Do you sometimes forget that you currently have more computer technology resting in the palm of your hand than was used to take mankind to the moon? I do. Especially when I’m constantly bombarded with scientific articles and media demonstrating the negative effects of smartphones and screen usage on my health and wellbeing.
Despite the undeniable drawbacks, there are also tremendous advantages that come with owning a mobile supercomputer.
Here is a list of 10 must-have apps that will provide you with the knowledge and means to get outside this year, while encouraging you to roam farther, faster and more safely than ever.
Ever been on a hike and bickered with your friends about the name of that distant mountain peak? Of course, there is an app for that. Developed in the lofty peaks of the Swiss Alps, PeakFinder AR uses your smartphone’s internal compass and motion sensors to identify the name of almost any mountain you point your phone at. PeakFinder AR functions offline and knows the names of more than 800,000 peaks worldwide.
Cost: Free, or $25.49 pro
I’ve always thought of weather forecasting as a kind of divination—the closest thing we have to a crystal ball. The Windy.com app brings together all the world’s leading weather forecasting models so that you don’t have to. Whether you are a surfer, boater, hiker or storm chaser, this intuitive, highly detailed weather app will provide you with an incredibly accurate snapshot of the future. I’ve come to rely on it so heavily that it’s now as much a part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth or checking social media.
Cost: Free, or $29.99/year pro
Want to go for a hike? AllTrails contains data from over 100,000 trails worldwide. Its detailed maps contain up-to-date trail information, reviews, photos and even driving directions to get there. Once you arrive, you can let the app take over; its offline GPS function tracks your movements along the trail, recording your pace, distance, elevation and max speed.
Cost: Free, or $14.99 pro
Is that a dog’s print or a wolf’s? iTrack is the app that will help you find out. It contains track, gait and sign information for 71 of North America’s most common mammals. Effortlessly pick out the difference between a bobcat and a lynx or a grizzly and a black bear. It’s never been easier to find out what’s following you.
iNaturalist was developed as a tool to help people connect with nature while also contributing to science. See a plant you don’t know the name of? Take a photo of it and the app will instantly tell you what species it is. You can then upload your find so that other users can weigh in. It's a new kind of social media for nature lovers and a great motivation to get outdoors.
No one ever expects to get into trouble in the outdoors. A sudden storm or unexpected injury can quickly turn a fun outing into a crisis. AdventureSmart was developed as a tool to communicate your trip plans with friends and family, so that in the event of emergency they can pass your information over to the search and rescue authorities. The app also contains valuable survival information and instructions on how to act in an emergency.
Probably the most useful travel app of all time, Maps.me is updated by millions of OpenStreetMap contributors daily and contains points of interest, trails and hidden spots that other maps miss. A great option to take with you into the outdoors: it is offline, has GPS navigation and allows you to record waypoints to return to.
There is certainly something appealing about the stars and the universe to us humans. With the Sky Guide app, whether you are in the depths of a light-polluted concrete jungle or standing underneath a crystal-clear desert sky, you can witness the celestial light show every night. Point your smartphone at the sky and the app will show you the stars, their names and their constellations, all in vivid detail. Did I mention there’s also theme music?
You never know when you might find yourself in a situation where you need to become a hero. Accidents and injuries can happen at any time, but especially in the outdoors, where first aid becomes a crucial skill. The First Aid app features step-by-step instructions and videos that will guide you through a variety of first aid scenarios.
Now here’s an app that really utilizes your smartphone’s mechanical abilities. Spyglass is an offline virtual toolkit that serves as your binoculars, compass, speedometer, altimeter, sextant, inclinometer and rangefinder. With this app, you’ll never need to worry about getting lost again.
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