Since we’re all spending more time on our phones while we’re stuck at home, we thought we’d introduce you to some of the best outdoor apps you might not already know about. Remember, being stuck at home is a temporary situation, so familiarizing yourself with these apps now means you’ll be raring and ready to use them when it’s once again safe and responsible to adventure!
How many times have you downloaded and installed the latest “adventure” app…only to never open it again?
Mobile technology undoubtedly has the capability to enhance our adventures—think Strava, Trailforks, and Sky Guide—but it’s tough to know which apps will be legitimate assets when it comes to the outdoors, and which will just take up valuable memory on your phone while collecting digital dust.
To help you save that memory for photos, podcasts, and all your Fortnite and Pokémon characters, we’ve compiled this list of the eight best, little-known adventure apps that you’ll actually use.
The eight most-useful outdoor apps you haven’t heard of (yet):
Free for basic features; $2.99 monthly or $3.99 single-trip use for Pro features.* Tribe Pilot is currently giving users FREE ACCESS to PRO FEATURES through APRIL 2020.
If you’re suffering from cabin fever and dreaming of the day you’ll finally be able to adventure with friends and family again, planning a trip on Tribe Pilot will help take the edge off your cabin fever. It’s the only trip-building app that lets tripmates create, store, edit and share all the details of a group adventure in a single online location. With Tribe Pilot, everything related to your trip lives in one shared place, so all your buddies have mobile access to the same information about your trip at the same time. Trip dates, schedules, locations, activities, maps and route plans, gear and food lists, and more all live in the Tribe Pilot app, and in-app chat makes it easy to keep all trip-related conversations in one place. New features are being added to Tribe Pilot as this young app grows—we’re told an expense-splitting calculator and photo sharing are on the way—and we love that they’re a certified Benefit Corporation, focusing their philanthropic efforts on carbon sequestration and the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Tribe Pilot can be downloaded for free in the iOS and Android Google Play app stores, and advanced Tribe Pilot Pro features can be purchased with a $2.99/month annual subscription or with a $3.99 single-trip upgrade. But get this: To help keep your spirits up while we’re all social distancing, the team at Tribe Pilot is upgrading any trip planned between now and the end of April 2020 to include all Tribe Pilot’s Pro features for free, so you can take advantage of them on your trips when it's safe and responsible to do so.
Free for basic features; $19.99 yearly for Member features; $39.99 yearly for Premium features
For super-detailed topo maps that you can download and use offline, Gaia GPS is our app of choice. Gaia’s meticulous trail maps are great if you want to substitute your phone for a paper map in the backcountry. The app’s catalog includes maps for hiking and backpacking, hunting, overlanding, mountain biking, backcountry skiing and more, though some aren’t available or downloadable without signing up for a membership. For $19.99 a year you can download worldwide topo maps that you can use offline, create waypoints and record routes, and take geo-tagged photos. For $39.99 a year, you gain access to more than 250 National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps, US hunting maps that show property and public lands boundaries, and detailed maps of the Alps, just in case you’re planning a trip to Europe when COVID-19 has run its course.
$4.99 one-time fee
If you’ve ever struggled to match a nearby peak with a name on your topo map, or if you’ve ever been curious about the names of mountains in the distance, PeakFinder AR is the perfect tool. Simply point your phone’s camera at the horizon, and PeakFinder AR labels every summit with their names and elevations. The app is able to recognize more than 650,000 peaks around the world, as seen via a 360° panoramic view from any viewpoint, and it works offline, making it perfect for use as a complement to a topo map in the backcountry. PeakFinder AR can be purchased for a one-time cost of $4.99.
Free for basic features; $29.99 yearly for Pro features
The Dyrt is an all-in-one resource that puts everything you need to find and reserve the perfect campsite all in one place. The app lets you find and research campsites, read reviews, and even book your stay. It includes pictures and photos of each campsite, along with reviews and guides posted by other members, and it can be accessed via desktop, or downloaded to iOS and Android. The Dyrt features reviews of over 42,000 campgrounds, including Hipcamps, Tentrrs, cabins, private RV campgrounds, national parks, state parks and more. And—to reiterate perhaps our favorite feature–after doing your research and finding the perfect campsite, you can book it directly from within the app. The app is free to download with basic features, and for $29.99 a year you gain access to features like offline search and downloadable maps.
Free for basic features; $1.99 one-time use to $29.99 yearly for multi-user Premium features
If you’re a skier or snowboarder, Slopes is a fun way to track your number of total runs, vertical gain and loss, and time on snow over the course of a day in the mountains. You turn it on before you jump on the first lift of the day, and when you stop recording at après, you get a breakdown of all your stats. The app can also provide live stats throughout the day, which is particularly convenient if you own an Apple Watch, with which Slopes integrates. The basic features are included with the free version of the app; if you want to add run-by-run stat breakdowns, maps and timelines of your accumulated runs, and interactive 3D replays of you day on the mountain, the Premium version costs between $1.99 for a day pass and $29.99 for an annual household pass, which can be shared among multiple members.
If the ability to document and share your adventures is what you’re after, Ramblr lets you do just that. The app allows you to track and showcase your backcountry routes, then add geotagged photos, videos, GPS information, and even share stats like elevation, total distance and average moving speed. When everything’s combined, it paints a vivid picture of your trip for others to enjoy, or for you to look back on. Ramblr’s also a great source of adventure inspiration, as you can search for and download GPS info for destinations and routes that align with your own goals, letting you retrace the steps of previous adventurers. The app works offline, and it’ll record your travels in the wild, just as long as you still have a GPS signal.
An app that uses some seriously impressive visual recognition technology, LeafSnap is capable of identifying plant species based solely on snapshots of their leaves. Ideal for budding botanists, or even for anyone with a passing interest in being able to name the plants you see in the wild, uploading a photo to LeafSnap automatically results in the app finding a matching image in its database. The app currently recognizes 90 percent of all known species of plants and trees, covering most of the species you will encounter in every country on Earth. It also provides taxonomic classification, the common name and a detailed description of the plant you’re examining.
Another great app for anyone interested in identifying wildlife, and developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab helps users identify birds by asking a series of identifying questions, or by uploading a photo of the bird in question. Once the bird is identified, the app shows additional photos, plays the bird’s song and provides a detailed description. The app can identify more than 4,500 bird species across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, India and Australia, so you’ll be prepared for impromptu birdwatching wherever you go.
There are any number of outdoor adventure apps available in the iOS and Android Google Play app stores, but those listed here are some great under-the-radar tools we actually use on a regular basis. Download them and give them a try on your next adventure. If you’re anything like us, we promise they’ll add to the experience.