10 Free Apps for the Outdoors

24 August 2014

I don't usually like using technology when I'm hiking. I like the peace and quiet of the outdoors, I like good old fashioned maps and a compass, I like the sound of my boots on rock and the rustle of wind in my trousers - that didn't sound quite right but you get the picture. When you're hiking you're hiking, it's an experience in itself - you don't need technical stimulation because what the outdoors provides is good enough.

But, after saying all that, I do love my iPhone. And there are some great apps about that might just, only slightly, make the outdoors even better.

I've dumped my principles, how pathetic is that?

Here's 10 free apps that I've used that are quite good.

1. GeoCaching

Which one sounds better to kids 'Let's go for a walk in the countryside and see sheep' or 'Let's go on a Treasure Hunt?' If it's the first one, there's something wrong with your kids; if it's the second one, download Geocaching.

Geocaching is a global treasure hunt. People hide stuff and you find it using your phones GPS. When you find it you can have it but you need to replace it with something of similar value. That's it. My kids love this - and so do I.
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2. What knot to do

When you're camping, climbing or just walking along thinking of knots, what better app to have than one that will teach you how to tie knots.
knot image

3. Project Noah

Help document the world's organisms. If you're out in the field and you find an interesting animal or plant snap it (by that I mean take a photo, not pull it's head off) and upload it to the community for identification. Or look for other wildlife that's been spotted in the area. Or do a mission for a lab somewhere.

Its main goal is to protect nature and educate people everywhere. There's not many missions in the UK so far, so start one.
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4. Star Walk™ - 5 Stars Astronomy Guide

I love the stars, but I haven't quite memorized all of them (except Orion and the Plough), but now I don't need to. When you're next around the campfire, whip out your phone or iPad (iPad's much better) and gaze upwards. It tells you which planets, stars and constellations are around and gives you information about them all.

The kids will be impressed until they want the iPad back to play on Plants v Zombies.
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5. National Trust

My Mum used to work for the national trust and drag us round all the gardens and houses when we were kids, despite this I still love this National trust app. There are hundreds of places to visit all over the country and you can search for activities, prices and opening times. If you see my Mum, say hi.
star image

6. Strava Cycling and Running

I love Strava apart from the days I cycle like my Grandma, then I hate it. Track your rides then check on their website where you can see your route and all the data.

Even better, see how you've done compared to the rest of the world on the segments you've completed.

Great for motivation, apart from the days my Grandma beats me.
strava image

7. Map My Hike

The walking equivalent of Strava - so far there aren't many hikes in the UK so I wouldn't use it to find new places to go. It's good to keep a track of your walks and the elevation and speed etc. and then you have proof when your friends imply you'd never be able to do that.

The maps rubbish, but you can't get decent maps for free. If you're interested in maps then Viewranger and Memory Map are good, but you have to pay.

Another good one is ifootpath, there's loads of walks and you can track you progress all for .69p
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8. Smart Compass

This looks great but I've never used it because I've got an iPhone and it's Android only. Looks good and that's the only reason I'm recommending it. Let me know on Twitter if you think it's rubbish

The iPhone equivalent is Spyglass but this cost £2.49, I haven't got that sort of money.
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9. Gridpoint GB

This is great for hiking or waking up in a field after a stag night. Switch on the app and it tells you your current OS grid reference. Of course you'll need a map to make sense of it. It’s very useful if your map reading skills or your head are a bit fuzzy.
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10. Camping List

So you've got everything in the car, you may have busted your back window trying to shut the hatchback, and the kids are suffocating amongst the sleeping bags, but you made it. It's all in. Or is it? When you're driving to the camp site there's always a doubt whether the stove's in or the tent pegs are still under the stairs. Rest easy from now on. The Camping List will ensure you've got everything you need.

Dump the pencil and paper that's embarrassing, store it forever on your phone.

Sorry, when I downloaded this it was free, it now appears to be £0.69. I can't remove it from the list though because it would spoil my 10 Free Apps title.
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Hope that helps and don't forget your wind up phone charger or your portable power brick, you're going to need them.

Thanks for reading.

Ian Young

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