Into the Wild with 7 Essential iPhone Apps

06/04/2013 Back To Blog camp fire in front of a tent in the woods

For many of us, getting out into the wilderness means leaving behind the devices and conveniences of everyday life. If you’re seeking the solitary peace of the great outdoors, one of the first things you might think to abandon is your iPhone. Not so fast! Even miles outside of cell range, iPhones can be perfect traveling companions because they are able to hold a lot of information and can perform a variety of functions, yet are small enough to carry in your pocket. Here are a few apps that you should consider bringing with you into the wild:

What Knot to Do (in the Greater Outdoors)

rope tied in knot
Knot tying is something of a lost art these days, but in certain situations knowing the right knots and how to tie them can be of crucial importance. Why do you think there’s a knot-tying badge in Boy Scouts? Basically everything that can earn you a badge in Boy Scouts is a skill that will totally come in handy as an adult, with a few exceptions (stamp collecting, anyone?).

But back to knot tying. Though important, it’s not exactly a skill that you’re going to practice with enough regularity to retain all of its ins and outs. Complete with step-by-step instructions, illustrations of 70 “must know” knots, and a glossary of terms, this app can guide you through the perfect knot for any situation. What Knot to Do also has the handy ability to save knots on a favorites list for easy browsing, in case you don’t find yourself regularly using all 70.

Wild Plant Survival Guide

As any good forager will tell you, in wild areas there’s food everywhere if you know where to look (and what you’re looking at). Whether you’re stranded in the wilderness without a morsel left in your pack, or foraging for exotic salad ingredients in the park down the street, you’ll need to be able to correctly identify anything that you’re considering putting into your mouth.

The Wild Plant Survival Guide is fantastic because it not only helps determine whether or not the plant you’re looking at is safe to eat, but also explains a variety of other ways it could function for survival. Medicinal, practical, and nutritional uses are all examined and explained through detailed descriptions and color photographs.


milky way
Though it’s hard to realistically imagine a situation wherein this app could be considered essential, it is undeniably cool. We live on a floating speck surrounded by other floating specks. What’s happening out there? Why are we here? Something about the quiet isolation of the wilderness and a clear, dark, night sky can cause these questions to arise in anyone’s mind from time to time.

Using the iPhone’s location services, Planets brings the vastness of the sky to the palm of your hand. Through 2D and 3D displays, you’ll be able to locate and identify planets, moons, and constellations. While this app can’t explain why we’re here, it can tell you quite a bit about what’s going on up there.

Flashlight by iHandy Inc.

trail at night lit by flashlight
One of the first items on just about any outdoor adventure checklist, a flashlight is right up there with matches and a good knife. No matter where you’re heading, you’re definitely going to want to have a flashlight app. But with dozens of different flashlights available to download, however will you choose between them? Well, this one’s free and comes with a compass. Problem solved.

Bonus: besides allowing you to illuminate dark paths and find your way through the wilderness after dark, the iHandy Flashlight can liven up late night backcountry dance parties with 10 different strobe settings.

Army Survival

camp fire in front of a tent in the woods
Among the many survival guide apps out there, Army Survival is one of the most substantial and authoritative. Offering instructions for identifying plants and animals, survival medicine, shelter building, water procurement and direction finding for starters, this is the Swiss army knife of survival apps.

Developed using the U.S. Army Field Manual’s Survival section, this thorough guide features a section on the psychology of survival, a topic often overlooked in similar (but less comprehensive) apps. With instructions for persevering in just about any climate or situation, this app could literally save lives.

Backpacker GPS Trails Lite

trail and signpost
If Hansel and Gretel were around to be lead into the woods today, this app could save them a lot of trouble. Infinitely more reliable than dropping breadcrumbs, Backpacker GPS Trails Lite has the ability to track and record your every step, even in remote areas. With this app your phone becomes a GPS, guiding you though parks, wilderness, and back country trails whether or not you’re within range of a cell network.

Hikers, mountaineers, and campers will appreciate this app’s ability to mark points of interest like water sources and trail heads. On less primitive excursions the pinpointing feature could be used to keep track of where you park the car.

First Aid by the American Red Cross

First aid kit
Developed by the American Red Cross, First Aid the app is thorough, well organized, and simple to understand. Both an invaluable reference and a great teaching aid, First Aid allows users to watch videos explaining life saving techniques and test their knowledge with interactive quizzes.

First Aid has been heralded by a variety of different blogs, from parenting-themed sites to camping and sports related blogs, and it’s easy to see why. Content on First Aid is preloaded in the app, so you can access information anywhere regardless of Internet or cell connection. 9-1-1 is built into the app, allowing users to dial EMS directly at any time while the app is in use. The Red Cross is America’s most trusted name in first aid instruction, so if you’re going to pick one app on the subject this one seems like a no-brainer.

Though at first it may seem counter-intuitive to take an iPhone into the wilderness, with a few of these brilliant apps at your disposal you’ll discover a whole new set of uses for your phone outside of any cellular network. The best part, apps take up zero space in your backpack and weigh nothing. But it’s never a bad idea to pack an extra battery or two.

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