Hiking apps have never really featured in my outdoor adventures. You see, I’m a bit old school, so whenever I plan an adventure in the wild, it always begins with me laying out my OS maps across the lounge floor and marking out possible trailheads, routes and campsites. However, now that I have access to reliable wifi and a decent smartphone again I have started to download a host of useful hiking apps.
Below, I take a look at some of the best hiking apps available for outdoor trip planning, navigation, first aid and survival.
Covering over 50,000 Canadian and US trails and with 3.5 million downloads, AllTrails is one of the most popular hiking apps available. The free version allows you to create your own trails with GPS tracking, photos and text, and save or share them with others. The $50 a year membership gives you access to the pro version, the advantages of a partnership with National Geographic Maps, and the ability to print and edit maps.
PeakVisor is a seemingly magical app that instantly recognises the name of any mountain peak that comes into view using a combination of your phone’s camera, location tracking and a high-precision 3D mountain panorama. It also has a 3D compass and altimeter that accurately measures elevation too.
3. First Aid by Red Cross
The official Red Cross First Aid app is available worldwide and is tailored to your location (i.e. American, British, Australian Red Cross organisations). The app provides pre-loaded content providing instant access to all safety information at any time and expert advice for everyday emergencies. There are videos, diagrams, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice to help users deal with and prepare for emergencies.
4. Maps 3D Pro
If interpreting contour lines on topographical maps is not your strong point then this 3D mapping app is perfect for you. It allows users to visualise their upcoming hiking or cycling trips and easily interpret terrain features such as hills, ridges, trails and footpaths. Users can plan, save, and share routes as well as pre-load maps for offline viewing when navigating. Lastly, users can record their trip, complete with exact coordinates and elevation data.
5. MapMyHike GPS Hiking
This is a great community-based weight loss app that allows you to record your hikes and log your food intake to track calories and nutritional content. You can also sync the app to a wearable device and connect with friends and other hikers to stay motivated. The app’s MVP Membership plan for $5.99 a month or $29.99 a year unlocks advance fitness features such as heart rate analysis and personal training plans.
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6. Trail Tracker GPS
Price: $1.99 via in-app purchase
Trail Tracker is one of the best and most accurate GPS hiking apps available. Designed for hiking, running, cycling and driving, the intuitive colour-coded mapping feature allows users to track latitude and longitude data, average speeds and elevation gains clearly and precisely. In-built sharing features means you can challenge friends and yourself to improve times and distances.
Price: $3.99 (currently on sale)
One of the newest and coolest outdoor apps available, Spyglass is also by far the most visually impressive. A complete GPS toolkit is available offering the usual tracking features, combined with a stunning augmented reality view. The app also incorporates a heads-up display, a high-quality compass with map overlays, a gyrocompass, speedometer, altimeter, astronomical object finder, a sextant, inclinometer, an angular calculator and more. If you buy just one of these hiking apps, buy Spyglass.
Avanet was designed with skiers in mind but it is a very versatile app, well suited to advanced hikers and trekkers. The app crowdsources snow conditions, weather forecasts and avalanche data to create an information centre on your phone. It’s possible to receive real-time local notifications of danger zones and avalanche risks making this backcountry ski app ideal for winter mountaineers and hikers as well.
A very popular hiking app on both sides of the Atlantic, ViewRanger helps hikers plan, navigate, record and share their outdoor adventures. It’s even claimed to be used by a number of search and rescue teams around the world thanks to its advanced GPS navigation system. In the UK you can buy and download high-resolution Ordnance Survey maps to use as well as a range of other high-quality topographic maps for more than 20 other countries. The maps are stored on your phone and can be used when offline.
10. Weather Live
This is probably the best weather app available across both platforms and definitely the best looking. Some of the best features are the live weather scenes that reflect real-world conditions and the fully customisable layout. There is the standard meteorological data including wind direction and speed, humidity, precipitation, pressure and visibility as well as the very impressive satellite worldwide cloud and rain maps enhanced with animated weather radar (US only) allowing users to quickly see what weather is coming their way.
11. OS MapFinder
When it comes to route planning and tracking this is the best hiking app available to British hikers. Hikers in the UK will no doubt be familiar with Ordnance Survey’s unparalleled Landranger maps of the British countryside and this app allows users to buy and download those high-resolution maps to be used offline. As well as the usual trail finding and tracking features, MapFinder allows users to discover Britain’s hidden treasures of historic monuments, mountain peaks and country pubs. Hiking + beer = perfect day hike.
12. National Parks by Chimani
This app is more popular and more highly-reviewed than similar apps from more established names such as National Geographic and REI as well as the official NPS apps. The app provides details on each of the 400+ units of the US National Park Service, including national parks (naturally), monuments, seashores, historic sites, battlefields, memorials, parkways, scenic trails and more. The app includes a photo gallery with thousands of images and the ability to collect badges and earn points for each of the parks visited. An in-app purchase unlocks a national parks news feed.
If you’re a mountain aficionado like me, you will love PeakFinder. It works in the same way as astronomy apps, allowing you to learn the names of any mountain in view. Just hold your camera up to the world and learn about the landscape. The app functions offline so it works whether you’re in the middle of a massif or still at home poring over maps.
14. Google Maps offline
This may well put most of the above apps out of business if they continue to develop the idea along with the inspirational Google Treks element. In November, Google announced that its maps, destination searches, and turn-by-turn directions would be available offline, using the phone’s built-in GPS chip rather than its cell antenna. Android users in the US and South Africa are already enjoying the new capabilities while other uses can expect to see new features appearing in future updates.
The most popular hiking apps on iPhone
(Lead image: Dreamstime)