Forrester research recently released  results of a study that showed  17% of US adults used smart phones in 2010 and numbers expected to increase by double digits in the coming years.  IPhone and Android, the most popular devices each have hundreds of apps that can be useful to those venturing outdoors, especially hikers and backpackers.   A good outdoor app allows you to save on weight and combine functions in a multi use tool.  Having said that technology does have limitations (battery life, reception, malfunction, etc…) and you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Here are some of our favorites outdoor App picks:

1.       Flashlight- Both the I phone and Android have multiple flashlight Apps available.  The droid we used came preinstalled with one.  This app which is just a white screen, but puts out a good amount of light.  The iPhone flashlight even has an LED version with strobe and SOS functions.   The flashlight on the android uses the camera flash.  Outdoors you wouldn’t use the flashlight over your headlamp for most uses but it does come in handy trying to find your headlamp in a dark tent, to quickly spot and read things, or for a backup light.

2.       GPS- There’s a dozen fairly decent GPS apps for the Iphone, Android, and Blackberry.  One of my favorites for the Iphone is the MotionX GPS.

MotionX-GPS shows your position and track at all times on street maps, topo/terrain maps, satellite/hybrid maps, or marine charts.  MotionX provides a total of nine map types including Google and Bing satellite and Hybrid maps and allows you to store over 300 waypoints and 0ver 100 saved tracks.  The other cool feature I liked is the ability to easily share and post tracks and waypoints to Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail using Google Maps.  It includes a stopwatch and supports:

·         Compass for orientation in True or Magnetic bearings.
·         Visualize your progress and ETA while navigating.
·         View your SOG, VMG, distance to waypoint, and bearing to waypoint.
·         iPhone magnetic compass integration.
·         View coordinates in Lat/Lon, UTM, or MGRS coordinates.

Testing on an Ipad against the Garmin GPS it was accurate to 40 feet in most cases, more than enough to justify the price at $2.99 .

3.    The new Mammut Packing List  iPhone app allows you to compile packing lists, share it with your friends and then start packing. The team works together to gather all the necessary equipment, making sure that nothing is forgotten. Once you’ve ticked off all the items on the list, the tour can begin!

Here’s some highlights:
·         Basic packing lists checked by Mammut Pro Team athletes and the Mammut Alpine School, with the option of selecting the tour type and duration.
·         Any missing items can be added to a list with just a few taps of your finger.
·         Items that have already been packed are ticked off.
·         Distinction made between private, general and team items.
·         Responsibility for team items assigned to a specific individual.
·         Comments function available for each item for important preparatory communications between team members.
·         The Mammut Packing List is optimized for iPhone iOS 4

4.    Avalanche Safety App by FitClimb for Android- For active outdoor enthusiasts, who want to be empowered and better control their risk, provides a tool to better educate users and help  predict avalanches in the field.  The Avalanche safety evaluator features a Clinometer  (slope meter) for accurate slope angle combined with a series of questions to determine risk level and comes with helpful tips to avoid and survive an avalanche.  Here’s some highlights:

·         Avalanche Evaluator – series of questions based on statistical avalanche research  used to determine risk level.
·         Build-in Clinometer measures slope angle – useful for determining snow slope stability.
·         Informative video, text, and images on how to avoid and survive avalanches.
·         Quick links to country and regional avalanche safety bulletin information for 18 most avalanche prone countries.
·         Windows and Iphone versions coming soon.
·         No reception needed for the risk evaluator and slope meter functions.

Good app developers optimize for battery life and in the outdoors consider lighting conditions like night time and bright areas.  We’d like to see more outdoor apps that take into consideration the users environment and how they would interact.  Like ski and trail apps that you can navigate without taking off your gloves.  Rather than recommending a spare battery I suggest carrying a solar charger that you can clip onto your backpack as you hike and use on multi day trips to charge all your electronics.

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