With smartphone technology being as it is, by taking our mobiles out into the bush, we have the ability to take a whole range of helpful resources to add to our experiences in the wild*. I recently found myself sorting through and tidying up my apps and realised I needed a whole folder just for hiking apps. There are some I use more than others, but here’s my collection of best apps for Australian hiking and bushwalking.
Memory Maps – This is the app I use the most. It doubles as my GPS and I like how easy it is to use. I don’t use this as a desktop solution, only in the field where it shows my location and I can mark tracks, routes and way points. Doesn’t need mobile coverage. Negatives are that it currently doesn’t have a Mac desktop interface, although works remarkably well on my iPhone. Cost: $1 | Maps: $99 USD (eg. All NSW Toppos) | Link: Memory-Map | Platform: iOS and Android.
Pocket Earth – This lil’ pocket rocket is what I use to feed me Open Street Maps data. Only available for iPhone, it’s a tough choice between this and Gaia GPS (which does iOS and Android). Cost: Free (but you’ll want to pay the $8 to unlock contours and metric). Link: Pocket Earth | Platform: iOS
Avenza Maps – Has fast become the standard go-to GPS enabled PDF map reader and it’s easy to see why. Working offline, this app gives you a map-shop world of choice at your fingertips. Whilst the app is free, you will need to buy individual topographic maps for your particular area/hike, which average $1.50. Give yourself time to set it up and download the maps you need beforehand. Cost: Free | Link: Avenza Maps | Platform: iOS and Android.
Other Navigation Apps
- Google Earth (Free, iOS and Android)
- Google Maps (Free, iOS and Android)
- Backcountry Navigator ($11.99 USD, Android)
- PDF Maps (Avenza) (Free, Select NSW 1:25,000 $1.49, iOS and Android)
- Locus Maps (Free or Pro $9.16, Android)
- Orex Map (Free, Android… boffins only need apply)
Fires Near Me – I have the NSW Rural Fire Service version of this app. It provides up to date information (when in mobile coverage) for bushfires, their extent and threat level, all through simple Google map interface. Cost: Free | Link: Fires Near Me | Platform: iOS and Android
Emergency+ – An incredibly simple app, that pinpoints your location and allows you to call direct from the app (when in mobile coverage) for help from 000 emergency, the State Emergency Service or the Police non-emergency number. The home screen includes your GPS co-ordinates and the street address, so you can tell the emergency operator exactly where you are. Cost: Free | Link: Emergency+ app | Platform: iOS and Android
Australian Red Cross First Aid – Simple scroll downs reveal an array of first aid emergencies or issues. Add to this clear step by step how-tos, FAQs and quizzes and you’ve got a handy First Aid guide in your pocket. No coverage required. Cost: Free | Link: First Aid by Australian Red Cross | Platform: iOS and Android
Other Safety Apps
- Essential Skeleton – 3D skeleton map (free, iOS & Android)
- Flashlight – Turns your camera flash on or off (free, iOS & Android)
Geocaching – There’s lots of apps out there masquerading as ‘the’ official geocaching one, so make sure you choose the right one with the green icon to get yourself started into the wonderful world of treasure hunting… on a global scale. It adds a whole different dimension to your outdoors pursuits and connects you with a like minded community from all corners of the globe. Great for kids and families to enjoy together. Cost: Free (limited) and paid upgrade | Offline: Need to download and save track logs for areas when you’ll be out of mobile range | Link: Geocaching | Platform: iOS and Android
Runtastic – More an urban running or walking app, it’s a handy way of tracking your route, gathering information about pace, ascent/descent and a whole range of other info. I tend to not use this in the bush as similar info is gathered with navigation apps. Cost: Free with paid upgrades | Link: Runtastic | Platform: iOS and Android
Wild About Whales – NSW National Parks developed a great app for whale watching along the NSW coastline. During the season, you’ll spot icons showing you where whales have been spotted and their type, as well as be able to contribute your own sites. Good info on species and what to look for, along with locations and details for all the best viewing spots. Cost: Free | Link: Wild About Whales | Platform: iOS and Android
TrailChef – Nicely designed app featuring recipes from breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks, desserts. New recipes being added on updates and includes dehydrated meals. Downside is it’s USA based, so some ingredients and elements are not available in Australia, but I love that the layout is done by icons for info (nutritional info), shopping list, at home prep, on the trail prep and a photo. You can also add your own recipes. Cost: $4.49 USD | Link: Trail Recipes | Platform: iOS
Mammut Packing List – There’s loads of travellers packing list apps out there, but this is a great and comprehensive one which includes pre-loaded lists for a huge variety of outdoor pursuits including, Alpine Touring, Expeditions, Snow Shoeing, Hiking/Trekking (bushwalking!), Bouldering, Climbing (5 different types) and various sorts of skiing. There’s variations for day trips and overnights in either tents or huts. The great thing is that you can then also start your own and add to these existing ones. Cost: Free | Link: Mammut App | Platform: iOS
