Ten Mobile Apps to Help You Adventure Smarter
Whether you're looking for an app to keep you on trail, tell you what mountain peak you're looking at, what star constellation is above you, what animal track you've just encountered, where the closest hot shower is, or an app to document your adventure, the apps below will have you covered. We've used them all and recommend each one. All are available on both Android and iPhone.
#1. AllTrails (Pro)
The no-brainer app to have if you're hiking or backpacking anywhere in America. The Pro/+ version allows users to download trail maps, excellent for areas with little to no cell reception, receive alerts if you manage to veer off trail, and create custom maps which is incredibly helpful. Record your routes and the app will track your pace, distance, cumulative and per mile elevation gain, total time vs moving time, and calories burned. It also has the largest collection of trail photos and trail reviews you'll find anywhere and that can come in handy when you're trying to get an idea of current trail conditions. If the trail is muddy, blowdowns are abundant, or water crossings are challenging you'll know by the user submitted reviews. The Preview Route feature available on the app also gives an animated video of the trail which is a pretty slick feature added in 2023. AllTrails' website is also a great place to research day hikes and backpacking routes, and can be a little easier to work with than the app when trip planning. The Pro version is billed annually and worth every penny.
Maybe the coolest app for documenting your hike, bike, backpack, or kayak trip out there. Relive creates videos of your adventures using topographical 3D maps, details the route you took, displays the photos that you snapped where you snapped them, and gives data such as time, distance, elevation gain, and more. It's a visually stunning way to relive your adventure and/or share with others via messaging or social media. They have a decent YouTube video that explains it all. The photo above is a screen shot from the first time we used it hiking Angels Landing in Zion, but you really need to see a video of the app in action to really appreciate what it does.
#3. Google Maps (offline)
Another no brainer, but we'll mention it in case there are one or two out there that haven't used it before. Offline Google Maps is a feature inside the actual Google Maps app that allows users to download data to large areas of the country for offline use. What this allows you to do is receive turn-by-turn directions, search for local restaurants, gas stations, trailheads, and other points of interest without having cell service. That being said, having an area downloaded to your phone can be tremendously helpful when you've made a wrong turn, are running low on gas, or a myriad of other scenarios in unfamiliar areas where you have no connectivity. There's nothing like traveling through backcountry roads in West Virginia, not knowing where in the hell you are, the low fuel alert chimes in, and you have zero cell service. That was the catalyst for our discovery of offline Google Maps years ago. Super easy to use, requires very little space on your device, and free. It's become a routine piece of trip preparation for us and can't imagine traveling without it.
#4. The Dyrt
An app built by campers, for campers. The Dyrt calls themselves the Yelp of campground reviews and we're big fans. The app lets users find campsites of all kinds - tent, cabin, RV, dispersed, and more. Last we checked they had over 50,000 campgrounds all over the US and more than 1 million user-generated reviews of the campgrounds and campsites. Upgrade to the paid version and you'll be able to use it offline, find free dispersed campsites on Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service lands, find campsites along the route you're traveling via Trip Planner, and receive discounts on select campgrounds across the country. If you're an avid camper you may actually come out on top from a cost savings standpoint. We've found some pretty awesome dispersed campsites in the app that weren't listed anywhere else online, including one in Utah that we'll never forget. It's an incredible resource with reliable, trustworthy reviews that we can't recommend highly enough.
Check campsite availability in real time, book a tour, apply and manage permits, enter a lottery, get a day use park pass, and more. It's a government managed app so temper your expectations, but it can come in handy when you have a permit or park timed-entry ticket. No need to print off your permit or timed entry ticket, or worry about losing your paper documents with the app. It's well designed, but just remember that it does require cell reception to use. So, if you have a permit or timed entry ticket in the app it's best to screenshot it on your phone before venturing out. If you're planning on entering the daily lottery for a Coyote Buttes Wave permit you'll need this app due to the geofencing requirement. The main reason we use the app is for keeping track of special permits like Arches National Park's Fiery Furnace and entering lotteries on the fly. While our eleven attempts at securing a Wave permit via daily lottery have come up empty, the app has definitely been great to use for applying.
If you've ever been camping and wondered what's all above in the night sky, you're not alone. Fortunately for all of us, Stellarium has you covered. The easy to use app provides users with an augmented reality experience that's all but guaranteed to wow you. Simply point your phone in any direction and find out what stars, constellations, planets, comets, satellites, and other deep space objects like the International Space Station are in the sky in real time. It's free and super easy to use. Download, point, and boom. If you're planning on traveling to a dark sky park this one's a no brainer. The base version is excellent on its own, but upgrade to the Pro version and gain telescope control via Bluetooth or WiFi. The Pro version subscriptions are either monthly or a one-time annual. We've used a number of similar apps and nothing compares to Stellarium, both from an accuracy and ease of use standpoint. Pull this thing out when you're in Southern Utah during a new moon and you'll swear it's the coolest app you've ever downloaded.
If you've ever been on a hiking or backpacking trip and needed a hot shower, but didn't know where to find one, this is the app for you. Find hot showers and restroom facilities at truck stops, gas stations, public lands, beach facilities, etc. all over the country. It's a bit clunky to use your first go, but it's well worth the seconds it takes to find a place to get cleaned up at. We've found some pretty solid showers using the app and rely on it heavily when bouncing around the Southwest or Pacific Northwest for weeks between day hikes and backpacks. The only sticking point is that cell service is required to use the app and that can obviously be an issue at times. All facility photos and reviews are user submitted and from what we've experienced are very accurate. We've noticed that the developer is a bit slow on updating the app after new software releases on Android devices so you may want to test it out before relying on it during your next road trip trip. Free to use and worth having in your back pocket.
Chances are that you've hiked in the mountains and wondered what some of the surrounding peaks were. If you have the PeakFinder app installed on your phone you'll have the answer at the tap of a button. The app determines your location via GPS and displays a 360-degree panorama with all of the peaks names and elevations. No internet connection is required. We've used it a bunch in New Hampshire's White Mountains, Colorado's San Juans and Sawatch Range, and all over Washington and found it to be pretty accurate.
#9. iTrack Wildlife
We've only used the free version which is a bit less feature rich compared to the paid version, but we've still found it to be very helpful. The developer claims it to be the most comprehensive digital field guide to animal tracks ever made and he/she may be right. We've tested a few others out and always come back to iTack Wildlife. The free version is limited to eight species of animals, but if you're a hiker or backpacker the eight that are in this version are pretty much what you'll want. Grizzly, brown, and black bear, mountain lion, moose, wild boar, and many others are all featured in the free version. We're a little disappointed that there's no sasquatch track, but it is what it is. The app even lets users search tracks by the number of toes in the track you're looking up. Can't say that we were thrilled to identify mountain lion tracks while backpacking in Colorado's Yankee Boy Basin, but at least we knew what we were up against. The app can take a few minutes to get accustomed to, so getting familiar with it prior to your trip is recommended.
#10. Seek by iNaturalist
Not sure what plant you're hiking by? Download Seek by iNaturalist, point your camera at it, and in seconds you'll know exactly what you're looking at. No internet connection required. We've used it several times and found it to be very accurate, but we're not going to rely on it to determine if certain berries are edible or not.