Ah, the great outdoors. The flora, the fauna, the welcome mystery of the open trail stretched before you. You’ve left it all behind (no cell service, no problems!) until … Wait. Where’s the map? Did you mean to turn left back there? What direction is the campsite anyway? Is it starting to get dark?
Don’t lose yourself out there. Download one of these trail-mapping apps to make sure you can always find your way, whether you have cell service or not.
Every outdoor explorer needs AllTrails on their phone. The app catalogs over 75,000 trails across the United States and Canada, with handy filters to search trails by skill level, accessibility, or dog-friendliness. If you’re trekking beyond cell range, pony up for the pro membership ($30 for a year, iOS and Android), which lets you download maps ahead of time and track your exact location using GPS. And if you get really lost, the app’s Lifeline feature sends a status update to your designated safety contact with your location after a certain amount of time.
Designed for backpackers, Gaia offers topographical and satellite maps for any kind of outdoor adventure. Whether you’re on a day hike, a mountain biking trip, a hunting excursion, or deep in the backcountry, the app is built to get you where you’re going safely and with as much information as possible. There is a free version, but it’s well worth it to get the premium membership ($40 for a year, iOS and Android), which lets you download maps and offers NOAA weather forecasts and layers to designate private land, public land, and recent wildfires. It also supports more than 30 languages, from Hindi to Hebrew.
The topographic maps made by the United States Geological Survey are the gold standard for finding your way through rugged terrain. Topo Maps+ ($20 for a year, iOS) digitizes those maps for over 500,000 trails. Add waypoint to help you find your way back to important locations, like the place you pitched your tent or parked your car. It also offers a battery-saving feature, so you don’t have to choose between finding your way and running out of juice.
The offline mapping data on Google Maps won’t work for the serious backpacker, but a cheapskate on a leisurely hike, there are worse options. Enable the topographic map layer to see more detail in the areas between landmarks, then download the map of your hiking area for offline viewing. Drop a few pins along the way and you should be able to find your way around using the offline GPS functionality. You can also share your route with others. It’s not perfect—but it’s free!
Hey, is that poison oak? Identify everything along the way with Seek(free, iOS and Android), the Shazam for plants. What’s that mountain in the distance? Use PeakVisor ($4.49, iOS and Android) to display the name, elevation, and distance of any peak in augmented reality. How’s the weather on the trails today? Check on WeatherLive (free, iOS and Android) for detailed information on temperature, precipitation, wind speed and direction, UV and visibility; it also tells you when you’ll find “golden hour” for those perfect outdoor selfies.
Never built a campfire before? Coleman’s Get Outdoors (free, iOS) has you covered with pro camping tips. It includes advice on how to choose the right gear, ideas for camping spots, and advice for campsite cooking. Navigating by the stars? Find your way with Spyglass ($5.99, iOS and Android), which puts measuring instruments on your smartphone—including a speedometer, altimeter, inclinometer, optical rangefinder, sextant, angular calculator, and a tool to track the position of the stars, sun, and moon.
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