When you go camping, do you like to leave behind all the electronic accessories of the modern world, or do you like to make use of them to make your trip more interesting? If you are a smartphone user, there are lots of apps that really useful when spending time out in the countryside. Here’s a run down of my recommended apps for the Android range of phones. All of these apps are free (or have free versions as well as premium versions), and although I’ve tested only the Android version, many of them have iPhone equivalents so it’s worth searching the iTunes App Store.
Google Sky Map
When you leave behind the light pollution of the big city and escape to a campsite in the countryside be sure to look up into the night sky on a clear evening. Th huge number and stunning brightness of the stars always fascinates me when we’re camping. The Google Sky Map application uses your phones GPS and compass to show you on screen what you’re looking at when you point your phone at the night sky.
- Innovative use of your phone’s GPS and compass
- Puts the equivalent of expensive equipment in the palm of your hand
- Would love for it to show the position of the International Space Station
If you like to go walking or cycling when camping then this is a useful app which makes use of your phone’s GPS to record your position at regular intervals. It can then use that information to tell you how far you’ve travelled, how long you’ve taken (and how long you were stationary), your top speed, and several other data points. The information is then saved to your phone or can be uploaded to Google Maps so you can look at your track in more detail on your PC when you get home, or share your track with friends. The data can also be exported in various formats so that you can load it into other software. We often use this app to see how far we’ve trekked on our walks (and sometimes to look back at the map when we get home to see exactly where we took a wrong turn!). One thing to note though, is that you need to have the GPS enabled on your phone whenever you use this app, and that can drain your battery much more quickly than normal.
- Stats, data and graphs, what’s not to like?
- If you get lost, you can retrace your steps!
- Drains the battery quite quickly
Google maps is great, but it really only shows roads intended for cars. When you’re out camping in the middle of nowhere and going for walks in the countryside (or just want to find the most direct route to the nearest shop/pub/mechanic) then you need to know where the public rights of way go, and for that you need an OS map. Large paper maps can be difficult to manage in the wind and rain and if you’re travelling around you might need several different maps… or you could download the OS Atlas app to your phone. I find this to be not quite as quick and easy to use as Google Maps, but it does show all the public pathways and bridleways, is free (usage is limited but the daily cap is more than you’re likely to need), and unlike a paper map this app will use your GPS to always display an accurate “You are here” icon.
- OS Map data fills a gap not catered for by Google Maps
- Includes all the familiar OS map routes – public paths, bridleways etc
- Map tiles can be slow to appear
- Needs a mobile signal to be able to download maps – would be good to pre-fetch maps for an area in advance.
The quality of cameraphones is getting better all the time, and as a camper you want to travel light so one device that accomplishes multiple tasks is a a winner over several different devices taking up precious campervan space. This app will make your photos look great by applying a vintage film camera effect – and there are 5 effects to choose from. It also lets you upload directly to facebook and twitter so you can let your friends see what a great time you’re having even before you get home!
- Great looking effects
- Makes even the most plain subjects look good
- Can be slow to process the photos
- Small viewfinder makes it tricky to compose a picture
- Would be good if it also saved the original picture before applying the effect
This is a recently released app for Android and replicates much of the information on the main National Trust website, but in a way that is much more easy to use on a phone screen. The app shows all the National Trust sites on a map of your location, so it’s easy to see what’s nearby. Just tap the location that you’re interested in to be taken to a detailed information page containing a description along with a list of facilities, opening times and prices. A must for National Trust members!
- Includes all the important information from the main NT website
- Makes use of phone location to tell you nearby NT sites
- Quite a large app (6MB), but can be installed on external memory card