So you've just bought a new iPhone or iPad - what's out there for outdoors folk getting out there?
This week's Monday Tip is aimed at anyone with a brand new iPhone or iPad who's helplessly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of apps out there - and yes, there are loads of them, but to get you started, here are some of our top picks for apple's portable devices.
Full On Mapping GPS...
On the navigation front, particularly if you want Ordnance Survey mapping on your phone, we find it hard to see past the excellent ViewRanger app. Essentially it converts your phone or iPad if it's a model with a built-in GPS chip, into a fully-loaded GPS unit. You can buy and download OS mapping on the fly, it lives on the device so you don't need a data connection in use, track, follow routes and much more besides. It's simply outstanding. If you don't want to buy mapping, you can also cache and use free open source mapping, though it's of limited use in many areas.
New to us, but ideal for tick list types is Hill Lists - it's a £1.49 app that focuses on lists of UK mountains - think Munros, Wwelsh 3000s, Wainwrights and the Irish 900s. It's not super sophisticated, but it mostly does what it says on the iCan giving you bare bones info like height and grid reference, plus the facility to 'tick' your own ascent and add notes. There are also links to Walk Highlands web site. A tad expensive, but will appeal to some peak-bagging fans.
For climbing tick list fanatics, Crags Climbing Log Book is a free iPhone app that gives you a framework to log your ascents once you've set up your own crag-list. You can also access shared routes and crags on line. Sure, it would be better if you got a database of crags and routes to start with, but that would be a colossal undertaking and expensive... no more free app.
Mountain Weather To Go?
We're not aware of any mountain weather apps, though the bloated Mountain Info app includes the Met Office Mountain forecasts - shame they don't just shelve the rest of the app, particularly the Sian Lloyd videos. The best general weather app we've found is the excellent Weather Pro for both iPhone and iPad. It's a paid-for app (£2.49 and £2.99 respectively) but utterly worth it with excellent animated satellite and radar maps to help you work out where the nasties are coming from and if that rain is a passing shower or the start of something grim...
Where Am I?
Rather complicated than all this stuff is Gridpoint GB a great little free app that simply tells you your current OS grid reference. Genius stuff for checking on your dodgy nav in conjunction with a paper map. If you want similar, but more sophisticated for professional use, check out the paid-for OS Grid Ref Worker which does all that with bells on.
Tracking? There are loads of apps out there which will happily track your progress across the hills, Viewranger above will, though so far the latest Anquet app won't, which threw us a bit, but we do like MapMyHike which not only does that but will also allow you to share on social media if that's your thing, plus synchs with your free account at the MapMyHike web site. See also Endomondo and dozens of others.
What's That Over There?
Wondering what that mountain over there is? Peaks can tell you, well, sometimes. You need a data connection, so it's not always useable, but when it is, it works pretty well and you can even take a snap with the phone camera superimposing the mountain's name across the image. Neat.
When it comes to destination apps, the UK lags well behind Switzerland which has its own freebie peak identification app and a GPS-enabled topo trail one, but there are a couple of freebie outdoor ones around. Visit Cairngorms has handy info on the 'gorms area along with links, while the Yorkshire Dales National Park app does the same for the Dales. Finally check out Tracks Cumbria, a fully-fledged magazine-style adventure-sport freebie guide to the Lakes, a bit 'promo' as you'd expect, but slick and with some ineresting content.
Talking of brilliant content, don't whatever you do, miss out on the outstanding Flipboard app, particularly for iPad. It pulls in content from web feeds and lets you select modules of your choice, one of which, handily enough, is 'Outdoors' and includes lots of content from the excellent Outside web site and more. It's also comprehensively brilliant for just about any sort of news, image or video feed. Genius!
Books And Magazines
More content? You'll find a whole load of outdoors books in the book section of the iTunes store. Stuff from the likes of Cicerone, which also has its own app to simplify the buying process, and Vertebrate, which has the likes of Echoes and Cold Wars available to buy. There's also a Kindle iPad app which allows you to buy and read Kindle format content on the iPad or iPhone and broadens your choice further.
The future, surely, involves an integrated guidebook with GPS topo mapping and an outdoors-friendly tablet, an iPad Mini in a Lifeproof-type case would tick our boxes...
Finally, various outdoor magazines are out there on the newstand, mostly they're paid for, but if you want something that gives you a free idea of how it all works, adidas outdoor magazine is a free to download newstand mag that's actually not bad.
There's lots more out there, dozens of GPS and tracking apps to go at - if it's free, try it and if you don't like it, just delete the thing. And yes, we know we haven't included Android stuff, that's because right now we don't have access to an Android smartphone, but if you'd like to tell us what works for you, please do.