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Last Updated: May 2024

Top 10 Best Apps for Hikers and Backpackers

Whether you're looking to take a hike in the forest, a mountain bike ride, or go fishing, apps can help you safely enjoy the great outdoors.

Apps That Help Hikers Explore the Outdoors Like Never Before 

Getting out and experiencing nature’s sights and sounds can do a lot for your health. Want to explore the outdoors but don’t know where to start? 

Nature is the gift that keeps on giving. Just when you think you’ve seen all the beauty it has to offer, the weather changes or a storm comes and brings new life and new scenery. On top of its eye-pleasing aesthetic elements, experiencing what nature has to offer also has a ton of health benefits. And thanks to technology advancements, hiking and exploring the outdoors is better, and safer, than ever. Read on to experience the outdoors like never before.

Hike, Bike, Fish, and Camp 

No matter what you’re into, there are tons of ways to get out and experience nature. The most obvious way is, of course, hiking. But experiencing nature can also come in other forms, such as fishing, or biking. A great way to find all the top trails and spots for any type of activity you want is with AllTrails. You can use its web version or its iPhone or Android app and find any trail no matter where you are. You just type in your location, and the platform will create a list of the best trails in that area. With over 50,000 trail maps, AllTrails has the largest collection of detailed maps. You can also access driving directions to get to the hike, as well as save your favorite trails to keep track of ones you like and ones you still want to explore. Over 1 million people use the platform to find all sorts of trails, whether it’s fishing spots, mountain bike trails, or camping spots.

No matter what kind of trail you’re about to embark on, it’s important to be prepared and learn the route. This is where an app like Maps 3D Pro comes in handy. Not everyone knows how to read maps, and thankfully you don’t have to. Maps 3D Pro is an app that provides you with 3D maps letting you easily and quickly grasp the terrain, conditions, and direction you need to be in. You can also use the app to plan your trail, and even share the route with friends. The app can drain your phone’s battery, so make sure to plan ahead and bring along a portable charger. If a map viewer sounds useful, you will love Gaia GPS. It’s a feature-rich GPS trail mapping app that’s used by some of the most experienced hikers. The app has a free and paid version, with the paid version offering substantially more features, like the ability to download maps for offline use. This is extremely useful, as cellular signal is not always a given on every hike.

Camping is another great way to take in the sights and sounds of nature. Experiencing nature during the day is beautiful, but nighttime brings a majestic feeling that simply can’t be experienced any other way. To find the best campgrounds no matter where you are and when you plan on camping, use an app like Camp Finder. It has over 17,000 campgrounds and RV parks in its database, and you can find exactly what you want by filtering your results. By sorting through camping spots by amenities, discounts, policies, or activities, you’re sure to find the perfect spot for your needs.

Gamify the Outdoors

Nature as it is, is beautiful. But you may want to make your outdoor experience even more memorable. This is especially true if you have kids or are hiking with a group of young adults. Geocaching, which coins itself as the world's largest treasure hunt, lets you hike your trail while also joining a community of other players. To start, you simply download the app and create a free account. You will then be able to access a map that is marked with hidden geocaches near you (geocaches are small containers marked with an identifiable symbol). Your job is to use the map to find your way to the geocache. Once you find it, you share your experience with other “geocachers” by signing and dating the logbook. Then you put the geocache back where you found it and wait for someone else to find it and share their experience! Geocaching has created a whole community of “geocachers” that aims to make getting out into nature a bonding and community-based experience.

Share Your Experiences 

Sharing your outdoor experience is a great way to encourage others to take a break every now and then and get some fresh air. It can also connect you with a greater community and circle of nature-lovers. Ramblr is an app used by outdoor enthusiasts to document and journal details about their hike or trip. It lets you save and share your route, and keeps track of stats, like distance and average rate. You can also add photos to your trips to remember certain places or specific things about it. Journaling your trip on Ramblr lets you easily revisit the memories after the trip has ended, or share the experience you had with friends.

Sharing your experience with others and reliving the memories is a great part about getting out into nature. Thousands of people use Yonder to discuss their adventures with other nature-lovers. It’s essentially the Facebook for people who love the outdoors where you can share experiences, stories, memories, and photos. Another great way to connect with other community members is by using MapMyHike. The app tracks your hike or cycle, but it also has a social element to it. Its live tracking feature lets you see what your friends are up to, where they’re hiking, and see their stats.

Safety First 

No matter what kind of outdoor activity you’re planning on doing, it’s important to always have safety in mind. Cairn is a great app that can help you stay safe at all times. For starters, the app tells you about spots with good cell coverage so you know what to expect. It also connects with your phone’s GPS so that loved ones can check in on you if they don’t hear from you for a while. The only downside about Cairn is that it’s only available on iOS. There is also the SAS Survival Guide, which has basic and advanced survival tips and tricks to survive anything nature may throw at you. It even has photo galleries of edible and poisonous plants, as well as survival quizzes.

Lace Up Those Hiking Boots 

Whether you choose to experience nature by taking in the smells of the ocean on a beachfront walk, or you’re planning a 3-day hiking trip in the mountains, there’s no doubt you’ll feel refreshed and rejuvenated afterward. With advanced apps and GPS abilities, you’ll not only have fun, but be safe too!

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How we created this
Compiled from “Best of” lists published by the world’s most trusted sources, and with our own recommended brands peppered in - this Top10 list aims to help consumers make smarter decisions.