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Outdoor Vancouver, 10 best iPhone Android Apps for the Outdoors

10 Best iPhone and Android Apps for the Outdoors

Filed in Deals, Products and Companies by on March 16, 2014 • 1 Comment
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Sometimes the best part of getting outside is turning off your smartphone and getting away from technology. But there are definitely times where your iPhone or Android can open up new activities, or put needed information at your fingertips. Here are the 10 best smartphone apps for getting outdoors.

SIDENOTE: You do NOT want to rely on your phone’s GPS for backcountry navigation, with very few exceptions. Why not? There is a detailed list of reasons in this article.

 

10. Strava

Strava Top Ten Apps Smartphone Strava quickly became my favorite web-app for tracking all my running training. The website is very clean, provides great reports, and let’s you follow your friend’s training (and comment and leave ‘kudos’ on their workouts). Perhaps, the coolest feature of Strava is the ‘segments’.

Segments are user-created, user-edited, and designate a portion of route where users can compete for time. You can use segments to compare your own times, or to compare with other user’s times who have also completed the segment. Segments are a great way to see who is in your area, and to link to the type of routes other users are riding or running.

Best of all, after you upload your GPS file to the website, it will automatically see if you ran any segments and show you your overall standings in the leaderboard for that segment. The smartphone app for Strava let’s you record your run or cycle using your phone’s GPS and directly uploads the file to your account after the workout is complete. The app also lets you see your activity feed, your profile, and explore new segments. If you use Strava you can follow me here.

Strava App: iPhone | Android | Website Cost: Free (there is a premium upgrade to unlock extra features on the website).


9. iBird

For anyone who is a birder, and tech savy, this is a no-brainer compared to flipping though a book out of your backpack. But even if you’re not a birder, I can see where this app comes in handy. There’s been several times where I’ve been out hiking or trail running and have come across owls, which I think are amazing animals. But its frustrating if you don’t know the species. Having this app on your phone is the answer.

iBird App: iPhone | Android | Website Cost: Lite version is free, or $10 for pro on Android and $20 on iOS Also slated for release in 2014 is a Google Glass version.


8. Everytrail

Everytrail App

Everytrail is another website I use a lot. It is similar to Strava above, but geared towards hiking and walking, instead of cycling and running. The website allows you to comb through hundreds of thousands of user-generated trail guides. Each guide will allow you to view the GPS tracks on  a map, download the tracks, view the elevation profile, and most have accompanying pictures and or even video. (You can see the trip reports I have created here). A few features of the app:

  • Track your route with your phone’s GPS capability – see your route map drawn while you move
  • Listen to awesome audio guides that give you hands free info at key POIs along the way
  • Plot pictures taken with your phone’s camera on your map instantly
  • Download maps to use offline when data connection is spotty or to avoid pricey roaming charges (Pro Version only)
  • View stats while tracking (distance, speed, elevation and more)

Everytrail App: iPhone | Android | Website Cost: Free for lite version, or $4 for Pro version (needed to unlock maps for offline use, and to remove ads)



7. What Knot To Do

What Knot To Do iPhone

“What Knot to Do (in the Greater Outdoors) is your pocket guide to 70 must know knots in six categories. With this App you’ll always have just the right knot at the ready, with clear step-by-step tying instructions to meet any and every outdoor need”. There are quite a few knot apps out there but What Knot To Do rises to the top.  The knots are easy to find within their categories of bends, hitches, loops, bindings, stoppers, and specials. Each knot has some background detail about the knot, and explains when and where you’d most likely need to use it. Then there a several graphics that break out the process of how to actually tie the knot. A few features:

  • Glossary of terms with over 70 entries
  • Illustrated terminology examples
  • Introduction to knots, cordage and knot tying
  • Easy to follow step-by-step tying instructions

What Know To Do App: iPhone | Website Cost: Free Android Alternative: Knots Guide (Free)


6. Google SkyMap

With SkyMap you can point your phone into the night sky to identify stars, planets, constellations, and even meteor showers. The app uses your phones GPS and compass data to identify the stars you are looking at. Or, if you want to find a particular star or planet, you can do a search for it, and SkyMap will show you where to move your phone to locate it. Pretty cool stuff!

