Top 5 Must Have Walking Apps
Updated: Jun 26, 2020
It's great to get outside and connect with nature. We can often be fearful of letting tech get in the way of that; but these smarty arse phones are really handy, and when we use them in the right way they can enhance our time outside. These are our 5 favourite apps. We think they should be on every adventurer's phone, no matter your level.
If you're going to use your phone whilst out on the hill it's worth carrying a few extra bits of kit. A battery pack and lead as a back up in case you flatten your battery. Keep it inside something that keeps it waterproof. If you don't have a waterproof phone, a waterproof case is a great idea.
As a bonus tip, keep your phone in a pocket next to your body. Keeping it warmer will help the battery last longer.
One of my favourite apps comes from iNaturalist, a joint effort between the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic with input from other big sources. Simply point your camera at something and it tells you what it is.
I found it hard to get really into Mountain Ecology, finding scientific books hard to digest. I found this app a really effective way to get me psyched about the mountain environment and I've learnt heaps.
Used as a treasure hunt type game, I've found it's really effective to get kids engaged with what's around them and start exploring. It also lets them take control of their own learning.
The app identifies; plants, animals, insects and if you can get close or wet enough birds, fish, and more. When it's figured out what's in the view finder, you click the 'take a photo button' and it gives you some information. Such as its taxonomy, where it's commonly seen, seasonality and a short extract about the object it's identified. Occasionally I have found it can be limited in it's ability and can sometimes struggle to identify what you're looking at. For example grey lichens on rocks. With a bit of practice it's a really fun tool that I get loads of use out of.
Mountains and forests are really diverse environments, it's great to give children the chance to explore and engage with the environment themselves. When I'm out with kids in the family I've found it really effective to chill out for 10 minutes, hand them the phone and let them loose, to use technology in a really positive way. The only downside to the app is it needs an internet connection, so I've had more joy for example in Snowdonia than in some Lake District valley black spots.
2) Night Sky
I don't know about you but I've never grown out of my love for space and with this handy tool, I can carry an interactive guide in my pocket. Another point and shoot style app; there are a few different versions out there, some arguably a bit more user friendly but this one has an incredible amount of information for free.
It will show you the stars, planets, satellites and more. Wherever you point your phone it will show what's in front of you. Or you can search specifically for something and it will guide you to it. Granted, some days I have searched for the International Space Station and found myself pointing my phone at the floor towards Australia - but that's hardly the app's fault.
This app only appears to be available on apple devices. I also use Sky View which is on android, it's a bit more user friendly and an excellent app but you have to pay for a satellite package if you want that.
There's a handful of different mapping apps out there and I recommend you check them out to see which works for you. I went with OS but have used others like ViewRanger and really rate them too.
I initially went with OS maps because when you buy a paper map that has a code on it, you get the digital map for free. Before I paid for a subscription, I already had the app with a good selection of areas. I don't rely heavily on it because I really enjoy navigating and think it's important to keep those skills sharp, but this app has some amazing uses.
First and foremost it is super accurate and you can download maps to your phone so you don't need a data signal on the hill to be located and look at the map. This is super handy if your paper map blows away. It has a database of routes you can browse, or plot your own. With a modestly priced subscription, you can check out a 3D view of the route which is pretty cool. I cant wait for the day we get the sci-fi room sized hologram but maybe that's just my inner child talking.
You can view it on a laptop or your phone so you can sit at home and plan a route, or if you're out and about with time to kill you can whip your phone out and plot away. For your own interest, or to engage children and others, there is an augmented reality which uses your camera to show the landscape in front of you and sign posts landmarks like lakes and peaks. I have found the app a tad glitchy in places and slow to load at times but that could be my phone and it's possible other apps do the same, I didn't find it too much of a problem with a little patience.
This incredibly simple app is a worth while back up. It gives you your 2 letter national grid and 6 figure grid reference placed on a compass. There's loads of ways to use it, from quickly checking general direction to double checking your location when testing your navigation ability.
The main reason I have it is for emergencies. A lot of us can relocate with a map but few of us will be able to pump out a 6 figure grid reference in featureless terrain faster than this app. In an emergency every second counts. This app lives on my phone because whilst it doesn't need 3g to work, it wants it to download.
There's a few different location tools out there but this is by far my favourite for UK walking. A really accurate system and Mountain Rescue use an OS grid reference so it keeps organising help simpler. It does have other features but I haven't ever found much use for them myself.
You don't have to dig deeply (get it?) to discover what an amazing natural history our stunning little island has, from mountains formed by underwater volcanoes to crags formed by the remains of sea creatures.
Produced by the British Geological Survey, this app is a free digital geological map. For the more educated out there this app has heaps of features and knowledge for you to delve into. For the less geologically enlightened like me, it tells you where you are on a beautifully coloured map. When you select one of the colours it tells you what the upper level of superficial geology is, what the lower bedrock is and when they were formed. A quick google can usually fill in any gaps in your knowledge.
If you do anything in the mountains in winter it is essential that you have knowledge of avalanches, they can catch out even the most well seasoned mountaineers. Produced by the Scottish Avalanche Information Service, this tool is an excellent must have. Its a really good, well written learning resource with clear guidelines. It can help you with planning, as well as what to physically do and look for in the mountains, and factors that increase avalanche risk. It gives you current Scottish avalanche reports and has a few in built handy tools to help you gauge if you're likely to enter a risky slope.
Wix who host our website have their own app. You can use it to log in to your members account and see any upcoming events and courses we have, browse the shop and even better get quick and easy access to our blog. Download the app and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and well send you an invite code.