Gear Guy

What Are The Most Useful Outdoor Apps?

Can I transform my smartphone into a more functional piece of gear?

Bob Parks

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As cell phones get become more like electronic multitools, you’ll find more serious uses for them on hiking and climbing trips. People who are still analog holdouts will tell you that you can’t depend on electronic devices in the wild, and that you need paper backups of topo maps and other important documentation.  Absolutely! But experienced people also bring phones to take advantage of the lightning fast access to mapping, weather, and other useful data, even where there is no cell service. Here are a few apps to help you get the most out of your Apple or Android device.




The Best Outdoor Apps for the iPhone: Offline Topo Maps

For iPhone users who want to turn their mobile device into a GPS that works offline, Offline Topo Maps lets you download USGS maps before you head outdoors so you’ll have them in remote places without service.  You get access to worldwide street, topographic or satellite maps. A very good alternate is Gaia GPS—Offline Topo Maps and GPS Tracker. ($9.99)

The Best Outdoor Apps for the iPhone: Camping List

Remembering everything for a big trek is much harder than packing for a business trip. You depend on the stuff in your pack for comfort and safety, so organizing it should not be left to the back of a napkin. The Camping List app by the programmers at Engineered Stuff creates a customizable punchlist of everything from toiletries to safety gear. ($1.99)

The Best Outdoor Apps for the Android: AlpineQuest GPS Hiking

We recently wrote about using the GPS function of your phone in offline mode. For Android-based phones, AlpineQuest is one of the best ways to do it. It lets you upload detailed topo maps to the phone when you’re back home or at the hotel. Then the maps stay on your phone even when you are out of cell service. ($6.99)

The Best Outdoor Apps for the Android: Climbing Weather

You could search the weather at the nearest town to your destination to get an idea of what your day at the crag will be like. This app shows the next seven days at specific climbing spots. (Free)

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