Apps are super useful on an adventure. Whether its for keeping on the trail, saftey information or just checking the weather forecast, apps can help save you from disaster and lead you to new adventures.
You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d never see the word ‘app’ grace our digital pages but, as it turns out, our Explorer crew is dangerously millennial when it comes to phones in the outdoors – everyone seems to have a favourite outdoor app to shout about…
Don’t get us wrong, we still relish popping out of reception for the weekend and we love hitting up an adventure sans hashtags, there are just some bloody useful apps out there. Here are our favourite (and the best) outdoor apps for everything from correctly identifying Jupiter to finally learning to tie a bowline.
Don’t listen to what they told you in high school, wikis can be a reliable source. WikiCamps is a massive crowd-sourced database of camping and accommodation info that’s searchable and pretty up to date. There’s other useful stuff like WiFi and public toilets on there too! Best bit – if you download ahead of time it’s all available offline. Score!
2. Explore Map
Platform: Your web browser
Ok so we don’t have an app (yet!) for the Explore Map, but it’s still a great way to search for local adventures. The map is crowd-sourced from Explorers across Australia. Join the Explorer Project to get involved, share your adventures, get a whole heap of benefits and hang out with a rad bunch of down-to-earth Explorers.
3. Fuel Map Australia
Australia can have BIG gaps between servos – Fuel Map Australia is a crowd-sourced platform that has them all mapped out to save you from getting stranded. Prices are updated regularly (you might save a few bucks for coffees in an unfamiliar town) and station info lets you call ahead to check closing times and whether the fuel you need is available (surprisingly common out of the big cities).
Recommended by: Matt Horspool
New Zealand’s answer to WikiCamps is free and changing up the game. They’ve got some awesome features like a Freedom Camping Guarantee (they’ll pay your fine in NZ if their listed campsite isn’t legit) and if you’re a giving soul you can list your driveway for travellers.
Recommended by: Lachie Thomas – ‘It’s bang on for road trips!’
Navigation & Tracking Apps
A favourite for offline maps, MAPS.ME lets you use the GPS in your phone when you’re out of range. According to Explorer Dan, it has ‘all the local trails, (even the hard, untracked ones) so it’s great for those that like doing treks outside of what is maintained by national parks.’
Another, Explorer Matt Pearce says this is due to crowdsourcing inputs, but was quick to point out that you should still ‘always carry a map and know how to use a compass, don’t rely on tech alone.’
Bonus: This app is awesome for travel when phone data costs a bomb.
6. All Trails
With 100,000 trails mapped out, AllTrails has your next hike wrapped up in a neat little package. But it’s so much more than just navigation. It has planning and recording functions allowing you to really personalise and keep track of your tracks. Plus users can upload pics and reviews of tracks so you can really suss it out before you head on out.
To download the maps for offline use you’ll need to upgrade to the pro version.
7. Avenza Maps
Joel loves Avenza Maps:
‘You can download any of the LPI 1:25,000 topographic maps (official ones, not simulated), which are georeferenced for offline location tracking. It’s easy and reliable. Plus you can connect with Dropbox so you can store multiple maps on the cloud, but if you want to retain more than three active maps on the app at any one time you can upgrade to a premium account.’
Adrian Mascenon adds that ‘SIX Maps e-Topo has all the NSW topographic maps free for download, which works perfectly with Avenza’. Cheerin’!
Tired of walking everywhere on your adventures? Get on ya bike! Trailforks is the go-to app for sourcing your next mountain bike bash. With 225,000 trails listed worldwide, you ain’t ever gonna run out of places to speed through the bush. There’s a bunch of need to know info, like the grading of the trail, plus pics and vids so you know how pretty it is too. You can download the maps to use offline and even sync it with Strava. Radical!
9. PeakFinder AR
Ever looked at a far off peak and wondered what it’s called? Or been trying to work out which mountain’s which but everything looks the same on the map? PeakFinder AR lets you identify peaks by pointing your phone at them, you can even open your camera and have the augmented reality overlay names on the scene before you. It works offline and shows you the path of the sun and the moon too!
Recommended by: Nathan McNeil – ‘It works like that star tracker app but for mountains, it’s great for navigation.’
Strava’s THE tracking app for outdoor sports. From trail running to mountain biking, and more recently everything from canoeing to alpine skiing, Strava is designed to help people train better at whatever they’re doing outdoors. The free version is pretty sweet with mapping, timing and tracking of things like elevation change, but you’ll need to start paying for features like the safety beacon or heart rate tracking
Recommended by: Tim Ashelford
11. Red Bull TV
Platform: Pretty much anything
Red Bull TV is like the free Netflix of adrenaline and adventure — Jack has the lowdown:
‘The Red Bull TV app has some rad full length adventure films and series if you’re willing to sift through heaps of the shorter clips to find the gems.’