What Know To Do App: Android | Website Cost: Free iPhone AlternativeStar Chart


5. Learn to Camp

Learn to Camp App

Learn to Camp is an app developed by Parks Canada, and its surprisingly well done. It has four basic main areas; Camping Basics, Camping Checklist, Recipes and Cooking, and Find a Park. There is plenty of simple and basic information under the Camping Basics section. This information is not very detailed, but would be useful for newbie campers. The Camping Checklist lets you create a list of items you’ll need for your trip, which are added from pre-populated categories in the app. You can then cross them off as you’ve collected the items.

The app also shows you all the National Parks and general details about each site. This app is very handy. I wish they would team up with the Provincial Parks to add those parks into the app as well.

What Know To Do App: iPhoneAndroid | Website Cost: Free


4. The Backpacker Checklist

Backpacker Checklist App

The title of the app says it all. If you’re looking for a checklist that is more robust than the checklist built unto Learn To Camp (app #, above), then this is the one you want.

The Backpacker Checklist will help you:

  • Plan ahead for what to bring
  • Locate where to get your gear
  • Calculate how much your pack will weigh
  • Assist in eliminating stuff you don’t want/need to carry

What Know To Do App: iPhone | Website Cost: Free Android Alternative: Backpack Planner ($1)


3. GPS Essentials

Although you should not rely on your phone’s GPS (see side-note at the top of this post) for backcountry navigation, if you do want to record your tracks with your phone or otherwise use its GPS, GPS Essentials is hands-down the most feature-rich GPS app out there. The above video has  a nice review of the app. A few of the features:

  • Navigate, manage waypoints, tracks, routes, build your own dashboard from 45 widgets.
  • Shows navigation values such as: Accuracy, Altitude, Speed, Battery, Bearing, Climb, Course, Date, Declination, Distance, ETA, Latitude, Longitude, Max Speed, Min Speed, Actual Speed, True Speed, Sunrise, Sunset, Moonset, Moonrise, Moon Phase, Target, Time, TTG, Turn.
  • Show the orientation of the earth’s magnetic field, shows an arbitrary tracking angle and the current target. Also a marine orienteering compass.
  • Record tracks and view them on map. Export KML files and import into Google Maps, Google Earth and others.
  • Manage routes and view them on map. Import KML files from Google Maps, Google Earth and others. Create turn-by-turn instructions between waypoints.

GPS Essentials App: Android | Website Cost: Free iPhone Alternative: MotionX-GPS ($2.99)


2. My Nature Animal Tracks

It can be exciting when you discover animal tracks out in the woods. But if you haven’t studied tracks before, you’re left to guessing what tracks you are looking at. (This happened to me last year when I saw some cougar tracks in the snow).

The My Nature Animal Tracks let’s you easily identify the tracks you’ve found.  ”Search by track size and shape in seven different illustrated categories to identify over 46 animals across North America. View actual tracks in the wild, reference illustrated gait patterns, range maps, digital images of animals and listen to each animals vocalazation”.

My Nature Animal Tracks App: iPhone | Android | Website Cost: $5 Android, $7 iPhone


1. Geocaching

Geocaching is a really fun activity I’ve posted about before. The concept is very simple. You load the GPS coordinates for a ‘cache’ onto your handheld GPS or smartphone, use the provided hints, and go and try and find the cache, usually hidden in the woods or on a trail. There are different types of geocaches ranging in difficulty, but its the perfect way to have some leisurely fun in the outdoors, especially with kids.

Geocaching.com is the de-facto place to post and find new geocaches, and the smartphone app allows you to find nearby caches using your phone’s GPS. You can view hints, record your activity history, and more.

