The use of smartphones as navigation tools (alongside a map and compass, of course!) has become increasingly widespread as the technology has become more reliable and sophisticated. There can be no doubt that a phone is regarded as a key piece of navigational equipment by many, if not all, modern walkers. And with so many other apps available for smartphones, it's hardly surprising to learn that many of these are also hugely valuable to the hillwalker.
Here we take a look at five of our favourite apps and what they have to offer the mountain mobile user.
What to consider in hillwalking apps
System compatibility: While most of the best apps are available for both Apple and Android phones, there are still some that are only available on one or the other – something to be aware of particularly if changing phones and switching operating systems.
Battery usage: The most critical thing a phone has to do is call for help in the event of an emergency, something it can’t do with a flat battery. Apps that require the screen to be kept on for extended periods or that require ongoing GPS tracking will put extra drain on your phone’s power.
Offline functionality: The hills aren’t always awash with phone signal, so apps that require a link to the web via a cell network in order to work may be of limited use in some more remote areas.
Liners: Liner socks are worn under your main walking socks. They tend to be thin, highly wicking, and as seam-free as possible. This 2-layer system reduces friction between the foot and the boot to prevent blisters. Some socks have an integral liner built in, avoiding the need for a separate pair.
File size: Most apps require some info to be saved on your phone, but in some cases these file sizes can be huge – particularly if the app offers offline use.
Price: There are plenty of excellent free apps available, while others require a small payment. It’s sometimes worth paying a little extra if it improves functionality of the app. However, some digital services may require a monthly subscription, and this can become expensive – particularly if the app isn’t used regularly.
The best hillwalking apps
This app from Ordnance Survey provides simple but essential and potentially life-saving information. Using your phone’s GPS it will provide your exact location in the form of a 10-figure grid reference, allowing you to pin-point your position on a map and share your location with others.
Giving you OS mapping at your fingertips, there are various ways to use this app. Subscribe for £24 a year and get access to all Explorer and Landranger maps of Britain on your phone or PC (half price for Trail subscribers), or input a code from a newly purchased paper map to also get the digital version on your phone.
Offering a range of different subscription or one-off payment options, plus some useful free tools, Komoot is the perfect app for planning your outdoor adventures, be they hiking, cycling, or running. Loads of ready-built routes, inspiration from other users and hand-picked guides.
If you want to up your natural world knowledge but are struggling to commit the details to memory, then this is the app for you. Seek uses your phone’s camera and the power of image recognition technology to identify plants and animals. You can even earn badges by observing different wildlife.
Star Walk 2
This app makes use of your phone’s camera and GPS to identify celestial objects in the night sky above you. Whether it’s stars, planets, or entire constellations, get more information about what’s going on above your head on your next wild camp with this fascinating and simple to use app.