Mobile apps have become such a familiar part of life that there is an app for just about everything. And hiking is no exception.
But what is an app? In simple terms an ‘app’ is software that can run through a web browser or offline on your computer, smartphone, tablet or other electronic devices, including smart TVs and smartwatches.
We have collected together a range of apps for hikers under the categories of Must Have, Should Have and Nice to Have. Our list isn’t exhaustive by any means – the options are only limited by your imagination! We would really love a reliable and accurate photo app to identify Australian plants (in particular) as well as animals but haven’t found one we would recommend.
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We think these apps essential for all hikers and are aimed at keeping you safe.
Emergency+ was developed by Australia’s emergency services and government and industry partners. The mobile phone app uses a phone’s GPS functionality so callers can provide emergency call-takers with their location information as determined by their smartphone. This app also includes SES and Police Assistance Line numbers as options, so non-emergency calls are made to the most appropriate number.
Fires Near Me (Australia or NSW) is a mobile application for iOS and Android that helps you stay up to date on bush fires in your area. Fire information is provided from participating fire and emergency service authorities across Australia.
These ones aren’t necessarily critical to have but make an important contribution to an enjoyable hiking experience.
BOM Weather is the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s weather app, giving you the most accurate weather information at your fingertips. This app provides information wherever you are in Australia on current weather conditions, warnings, forecasts and rain radar information.
SunSmart provides sun protection times for more than 600 locations across Australia, providing you with an easy way to find out when you do and don’t need sun protection each day. You can set alerts to remind you when sun protection times start each day, or set to be reminded about UV on any day of the week.
Red Cross First Aid is a comprehensive pocket guide to first aid and CPR, giving you access to the most up to date first aid information anytime, anywhere. Use the interactive quizzes on the app to refresh your first aid knowledge learnt at a Red Cross first aid training course. The instructions are clear and easy to use with helpful videos and images. This app has over 300,000 downloads in Australia.
Moon Phase Calendar Plus Phone App is my app of choice for working out the moon phases. It is what I use when I’m planning on night hiking or getting out at night to take photos of the moon.
The SunSmart app showing when sun protection is required
Here are some apps that will add a bit of joy to your hiking.
SunSurveyor is a great app for budding photographers that helps you track the sun and moon to get that perfect shot. While it is designed for professionals to plan and capture that great shot, it is also great for keen photographers.
Avenza Maps is a mobile map app that allows you to download maps for offline use on iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. Your device’s built-in GPS will track your location on any map, plot locations and photos, measure distance and area, and more. You can browse and purchase additional maps from all over the world through the Avenza Map Store.
SkyView is for those who are interested in knowing what’s above your head when you are out and about during the night, camping or not. If you aren’t sure you want to spend the $2.99AUD then try out the free ‘lite’ version first and see how you go. At over 1.7 million downloads for the paid app, and over 9 million downloads for the free app worldwide they must be doing something right.
Cost: AUD $2.99
Far Out Guides (formerly known as Guthook Guides) was started by a couple of thru-hikers who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (USA) together in 2010. Since then this app has grown to encompass a number of well known trails worldwide including a number of trails in Australia.
Cost: USD $44.99 for comprehensive set of Australia/New Zealand hikes
PeakFinder does what its name says and identifies over 350,000 mountain and hills worldwide. Most of us will be able to identify the main mountains and hills in our local area but often we struggle to identify the secondary peaks. In addition when we travel to a new area we tend to be travelling blind; enter the PeakFinder app.
iFunghi AU is a great mushroom ID app available for iOS and Android phones that gives you an indicative identification of Australian Fungi. Now I say ‘indicative’ because you hear so many stories, at least in my area, of people who misidentify when choosing something to eat with fatal results. In fact when you open this app there is a very obvious warning which clearly states you should only use this app as a guide and that responsibility remains with the user. While I wouldn’t rely on it in making a decision on whether a fungi is edible or not, it is a great guide for fungi enthusiasts.
Wetland Birds Field Guide provides information for iPhone users on wetland birds of South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. A great way to identify the wetland birds you’re seeing.
National Field Guide apps were developed by Museums Victoria to enable the discovery of Australia’s amazing wildlife in a suite of eight Field Guide apps, one for each state and territory in Australia. The set comprises:
Together the apps feature over 2100 animals, including mammals, birds, fishes, reptiles, frogs and invertebrates from terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments. They contain detailed descriptions of each species, as well as distribution maps, endangered status, audio calls and stunning imagery.
National Field Guides available from Museums Victoria
Whatever your interests, you’ll find an app that will bring joy to your hiking adventures. If you’re not yet into apps, explore the ‘Must Have’ and ‘Should Have’ apps first – they will change your experience and add to your safety at the same time.