It seems technology is everywhere and many of us use the great outdoors to escape it. However, there are times when certain technology can be a massive help to us – whether that is for the next family road trip, adventure sports, or learning more about nature.
Here is a list of my favourite Outdoor Apps, the ones that are always on my phone ready for the right situation:
The first thing to do before any adventure is to plan. Time spent in planning is seldom wasted! Reading the weather forecast can influence where you end up that weekend, and whether you are in glorious sunshine or torrential rain! Properly studying the map and route, in 3D if you can, could put that ‘easy’ slope into perspective for the scree-covered ascent that it really is. More on the full planning process I follow in a later post, but for now here are the apps I find key.
- Met Office: The first thing to do when checking if that trip is a go? Check the weather. The old phrase “There is no bad weather, only the wrong clothing” does stand up most of the time, but not when that weather is absolutely horrendous or dangerous to your activity. Keep up to date in the weeks before all the way up to days after with the Met Office weather app. They even provide specialist forecasts for mountainous areas of the UK.
- View Ranger: For outdoor mapping, View Ranger is the stand-out choice. It has strong navigation capabilities that are accurate even in forested areas. If you are heading to places with poor signal, you can download the maps in advance. The application also offers live tracking of distance and time, similar to STRAVA but lacking the social aspect, although you can share results to family and friends from the app.
- Go Jauntly: This app is a relative newcomer but has boomed in popularity over the past few years. It brings walking to the local level; proving that you don’t need to travel far to get some fresh air and a clearer mind. You can select a route from the thousands available, and even upload your own when complete to share. Some walks can be filtered by category – such as Dog Friendly Strolls and Winter Wellbeing Walks – or location, by using the built in location features of the app. Whatever you’re looking for, there will be a walk in here to suit. If not, upload your own and share for others!
- Komoot: Another newcomer to the outdoor apps and hugely popular, Komoot operates in a similar way to GoJauntly but with a more map-based interface. Points of Interest and routes are shown on the map, then you select the one you want to start logging. This process works a lot like Strava.
LOGGING MY EXPERIENCES
I have always kept a note of every outdoor activity: from a day at the climbing wall to that four-day kayaking expedition. Every experience counts and is a chance to learn. When undertaking a qualification it is especially important to track your notes for referring back to, as well as for showing your experience and knowledge.
- STRAVA: This app has grown and grown in popularity over the past few years – and for good reason! Marketed as “the social network for athletes”, STRAVA brings together many of the interaction-fostering features of Instagram and other social media giants, with a deadly accurate fitness tracker. It is also massively adaptable, covering a variety of sports and activities. Give this article a read to get started with Strava, or this for a humorous take that may just put you off starting at all!
- Rockfax: Rockfax is well established as a provider of fantastic, in-depth guidebooks for all levels and many locations. Their app is no different. Unlike the two apps below, Rockfax does away with much of the social aspect and concentrates on clear information, easy-on-the-eye visuals and good topos (images with the route marked). If there is one app that I’ll always use to log outdoor climbs, it is Rockfax.
- Top Logger / Vertical Life: These two apps are very similar and which one you use pretty much just depends on what climbing gym you go to! Both are designed as a logbook, but Vertical Life covers both a logbook and guidebook for indoor and outdoor crags. Top Logger has a more social aspect to it, with gym specific leaderboards but you are tied to only that gym. Vertical Life allows for multiple locations and still has a leaderboard, but I find the logging system to be a little less user-friendly. For versatility, I would go with Vertical Life, but for a user-friendly experience and better design, choose Top Logger.
SAFETY & NAVIGATION
I am adamant that the good ol’ Map & Compass is the proper method of navigation in the hills and mountains. There are times however that having the quick features of a GPS app is handy, especially when safety is concerned. Navigating the British terrain in winter comes with its own dangers – and, whilst no app can replace a proper course and education on winter environments, having a go-to guide that gives those quick reminders can be the difference between avoiding a dangerous situation or walking right into it.
- OS Locate: I’ve used this for quick checks in a number of situations – rescues, orienteering tests, teaching navigation and more. OS Locate is a handy app for quick checks, but can’t be replaced by good map reading skills. Use sparingly but don’t discount it.
- Be Avalanche Aware! (BAA): My absolute favourite time of year is the winter, but it brings along a few other hazards; namely avalanches! This brilliant app brings up to date information, guidance and handy reminders for all those wanting to get out on the snow. Use all the information to plan your route and help mitigate risks before they even occur. Stay safe.
LEARNING ABOUT NATURE
One thing that I am keen on doing at every opportunity is learning something new. That’s part of why I decided to start this blog and down the path of being a Mountain Guide – education and giving people the chance to experience nature in a closer way is a huge driving force. You can do this too, whether it’s for yourself, a partner or family, you won’t be short of little tidbits on your next trip. Or maybe you can open up a whole new world for someone.
- Mountain Flora & Fauna: I am absolutely not an ecologist or biologist by any stretch of the imagination, but I think we can all appreciate the plants and animals that surround us. This free app helps you identify the most common species of various flora & fauna –
- British Trees: This app from the Woodland Trust is more of a niche subject, but equally useful for family trips or if you just want to know a little more about what is around you. It allows you to discover trees based on identifying features such as bark type and colour, leaf shape, fruit, etc. After you’ve found the possibilities, there is a great informative description of the tree including: interesting facts, identifying features, value to local wildlife and even symbolism. Great to take with you if you’ve got the kids.
We have covered apps to plan your trip, track the activity, log it for future reference (or nostalgia) and even learn a little thing or two about the flora and fauna while we’re at it.
Got a favourite app that you can’t live without? Share it below and let’s have a conversation! You can get in touch on here, or through Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest – just search Stoic Outdoors.
Stay safe and have great adventures,
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