Hiking for Androids


Image credit: http://freewalls.org/wallpaper/android-red-rocks-backpack/

And by android, I don’t mean R2-D2, although that would be cool. I mean the phone operating system type Androids.

I am a technology consultant, and along with that, a gadget geek. I am hardly ever without my phone. Granted, I need to get a new one, that is lighter, bigger, and has more battery life than my beatdown and battered Motorola Droid 3.

The first time I could get my hands an wallet around a portable GPS years ago, I did, and I have always kept one with me. Once I had my first Android-based phone a few years back, I have never carried any stand-alone GPS unit. Here are the applications I recommend for hiking, backpacking, or even travelling to and from the trailhead.

Google Maps + Google Navigation

Best turn-by-turn road-GPS I have used to date. With the ability for layering, alternate route suggestions, and re-route speed (as well as the accuracy of the maps), nothing beats this combo. The Maps application also allows you to choose their Terrain maps. While not USGS topos, they are helpful at showing contour lines.

Backpacker GPS Trails Pro

Backpacker Magazine teamed up with Trimble to provide the best backcountry GPS navigation tool I have used to date. I have used a few other apps, but this one just works the best for me. They now have a subscription option so you can have subscriptions to offline map packs as well from Trimble. Worth testing out with their free Lite version.

Backpacking Planner Checklist

While I personally use an excel spreadsheet, and keep a copy of it on my Android device, if you’re looking for a good little app for a backpacking checklist, this one works well, and is cheap.

GPS Essentials

If you like to geek-out with your GPS, then this is the application for you. It includes a Compass, GPS dashboard, camera with HUD (like you’re in a fighter-jet! GOOOSE!), routes, maps, waypoints, satellite view, multiple datums, etc. All around great app.

GPS Status and Toolbox

Another app for GPS nerds… not a replacement for GPS Essentials listed above, but for use along with it. Great dashboard for satellite location, ability to go into the toolbar once a GPS-enabled application is running to instantly jump to the dashboard, level application and more!

Google Sky Maps

Laying on the ground staring at the stars from your campsite? You need this.

Sky Maps +

Sky Maps but with NEO object tracking for NORAD, satellite positions, the International Space Station and more! Is it a shooting star? Or the North Korean satellite crashing into the earth’s atmosphere?

Swiss Army Knife

The Swiss Army Knife of applications! Not only does it have a flashlight app (using either your screen or the camera flash – great for finding a safe place to pee at night!), it has a bubble level, magnifying glass, a compass, and a mirror (front-camera required).

ConvertPad – Unit Converter

If you need help with basic conversions like me, or, for more complex uncommon conversions, this is the application you need. If you need a conversion, this application can do it.

Daily Survival Tip

While a lot of these are common if you have, oh, common sense, or, watch a lot of Survivorman, Man vs. Wild, Man Woman Wild or Dual Survival, and actually commit some of it to memory, sometimes there is something you haven’t thought of. Requires internet connection!

First Aid – American Red Cross

First aid instruction and reference from the American Red Cross.


Augmented Reality (AR) application that displays a HUD of peaks using your Android’s camera. Requires internet connection!


Radar data from the National Weather Service (NWS) in your pocket. Requires internet connection!

U.S. Army Survival Guide

The classic US Army Survival Guide in your pocket.

United States Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Summer Survival Guide

The USMC version of the USA survival guide, but for summer, for jarheads*.

United States Marine Corps Winter Survival Guide

The Winter version of the jarhead* survival guide.


Read blogs like mine on the trail, books, and more at camp. If you read, you need this! This may eventually turn into a blog post on what books to bring on your kindle when enjoying the outdoors… [update 12/28/12 – It did! Click here for the article.]


Your personal campsite DJ. And I do not condone the beating of llamas, even though I am more of an alpaca guy….

So, that is what I have installed, and what I use… what do you think? What do you use? Anything that I should have installed that I do not? Leave a comment!

* I am using the term with respect! I play no favorites for our awesome armed forces. I just like the term 🙂


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