Sun Surveyor – This is one that I use in my day job and is a great way of seeing where the sun (and moon) is going to track across the sky, in a VR display using your camera. Accurate sunrise and sunsets, along with times for golden hour, blue hour and probably a whole lot more than you’ll ever need… unless you’re into geek-ness which I have been known to do. Cost: Free (Lite) or upgrades. | Link: Sun Surveyor | Platform: iOS and Android
Weatherzone+ – Everyone’s got their own favourite weather forecast app… this is mine. Cost: $2.99 USD (or free lite) | Link: Weatherzone+ | Platform: iOS and Android
Flora and Fauna
iFungi AU – How many times have you come across a lovely mushroom or fungus and wondered a) what is it? and b) if you can eat it!? It comes with a fungus identification wizard, which I’ve found to be helpful about 50% of the time. Heed the warnings though… mushies can be deadly. Cost: $4.99 USD | Link: iFungi AU Facebook | Platform: iOS
Australian Museum Field Guide to NSW Fauna – Wonderful FREE app with loads of photos and categories to help you identify an enormous variety of creatures great and small. Birds, mammals, fish, frogs, snakes and other reptiles, bugs and insects as well as creatures under water. Handy in a first aid emergency to be able to identify snakes and stingers. Cost: Free (incredible value)! | Link: Australian Museum | Platform: iOS and Android
Birdsong ID – Like Shazam for birds. Ever been walking through a forest and heard a bird and wondered what it is? This app claims to be able to identify the call and then provide you with a photo and info on the particular bird. This is only new to me so I haven’t put it into practice yet, but it also includes the pre-recorded calls of many birds so you can listen and compare. Cost: $5.99 USD | Link: Birdsong ID | Platform: iOS
Get your Geek On
I confess. There is a part of me that is super nerdy. That’s when I click on these ones:
GOISSWatch – Yep, that’s the International Space Station. Just when you’re lying in your bivvie, looking up at the stars and wondered… there are people up there… somewhere. Now you can track the path of the ISS and give them a wave. Ground control to Major Nerd. Cost: Free | Nerd Rating: 4 | Platform: iOS
PlaneFinder – It’s one of those things. Seeing a plane going overhead and thinking… ‘I wonder where it’s going?’ Well, wonder no more with this little gem for plane spotters everywhere. Not only will you find out where that silver steel bird (via VR screen) is going, you’ll know what airline it is, flight number, aircraft type, where it came from and the colour of the Flight Service Manager’s lipstick. If that isn’t nerdy enough for you, run it simultaneously with LiveATC app ($3.99 USD) and you’ve just boosted your Geek Level from Leonard to Sheldon. Cost: $3.99 USD | Link: PlaneFinder | Platform: iOS and Android
Night Sky – Still up in the air, being able to identify the different constellations is a great night time activity. Using VR tech again, you can get a realtime check on what and who all those sparkling wonders are above you. Cost: Free (lite) with upgrades ($0.99)… the ads are killing me! | Link: Night Sky | Platform: iOS and Android
360 Panorama – Ever wanted to take a shot of somewhere amazing and let your friends see everything that you saw? Not just in front of you, but behind, above and below? This is an easy to use 360 photo creator, that with a few more tweaks (especially in it’s ability to share) will make it a great little keeper. Cost: $1.99 USD | Link: 360 Occiptal | Platform: iOS and Blackberry, eh?
You’re stuck in your tent/cave/hut and it’s blowing a blizzard out there. You ain’t moving for at least 2 days and the instructions on the cuppa soup label are getting repeatitive. It’s times like this that you may be thankful for a few apps to pass the time.
Kindle – Books, books and more books. Oh and PDFs so I can read my club’s newsletters and walks programs! Cost: Free (books cost) | Link: Kindle (ie. Amazon) | Platform: iOS and Android
Podcasts – Don’t forget your ear buds to listen to a world of pre-downloaded material (if you’re outta range). Learn, laugh, meditate and be inspired. Cost: Free | Link: Stitcher | Platform: iOS and Android
Audible.com – Can’t be bothered to read on Kindle? Just download a book prior to leaving coverage and listen (earbuds buddy) to over 150,000 titles. Cost: free 30 day trial, then $14.95/mth | Link: Audible | Platform: iOS and Android
- Strava (similar to Runtastic, more about running and cycling.. you know what they say, ‘if it’s not on Strava…’)
- Day One (Journalling)
- Photo Transfer App (easy way of getting your pics off your phone!)
A word on battery life
Bear in mind that some apps will chew through your battery life faster than others. It’s important to keep an eye on this and in situations such as using the phone as your primary GPS device, it is essential to not only carry a backup solution (solar or battery), but to always have a map and compass … and know how to use them!
*Just remember that one of the best experiences of all out in the wild, is turning off all devices 🙂