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8 Outdoor Adventure Apps as Legit as Flannel, Boots, and Beards

By Kirsti Smouse

November 18, 2015

8 Outdoor Adventure Apps as Legit as Flannel, Boots, and Beards

By Kirsti Smouse

November 18, 2015

Going outdoors, unplugging, and leaving it all behind is a great idea. No question about it. But unplugging doesn’t mean you need to leave all your technological advances behind.

You can now pack reference books, survival guides, a GPS device, weather radio, map, compass, and camera into a space the size of your palm. No reason to kill your back by packing everything but the kitchen sink. Nor do you need to sacrifice any resources in going ultralight.

All you need is a smartphone.

Check out these 8 outdoor adventure apps that could get you out of a tight spot, direct your way, or simply make you extra wilderness savvy.

Icon Key

1. Army First Aid

iOS - $1.99

First aid, survival

If your CPR skills are a little rusty, you’re not sure what you should do for a broken bone, or think you should suck out the venom from a poisonous snake bite, this app is for you.

Over 600 pages of critical first aid content is included in its easy to navigate interface. You can cut directly to what you need to know by using the “search” feature or browse the index in the menu. It covers a wide range of topics including basic first aid, rescue carries, dressing and bandages, and includes pictures identifying poisonous animals, insects, and plants.

As it was designed for military use on the field, it’s more comprehensive than other free first aid apps which operate under the assumption that medical assistance can be easily contacted. If you’re in a remote location, this app could potentially save a life.

2. SAS - Survival Guide App

Android, iOS - Free or $5.99

First aid, navigate,stars, hunt, survival

Sometimes, you might just need to know how to build a fire, find water, navigate by the stars, signal for rescue, or fight a bear. God forbid that’s ever the case, but what’s that the Scouts say?

Be Prepared.

Well, now you can be. You can either go Lite for free, which includes just the essentials (fire, water, and rescue) or download the full version for $5.99. That version has a comprehensive First Aid section, catastrophe survival, hunting tips, how to build a shelter, and more.

There are some apps that are worth going beyond the comfort of a $1.99 threshold. This is one of them.

3. Knots 3D

Android, iOS - $4.99

First aid book

Ever needed to rig something in place and just didn’t have the know-how or duct tape to do it? Knot-tying is an important skill for wilderness survival. Or just everyday survival. If you know the necessary knots, you can ditch a heavy tent and opt for a tarp, ropes, and trekking poles for shelter. Even if you’re not after your Scout merit badge, this app is still a great resource for easy tutorials on over 100 knots.

The 3D model allows you to rotate the knot for a full 360-degree view, tie and untie the knot with your fingers, and zoom in on the virtual rope as the tutorial plays.

4. Surfline

Android, iOS – Free


Popular with surfers who want to check out the conditions for the ultimate swell, Surfline is also a useful app for anyone who wants to know the conditions of the waves. From boaters to fisherman to those who run on the coastline, you can check basic forecasts, wind direction, swell and tidal information, and view live video of the conditions from beach cams before you leave the house.

5. iArrow

iOS - $2.99


Nightfall, heavy brush, tall grass, and fog all have nothing on this app. You’ll never lose the trail again. Or at least, you’ll always know where camp or the trailhead is located, even if you have to take an alternative route back.

iArrow has a built-in database of 2,000,000 localities around the world, and you can save your own coordinates so you can easily navigate back to your starting point. Drop pins along your route as virtual breadcrumbs. The compass points which direction you need to travel and the distance to your “target.”

6. Star Chart

Android, iOS – Free


Still a little shaky on whether that constellation is the Big or Little Dipper? Take stargazing to a whole new level and impress your adventure buddy with your solid handle on Orion’s Belt and Cassiopeia with the Star Chart.

Download it before you set out, point your phone’s camera at the heavenly bodies, and the internal compass of the phone does the rest. It draws a map of the constellations, generates artwork of the constellations from 17th century astronomer Johannes Hevelius, provides their names, and tidbits of useful knowledge about the planetary bodies.

7. Yonder

Android, iOS – Free

navigation, social, pictures

Have you ever seen an epic landscape posted on Instagram without a geotag or location hashtag? Maybe you were curious to know where it was taken so you could check it out yourself, but no one replied to your comment.

Well, this app is for you. It’s like a mash-up between Instagram and Yelp. You can follow other users, see their pictures, comment and like those adventures, and checkout what’s trending. And while the pictures add visual interest, what makes this app stand apart from just another picture sharing app are the tips, information, and geocodes that can be added to every experience.

The map allows you to see what adventure opportunities are in your area, pictures from users who have gone before you, and their tips and information about that spot. Currently, the tips and information are a little light, but as more users catch on, this could prove to be an invaluable resource. You can filter what you see by which activities you’re interested in.

So, go Yonder and see what you discover.

8. Rakkup

Android, iOS – Free

navigation, ropes, book, share

Called the “ultimate climbing guidebook” in many reviews, Rakkup provides turn-by-turn navigation to the base of every route, beta from local experts who’ve climbed the route time and time again, topo maps, climb ratings, belay-view photographs, and the ability to filter climbs by grade all in an easy-to-use platform. And you won’t need an internet signal to access any of it.

The app itself is free, but the guide books for particular climbing areas (e.g., Smith Rock, Joshua Tree) are not. It’s the same idea as buying the physical guide book in a store, but rather than lugging around a heavy book, you can now keep all your guides in the space of your smart phone. In most cases, the digital version is also cheaper than the paperback. You also have the option of renting the guide for 2 months for about half the price.

Every guide includes a sample, so you can get a taste of what’s on offer before you spend any money.

Did we miss a standout outdoor adventure app? Add it to the list in the comments below!

Illustrations by Olivia Pedersen

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  • NorthMan

    I would also include Spyglass into this list. Using augmented reality, the app overlays compass, GPS and location info on top of visuals captured by an iPhone camera or the map itself. It can measure distance, sizes of objects, your speed, altitude and potential arrival time to the target. You can use it as a waypoints tool, sextant, compass, rangefinder, speedometer, inclinometer and more. https://itunes.apple.com/app/spyglass/id332639548?mt=8&at=11lLc7&ct=c

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