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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

10 Best iPhone Apps for the Outdoors

These applications might not qualify as the 10 Essentials, but they're pretty sweet to have on the trail nonetheless.

by: Logan Kugler

PAGE 1 2
Motion X (Courtesy Photo)
Motion X (Courtesy Photo)

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

PAGE 1 2

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Jun 25, 2013

Haha, love these comments. I am mostly anti-electronics as well. I have used MotionX GPS basically just for being able to upload a track, check elevations and mileages, and check out the track in Google Earth once I got back home. I love that kind of stuff post-trip. I didn't use my phone on the trail other than to turn the track on and off. I did have turn off everything I could on my phone and also had it off at any time when we were stopped for more than a few minutes to save battery and barely made it 3 days! I'll be getting a small battery pack for next trip for this purpose. I also heard GaiaGPS was quite good but obviously a battery sucker won't work for me.

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Teena Jain
Jun 06, 2013

WeatherRun is the latest addition to the tracking apps. It provides live weather updates along with tracking. Outpace the weather and hike with WeatherRun.

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UtilityPRO App
Jun 02, 2013

An app I like is UtilityPRO. It has a lot of important features rolled into one survival / utility / camping app. Pretty handy. Their website is

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Aug 22, 2012

Peaks gets totally panned on reviews at the appstore. How could Backpacker recommend it?

Aug 15, 2012

To everyone that thinks apps do not belong in the wild. Did you drive to the forrest or did you walk while wearing homemade mocasins? Did you eat out or go to the supermarket instead of killing your dinner by hand ?

Mar 29, 2012

Brutal List

Feb 04, 2012

Another great outdoors app is GPS kit. It is the best GPS app I've seen, check it out,

Jan 26, 2012

Wow, big surprise that no free apps were included in this list. The longer I read this magazine, the more I realize that its basically an advertisement medium for products. Aren't the owned by cosmo now?

iTrack Wildlife
Nov 15, 2011

Check out iTrack Wildlife:
It's an incredibly thorough guide to animal tracks of North America.
There's a demo video here:

iTrack Wildlife
Nov 15, 2011

Check out iTrack Wildlife:
It's an incredibly thorough guide to animal tracks of North America.
There's a demo video here:

Oct 11, 2011


Way Home Finder

Sep 27, 2011

I've been backpacking for 125 years and god d@amnit, I go to the forest to get away from electronics and gadgets and smartbeepers. And electricity. And those damn kids! You know, the kids that think they're all smart and all when you try to order something over the phone and they ask if you have the internet. Of course I don't have the internet, it requires electricity!

Anyways, you should always use a paper map and compass, not a phone or electronic device. The fact that your phone can hold a map / topo, compass, sunrise / sunset data, star data, First Aid info, survival guides, camera, notes, GPS, phone for emergencies, etc. is besides the point. If it requires electricity, it's bad! You can't use electricity in the forest because then you're not truly "getting away"! I go to the forest because I enjoy being an over-critical ass in the confines of nature, so get over yourself!

Aug 20, 2011

I'd like to recommend GPSies+ (free) with over 850.000 GPS tracks on the maps of OpenStreetMap. Good for cycling, running, trekking and so on.

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