Geocaching App: iPhone | Android | Website Cost: $9.99 Android Alternative (Free): C:Geo

http://www.outdoorvancouver.ca/best-iphone-android-apps-outdoors/#comment-23504

Feline or Canine? How to Identify their Tracks

Canine and Feline tracks are probably the most confusing tracks you’ll find yet with just a little knowledge you can be an expert at identifying each.  Carefully studying the image below you should be able to pick out a few of the different features each animal track displays.

tracks canine feline

Looking at the feline track above you should notice the following;

  • There are no claws showing. Cats tracks seldom show claws since their claws are felineretractable. This is true for all cats including Mtn. Lions, Bobcat, Lynx and domestic cats
  • The heel pad of felines will show three lobes on the back edge and usually two lobes on the front edge. If you look closely it resembles an “M”.
  • The overall shape of the track is appears round or as wide as it is long.

 

Looking at the canine track you should notice;

  • Four distinct claw marks at the end of each toe.canine
  • The front of the heel pad has only one single lobe and the back edge of the heel pad has only two lobes.
  • The overall appearance of the track is rectangular.

 

 

If there are claw marks present then it’s a safe bet it’s a canine. However, there is one exception to that rule, Gray Fox. Gray Fox have semi- retractable claws so you’ll want to also check the number of lobes on the heel pad to be sure. The majority of the time though their claw marks will be present in their track.  The following measurements might help if you want to distinguish what species of canine or feline your trying to identify.

Felines

  • Domestic Cat –  1 to 1 1/2 inches long or wide
  • Bobcat –  2 inches long or wide
  • Lynx – 3 1/2 to 4 inches long or wide
  • Mtn. Lion – 3 to 4 1/2 inches long or wide

Canines

  • Gray Fox –  1 1/2 inches wide by 2 inches long
  • Red Fox –  1 3/4 inches wide by 2 1/4 inches long
  • Gray Wolf – 3 3/4 inches wide by up to 5 inches long
  • Coyote –  2 inches wide by 2 1/2 inches long
  • Domestic Dog –  Variable size from a small lap dog, 1 inch long to a full size St. Bernard that could measure up to 5 inches long.

In most parts of North America canine tracks will surely be the majority of tracks you’ll find. However, knowing the difference between feline and canine tracks and what to look for, you may just be in for a treat and discover Bobcat or if you’re really lucky a nice set of Mtn. Lion tracks.  Good luck and Happy Tracking!!

 

What’s More Exciting than a Moose Track?

I guess the answer to that question really depends on where you live.  If your out West I’m sure a Grizzly track would undoubtedly take your breath away.  I know that from first hand experience and I can certainly say there isn’t a track I have found that really makes you pay more attention to your surroundings like a Grizzly track does.  But where I live there isn’t anything more exciting than discovering a Moose track .   

There was a time when you would have been hard pressed to come across a Moose track in the Adirondacks but over the past decade they seem to be reestablishing themselves with a resident population. I went on 4 hikes last year within the blue line, as far as 50 miles from home to the north of me and 5 miles to the west.

On three out of those 4 hikes I found Moose Tracks, statistically that’s a HUGE percentage.  It wasn’t like I was going out of my way either looking for Moose tracks or scat, they just happened to be wherever I was going.   There is no way being in the East you can confuse a Moose track with any other animal. Measuring 5 to 6 inches in length not even the largest Whitetail Deer could come close to leaving a track that large.  If your getting into Elk country their tracks average out at 4 to 4 3/4 inches long so there’s still a fair difference in size to be able to tell the two animals apart especially if your finding tracks in the 6 inch range.

One of the best tips  for tracking is to always carry a tape measure. What I use and by far the most convenient in my opinion is a cloth or vinyl seamstress tape.  If you roll it up they take virtually no space in your pack or camera bag. I usually cut mine down at the 12 inch mark there’s no need for you to be lugging along a full 60 inch tape with you. You can just as easily step the tape off at one foot increments to measure strides. I’d be a poor salesman if I didn’t mention that the MyNature Animal Track app has a built in tape measure for just such an occasion.

Getting back to our Moose, you have a much better chance at locating a track if there is some type of water near by, a stream, creek, beaver pond, lake or river.  In the picture to the left you can actually see the difference in the size of a Moose track and a Whitetail Deer. The Whitetail tracks are heading across the image and the Moose tracks are coming out from the water.

