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We often think of camping as a great way to unplug from the world, and for many people, it is. That doesn’t mean there’s no place for technology when you’re under canvas, though. Make a few selective choices, and it can even improve your camping experience.
From digital compasses to offline survival guides, campsite finders to tracking the night sky, these are nine of the most useful and interesting camping apps available for iOS and Android.
Surprisingly few apps provide global campsite information, but fortunately iOverlander does it extremely well. You can use the map to find campsites in your area, complete with a rundown of amenities like Wi-Fi, food, showers, running water, and more.
Reviews from other “overlanders” are also available, along with photos of the site. You can add or update information, check in to campsites, and find nearby points of interest. The greatest strength of iOverlander is its large community, which is committed to updating and improving the content.
That’s why you’ll find detailed descriptions of campsites all over the world, whether you’re in California or Colombia.
iOS and Android; free
While it’s not global, WikiCamps provides a useful suite of camping apps for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
After downloading the app for a specific destination, like WikiCamps Australia or WikiCamps Canada, you can access camping data crowdsourced from the WikiCamps community. There are details on things like campgrounds, backpacker hostels, and dump sites.
Campsites are plotted on a map which can be downloaded for offline use, and nearby attractions can be viewed in list form. In addition, you can apply search filters, such as “has toilets” or “pet-friendly,” to get tailored recommendations.
The app comes with a digital compass, and a range of forums to connect with other WikiCamp users.
iOS and Android; free
Chimani National Parks
If you’re camping in the United States, Chimani National Parks is a phenomenal tool that helps you find parks, historic sites, battlefields, preserves, recreation areas, and much more. The app is well-designed with beautiful nature photography, and the map tool is easy to use.
It’s also easy to drill down to find information about specific parks. When I selected Badlands National Park, for example, I was given information on park history and points of interest. From there, I could choose to install a “detailed guide,” a separate app (also created by Chimani) specifically focused on that park.
If you choose to upgrade to the Premium version, you’ll get extra features like offline support, travel guides, and discounts on lodging, dining, and activities in the national park system. Overall, it’s an impressively useful app for campers in the United States.
iOS and Android; free or Premium for $29.99/year
Since the weather can make or break a camping trip, it makes sense to keep accurate predictions close to hand. Dark Sky provides hyper-local, “down-to-the-minute” weather forecasts, which The Verge called “scarily accurate.”
You can be told when rain is due to start or finish, or when and where a storm is supposed to happen. It’s easy to get more details on conditions and predictions, and set up custom alerts to be informed of weather changes.
The app is currently available in the US, UK, Ireland, and Puerto Rico.
iOS and Android; 2-week free trial and then $2.99/year (Android), $3.99 one-off (iOS)
While hardcore hikers will likely have a physical compass in their backpack, a good smartphone-based version works fine for casual requirements. That’s where Compass Galaxy comes in.
Extremely simple to use, the app lets you immediately fire up a compass on your phone with no advertisements or permissions. Other than occasionally calibrating your phone, there’s nothing else you need to do.
Accurate and responsive, Compass Galaxy sticks out mainly because it actually works as it should!
Super Bright LED Flashlight / Best Flash Light
As well as useful extras like a home screen widget for easy access or being able to turn the light on and off with a clap of the hands, both apps include a strobe setting for emergency use (or if you want to set up an impromptu campsite rave.)
Android; free / iOS; free
If you’re the kind of camper who prefers to catch your own dinner with rod and reel, check out Fish Brain. The world’s largest community-based fishing app helps you can find where and when to fish, share your catches, and find recommendations for the best bait.
The app has a large community of anglers, and you can connect with other users and directly message them through the app. You can also to choose to follow different species of fish or fishing methods for updates.
The free version is relatively limited, but paying for premium membership adds features like showing exact catch positions, and a “fishing forecast” that includes information on local weather, air pressure, tides, and sun/moon phases.
Android and iOS; free, or $5.99 per month (Android) / $6.99 per month (iOS) for the Premium version
Offline Survival Guide
As the name suggests, Offline Survival Guide is a useful survival resource that works entirely without an Internet connection. The app includes details on how to make a fire, build a shelter, find food and water, treat injuries, and other crucial survival skills.
There are also tips on generating power (e.g. solar, wind, improvised generator) and how to survive in challenging environments like deserts, tropical locations, cold weather, water crossings, or the sea.
The app has extensive plant information, including what’s edible and what isn’t, and how to use them as medicine. If you are in a dangerous situation or think you’ve spotted a poisonous plant, the app also includes helpful pointers to get out of a jam.
There are many other useful survival apps, and it never hurts to download a few of them so you have a variety of information on hand, but Offline Survival Guide is among the best.
The First Aid app from the American Red Cross offers first aid advice for a variety of situations, including allergies and asthma attacks, bleeding and burns, insect bites, and many other health concerns relevant to camping.
It’s also possible to drill down for more details on a particular ailment. You can specify what bit you, like a snake or tick, and then receive custom advice specifically for that type of bite. There are also tips to help prepare for a trip and handle emergency situations.
Quizzes allow you to test and perfect your knowledge, and you can also see a list of hospitals in your area, at least within the United States.
iOS and Android; free
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Star Walk 2
Gazing at a star-filled night sky is one of the biggest joys of camping, and the Star Walk 2 astronomy guide gives you a wealth of detail on the heavens. You can explore the sky (day or night) to identify stars and planets, satellites, comets, and even the International Space Station in real time.
A “What’s New” section provides updates on upcoming eclipses and other astronomical events, with an augmented-reality feature that overlays charted objects on the live view. It’s also possible to go backward and forward in time, to view the night sky as it looked on a particular date.
iOS and Android; free