’s a bit like LeafSnap, but it costs between 4 and 10 dollars and it’s for birds. Through this super-detailed guide, you’ll be able to see photos and read about the birds you are looking for, completed with recorded calls. Seasonal and migratory maps will also be provided, allowing you to know where and when to find the birds you want to see and log your bird sightseeings.

Apps for traveling

  • Ramblr - Sometimes, you don’t want to just cover one trail, or one day of adventure, but a whole trip, with lots of tracks, lots of emotions, pictures and reviews, therefore what you actually want to do is to keep a journal. Ramblr, available for both Android and iOS, is the ultimate app for mobile journaling, designed specifically for hikes and mountaineering trips. Through this app you can record routes, highest points, geotag audio, videos, photos and text notes. This way, you will be able to easily create a blow-by-blow account or write an excellent journal once you’re back home. If you upgrade it to its pro-version, you’ll be able to access built-in mapping, or interact with other Ramblr users.
  • Cairn - When you travel, especially in the outdoors, your first thought should go to safety and how to solve emergencies if they arise. This can be very hard without phone signal, or without other people knowing where you are. This app not only allows you to crowdsource information about where you can find mobile signal near you, but it logs your location and it allows you to share with your friends your plan. If you are overdue or something doesn’t go according to it, your contacts will be automatically alerted and are given a map of your track. Last but not least, it allows you to track ahead areas where your will get mobile coverage. 

Apps for climbing

  • Mountain Project - Before any other app, Mountain Project is the real must have when it comes to climbing apps. It gives you access to a database of more than 110,000 routes of all kinds, available worldwide. It also has a lot of saving, managing and sharing options, and you can also download the information you need, so to have them always available, even when you’re offline.
  • Myclimb - This is a very simple social platform for climbers, where they can share their climbing experience, track their accomplishments, the places they’ve visited and log new climbing routes (both indoor and outdoor). This way, you can keep track of your climbing process and that of your friends, expanding your climbing and training community.

Apps for GPS and pace tracking

  • Map My Hike - Despite the name, this actually is an app for all sorts of outdoor activities, and not just hiking. It uses your phone’s GPS to map and track down the trail you’ve covered, the distance, the hight gain, the pace, and all other interesting information that might help you to keep track of your activity and your training pattern. In addition to this, you can also access other people’s tracks and download them. This app is available for both Android and iOS. The basic version is for free, while the premium subscription starts at $5.99 per month and gives you access to customized audio cues for training and to help you follow the trail you’re on without distraction from your activity. Real time location sharing with your friends and family, so they can always know where to find you if something happens, is another pro-feature of the app.   
  • Wikiloc - This is not just an app, but a full community. Available for Android and iOS, you can access Wikiloc from your desktop as well. Here you can find not only all the routes you may need for all sorts of outdoor activities, but also written guides, reviews, pictures and comments. And this is valid for every place on the planet. Users from all over the globe give their suggestions and show their routes, creating one of the biggest outdoor communities ever. Through the app, you can access it on your smartphone as well and use it to search routes or to track your own trail, or whatever other outdoor activity you are carrying out. It’s for free and it can be compared to a social network for outdoors lovers, where you can follow your favorites and build your network.
  • Backcountry Navigator - Through this app you can access and collect a variety of maps, GPS waypoints and trails in general and collect it all in the same place, with different map layers and sources to consult them. We are talking about free maps like Open Street Map, or Open Cycle Map, as well as a variety of various official mapping agencies worldwide. There are both a basic and a premium version, according to your special necessities.
  • GPS Essentials - This is an app for Android only, but we couldn’t not talk about it. Indeed, the incredible amount of options, settings and widgets it has is incredible and it make it one of the best tracking apps on the internet. It allows to make maps, set waypoints and export them in a variety of formats, according to one’s needs. An augmented reality is also available, to allow adventurers to know what to expect.