5 fabulous apps to take hiking with you

  • By Jessi Loerch Herald writer
  • Friday, August 31, 2012 7:27pm
  • Life

I go hiking in no small part to get away from technology. No ringing phone, no email, no Facebook. Yet I take my smartphone with me every single time I hike. And I use it, every time. Sounds like a contradiction, but once my phone is safely out of cell service — I turn on airplane mode just to be sure — I’m sure I won’t be interrupted. Then, I’m free to make use of the many fabulous apps that can actually enhance time in the outdoors.

Here are five apps that I think are worth bringing along. Most are very affordable, and best of all, none of them add a bit of weight to your phone.


What is it? An app that allows you to easily take panoramic photos. The app stitches the photos together and makes it easy to share them on social media sites.

Cost? Free

Platforms? Windows phones or iPhones

Why? Photosynth makes it easy to capture sweeping views. You can take 360 degree photos that truly capture the full grandeur of the natural world. Once you take the photo, the program will stitch it all together. You can then crop it and share it on social media sites. You can also upload the photos to the Photosynth site and view the photo interactively. If I could only have one app on my phone, this would be it.

More info: Photosynth.net


What is it? A guide book for birds that has been turned into a very useful app.

Cost? $19.95 normally (on sale for $2.99)

Platforms: iPad, iPhone and Android platforms

Why? This app makes it easy to identify birds. You can sort by many different features, including location, habitat, size, body shape, color and more. The sort feature makes it easy to narrow down your options to help you identify birds. The app includes drawings and photos of the birds as well as recordings of their songs.

More info: http://ibird.com

Gaia GPS

What is it? A map and GPS app that allows you download topo maps in advance.

Cost? $9.99 for iPhone; $4.99 for Android.

Platforms: iPad, iPhone and Android platforms

Why? This app allows you to download the maps you need before you hit the trails. A GPS feature can help you keep track of where you are. It also has a feature that will map your route as you travel. Leaving on the GPS will dramatically diminish battery life, however. You can get around that problem by only turning on the GPS function as needed.

More info: www.gaiagps.com

Northwest Mountain Wildflowers

What is it? A guidebook to wildflower of the Northwest.

Cost? $9.99 for iPhone

Platforms: iPhone, iPad

Why? This app covers a huge range and includes 514 species. The interface is incredibly user friendly. You can search for wildflowers easily by their color, which is what most people notice first. There are many lovely color photos along with descriptions and interesting natural history. You can also limit your searches to plants found in your area, making identification a lot easier.

National Geographic’s National Parks

What is it? A guide to 20 of the nation’s most visited national parks

Cost? Free for app, first park is free. Additional are $1.99, a steal.

Platforms: iPhone, iPad

Why? National Geographic is a highly trusted source, and they bring their knowledge to this app. It includes interactive maps that you can filter by activity and season. It includes the top attractions in each park, as currated by National Geographic staff. It’s full of gorgeous photos and fascinating facts. In short, it’s just what you’d expect from National Geographic.

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