Hiking and camping can be great chances to get away from technology, but your phone can also be one of the most useful tools you have. Check out these apps that can help make your trip even easier and more enjoyable.
Wondering if those dark clouds in the distance are heading your way, or will scoot around you? When you need know exactly what the weather is going to do, MyRadar can help. The radar map shows you current weather patterns, and which way storm clouds are heading. While other apps might be able tell you if rain is in the forecast or not, MyRadar will help you figure out how long a storm will last and how intense it will be – helping you decide if you should pack it up and go home or wait it out.
There’s no need to lug a heavy bird identification book around with you in your pack if you have Merlin Bird ID. Even if you aren’t an avid birder, this app will come in handy when that weird looking bird lands on a branch beside you or your kid suddenly decides she wants to know what every type of bird is.
This app is impressively easy to use – just answer five simple questions and you will (most likely) get the answer to your question. Fill in where you saw the bird, what day it is, what size the bird is (with handy comparisons to guide you), what it was doing (flying, sitting on a wire, etc.), and what color it was, and Merlin Bird ID will give you a selection of possibilities. Once you figure it out, be sure to click “This is my Bird!” The data helps Cornell scientists keep track of bird populations across the country.
3. Avenza Maps
I learned about Avenza Maps when my town used it to create an online map of its popular trail system. Avenza offers thousands of maps to download including National Geographic maps and maps of state and national parks. (Some maps are free, some are a dollar or two, some come with hefty price tags).
At first glance, the maps appear to be little more than PDFs on your phone. But take some time to explore the app before heading out. You can drop pins, calculate distances and estimate travel time between points (great for deciding if you can make it to the view before the meltdown starts). Best of all, these maps are available offline, so you won’t get stuck realizing you don’t have cell signal anymore.
4. Pack Point
There are two types of packers – the “oh my gosh I forgot to pack everyone’s underwear” and the “should I bring a sled on our summer camping trip just in case?” I refuse to believe there is any parent who successfully packs the right amount of stuff. Maybe other parents don’t need help remembering to pack their kids’ toothbrushes, but I find using a packing app helps ease my “I don’t even know where to begin” anxiety.
Unfortunately, this app won’t let me create separate lists for each family member to ensure I really do pack everyone’s toothbrushes and underwear. But having a list generated for me usually helps me remember some things I would have otherwise forgotten. The app will also generate suggestions based on your location, the forecast, and the activities you select.
Falling asleep when you’re far away from home can be difficult for anyone, but even more so if you are a kid. Listening to sleep/relaxation audiobooks is the best way that we’ve found to help our kids calm their minds and (eventually) drift off to sleep. Audible has books like “The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep,” which has helped our littles relax their overstimulated minds and (usually) fall asleep (or at least get closer to falling asleep).
If you don’t want to spend money, ask your local library if they have any apps where you can check out books. Some libraries participate in apps like Hoopla and Overdrive. While they may not have sleep stories, you might find something sufficiently soothing (or boring!) enough to put your kid to sleep.
I am a firm believer that knowing more about the environment you’re in – from names of birds to names of mountains – helps you feel more connected to it. PeakFinder is a great way to learn the names of the mountains you see while hiking. By holding up your phone to the horizon, the image on the screen will label the mountains in your line of sight. This can be a great bonus for people navigating in the backwoods, but it is also just a fun way to teach your kids (and you) about places you are visiting, or getting to know your local community better too. This app isn’t free – it’s $5 for Apple users.
Team Member Jackie is a coffee-lover, writer and a mom of a five year old, three year old and a baby living in Helena, MT. She thought that hiking might help tame her children’s wild spirits, and co-leads a Hike it Baby branch. All that hiking only made her crew wilder, but in a good way. Before kids she enjoyed reading, knitting and baking, but now she enjoys making it to bedtime.
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