by Giacomo Grison
Summer is just around the corner, and if you are a fan of outdoor sports, you are probably starting to tingle with excitement at the thought of your next big adventure. As for most nature lovers, there is a good chance you may be heading into the wild to find a temporary refuge from technology’s increasing pervasiveness in our daily life.
But whether you are planning to hike into pathless woods or to abseil down into dark underground caves, technology can prove a useful companion to make the most of your experiences. Here are five apps that have what it takes to boost safety and improve your technical skills – and all but one work without an internet connection.
Based on the book by former soldier John “Lofty” Wiseman of the Special Air Service (SAS), this app teaches you everything you need to survive in the most extreme environments, from Indonesia’s tropical rainforests to the Australian outback.
Need to know how to tie a particular knot, or spot which plants are edible and which are toxic? Detailed descriptions and illustrations are just a click away, regardless of whether you have access to the internet. Compass and First Aid sections are also available, plus a Morse code signalling function when things are getting terribly off-track
If you often find yourself struggling to follow the right path in the middle of a forest, AllTrails could be a gamechanger for your future trips. This app gives you access to a huge database of trail guides, reviews and pictures, and also allows you to create your own tracks using your phone’s GPS. It’s best used for hiking and mountain biking, although it might not help in those areas off the beaten paths where few have ventured before. The app allows you to download offline maps and access them without the internet.
Experts estimate that more than 80 per cent of existing underground and underwater caves remain yet to be discovered. Caving and cave diving are the last frontiers of human exploration of our planet, and surveying newly discovered cave systems is surely one of the most challenging tasks awaiting explorers.
Developed by Italian caver Marco Corvi, the Topodroid app is designed to take data and draw sketches inside caves based on advanced calibration tools. By far the most technical of the apps listed here, it relies on the DistoX, an integrated electronic cave surveying tool. Whether you are heading to explore deep Alpine shafts in Europe or rumbling underground rivers in New Guinea, Topodroid can really help you out. Needless to say, it doesn’t need an internet connection.
Most accidents on mountainous terrain originate from bad judgments of weather conditions, but sometimes online weather portals also struggle to give precise forecasts for specific locations. This app uses your phone’s GPS to pinpoint your exact location and provide you with minute by minute forecasts.
The rain is about to pour down in 11 minutes? You’d better find shelter quickly. The big downside comes for those seeking adventure in the most remote and isolated natural environments: don’t expect the app to warn you about incoming floodings if you are exploring the depths of a cave system.
Available on iOS. Cost: £2.99
The Sky Guide app makes the experience of camping outdoors at night even more special: hold your phone up to the sky and you will automatically find constellations, planets and satellites. If you’re a photographer, this will come in handy as it can tell you the Moon’s location later in the evening, giving you time to prepare for the perfect photo. The app also works without Wi-Fi, cellular service and GPS, making it a great choice for adventures in the wilderness.