There was a time when your only way to get around in the wilderness was either relying on your wits and survival skills or learning how to read a topographic map. And while you could still challenge yourself nowadays, you need not wander into the wilds completely unaided unless you absolutely deliberately want to.
In fact, your most valuable hiking tool is something you carry with you every single day: your smartphone. Thanks to some clever developers, there are loads of apps you can download onto your phone’s hard drive that will do everything from show ingyou where routes are, to helping you identify the local landmarks, to assist with first aid should you hurt yourself, and more. All you have to do is find the right ones. And you can start right here with our list of the 18 best hiking apps available for download right now.
When something becomes the number one app on any of the Apple Store’s lists, it’s kind of a big deal. So you can imagine just how good the Alltrails app is when we tell you it holds the top spot for outdoor apps. Not only is it loaded with useful information about hiking trails, natural landmarks, and more – but it will also track your progress as you go and map it out in an easy-to-read format. It also helps that this app is incredibly well made and beautifully laid out.
While Cairn offers much of the same kinds of things many other hiking apps offer – like downloadable topo maps and information on local hiking trails – it also offers one major thing lacking in all other programs: it maps out cell coverage in the great outdoors. That means, wherever you’re headed, you can find the exact locations along your route that have cellular coverage. So, if you get into trouble, you can get yourself where you need to be in order to get help. That can be the difference between life or death in the wilderness.
If you do not know how to read a compass, now is the time to learn. But you don’t have to lug around an old school compass in order to get all the benefits of one. Instead, download Commander Compass – a smartphone app that uses augmented reality to give you all the readings of a normal compass and then some. There are even customization options for your compass readings, so if you want to measure in kilometers instead of miles, you can.
First Aid By American Red Cross
Nobody ever plans to get hurt while they’re out on an adventure, but that’s not going to stop it from happening – even if you take every precaution. And that’s why its good to have something like the American Red Cross’ First Aid App on your phone. Sure, you can’t stop accidents, but you can minimize the damage done by learning how to treat all sorts of wounds. You can even follow along in-the-moment with the helpful instructions, illustrations, and more.
Though it won’t rank amongst the prettiest apps in the world, there’s something to be said for the fact that Gaia is used by hundreds of thousands of hikers around the world. Pair that with the wealth of information the app has to offer – including path-highlights on topographical maps, trip statistics, and more – and Gaia is more than useful for even the least experienced outdoorsman.
There are a lot of apps out there that offer up massive amounts of information on hiking paths, outdoor landmarks, and trail conditions. Few of them, however, look as good or function as well as Hiking Project. This easy-to-use app will tell you everything you need to know about your next hike from the features you can expect to see to the difficulty of the climb – which isn’t necessarily cutting edge – but the approachability of this app from a design standpoint puts it head and shoulders above its competition.
Map My Hike By Under Armour
Being that Under Armour makes some extremely killer outdoor gear, it should come as no surprise that they also offer up an excellent hiking app. Called Map My Hike, this smartphone program is handy for anyone that wants to track their exercise data in the outdoors. It will even give you audio feedback on your performance, help you discover new routes, and lets you share with your friends to stay motivated and perhaps offer a little friendly competition.
Maps 3D Pro
Having a topographical map on hand is only useful if you are well-versed in how to read one. And while they aren’t that difficult to grasp, you can make your life a whole lot easier with Maps 3D Pro. This handy program will take the topographical map of wherever you venture and turn it into a 3D model illustrating just how high the peaks and low the valleys actually are in real life. You can also use it to download different types of maps – like city streets – at no additional cost.
There’s a pretty good chance that, if you like to hike, there are some other outdoor activities you like to partake in – be it trail running, snowboarding, bike riding, or otherwise. If you do fall into that category of people, Mountain Hub is for you. This community-fueled app will let you gather information on any outdoor adventures you want to take – including weather conditions, reports from people that have recently taken the same trek, to 3D flyovers that show you exactly what you’re in for. And, of course, you can share your own adventures, as well.
Some of the best apps in the world – not just hiking ones – use a combination of information from experts and crowd-sourced reviews to help people make the most informed decisions about everything from making purchases to going on trips. Oh, Ranger! is one such app, though with a focus on getting out into the outdoors (both in the city and outside of regular civilization). With an easy-to-use format that allows for simple browsing, map-based location finding, and comprehensive searching, you can find out all the information you need to know about any outdoor space.
While most developers are using the augmented reality tech push to create video games, the folks behind PeakVisor have created a program with a much more useful real-world application. You see, with this app and your phone’s camera, you can gaze across any landscape and identify and and all of the nearby hills, humps, and mountains. This is useful both in that it will give you names of the peaks you conquer, but it also serves as both motivation to get back out there and a helpful edge to your navigation. And it’s available worldwide, so you can use it just about anywhere.
In spite of the name format, we assure you that this hiking app is nothing like Tinder, unless you count the fact that they both have social aspects to them. It does, however, allow you to collect and share any and all data about your outdoor adventures from trails hiked, to photos taken during your journeys, to nitty gritty information about any shared trip (like elapsed time, average speed, and more). You can also follow other folks with the app – you know, if you want to try and beat their records or just follow in their footsteps.
REI Co-Op National Parks Guide
REI is one of the world’s leading outdoor retailers. As such, they’ve got a pretty good bead on the natural world. So it makes sense that they would pare their expertise into an outdoor-focused app. Called the Co-Op National Parks Guide, this program is loaded to the guts with everything you’d need to know about all of America’s National Parks – from trail guides, to the level of difficulty of outings at said parks, to tidbits of insider information you might not otherwise find on the trails.
One of the biggest downsides to using a smartphone app to aid you with your exploration is that so many of them rely on internet connectivity in some form or another. Spyglass, a GPS locator and outdoor viewfinder, doesn’t need to connect to the internet in order to work. That’s reason enough to download this to your phone. But it can also supply you with a compass, area maps, and allows you to set waypoints to help you navigate back from whence you came. It will even let you navigate by using the stars, if the sun has already set on your hike.
Although it’s not free, Theodolite’s usefulness more than makes up for the reasonable $6 price set by its developers. Seriously, download this clever augmented reality viewfinder and you’ll be amazed at how clever and helpful it is when exploring the great outdoors. Working in conjunction with your camera, this app will give you your bearings, heading, altitude, viewing angle, GPS location, and so much more. And it’s a hell of a lot more carry-friendly than other devices offering similar functionality.
One of the best features of Viewranger is its extensive collection of trail guides – detailed instructions that let you know how to get the best out of any of the over 150,000 routes in the apps database. What’s even better about it is that you can actually download all the topographical maps and information you need so you can access it all offline, which is especially helpful for the more off-the-beaten-path hikes out there. Lastly, this app uses your camera to identify local landmarks in augmented reality – so you can be sure the peak you’re headed toward is the one you planned to conquer.
Nothing spoils a good hike like inclement weather. But it can be very difficult to gauge changing skies from moment to moment when you’re focused on enjoying yourself outside. Luckily, Weather Live exists. This app will give you up-to-the-minute information on your changing weather based on your GPS coordinates. And it doesn’t just tell you with little icons; it will give you a full readout of all the weather statistics from humidity and chance of rain to visibility and changes in air pressure. This app is a must-have if you want to hike anywhere with unpredictable weather.
Yonder is a lot like Yelp, except instead of rating restaurants, bars, and retail locations, it allows you to research beautiful local outdoor spaces. And, on top of location scouting, the app will let you look up crowd-sourced information about anywhere you plan to visit. Of course, you can also share your own adventures, review places you’ve visited, and give others inspiration to get out on adventures of their own.