Your iPhone might be more accustomed to urban canyons and the concrete jungle, but there are a whole lotta’ reasons to take it with you on your next backcountry adventure. For starters, the GPS and compass make it a great substitute for a handheld GPS, and its camera and easy text entry let you capture memories as you go. What’s more, with more than 250,000 downloadable applications out there—many of them tailored to backpacking and hiking—you can add an endless assortment of bells and whistles. But since separating the iWheat from the iChaff can be a challenge, we did it for you, testing dozens of apps and whittling them down to these top 10.
1. MotionX GPS: This app offers attractive topographical maps that can be downloaded ahead of time so you’re not reliant on spotty or nonexistent 3G coverage in the boonies. Track your journey, save waypoints, and use a vastly improved compass to find your way around. ($2.99, motionx.com)
2. GPS Trip Journal: Capture photos and take notes tied to waypoints to create a rich, Indiana Jones-style journal of your adventures. This app is great for remembering details for your next trip back, organizing tips to share with fellow trekkers, or just reliving your favorite trips. ($0.99, trip-journal.com)
3. Elevation Pro: Tap anywhere on the map or satellite view to get an instant readout of its elevation, based on the internal GPS or USGS surveying. We found it useful for determining which trail to take, or just for our own personal edification. ($0.99, precognitiveresearch.com)
4. Peaks: Hold your camera up to the landscape, and Peaks adds the names of all the mountains within range, their elevation, and your distance from them. ($2.99, peaks.augmented-outdoors.com)
5. Park Maps: Download the official Park Service map of any national park in the United States. Great for planning your trip, as well as finding the trailhead once you’re in the park. ($0.99, bigairsoftware.com/ParkMaps.html)