Now that the Moose is back to stay in the Adirondacks you’ll inevitably come across a pile of scat at some point in time. Again the sheer size of Moose scat is enough to give away the animals identity. Moose scat has the same familiar shape as other deer scat.  Moose scat measures 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch in diameter and from 1 to 1- 1/2 inches long, more than twice the size of the more commonly found deer scat. Moose tracks and scat are an incredible find in the wilderness and one of the more exciting ones at that. If your lucky enough to come across either you may just get a glimpse of their owner, keep a sharp eye out and your camera at the ready.  Happy Tracking !!

What’s A Good Track App?

As the app market expands more and more Animal Track apps are coming out. The real question is are they any good and what should they contain for content that is useful. If you were to purchase one, what would you expect to get in return for your hard earned dollar. Lets start with the number of mammals to feature. The average person roaming the woods today is more interested in larger mammals, after all those are the tracks that are most noticeable when your hiking. A rough calculation of the larger mammals of North America bigger than a Weasel would be around 45 to 50 different species and family members.  These would be the most common animals to be seen or leave sign for which anyone would be interested in identifying.  Your outdoors for a reason, your either hiking, camping, hunting or fishing, heck you may even be on a golf coarse.  The point is when you finally find a track you are curious about identifying do you want to identify it and get on with your activity or do you want to spend extra time on your smart phone wading through numerous animals that the average person will rarely find a track of.  It’s sad that everyone is on the go and it’s a hurry up let’s get where were going society but that’s the reality of it and that’s one thing a track app should do, quickly identify what you found.  Apps loaded with Polar Bears are nice but how many of you will be looking for Muskox tracks in the arctic region? Would you really take the time to differentiate between a Meadow Mouse and a Deer Mouse or would you just be content to know it’s a mouse track.  An app that contains around 50 to 60 animals for all of North America is more than sufficient.

A good app should have a search feature broken into categories and then search again by track size leaving you with 2 or 3 results to further pick from rather than 7 or more.   The main thing especially for kids is for the app to hold your attention long enough to identify an animal. If there is to much time involved in searching then it becomes a job and we want this to be quick, fun and educational after all were outdoors for a reason and it’s not to spend additional time on our phone.

The bulk of any track app should also contain digital images of tracks and the animal itself and lets not forget sound files of the vocalization of each animal.  All these features should be self contained in the app, relying on a wireless connection to access these features leaves the app useless when the majority of outdoor adventures take place where there is a lack of wireless service. If you are thinking of getting a Animal Track app then make sure that it does not rely on cell service to use.  If it doesn’t have built in digital images of what a track looks like in the wild then what good is it?

Once your app ID’s an animal it should give you some basic information on habitat and life cycle, two paragraphs maximum. Remember were outdoors having fun, you can save all the heavy reading on the animal for later when your home if you want to learn more.

Throw in a ruler feature and you have a pretty concise app, one that is accurate, searches quickly and has the right amount of content all contained in one nice neat self stored package. Keep all these in mind when you decide to take the plunge into an Animal Track app and you’ll have a more rewarding and I hope educational experience on your next outing.

So all that said what’s new from us here at MyNature. Well, we have been working on an update for the past three months to our own track app. Once the new version is released (which will still be a while) we’ll have a searchable database for the addition of scat to the app. We’ll also have additional digital images of tracks, animal gaits and sign left by each animal. We redesigned the journal page to make it more functional and are also adding some social networking features for Twitter and Facebook.  There will also be the addition of the all to popular life list to keep track of your discoveries.  Were also going to have a web based site to post your identifications to as well as  images.  With your participation we should have a very complete database to refer to for animal sign, scat and tracks of North America. Some of the new features will need a wireless service to utilize but the app and all images will still be self contained as they are now.   Don’t worry you’ll hear when the update is done we won’t forget to tell you!!

Happy Tracking!

