Outdoor App Reviews Part 1 (and Product Giveaway Contest!)

In the spirit of Columbus Day and exploration I’d like to share with my readers some of the outdoor apps I regularly use to assist in my own mountain exploration. These apps have been on my phone for a couple of years. Check them out below and find details on how to enter to win the coolest climbing knife in the world or a bottle of the best foot powder on earth!

1) ViewRanger GPS (USA) – Topo Maps, Trail Navigation and Route Tracker for Hiking, Skiing & Cycling By Augmentra (Free)

I experimented with a couple GPS apps before settling on this app about 3 years ago. I have now logged hundreds of trips with it and barely used all of its features. The main draw to this app is its simplicity to record a track log and how quickly I can switch back and forth from Bing Aerial Imagery (Satellite) to USHS 24k Topo maps (with USA Trails overlay). Here’s a screen shot of both maps:

Satellite or USGS 24k Topo
Satellite or USGS 24k Topo

Track details like duration, average speed, distance, are easily captured along with GPS Altitude Graphs and Speed Graphs showing you where you were really moving and where you were really hurting.

It looks like the publisher, Augmenta, has released a large update, basically a new app, and plans to discontinue support on the original app. The new app can be found on the iTunes store here. I just downloaded it and will update this post once I’ve had a chance to form an opinion on the new version.

ProTip: The big downside of GPS apps is how demanding they are on your cell phones battery. For that I never rely on them as a sole means of navigating (still carry map & compass). I also tend to only record my track on the way back from somewhere. This works great back-country skiing as I save my battery for the descent. If I really want to get a track of a 6+ hour trip I’ll carry the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus to recharge my phone on the go. You can pre-load map data if you are heading somewhere off grid (No 3G+ service), . If that is the case I would recommend a dedicated GPS like a Garmin Etrex.

2) MyRadar – Weather Radar – Forecast, Storms, and Earthquakes By Aviation Data Systems, Inc (free)

Something wicked this way comes
Something wicked this way comes

This is the best weather radar app I have found. I have astonished countless clients by predicting when the rain will start to fall within 10 minutes of accuracy using this app. So many of our cliffs, Cathedral, Whitehorse, Cannon, all face east and this app shows me incoming thunderheads before they hit. If the National Weather Service issues any storm or flood warnings for the area I am in the app alerts me with the classic annoying sound that comes over the radios & TV when alerts are issued ($1.99 in App purchase), even if the app isn’t running.

3) PeakFinder Earth ($3.99)

This is kind of a “fun” app when exploring. It can help you quickly name visible peaks at your viewpoint. One especially cool feature is it can work in reverse, i.e. “I think I should be able to see peak X right now, where is it?” You can select from a list of peaks that should be visible from where you are standing and the phone’s compass and screen will guide you to look at it. Very neat!

This is the view through my office if I had no walls and all the trees and the houses to the north were leveled.
This is the view through my office if I had no walls and all the trees and the houses to the north were leveled.

I have half a dozen more apps I plan on sharing soon, but first I want to hear from you, and give you a chance to win the coolest climbing knife in the world or a bottle of the best foot powder on earth!

Three apps reviewed so let’s do 3 ways to enter the drawing!

1) Comment on the post below (what apps do you use?)

2) Like this post through WordPress

3) Like the post and/or NEAlpineStart on Facebook here

Up to 3 entries possible per reader! Contest ends 11:59pm EST on 11/12/15. First name drawn will win the coolest climbing knife in the world and the second name drawn will win the best foot powder on earth! Winners announced 11/13/15.

UPDATE 11/16/15: Congratulations to Jay for winning the coolest climbing knife in the world and Ben for winning the best foot powder on earth as part of the first Outdoor App Review series.

Thanks for reading! See you in the mountains,


13 thoughts on “Outdoor App Reviews Part 1 (and Product Giveaway Contest!)

  1. In my Android world, I haven’t tried ViewRanger (though I will now!), but I’ve been relatively happy with Backcountry Navigator:
    A bit lacking in some navigational niceties, but still okay, and a great map option for contour lines overlaid on aerial imagery (with all maps savable to memory, so no reliance on cell reception).
    For battery backup, I use a protective case that can also recharge my phone battery.
    (And for backup to that, and also for recording highly detailed tracklogs for up to about a week on a single charge, I use a DeLorme inReach Explorer.)
    Radar maps, I previously used separate apps for that, but to consolidate apps now I just rely on the radar map in WeatherBug Elite.


    • I knew you would have some apps for me to look into! You told me about Backcountry Navigator before. Looks like that isn’t available on iOs. I actually use WeatherBug for my Wx summaries and hour by hour precip chance info, but the radar functionality, at least on the iOs version, is quite clunky compared to MyRadar. It doesn’t look like an “Elite” version is available on iOs so that may be part of it.


    • I’ll have to take a look at that GPS Kit! I am very familiar with Theodolite and it is first up in my next batch of favorite apps! I love it when looking at avalanche terrain. The way it gives you so much slope data so quickly, and you can take a pic of what you skied for spraying later!


  2. Great topic!

    I use Google Earth for exploring cliffs, and for navigating the best roads to access the approach. For example, while in the middle of a bushwhack looking for a cliff that I have visualized previously with google earth, I can use the GPS location to see where I am (relative to 30 ft) physically and in regards to the satellite image of the cliff. Having done this with cliffs that I am familiar with, I can get a better idea of how verticle and large a cliff may appear. I will be sure to look into all the others mentioned! In particular, I like how you use quickly switch back to your topos and your satellite imaging. Range find looks great!


    • Love Google Earth. Based on your interest in getting specs like how vertical or steep something is check out Theodolite. It’ll be in my next Outdoor Gear App review scheduled for next Monday!


  3. How about a first aid app? The NOLS WMI SOAP note app is awesome to help you keep your assessment skills fresh. Using the Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan (SOAP) approach to recording information, this template-driven app helps you remember the order for an assessment and transform your scattered notes into a complete and organized patient report. You can create your SOAP notes offline and later email them.


  4. Dave: I too use MyRadar & Viewranger and find them very useful; myradar has warned me of impending thunder/ lightning & heavy rain in time to get family groups back to the car before the deluge at least twice. Excellent tool for our cliffs! Jeff


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