Hiking, camping and enjoying the outdoors doesn’t require any gadgets, but there are some great resources online to help make your experience easier and more enjoyable. Before you set out on your next excursion, stock up on new gear, or map out that next hike, check out these sites, apps, tips to make your next backcountry trip the best of the year.
Read Online Reviews
Quality outdoor gear can last a lifetime if you’re willing to do the research and not skimp on price. This is why you never want to buy something online without trying it on in person. But online retailers are a good source for in-depth reviews from hikers and campers who put their gear through the ringer. For example, look up reviews to see what people are saying about a pair of winter boots for your kids, then head over to Cabela’s to actually try them on and buy them.
HipCamp. Public lands — ranging from state parks to national forests — will always be the best place to escape civilization and lose yourself in nature. The only problem is that systems to reserve campgrounds are so segmented, it’s impossible to know what to do visiting a new park. HipCamp has solved the reservation system with an all-in-one tool to book both public and private campgrounds across the country. The site is still less than a year old, and new and remote locations are being added to the site each day.
MotionX GPS & AllTrails. Google Maps is great for navigating around town, but its use stops where your cell service and the paved roads end. MotionX (for iOS) and AllTrails (for Android) combine detailed, offline maps of backcountry trails across the nation and use your smartphone’s GPS signal (no cell service required), so you are never lost when it matters most. The apps are also great for tracking hiking data so you can prepare for the next journey on a return trip.
Star Walk 2. One of the very best treats of nature and camping is getting away from all the light pollution of a city and seeing the stars like you only can in the middle of the forest. Of course, if you’re not very experienced with star gazing, it can be confusing to know exactly what you’re looking at. Star Walk 2 uses your phone’s compass and accelerometer to locate stars in the sky and give you detailed information about hundreds of constellations. Simply point your smartphone at the sky, and the screen will tell you everything you need to know.
MapMyHike. If you’ve ever used the popular app Strava to track your bike rides, you know what it’s like to get detailed information about every mile on your bike. Whether you use it to make you a better rider or just like sharing it with friends, that’s up to you. But MapMyHikeis essentially Strava for hikers. It uses your phone’s GPS to track detailed hikes along even the most remote trails and measures distance and elevation.