There's no doubt that camping is one of the most fun and rewarding activities that you can do outdoors. It's a great way to get back to nature, spend time with friends and family, and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
However, camping can also be challenging — especially if you're not used to spending time in the wilderness. And even if you’re a seasoned backpacker, it’s a lot of work to plan epic trips. The last thing you want is for an accident to happen on the trail and catch you unprepared. Thank the nature-loving gods that there are tons of useful outdoor tech and apps available at our fingertips — literally.
Whether you're not quite ready to purchase a backcountry GPS, or just need help organizing your trip, there's a camping app for that! Camping apps are great tools that have saved my ass several times, and they’re only a swipe away. Camping apps will help you plan your route, find the best camping spots, and make the most of your time in the great outdoors.
With the right selection of outdoorsy apps designed for campers and backpackers, you'll be navigating trails in ways Lewis and Clark could only dream of. Just remember to charge your phone and download what you need before you lose service.
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WikiCamps boasts the largest crowd-sourced database of campgrounds, backpacker hostels, interesting sights, and information centers. It includes campsite ratings and reviews as well as a forum to chat directly with other users. You can filter sites based on specific amenities such as electricity, pet-friendliness, water points (toilets, showers, taps), and many more. Pay once for the app and you also get to use their camping checklist and compass built-in. This is a great app for newbie backpackers first heading out into the wild.
Gaia GPS comes with seemingly endless options to pick your preferred map sources, curated based on the activities you chose. Topography, precipitation, land ownership, and of course, trails are all options to add to your viewable “Map Layers”. If they don’t have a specific map you need, you can import various map data types for you to view and layer all your maps in one place. Whether you’re moving by skis, bike, raft, or foot, you’ll have the maps you need to plan and navigate your backpacking adventure.
AllTrails focuses on what they’re good at, cataloging every trail you can access by foot or bike and even some paddles. Find hikes based on trail difficulty, rated for easy, moderate, or hard. A trail listing will include its popularity and best months for hiking, along with current conditions and user reviews. The free version comes with basic GPS capabilities for on the trail, but with the Pro version, you get “off-route notifications” and offline-capable maps so you’re never lost.
Maps.me has impressive coverage of every logging road, trail, waterfall, and lake, no matter how deep in the backcountry you may be. Their free downloadable maps highlight some of the most random and secret sights, trails, and campsites that exist in any part of the world. Even offline, the GPS tends to be very accurate and can navigate you wherever you need to go, on or off the trail. My favorite feature is the ability to create lists of saved sights and addresses so you can easily access all the cool places you’ve been.
PackLight provides a simple way to track your inventory and weight before setting off on backpacking trips. Once you input your gear details in the app, you can view a simple category summary to compare what is weighing you down the most. This app is great for people who are looking to cut every extra ounce. All-season hikers will find a lot of value out of organizing separate pack lists depending on the conditions. The only downside is that it’s iOS only; no Android version.
Cairn comes packed with features designed to get you home safely. Input your trip details to automatically notify those closest to you of your real-time location and your ETA to your planned destination. Should anything bad happen, you can access downloaded maps, send an alert to your emergency contacts, and find cell service with crowd-sourced data from other users. If you’re still not back to safety on schedule, your emergency contacts will automatically be notified. Cairn is an essential app for any backpacker but especially for solo explorers.
First Aid by The American Red Cross is like having a doctor on speed dial in the backcountry. The app has a user-friendly interface that allows you to quickly find the specific emergency you need to treat, complete with step-by-step instructions, pictures, and videos. The app also has a training feature, provides emergency preparedness guides for specific emergency scenarios, and tests you on your medical knowledge.
PeakFinder is an amazing tool for recognizing and understanding +850,000 mountains around the world. There’s a big difference between seeing a mountain on a map and seeing it with your eyes. To help scale the gap, use PeakFinder. Simply point your phone’s camera at a mountain range, and the app will instantly identify the names and elevations of the mountains you’re witnessing. With solar and lunar orbit rise and set times, you can capture incredible views and have a new appreciation for the mountains you explore.