Use a Hiking App and ditch your maps

Do you prefer an unwieldy soggy map or a handy portable smartphone?

Buying an OS map for every area you hike in can prove quite expensive. And using them outdoors in the wind and rain is awkward to say the least. Then when you get home, you have to store them in your bookcase or drawers. And on your walk, what are you carrying and taking photos with? – your smartphone! And it comes with a wide choice of hiking apps that you could use, whether its Android, Apple or Windows.

But what if there is no phone signal?

In your local hills you may find spots where there is no mobile phone signal. So your hiking or walking app now doesn’t work as it can’t access the online maps to plot your position.

No problem! Download a map before you start!

Most apps include the option to download a map of the area you are walking in before you start. This means you will still have access to the map even if there is no mobile phone signal. Many apps can also link the map to GPS (which uses satellites) so you will also know exactly where you are.

And if you really love your OS map, your (recent) purchase includes the ability to download a digital version that you can use on your phone.

Choosing a hiking app

As you may have noticed, there are 10,000 apps for each and every subject under the sun, even when you restrict your choice to Google Play or Apple App Store. But the quality can be very variable, and some are just not worth having.

Before 2020, I would have recommended the very popular ViewRanger as meeting all my needs. However, the app has been bought by a new company and renamed OutdoorActive, and the functionality has changed, too. This is why I am now reviewing multiple apps.

10 hiking apps of interest

So I have read several ‘best hiking software’ reviews and from these, I identified 10 apps of particular interest –

  1. ViewRanger / OutdoorActive
  2. Komoot
  3. Strava
  4. AllTrails
  5. OS Maps
  6. Cairn
  7. Gaia GPS
  8. Map.Me
  9. Green Tracks
  10. Footpath Route Planner

Conclusion – Incomplete

You’ll have to come back, I haven’t finished testing yet! But I can tell you I’m giving the thumbs down to ViewRanger / OudoorActive.

Note to Technophobes

If you struggle with your smartphone you will not enjoy learning to make use of a hiking app. You need to ask yourself if you prefer struggling with a map and compass. Perhaps to date you have relied on someone else for navigation. The positive aspect to a hiking app is that it should be easier than using a map and compass if designed well.


Google Play

Apple App Store

Windy Weather photo by Khamkéo Vilaysing on Unsplash

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