6 Outdoor Apps to Put on Your Phone Before You Hit the Trail

By Noah Kaufman |


Just because you’re out in the woods with no cell reception does not mean your smartphone can only be used as a weight to hold down a ground cloth. There are a lot of useful apps you can load before you venture into the great unknown. Here, six apps that can improve your whole outdoors experience.

1. The SAS Survival Guide

This might be the only app you need and totally worth the $6 price tag. Regarded by many as the gold standard for not dying in the wilderness, this guide comes from the SAS, the Britain's most elite fighting force. Among its many tips, the app offers detailed explanations of what to do in any climate from the dessert to the rain forest, photos and descriptions of animal tracks to know if you’re being stalked by a bear and a first aid guide in case that bear catches you.

2. Wild Edibles

A trail snack could be right in front of you. This guide to edible plants by forager Steve Brill comes in the free (Lite) version—a bit limited with 20 plants—or the complete version for $8, with more than 165. It even includes some simple recipes so you can continue to push the boundaries of your camping cooking.

3. MotionX GPS

If you’re concerned about escaping the woods (and don’t want to rely on waving your arm wildly to calibrate a phone’s digital compass), get a good outdoor GPS app. MotionX has access to tons of maps, both trail and marine. Make sure to download maps in advance when you’re in a Wi-Fi zone, and consider investing in a fire-powered generator—since, just like in a car, the GPS will kill your battery.

4. Scary Story Tools 

Is this silly? Yes, it is. Is it free? Yes, it is. Will it help you make that one easily scared person on your trip scream at least once? Yes, it will. The time for telling stories about guys with hooks for hands isn’t over. This goofy little app will even shine terrifying colors on your face while you’re telling the story, so you don’t have to go all Are You Afraid of the Dark? with a tactical flashlight. Even better, it comes with a customizable soundboard to make terrifying noises in the middle of your long, dramatic pauses.

5. Sky Map

There are a lot of stargazing apps out there, but this one from Mobius does is free (if you don’t mind a tiny ad at the bottom). When pointed at the sky, it works with your phone’s GPS to ID the stars above you. Tip: Memorize the map while everyone’s out peeing in the woods and you can impress the group by identifying something besides Orion’s Belt.

6. Mosquito Repellent Apps

All right, let’s get this out of the way: Science says these apps, which emit a high-frequency sound that mosquitoes supposedly hate, don’t repel bugs. But in a 100% unscientific study, we used Bug Spray Ultrasonic in a mosquito-rich environment for one night, and got no bites. Though we can’t promise that these will work for you, we can say that it is free and we’re interested in any way to beat back mosquitoes that doesn’t involve taking a bath in DEET.

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