Best Smartphone Apps To Plan Your Outdoor Adventures
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With warmer weather upon us, you’re likely thinking about spending more time outside in nature — and data says you’re in good company. Around 85% of Americans are expected to travel somewhere this summer, with a majority sticking to domestic travel. In 2022, over 80 million Americans went camping, making it 5x harder to find a campsite than any previous year on record.
But sleeping under the stars isn’t the only way to enjoy the great outdoors. You can hike, bike, climb, swim, and run your way through the warmer temperatures of the spring and summer months. But as you venture out into more remote locations, the ability to plan out your trek can keep you safe and make your adventures more enjoyable.
Now more than ever, smartphones are packed with features that benefit any outdoor enthusiast and thrill seeker. Here are some of our favorites, available for iOS and Android phones.
Find the best hiking trails near you or at your next destination. Explore options based on skill level and read reviews of the challenges and issues with each trail. Even if you’re familiar with paths near you, this is a great app for getting the inside scoop on recent closings or the latest damage from storms and other events. Log your hiking to keep track of where you’ve been — and where you want to go!
Track your rides and connect with other cyclists in the ultimate social network for biking enthusiasts. While you can also use it to track your running, Strava first gained popularity with cyclists. You can share your location while you work out and select someone to be your emergency contact, which is one way it can help keep you safe. If you’ve got a competitive streak in you, you’ll love the leaderboards that rank people based on their speed along local segments.
Accessing reviews you can trust can make or break your camping trip, since the last thing you want to do is arrive at the grounds and realize they’re not what you expected (or need). The Dyrt leads the pack with the highest numbers of reviews across campground types, from tenting through cabins, RVs and even glamping — there’s really something for every type of camper out there.
It’s never been easier to find outdoor climbing options near you. This app lets you map out your routes and keep track of where you climb, with offline options to help if you can’t get a signal in a particular spot. You can filter by climbing pitch, difficulty, material, and geography to find the perfect route for your climbing needs.
Not only can you know exactly what stars and constellations you’re looking at, but you can also find events like solar eclipses and lunar phases for easy reference. Special features like a curated calendar of sky events as well as real-time sky casting to other users make SkySafari a powerful tool and social connector.
Boasting over 220 countries and territories mapped, Google Maps is your best bet for up-to-date navigation instructions anywhere you go. You can learn more about local sights and businesses, as well as explore the latest traffic locations. Remember to download maps for offline use if you’re worried about signal strength at any point in your journey. Be sure to take advantage of topography and local imagery to help round out your familiarity with your destination, so you’re best prepared for what’s to come. Lastly, use hands-free navigation to search for things along your route including gas stations, restaurants, and lodging.
Need a quick way to organize your entire travel itinerary? You can organize your reservations, view destinations using Google Maps, and even share details with your friends. One of the newest features to pop up is the travel guide option, which lets you both access and share local guides with others – keeping you in the know about where to go. Pro tip: if you’re planning a road trip, Wanderlog can calculate the best route to save money on gas.
Longtime cult classic Weather Underground has released apps for both Apple iOS and Android phones, offering deep insights on current and upcoming weather forecasts around the world. 250,000+ personal weather stations dot the globe for the most up-to-date insights on conditions anywhere and everywhere. The interactive map lets you explore current weather and examine what’s coming up later in the day or week. You can even adjust the color brightness and map style to fit your comfort and needs.
People who love boats, fishing, or even diving tend to love the power behind the simple Navionics app. Easily access up-to-date nautical charts, including sonar charts and NOAA charts directly from the U.S. government. Satellite imagery and real-time weather data help make these maps functional, so you can have the information you need at your fingertips for the safest and most enjoyable time on the water.
Seasoned avian enthusiast or birdwatching newbie, everyone can benefit from the simple user experience behind the Merlin mobile app. See a bird you want to identify? Developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, all you need to do is answer three questions in the app before you receive a list of possible birds – with visuals and guidance – so that you can pinpoint exactly what you’re looking at. This app works particularly well to check against bias. You can even upload sound to help identify bird calls, or photos to help narrow down possible matches. Merlin even lets you keep track of the birds you’ve seen over time.
Choose whether you want to browse through lists of plants based on features or geography, or opt to upload a picture of your plant from your smartphone and let Pl@ntNet work its magic to help you identify what you’ve encountered. This app contains references to plants all around the world, so you can leverage its knowledge wherever your adventures take you.
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