Spring Tracks

   The last of the winter snows have disappeared and along with them went the perfect canvas for animal tracks. As I bummed as I am to lose the good tracking snow I’m very happy Spring has arrived. Along with Spring comes  mud season which not as plentiful as snow still has the ability to capture a perfect crisp outline of the animal that passed through it. I recently scouted a farm field not far from here. The great thing about the agricultural fields south of here is that they consist primarily of clay and the next best thing to Spring mud is Spring clay. I’ll probably return there tomorrow if I get a chance and do a little plaster casting of some of the tracks if the rain holds off. The best way to approach finding tracks in farm fields is to just walk the edge, there really is no need to venture any further than 10 feet from the sides of the field to find tracks. In fact most animals will be doing the same thing, just cruising the edges. Any animal that ventures out of the bordering brush will definitely leave evidence of it’s passing as long as the clay or dirt is wet. Take for instance the Weasel Tracks I found, weighing in at just under a pound this one left a very distinct track.  

    Weasels have a heel pad that is easy to recognize once you know what your looking for.  The size of the track and placement of the feet also give it away.

Farm fields really offer one of the best places to find and identify tracks. Prey animals are attracted to the crops and the carnivorous animals follow the prey so there is an abundance of sign as long as you keep your eyes to the ground.

If you don’t personally know a farmer then just stop and ask for permission if you can walk the edges of their field to do some tracking, most won’t mind as long as your respectful of the property. It’s a great way to spend some time outdoors especially with the kids and what kid wouldn’t love traipsing through the mud?    Happy Tracking !!

Mink Tracks

One of the best ways to narrow down what animal tracks you found is to study the gait pattern the animal used. Animals are categorized by Family and each family has it’s own preferred method of transportation.  Animals in the Weasel family use a bounding gait. A bound is a when the animal pushes off his hind feet and does a short leap landing on his front feet with the rear tracks registering just behind the front. All four feet are in a tight group resembling  a small rectangle.  The image of the  Mink’s gait at right shows just how this looks. 

 The members of the Weasel family that most commonly utilize this type of gait pattern are the Mink, Short-tailed Weasel, Long tailed Weasel,  Least Weasel, Otter, Fisher, Pine Marten and Badger.  Once you have identified the gait pattern you can measure the individual tracks to narrow down what animal tracks you found.  Paying attention to the habitat you found the tracks in is just as important as the tracks themselves. If you observed this type of gait pattern in the middle of a coniferous forest with no water nearby this would point more toward a Marten or a Fishers track.  Close to a stream bank or body of water would tend to be an Otter or Mink. The tracks above were following a stream bank and the individual size of the tracks gave this animal away as a Mink.

Of coarse it’s not always that easy is it?  As I mentioned members of the Weasel family prefer a bounding gait and use that most times to travel but they don’t always bound.  You may find tracks that resemble the gait of the Bear family as in the Otter image below. This Otter was utilizing the pacing gait where all four feet register separately not grouped as in a bound. Rest assured he eventually broke back into his bounding pattern a short distance away.

 If you follow a set of tracks far enough you may get a chance to see the various gait patterns used by each animal. Just remember that the most predominantly used gait will point you toward which Family the animal you found belongs to.

       Happy Tracking!!

Animal Track App

Were getting ready to update the MyNature Animal Track app in the next several weeks and we would like your input on what you would like to see this app do in the future. A few of the additions we’ll be making are;

  • More gait pattern images for each animal.
  • Additional individual track images
  • Images for sign made by animals.
  • A searchable database for animal scat.
  • Digital images of scat.
  • Social Network features so you can post directly to Face Book, Twitter or Flickr.
  • A life list of animal tracks.
  • An interactive web page for posting your track or scat finds to a database.
  • A new layout to the Mynature Journal page which includes a basic information layout form for time, temperature, location and weather conditions. A feature to save your entries individually and the ability to go back and edit your entries.
  • The ability to upload your own track or scat images directly into the app.

We invite you to leave your comments or suggestions on how to improve the the app and make your outdoor experience more rewarding. What would you like to see in future upgrades? Please let us know and we will take them into consideration. Together we can make this the best app on Animal Tracks out there.         Happy tracking!!

