Not even a year ago, there were those who questioned the hoopla over the iPhone. And here we are now, secure in the knowledge that Apple’s micro-Mac isn’t just a radical new phone, it’s a revolution in computing, communication, entertainment, and connectivity. If you disagree, well, you probably don’t own one. And that’s not meant to be snotty–I’ve arrived at this conclusion after testing nearly every smartphone available and then stepping up with my own precious cash for the iPhone and monthly unlimited calls and data. It’s a spendy conclusion, but oh-so-worth it.
So, with more than 15,000 programs in the iTunes Store, what of those for use in the outdoors? Do the iPhone and Mother Nature play well? The short is answer is “yes”. The iPhone excels at delivering information. Programs that channel local knowledge–surf reports, snow reports, water flows–are perfect applications of the phone’s strengths. Those that replicate already-dialed electronics, like GPS, bike computers, and training devices, maybe not so much. (And of course you have to consider whether you really want that $300 chunk of sweet electronic envy exposed to the elements.) But still, the iPhone itself is already on its way to becoming indispensable and will become even more so–these 25 outdoor apps are part of the reason why.
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- Nat Geo Expeditions
Gorgeous atlas of the moon, richly detailed, high resolution, and search by name, too.
A great first moon map, but “lite” is the operative term: The NASA photos of La Luna are useful for basic ID of seas, canals, and more, but you might crave higher resolution.
If your werewolf intuition isn’t quite strong enough, get this simple lunar phase almanac. Finally learn what “gibbous” means and be able to answer, “Is the moon full tonight or tomorrow night?”
The prettiest and most enjoyable way to scan the night sky short of walking outside and looking up.
Simpler and not as pretty as Star Walk, Starmap actually has more controls, faster searches, and more stellar info.
Despite a clunky design, this is a killer app: Everything a snow geek needs to know about ski and board conditions worldwide.
Displays a three-dimensional view of the resort, so you can grasp the topography you’re riding faster than with any trail map.
This freebie is the best software for viewing trail maps.
The North Face Snow Report
This is the best designed, most modern-looking of all the snow reports, but not always easy to navigate.
REI Snow Report
It’s free, but be forewarned: This snow reporting app is poorly organized, slow, and very commercial.
Ski Jump Lite
Almost as addictive as ski jumping itself. Download NOW.
Utah Snow Report
Nicely built, useful, and clever—this Beehive State snow report also includes direct links to call the resort
Free, fun, and there’s nothing like it for seeing the blue marble at a glance.
Record, upload and share training runs, rides, hikes, etc. This iPhone app works seamlessly.
Motion-X GPS Lite
There are dozens of apps that use the iPhone’s GPS to record speed, distance, routes, waypoints, but this comes closest to “real” GPS. No maps, though.
Its emphasis is on tracking routes and waypoints and the maps are excellent.
Uses Google Maps to track your route, but you can’t add waypoints.
Oakley Surf Report
Could be the best outdoor app yet: This surf report does everything well, including giving tide info, forecasts, and inside info on wave dynamics.
RiverGuide tells you current conditions on just about every creek, river, or waterway you can put in. Must-have for paddlers.
Bicycle Gear Guide
Calculate gear ratios—if you’re a wrench, single speeder, or fixie fanatic, you’ll find it irreplaceable. If not, not.
Map My Fitness is a big social networking site that allows you to upload and share training rides—this is the bike version.
Out of dozens, perhaps scores or even hundreds of fitness trackers, this is the best.
AccuWeather, Weather Bug, and the Weather Channel offer solid free weather apps, but AccuWeather has the most features, the most video reports, and the best interface. WeatherBug beats it on multi-location reporting.
Turns your screen white. Helpful when trying to find, well, anything.
Knots, Splices, & Ropework
Learn the ropes from this classic 1917 book.