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13 Useful Apps for Off the Grid Adventures

These wifi-free apps were designed with remote areas in mind.

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Having the right technology in the wild can prove just as useful as having the right gear.


Though purists may say nothing can replace a printed topographic map, the world’s leading smartphone apps are getting close. Technology is making it easier than ever to get lost in an adventure without getting lost in the wilderness, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy these benefits even when you’ve ventured to signal-free zones. Try one of these useful off-line apps on your next remote mountain trek, camping trip, or deep-sea dive to stay connected and informed without an internet connection.

Cairn

Free, iOS

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If you prefer traveling solo in the wilderness, download the Cairn app for an extra layer of safety. Before you enter the backcountry, download maps for off-line use and pinpoint your location to access available cellular data points in your area. By clicking on the blue icons, you can discover which service provider works where. Set a designated check-in reminder with the app’s safety notification feature. If this goes unanswered, Cairn will alert your emergency contact with recommendations on how to contact search and rescue.

Gaia GPS

$9.99 - $29.99, iOS + Android

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Plot your trail and gain access to topographic maps with Gaia GPS, a membership-based app that showcases the newest trails and backcountry routes. Select from a scale of memberships beginning at $9.99, which grants you unlimited download access to save your route map for off-line use. Track your distance, speed, and pace while out of cellular range, and drop markers to ensure you’re always going in the right direction. After your trip is complete, you can share your route and trail notes with friends.

PeakFinder Earth

$4.99, iOS + Android

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If you’ve ever been hiking and wondered which peaks you’re passing, download PeakFinder Earth for your next trip into the mountains. The app functions completely off-line, accessing your location to reveal names and black-and-white renderings of surrounding peaks. Tap the peak’s name to discover elevation levels, and use the flyover feature to glide over ranges and discover peaks in the distance. The app also includes a digital telescope to view less-prominent ranges in your area.

DiveMate

Free, iOS + Android

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If you’re an avid scuba diver, you know the importance of keeping a logbook to track measures like dive duration, current conditions, and tank size and pressure. Take this concept to the digital age with DiveMate, an app that allows you to quickly and easily log each dive, as well as save online maps for off-line use while traveling by boat or going off the grid. Once you’re back on dry land, upload pictures, videos, and notes to share with friends. To transfer dive data, connect your dive computer to your PC or purchase the DiveMate Fusion USB to gain instant access to dive data on your smartphone.

National Parks by Chimani

Free, iOS + Android

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If you’re an avid explorer of U.S. national parks, the Chimani suite of apps are your perfect companions. Download the main national park app or select a park-specific app before your visit. Use the available national park maps and detailed guides to digitally explore trails, historic and natural points of interest, and useful amenities like bathrooms and rest stops. There’s no need for a data signal, as the interactive maps work off-line, and you can even navigate your path while on the trail.

ROAM by onXmaps

$9.99, iOS + Android

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To unlock almost everything that’s been mapped in the last one hundred years, download ROAM by onXmaps and purchase the $9.99 one-year membership, so you can build the map you want by selecting the region and features. Whether you plan to venture through unchartered wilderness areas, national forests, or trails and streams, the app connects with your smartphone’s built-in GPS to track you when you’re off-line, making it perfect for backpacking, day hikes, or trail running.

Hiking Project

Free, iOS + Android

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Developed by outdoor mavens at REI, Hiking Project gives you access to more than 106,000 miles of trail and the best backcountry hikes near you. Download GPS route information and coordinates, and use interactive features like elevation profiles and trail photos to properly track your hike while out of cell range. Functioning like a guidebook, the app provides expert commentary on trail highlights, challenging features on the route, and planning recommendations.

Moonlight

Free, iOS

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Free yourself of the logistical nightmare of group texts by downloading Moonlight, an app created to make preparing for a camping trip a breeze with trip-planning checklists you can share among friends. Download the free version or pay for the premium form to load your dates and the campsite you plan to visit. The premium app will give you a suggested list of recipes to cook by the campfire, as well as helpful information from previous campers at the site. Available for off-line use, the sharable checklist makes it easy to delineate responsibilities between each attendee.

SNOCRU

Free, iOS + Android

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Perfect for snow sports, SNOCRU encourages social sharing by connecting skiers and snowboarders with athletes nearby. Download the app to track your route and compete with other skiers and snowboarders in your area, accessing tracking technology with or without an internet connection. Measure important stats like speed, altitude, and vertical drop during your day on the slopes, and check resort snow conditions and ski reports from around the world.

MTB Project

Free, iOS + Android

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MTB Project, which was also developed by REI, is an app designed specifically for mountain bikers. Populating bike trails near your location, MTB Project works off-line and features over 101,000 miles of trail. If you plan to venture off the grid, download your full GPS route ahead of time to track your progress on the go and get off-line information like elevation profiles and nearby points of interest.

Flyover Country

Free, iOS + Android

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Bring a sense of adventure to flying and download Flyover Country, an app designed to pinpoint specific points of geographical, geological, and historical significance on land. Available off-line as you cruise above the sky, the app lets users browse their path to learn more about the area below. Although developed specifically for flying, it can also be used for long hikes, road trips, and other adventures.

Sky Guide

$2.99, iOS

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For hikers, campers, and outdoor enthusiasts looking to navigate the night sky, Sky Guide allows you to find constellations, planets, and satellites with or without wi-fi, cellular service, or GPS signal. Simply place your phone overhead and point it into the sky; the app automatically adjusts your viewing direction, reveling the secret to the stars, planets, and constellations you see. Night vision and invisible wavelength technology allows you to see what the naked eye can’t, like supernova remnants and black holes.

Offline Survival Manual

Free, Android

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In the event of an emergency or to prepare for routine camping trips in the outdoors, the Offline Survival Manual can prove beneficial in a pinch. Download the app to gather information on how to make a fire, build a shelter, find food, and avoid medical emergencies that can arise in the wild. Search through resources on poisonous or life-saving plants and learn what to do if a snake bites you, which is all available to surf off-line.


Michaela Trimble is a freelance travel writer and photographer who splits time between South Florida and Buenos Aires. Follow her adventurous pursuits @MichaelaTrimble or on Facebook and Twitter.


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