Identifying Tracks

Many times identifying an animals track isn’t the simplest thing to do. You can buy all the books and yes even the apps on tracking and still be left wondering what track lies in front of you. It’s not always as simple as matching up a picture to the imprint left, more often than not you need to have an investigative mind. In light fluffy snow  some tracks appear distorted as the animals foot drags snow back into to the track as they move.  Some tracks may just suddenly disappear all together  and your left to figure that out where they went. Did they jump out of your line of sight, climb a tree, fly away or was the animal swept up by a hawk or owl.

In the picture (not a great one I admit) everything is there to identify the animal that visited this spot and what happened. While not the clearest of tracks the general form of it is still in tact as well as the stride and the trail width, all clues left to who it belongs to.  The fact that it suddenly dissapeared  and you found no other tracks in the area or trees close by that it could have climbed will be a huge clue.   Hopefully by now you came to the conclusion that it was some kind of bird that suddenly flew away. But what kind?  Was it a Grouse, Turkey, Crow or maybe even a Heron?

If your in the middle of the forest with no water around you can immediately discount it being a Heron. That’s going to leave you with three choices, now what?  Well, if the tracks have been walking for quite a distance that’s going to knock the possibilities of it being a Crow off the list. Crows won’t walk a long distance on the ground and if the do then they will hop, clearly the tracks above aren’t hopping. Now were left with either the choice of a Turkey or Grouse.  Now you can go back to an individual track measure the size, even if it isn’t a clear print and come to a conclusion based on the size difference between the two birds on which one it is.  The one in the picture was 4 inches long.  The only animal it could be was a Turkey since a Grouse is around 2 inches.

Tracking can be a great way to spend some time outdoors. There’s no need to have a destination to get to, no time limit, no crowded trails to follow, just you the woods and the animal your following.  Life doesn’t get much more laid back than that.        Happy Tracking!

Beavers on your iPhone!

That’s right, there are beavers on your iPhone but don’t worry they won’t be chewing through your memory. What beavers are on your iPhone are located in the MyNature Animal Track app. Next time you come across some unknown tracks near the waters edge you can use the app to measure the tracks, compare the outline, find out the gait pattern, see a beautiful image of one in the wild and learn about their habitat. Below are just a few pictures of what beaver sign you might find on your next outing.

Happy Tracking!!

Squirrel, Cottontail or Snowshoe Hare?

Even though it’s winter and animal tracks are everywhere to be found how do you know which track belongs to what animal? Squirrels and rabbits have an almost identical track pattern and to make it worse their toes usually aren’t distinguishable in the snow.  Most often you only see a group of 4 imprints that are merely oblong impressions. If you can remember a few different trail width sizes then you’ll be an expert in telling which of these three animals left the tracks you found.

Snowshoe Hares will always have the largest trail width averaging around 6 inches wide.  Once you have identified a Hares tracks you’ll never confuse them with any others. Another important thing to take notice of is where are the tracks. A Snowshoe will almost always be found in a coniferous forest.  I’ve seen them in the open of hardwoods, but there was always the cover of evergreens within site.

This set of tracks on the right are of a Cottontail Rabbit.  The trail width of a Cottontail is approximately 3 to 4 inches wide.  Their feet are much narrower than a Snowshoes but the gait pattern and track pattern are identical. Cottontail tracks will usually be found in brushy areas, the thicker the brush the better the habitat for Cottontails. They will also be found along hedgerows and agricultural fields. The length of the Cottontails hind track is approximately 3 to 3 1/2 long.

This set on the left is of a Red Squirrel. These tracks are more commonly confused with those of Cottontails. Red Squirrels as well as Gray Squirrels are more boxed shaped in the track pattern and are much smaller in length. Even though the trail width can be quite similar the rear track size will distinguish the two apart.  The rear print of a Gray Squirrel will usually be just under two inches long while a Red`Squirrels rear track will be approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches long.  Depending on how deep the snow powder is squirrel tracks can appear much larger than they actually are as more of the foot and leg tend to leave an imprint.

With that little bit of knowledge you should be able to tell these tracks apart on your next outing.  Happy Hiking!!