It is hard to find an area of life that has not been touched, improved or affected in some way by the technological revolution that sees almost everyone constantly carrying and communicating via a wide array of mobile internet-connected devices. And that includes camping and hiking, believe it or not.
When it comes to deciding which apps can enhance your camping experience and which will be too time consuming and be too distracting it is quite hard to make a decision. Below is a highly recommended list of apps I consider to be the most important and useful.
Invest in a decent set of maps and enable the GPS feature on your phone or tablet. Many devices, particularly smartphones come with pre-loaded map apps, but these must be tested in areas that do not have great mobile tower coverage. Maps that work off the GPS feature can use satellites to navigate you safely around, and the apps make orienteering a doddle – simply go in the direction of the arrow on the screen and get to your destination! Some map apps are free and adequate if you are going to a well-populated area; but if you are going off the beaten track it might be wise to invest in one of the more detailed packages that can cost anything up to £20.00 or so, but offer up-to-date, highly detailed maps and a more reliable satellite tracking system to get you back to camp safely.
There are a variety of free and fun camping apps that you may or may not choose to download. There is a free compass app, which is possibly not needed if the map app is a good one. A spirit level app can help you pick a good spot to pitch your tent. There are also various listing apps, designed to ensure you never leave a vital piece of equipment at home. Google goggles can help you learn about your surroundings and various wildlife information apps can help you identify the tracks and birdsongs you will encounter in the countryside.
Another excellent and useful app, especially if you are hiking and camping with many other people is the camping cookbook. Input the number of people and how many days and night must be catered for and the app will supply shopping lists and recipes sufficient to keep everyone happy and fed for the duration. This app costs around US$1.99 and is for iPhone and iPad.
A first aid app, such as First Aid from Google Play (formerly Android market), can help in those first crucial moments after an emergency has occurred. Download the app well before you head off on your trip and browse through the various subjects so that you know a little about what to do in any situation, but also so that you are not trying to work out how to use the app the first time you need it! Ensure that the other members of the camping and hiking party know about the app and have browsed through it also; it would be a cruel irony if you were the one in need of assistance and no-one else knew you had the app.
However, my favourite camping app is very simple. The camping and hiking app that I have used the most is infact the Flashlight. It turns your device into a light source, beaming a bright white light. There are various other modes, a yellow flashing light, a strobe effect and even a red and blue flasher – perfect for almost any occasion, from an accident to a disco! The flashlight app is free to download and is absolutely perfect for any situation away from a good electric light, sometimes even for simply helping you to find a lantern or torch!
All these apps do have one requirement – a good power supply! Do not head off into the hills, planning to rely on a device that may power down on you. Extra batteries are a good idea, as is a car charger – if you will have access to a vehicle when needed; but a very useful device, and one found in most camping supply shops, is a solar powered charger. All these apps are designed to ensure you have the best possible outdoor experience so don’t forget to make use of yet another feature of many mobile devices – the camera! Enjoy your trip.