There was a time when you might have hit the trail lugging a GPS receiver, a camera, an MP3 player, a map or two, a guide for birds and another for wildflowers (and maybe another for mammals), a star-gazing guide, a first-aid manual and, of course, a cell phone.
Now, there's an app for that.
The iPhone, with its built-in GPS, computer, camera, phone, and iPod, can easily cut a few pounds from a hiker's backpack. Of the 100,000 "apps," as the programs, or applications, are called, some are tooled to the outdoors. Here's a rundown of some of the best. For more detailed descriptions, go to the Out There blog, outthere.freedomblogging.com.
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Accuterra $0.99 plus maps
Turn your iPhone into a GPS receiver with detailed color topographic maps. Accuterra measures distance, average speed and elevation change. It allows users to share hiking maps, photos and elevation profiles instantly by e-mail or Facebook. The iPhone's GPS is not as good as most trail-specific programs, so it is possible to lose your signal in the mountains, but unlike many navigation programs, Accuterra downloads all maps before you hit the trail, so even if you lose your cell signal, you probably won't lose your way. Maps sold separately.
Camera Genius $0.99
The iPhone's camera is pretty good compared to most phone cameras, but pretty bad compared to most point-and-shoots. It adds features you wish the iPhone was shipped with: zoom, a timer and an anti-shake feature. The audio function lets you take a self-portrait by saying "cheese." Best of all, it lets you snap a picture by touching anywhere on the screen - very handy when you have gloves on.
Auto-stitch allows the iPhone camera, which lacks a wide lens and megapixels, to snap a sweeping mountain panorama. The app can stitch together files to create one seamless picture.
iTrailMap 3D $4.99
Upload three dimensional ski resort trail maps to your iPhone, then use the built-in GPS to track where you are and where you've been. You can even use it to measure your vertical distance and mileage skied.
Never fumble with your volume controls while skiing, biking or jogging. Adaptunes uses the iPhone's GPS and motion sensors to tell the phone's built-in iPod when you are on the move, and when you've stopped. It automatically turns down the music when you slow down or stop. Now you can chat with friends in the lift line without yelling.
Knot Guide $2.99
Full-color, step-by-step guides make it easy to tie 66 knots for everything from rigging a tarp to tying a kayak to a roof.
WildObs Observer FREE
This illustrated wildlife observation guide helps you identify hundreds of wild animals, then see when and where species have been observed in your area. Using the program, you can record the date and location of your sightings and share them with others in a global database.
This guide has all the info of a bulky book, plus color photos, range maps, drawings, and a search mode that helps you narrow down what bird you have spotted. Best of all, each entry includes recorded songs you can play to ID species, or to lure them closer.
Audubon Wildflowers $9.99
This guide to more than 1,800 wildflowers is arranged like Audubon's classic paper guides. Narrow your search by shape and color, or browse by name or family. The guide also allows you to snap your own pictures.
Tree ID $3.99
Pick out spruces from firs and ponderosas from pinons with a guide to the trees of North America. Search by leaf type, bark or region. Hundreds of photos including season-specific updates for fall colors. The search function takes a bit of practice, but is handy to have on the trial.
Turn the iPhone into a bike computer that tracks distance, speed, altitude and calories burned. This app also displays a map and will record and e-mail your route to your computer. This is a nifty app, but does not work as well as even the most basic bike computers.
Pocket First Aid & CPR Guide $3.99
This reference put out by the American Heart Association offers easy-to-follow guides, photos and videos of basic, life-saving first aid. Since all the info is loaded on your iPhone, it is accessible even if there is no cell signal