When was the last time you used a road map? You know — one of those dusty pamphlets you find stacked in gas station vestibules? It’s probably been a while. If you’re younger than 25, maybe you’ve never even seen one. Why fumble around with an awkward print map when every road and alleyway and sidewalk in the world can be navigated in the palm of your hand? It’s strange, though — while drivers have gone full digital, hikers, for the most part, still cling to print. But why? True, screens should always be used sparingly in the backcountry, but modern trail apps have become so intuitive and useful, they don’t spoil the purity of your walk in the woods; they heighten it. On your next hike, give the following five apps a try. You’ll likely wonder how you ever hiked without them.
For the Everyday Hiker: AllTrails is basically the TripAdvisor of hiking trails. Users can access at-a-glance information on 50,000+ trails around the world, bolstered by reviews, photos and other useful insider tips posted by community members who have hiked them. You can sharpen your search through a number of filters, like activity (hike, bike, run), length, rating, difficulty and more. It also acts as a GPS tracker, recording your pace, distance, elevation and speed over the course of your hike. Other useful features, like offline and printable maps, are available in the “Pro” version, which costs $30 a year.
Map My Hike
For the Fitness Obsessive: Map My Hike works much like an ordinary run-tracking app, but on trails. First, it’ll help you find a nearby place to hike; then, in conjunction with a wearable fitness tracker, it records every fitness stat you’d want to know, including pace, distance, duration, calorie burn, elevation and more. Audio feedback coaches you along your hike, and you can monitor progress by viewing previous hikes and setting personal goals. For $30 a year, you get access to a number of premium features, like dynamically adapting training plans, heart rate tracking and more.
For the Ambitious Mountaineer: PeakVisor uses a bit of augmented reality magic to display, in real time, little elevation markers atop nearby mountain summits. For most hikers, it’s likely nothing more than a cool party trick; for mountaineers, it’s pure adventure fuel.
Maps 3D PRO
For the Route Planner: One of the only three-dimensional map apps, Maps 3D PRO is perhaps the best way to visualize and plan the perfect hiking route. It has all the makings of a standard trail app — data tracking, offline usage, route logs — but where it really shines is its intuitive interface, displaying full-length trails in miniature mountain dioramas. Think about it this way: If traditional two-dimensional topographical maps are like reading a book, then Maps 3D Pro is like playing a video game.
For the Navigator: The number of tools packed into Spyglass is astounding: 19 total, including binoculars, compass, maps, gyrocompass, GPS, waypoint tracker, speedometer, altimeter, star finder, gyro horizon, rangefinder, coordinate converter, sextant, inclinometer, angular calculator and camera, all of which are useable offline. That means it’s virtually impossible to get lost.
The Best Tech to Take into the Backcountry
Whether you like it or not, tech is becoming a part of the backcountry. You might as well embrace it and pick up these essentials. Read the Story