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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Outdoor Apps for Android Users

Don't let iPhone fanatics fool you: There are tons of great outdoor apps for the other operating system.

by: Allison Woods

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iPhone Apps
Don't worry Apple lovers: We already reviewed a bunch of great iPhone apps.

PLUS: Don't miss the BACKPACKER GPS Trails app for both iPhone & Android.
Users of those smartphones that start with the letter “i” like to think they have a monopoly on the coolest apps. Of course, that’s ridiculous. The Android Market is currently providing around 300,000 apps and is poised to pass Apple’s app count later this year. Among Android’s considerable offerings, I found a fat handful of good outdoors apps (downloadable at Android Market), all of which I tested in the woods and mountains around Seattle for five months.

Audubon Birds $15
This neat little app is Birds of North America (widely considered the “go-to” birding manual) right in the palm of your hand. When I saw and heard a mysterious waterfowl in Washington’s Crab Creek with a call that sounded like “oooongka-CHUNK”, I started in the Heron section, and when the pictures and audio clips weren’t quite right, I used the “view similar birds” function to quickly zero in on the American Bittern. The “About Birds” section let me impress my friends with lots of heady ornithological terminology. What do I wish Audubon Birds could do? Identify birds by “listening” to their songs. The technology already exists and is used in apps such as Shazam (a popular music-tagging app). Here’s hoping we see this feature soon.

Scats and Tracks $2
Scats and Tracks comes to us from Falcon Press, publisher of many fine guidebooks and field guides. You’ll find detailed descriptions and drawings of scat (eww!), paw print patterns of animals walking and running (yes, they differ), range and habitat info, as well as descriptions of hunting and behavior habits. Android in hand, I was quickly able to identify a marmot zone in the Chiwaukum Range by tell-tale droppings in a talus field. Cool beans!

U.S. Army Survival Guide FREE
If you find yourself in a pickle, who better to help out than the U.S. Army? Need to build an impromptu shelter? Build a fire? Forage for food? It's all covered, along with tips on evading enemy capture. The format’s quite simple, with clickable chapters and line drawings to assist you. Wish: Embedded videos would go a long way to making this into more than a digital field manual.

Backcountry Navigator $10
This one will set you back a tenner, but it’s worth every penny, as I discovered on test hikes on the rain-soaked west slope of the Cascades and in the Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington. If you’ve resisted buying a GPS, but find yourself curious about the technology, you’ll like playing with Navigator on your next hike. It can be a little tricky to find a location if it has a common name, but a handy video at backcountrynavigator.com provides step-by-step instructions that also show you how to download maps for offline use. Save GPS tracks and trip data in folders you create. When it’s time to hike, fire up the phone’s GPS, and away you go. Track recording, waypoints, and information gathering work the same as on a GPS. Toggle back and forth between your choice of topographic maps and color aerials. Trip data can later be shared via email or the usual social media outlets. I would like to see a feature added later that would allow photos taken with the phone to be integrated into your trip folders.


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READERS COMMENTS

Rit=ya
Mar 16, 2012

Top 3 IPL 2012 Live Scorecard Apps for Android Users
http://www.techdiscussion.in/index.php?topic=453.0

DHG
Feb 07, 2012

A strong Iphone app is "topo maps"
The app uses USGS Topographic Maps
I believe the cost is $8.
http://www.topomapsapp.com


Curt
Jan 30, 2012

Traxx Outdoors was just released and is featured packed. Check it out at http://www.traxxoutdoors.com

Max
Nov 06, 2011

Check out Orux maps - you find it in the Android market. From my point of view the best outdoor tool. Stores maps in a more memory efficient sqllite db as locus and allows to use Online as well as offline maps. (You might use Mobile Atlas Creator for generating these maps and viewing GPX recordings). Tracks can be loaded as routes and tracked back. Heart rate monitors can be recorded too. Loads of Options allow finetuning - for the 'beginner' probably a little bit too many options. ;-)
Good Luck!

Jonathan
Sep 22, 2011

I have been using Locus for a long time. It's great. There's a free and Donate version. You can use a lot of map sources, including OpenStreet Map, Google Terrain or satellites in Offline( by using a plugin). Tons of features!
Check it out!
https://market.android.com/details?id=menion.android.locus

Austin
Jun 09, 2011

The best free outdoor App that I have come across is called Sports Tracker. It gives detailed information on distance traveled, altitude gain/loss, and speed. Then it maps your route for you and puts everything into nice graphs. Great for any outdoor activity.

Austin
Jun 08, 2011

The best free outdoor App that I have come across is called Sports Tracker. It gives detailed information on distance traveled, altitude gain/loss, and speed. Then it maps your route for you and puts everything into nice graphs. Great for any outdoor activity.

MattK@GearGuide
Jun 06, 2011

Hey, great list. I put one together as well at GearGuide. Here's a link:

http://www.gearguide.info/2011/03/09/top-android-applications-for-the-outdoors/

Laural
Jun 03, 2011

Try GaiaGPS for a cheaper backcountry mapping system.

honest1
Jun 02, 2011

Does the "I" key on your keyboard ever wear out?

das
May 29, 2011

http://www.coleman.com/coleman/media/

has a few IPad apps, they don't have any android verisons yet.

Tim Cooper
May 25, 2011

Give Viewranger a try too. Been using it for years and highly recommend it.

George Ortiz
May 24, 2011

This is a great roundup of outdoor apps. We're getting ready to release our android app here in a few weeks at http://explorer.io

Tyler Bounds
May 23, 2011

Great job Allison! I've been contemplating downloading that Audubon app, so I'm glad to see an overview from someone I trust. Thanks!

Bob from Woodinville Wa
May 20, 2011

Good article! Thanks for the insigths and experiences. Looking forward to more like this!

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