It’s no surprise that people have turned to GPS trackers or hiking apps to navigate new trails. Though some of the more old-school hikers shrug new technology off, preferring to rely on a classic map and compass to find their way, the fact remains that both new and seasoned hikers can use it to their advantage. It is true that hiking apps and GPS trackers can indeed help you find your way, but like all technology, they are prone to occasional failure and can leave you lost in the woods.
GPS technology isn’t always up to date with current road or trail conditions, and can route you directly into danger. Relying solely on your GPS to guide you to your destination can often result in death by GPS – people blindly follow their GPS’ directions without paying attention to warning signs like bad weather, severely unkempt trails, or even their gut feelings, can end up lost or injured.
Despite this, don’t throw away that Garmin and start brushing up on your orientation and map-reading skills just yet. As technology advances, new and more accurate GPS systems and hiking apps are readily available. Below are a few of the best modern hiking apps to not only get you to the summit and back home safely, but help you have a better time on the journey
Spyglass is probably the most innovative hiking app on this list. While it includes a standard GPS toolkit that will satisfy all of your tracking needs, it also has a unique heads-up display via augmented reality. This overlays all important information — maps, speedometer, altimeter, a gyrocompass, sextant, inclinometer, etc. — while still allowing you to see the trail in front of you.
This offers an experience unlike any other hiking app, preventing you from missing all the beauty around you, and also from making a potentially harmful misstep! Combine this with a remarkably low price, and Spyglass gives new meaning to seeing the forest for the trees!
There is no need to get lost on some of America’s best hikes as this nifty little app covers over 50,000 hiking trails in North America. Alltrails allows user to create their own trails with accurate GPS tracking, photos so that you can designate important landmarks, and text to clearly label them, all for free. In addition to this, it can share those created trails with other users, so there is a constantly updated database of safe trails.
While the free version is impressive on its own, Alltrails has a paid subscription service that works with National Geographic Maps and allows you to print off and edit various maps. While these features are useful, the service costs a whopping $30 a month! If you find yourself in North America, you would be able to get by just fine with the free version, saving more money for delicious trail snacks.
A worldwide hiking app, Viewranger offers the ability to download maps to your phone to be used offline in over 20 countries. An advanced GPS system can record tracks and help you follow routes as well as providing information on time, speed, distance, compass bearing, sunrise and sunset.
Viewranger also allows you to share your routes and tracks with friends and social media, and you can share your location with friends and family (provided you have cellular service) if you do find yourself in trouble. While this app provides loads of free maps across the world, they also offer premium maps in certain countries for varied prices. The benefit of these premium maps is that they come packaged with terrain and trail details not available on other maps, as well as trail guides written by top publishing brands.
Maps 3D Pro
Another hiking app that comes with a great GPS system, what sets Maps 3D Pro apart from the rest of this list is one unique feature: topographical maps. These maps have contour lines in order to convey elevation to the reader, however these can become confusing if you aren’t particularly seasoned in map reading. Maps 3D Pro visualizes topographical maps in three dimensions which can show users their exact elevation and location, making it easier to navigate trails or know when you’ve gone too far.
With searchable trails and landmarks like lakes and mountain peaks, planning your hike is ridiculously easy. This app also tracks your exact coordinates and elevation, which you can then share with other users. There are also smaller touches that make this app great, like an acoustic warning that sounds when you stray from the trail.
Another interesting augmented reality app, Peakvisor uses your camera and location tracking to show you the names and elevations of the peaks around you. It also displays a highly accurate 3D compass and altimeter to help you navigate and track elevation.
When you find yourself looking through photo albums or showing off your family memories with friends, you won’t have to guess where a particular pic was snapped or give a vague “I think this was in the Sawtooth Mountain Range” type of answer if people ask. With Peakvisor, you’ll have absolutely no problem telling people where you snapped all those hard-to-choose-from photos of your kids. Peakvisor can be used offline, and is loaded with 3D maps of all major and minor mountain ranges worldwide so you’ll always be able to tell your little ones what you’re looking at no matter where you are.
Now that you’re armed with some of the best, most accurate apps on the market today, you will have an easy time guiding yourself and your family through even the most difficult hiking trails. Gear up, grab your friends (and your phone) and go hit the trails!
Author Bio: Ross Cowan lives in Boise, Idaho with his fiancée and his dog Mosey. He spends his free time camping at Bear Lake, hiking sections of the Idaho Centennial Trail, white water rafting down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and Hell’s Canyon. You can follow Ross on his Twitter @RossCowanWrites