Eight Truly Essential Camping Apps
Trust us–these camping apps will actually enhance your time in the outdoors.
We’re huge proponents of unplugging on camping trips. It’s tough to connect to nature–and each other–with our phones in our faces, and going analog is kind of the whole point, right? But technology has made quite a few things easier, even outdoorsy things, and we’d argue that the following apps actually help us connect, whether by teaching us exactly what it is we’re looking at (hopefully not poison oak) or enhancing the magical experiences that bring us together, like ascending a peak or peeking at the stars. Happy tech, happy trails!
Find Your Site
The Dyrt is the largest source of crowdsourced campground information, from written reviews (more than any other app or website in the world!) to photos and videos, so you can find the best sites available for your specific needs. Get firsthand information on great spots for swimming with a big group, or which sites have the most flat spots or the best hammock trees. Booking is a breeze, whether you’re looking for tent and RV sites or something a little more comfy, like cabins, lodges, and glamping setups.
Of note: Users are incentivized to leave reviews with rotating gear giveaways, so the app’s info is always fresh, and you can get in on the action anytime.
If you can’t snag an in-demand public campsite, Hipcamp offers private camping options in some pretty rad places, like ranches, farms, vineyards, and land preserves. There are over 300,000 options on offer (including public parks), with the goal of unlocking access to hidden and unexpected destinations, experiences, and communities. Filter for uber-specific needs (pet-friendly glamping near Yosemite over Thanksgiving weekend) and book directly from your phone.
Of note: Jay Z and Will Smith are investors, which means a) Hipcamp is driving culture to support more accessibility and inclusivity in the outdoors and b) we can expect big things in the years to come.
Grab Your Gear
This premium outdoor gear rental app, 2019’s Outdoor Retailer of the Year, has grown exponentially in the past year. Arrive‘s robust offerings include everything you might need for a weekend of car camping to an 8-day trek in the wilderness; just book seven days in advance, get your gear the night before your rental period starts, and ship it off with a free return label when your rental is up. It’s great for traveling, cajoling friends to join adventures, trying out new gear (or new sports–crash pad, anyone?), or saving money on items outside your permanent budget.
Of note: Not only is gear rental an easy alternative to buying, maintaining, and storing gear, it’s also more sustainable. Good for the planet and your wallet!
PackPoint is a super simple checklist app; enter your destination, length of stay, and what you’ll be doing, and it’ll spit out a weather report and customized packing list. You can delete and add items easily, and then save each list once it’s perfected. No more digging around in your Notes app or scribbling last-minute lists as you pack.
Of note: PackPoint also allows you to send packing lists to your adventure buddies (and is great for city and business trips, too).
Choose Your Adventure
Hot Springs of the USA
Wonder if you’re camped near a soaking spot? Hot Springs of the USA lists more than 1,660 hot springs, along with their temperature and elevation, the local weather and nearest city, and often, photos. Because there’s no greater camping regret than finding out after the fact that you were just a short hike from a steamy spring.
Of note: You can easily submit a new location in the app if you stumble upon a spring that isn’t listed (if you’re willing to share your discovery, that is).
Not only will PlantSnap satisfy your curiosity, it can also keep you safe. Identify everything from beautiful flowers to rash-inducing vines and edible plants simply by taking a picture and letting the app’s algorithm search for the best match. You can also test your (supposed) knowledge; if you think you know what you’re looking at, find it in the “explore” section, which has specific details on each species, and see if you’re right. If you need to double check, just snap that pic.
Of note: We also really love the aesthetic and accessibility of Leafsnap. Though it’s currently only available in the Northeast, it should be rolling out nationwide soon, so keep it in mind for that trip you’re scouting permits for way in advance.
Is it camping if you don’t hike? AllTrails makes finding a fun route simple with a catalog of more than 75,000 trails to choose from, plus descriptions, map previews, and GPS progress tracking (you can also download maps for offline use if you’ll be out of service range). You can filter your search by length, rating, and difficulty level, and easily find hikes suitable for dogs, kids, novices, and trail junkies alike.
Of note: AllTrails comes with all sorts of added features, like driving directions to specific trailheads and the ability to save a list of trails you want to explore later (or favorites you’d like to go back to).
The gorgeous Night Sky app uses augmented reality to show countless stars, constellations, planets, and satellites in the sky above you. Just point your phone at the sky and you’ll be rewarded with endless information both ancient and scientific about just what’s out there (whether it’s visible or not).
Of note: Have an Apple Watch? It’s app compatible, which means you’ll have the heavens right at your wrist (and don’t need to lug your phone around just to find Cassiopeia).
Read the 2021 Gardening Issue
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