Recommended by: Jack Brooks
I don’t think any app caused as much rapid, raving enthusiasm among our Explorers as Photopills. It’s a photo planning app with a shedload of features in a very usable package. Use it for planning astrophotography, perfect sunsets shots, moon shots and long exposures. There’s an AR feature that lets you compose your shot ahead of time and widgets to keep you on track. A must for those chasing the light.
13. The Photographer’s Ephemeris
When snapping in pics in the outdoors, whether you’re a point-and-shoot-pro or prefer something a little more technical, it’s all about lighting. The thing is, lighting in the outdoors is damn near impossible to control. The Photographer’s Ephemeris app maps out how light will fall across the land, anytime, anywhere. Pretty neat hey?
You may not be able to control natural light, but this app will help you get in sync with it.
14. Star Walk
Augmented reality stargazing is the kind of futuristic tech that almost makes up for the lack of hoverboards in our lives. With Star Walk you can easily identify stars, planets, galaxies and constellations; it’s great for learning more about the night sky or settling arguments with your mate who can’t even recognise the Southern Cross.
Recommended by:Hayden Griffith
15. Birds of Australia – The Morcombe & Stewart Guide
Price: $29.99 (Free Lite version available)
It’s the future now so we can’t lug around heavy field guides anymore. But nothing online quite enters the depth of information you’ll find in a book that you bought with real money. The Birds of Australia app brings the best guide to Aussie birds to life with “Smart Search”, picture comparison, recorded bird calls, maps and the ability to save species you’ve seen. If you’re into birding there’s nothing better.
Recommended by: Matt Pearce
Price: $1.49 download and in app purchases
You’re hiking through the bush and stumble across the most beautiful flora you’ve ever laid eyes upon. ‘What is this unknown beauty?’ you whisper. You whip out your phone, swipe open FlowerChecker, take a snap and within seconds a team of botanists somewhere in cyberspace are trawling over your pics trying to identify this perfect petal. Before you know it, the answer appears in your pocket, just like the Philosopher’s Stone in Harry Potter’s pants.
That’s the magic of FlowerChecker.
The app summary says it all:
‘You’re out in the bush. You see a night parrot. You add a record in Sightings, start typing ‘nigh…’, select ‘night parrot’ from the auto-complete list, and you have a permanent record of the date, time and location of your sighting.’ Boom. How easy does that sound? If you’re into spotting wildlife or doing any kind of tracking or research this app has birds, mammals, reptiles, frogs and some flying insects preloaded, plus you can enter your own info if you’re into some hipster beetles that aren’t there.
Recommended by: Jannico Kelk
The FrogID app is all about encouraging citizen science, giving regular people the tools to record and identifying frogs in the bush and their backyard. It’s backed by the Australian Museum and gives visual information as well as frog call matching and verification.
Recommended by: Jannico Kelk
Safety and Preparation Apps
19. Fires Near Me Australia
Let’s be real, there’s probably not many people on the East Coast who don’t have a version of this app on their phone. There’s no point in putting it lightly, this app could well and truly save your life.
A national app, put together by the NSW Rural Fire Service after the success of its Fire Near Me NSW app. While not a solitary point of call just yet (especially when too many fires are going at once) it’s a good indicator of which areas to avoid and a handy way to access further information about fires. Definitely worth a download.
20. First Aid – Australian Red Cross
‘For peace of mind in an emergency, or if you’re worried about not being able to remember the textbook (and let’s be honest, who can?)’ – Joel Johnsson.
The app has step-by-step guides to most common scenarios, interactive explanations and info on where to get help
Recommended by: Joel Johnsson
21. Emergency+ App
Most people calling Emergency services don’t have a clue where they are – especially if they’re away from an urban area. Making a call through the Emergency+ app provides location data straight to the operator, rapidly speeding up the response.
Recommended by: Brooke Nolan
what3words is a new way of looking at the world, and tracking where you are in it. The app divides the entire globe into 3mx3m squares and assigns a unique three word code to that square. The idea is that you can use this code to really narrow in on where someone is located, whether that be deep in the bush or in the mosh at a music festival. The app works offline and you can even pinpoint and save your fav locales for future.
24. Willy Weather
Despite its shocking name, Willy Weather blows your native weather app out of the water. It even shows the Bureau of Meteorology what’s up with slick presentation and heaps of data, split up across Weather, Rainfall, Wind and Moon as well as Tide, Swell, Sun and UV (for all you beach lovers).
Recommended by: Tim Ashelford
25. My Tide Times
‘I use My Tide Times a fair bit. It’s a great little app to check the tide of a spot before heading out – either for a swim, surf or walk around the area. The app is set in map view with info from right around Australia.’ – Cara
Recommended by: Cara Van Wyk
Feature photo by Dan Parkes