Any time we’re getting ready to head out into the great outdoors, we’re sure to pack the essentials. We’ve got our tent, sleeping bags, day packs, fire starting gear, cooking essentials and more. But one item that we’ve noticed ourselves relying on more and more as we go adventuring with Mother Nature is our smart phone well-loaded with camping apps.
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When we first started using smart phones, the options were pretty limited. Map apps helped us find our campsite and mediocre cameras were only good for grainy pictures, even in the best light. Even when we did find a use for our devices, holding a charge was a major limitation. However, with technology that seems to improve daily, we’ve found that our batteries now often last long enough to keep our phones going throughout most camping trips. If power does start to drop, we’ve had success using devices like the Solio Solar Battery Pack, the Goal Zero Venture 30 recharger and the Biolite Basecamp to recharge our batteries and keep going.
We’ve now filled our pocket-sized computers with a wide variety of apps that enhance our outdoor experience – from photo editing programs that allow us to get the best possible picture of our adventures to star mapping apps that have taught us how to decode the night sky – and whether you use an iPhone or Android device, we’ve brought a list of our favorite camping apps to you.
The Outbound – iOS – Free
Described as “your guide to the best local outdoor adventures,” The Outbound allows you to input your interests – activities like backpacking, camping, diving, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and more – and uses a community of local experts to curate their lists of local outdoor adventures. You can use this app to choose from local hikes, trails, scenic locations, swimming areas and more. You can even add your own adventures on the app’s website, at theoutbound.com.
Use this app to discover new places, share reviews of your adventures, explore featured collections and navigate using the in-app maps.
Guide – iOS – $2.99
Winner of the 2014 Apple Design Award, Sky Guide is one of the best apps available on the Apple App Store for finding constellations, planets, satellites and more. All you need to do is hold your phone up to the sky, and Star Guide will highlight the celestial objects above, even providing educational details for your enjoyment. While the higher price for this app might be a turn-off to some, we’ve found the app to be well worth the $2.99 investment. The high-resolution images, immersive content and integrated articles have been well worth the couple of dollars we paid for this app, especially when paired with more advanced stargazing equipment like the Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ Telescope.
Use this app to reveal the secrets of the night sky, enhance your stargazing experience and learn about the celestial objects above you.
Sky Map – Android – Free
If what you’re looking for is an immersive stargazing app that works on Android, we love Sky Map. Like a planetarium in your pocket, Sky Map allows you to bring the stars down to your campsite, identifying stars, planets and constellations above you and helping you search for spectacular sights around you.
Use this app to build your stargazing knowledge, identify celestial objects and search for new sights in the night sky.
The Coleman Classic Camping Cookbook – iOS – Free
The last thing you want to spend time worrying about while camping is the next step in your dinner recipe. Coleman’s Cookout Cookbook & Meal Planner iPhone app is here to help, providing top-rated recipes that you can sort based on food type and ingredients. Useful for single recipes or planning meals for your whole trip at once, this app even generates a shopping list so you never forget anything at the grocery store.
Use this app to save yourself the time when preparing to head out for your next trip by planning your meals in advance, creating a shopping list and favoriting recipes you love.
Having access to a flashlight is crucial when camping, whether used to light up your tent at night or find your way to the bathroom before bed. When it comes to lighting up the night, having too many flashlights is always better than not having enough. Fortunately, it’s easy to turn your smartphone into another element of your illumination arsenal with these handy flashlight apps. While a wide array of these are available for both iOS and Android, both of our favorite options include customizable color (handy for switching to a red light when you don’t want to blind others at your campsite), strobe modes for emergency situations and special modes with fun effects.
Use these apps to light up the night, find your way in the dark or bring fun illumination effects to your campsite.
It’s easy to give simple first aid while camping; applying a band-aid or handing out a few aspirin doesn’t take a whole lot of know-how. But do you know how to splint a broken bone if someone takes a tumble on the hiking trail, or identify the signs of hypothermia if someone falls in cold water? Better safe than sorry is always our rule of thumb when it comes to first aid, and we are happy to have the illustrated guides and voiced instructions that this app can provide in case of an emergency.
Use this app for those crucial moments when basic knowledge of first aid can make the difference.
An easy, fun and exciting way to spend time outdoors, geocaching is just like a treasure hunt. You can use this geocaching app to hide and seek the physical containers containing geocaches, as well as share your adventures online. This app is the paid version of a free app made by the same developers, and while the price is pretty high, we love the added functionality geared toward people who really like geocaching. If you are not interested in the premium features, the free version of the app is a great way to get started with geocaching, and you can even check out our intro guide to geocaching, here!
Use this app to try out a new, fun and rewarding hobby that will take you out into the great outdoors – geocaching!
Weather apps are a dime a dozen on both the iOS and Android app store, but for one with all the functionality we need, plus a daily joke, we love the app from Funny or Die. This app provides features like multiple saved locations, hour by hour forecasting and advanced details from Wunderground.com on barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, humidity, UV index, sunrise and sunset times, moon phases and even tidal information. According to the developers, this app “blows the doors off your stupid, boring, old weather app.” Plus, it’s free; what more could you want?
Use this app to get fast, accurate updates to the weather, along with detailed atmospheric information and a joke of the day.
Army Survival Handbook – Android – Free
We’ll be the first ones to admit it, most of our car camping excursions are pretty benign; roll up to the site, unpack and set up camp, cook a meal, go for a hike and sit around the campfire. But every once in awhile something doesn’t go as planned, and things can get pretty hairy. In cases like that, we’ve found that it’s best to be prepared, and that having a general guide to survival and bushcraft techniques can help out tremendously. These apps include detailed, step by step guides to topics like survival medicine, poisonous plants, building a shelter and more. These are definitely “just in case” options, but with the only cost being a little bit of memory on your smartphone or tablet, we’d rather be safe than sorry.
Use these app for those “just in case” scenarios you can’t plan for.