It’s fair to say that at Open Country, we’re not always the first to embrace new technology and often prefer a more traditional (and somewhat slower) pace of life that perhaps the digital age doesn’t provide us with. However, we’re always keen to learn and to accept when technology can often make life easier and more fun.
Whilst not all of us have a smart phone, those that do have explored apps that can lend another dimension to your time in the outdoors. Here, Lizzie brings together some of the apps that the team have used to make their experiences in the outdoors more safe, easy and fun!
**Please note, these are all the Open Country team’s personal preferences – there are loads of other similar apps out there. We’d love to know your favourite!**
Price: £2.99 a month or annual subscription of £23.99 (money off codes available)
There are loads of great apps out there to help you find your way in the countryside and it really comes down to personal preference. We’re all traditionalists here at Open Country HQ and still love pouring over an OS map ahead of one of our adventures. Therefore the OS Map app is really familiar and easy to follow. You can plot and share routes and discover popular routes others have shared in the area you want to explore. It’s not the cheapest of apps, but we think it’s worth the money for those times you don’t want to wrestle with an OS map in the rain in the middle of the North York Moors!
Viewranger (OS compatible) is another popular app to find your way in the outdoors and MapMyWalk (as well as MapMyRide and MapMyRun) are all FREE and brilliant for tracking and creating your own routes as well as discovering new ones.
Find out more: shop.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/apps/os-maps
Price: FREE/£2.99 ad free
If you’re anything like me, before heading out for a day in the hills you’ll search a number of different weather forecasts for the one you like the best! In my experience, Met Office is always the most accurate, which you’d probably expect from the UK’s national weather service. It’s free, easy to use and definitely one of the best out there (even if it does sometimes forecast rain!)
Find out more: www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/what/met-office-weather-app
Price: FREE (£24.99 for a premium account which allows you to access ALL caches)
Me and my family have been Geocaching for a number of years, turning every walk into a treasure hunt! Geocaching is a global movement with literally thousands of ‘caches’ to discover across the world. Our nearest one is literally a few hundred yards from our house.
Each hidden box (and some are very hard to find) usually has a logbook to record your visit, and often some kind of small ‘trade items’ left by previous explorers. You can log your find and share your experiences on the official Geocaching site.
Find out more: www.geocaching.com/play/mobile
The ‘Shazam’ of the natural world, ChirpOMatic helps you identify over 100 bird calls giving you the closest possible match. The app works alongside Chirp! which is great fun for birder beginners and young kids, helping you to learn and identify the calls yourself. The app also features quizzes to test your bird know-how. Kate has been honing her skills using this app – she’ll soon be fluent in bird song!
*Please note, playing birdsong recordings outside can disturb birds, so please be sensible*
Find out more: www.chirpomatic.com
When you think about apps to locate people in an emergency then it’s probably What3Words that springs to mind. It has proven to be a real lifesaver on many occasions but a number of Mountain Rescue teams prefer to recommend OS Locate. While both apps require internet connection/GPS, OS Locate gives you a grid reference as well as a compass bearing. If, for example, you’ve lost your route in thick fog and can’t see any features to take a bearing, OS Locate can help you get back on track without having to call Mountain Rescue.
Find out more: shop.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/os-locate-faq
The Woodland Trust – British Tree ID
Don’t know your hawthorns from your horse chestnuts? Can’t tell your oaks apart? Then the Woodland Trust’s app to help you identify UK trees can improve your arboreal awareness. The app provides you with lots of different features of the tree in different seasons – leaves, bark, fruit, winter buds etc. You can identity trees by feature or there is an A-Z. Once identified, the app offers facts and a history of the tree, its uses in medicine or machinery for example, and even what musical instruments it can make.
First Aid by British Red Cross
You never know when an emergency is going to strike, and this free app from the Red Cross means that you’ll always be prepared. It covers all kinds of injuries or emergencies, providing basic first aid solutions split into ‘Learn’ mode, for reading up in more detail and ‘Emergency’ mode which strips things back to the basics that you need to know. There’s also plenty of helpful diagrams and videos to help make things easier to understand. The app could never replace good, old fashioned training, but is great to have as a back up.
Find out more: www.redcross.org.uk/first-aid/first-aid-apps
Whether it’s locked gates, rampant overgrowth or missing signs, the Ramblers want to know where paths are blocked or in need of care to ensure they’re accessible to all. The app allows you to report issues ‘on the go’, reporting positive and negative features, sending photos and even share your discoveries via social media. Using GPS and your phone signal, the app can locate you on OS maps and will allow you to report what you’ve found with the press of a few buttons. This really supports the work that we do at Open Country, ensuring the outdoors is accessible to all!
Have you ever enjoyed a beautiful vista across a range of hills, but didn’t have a clue what you were looking at? With Peak Finder you just hold your camera up and you’ll find all the peak names in a 360° panoramic view, along with their elevations. Great for showing off your mountain knowledge to friends and family! You can even take a photo with each of the hills labelled. The app functions using GPS or completely offline using your camera app and knows over 800,000 peaks from K2 to Kentmere Pike!
Find out more: www.peakfinder.org/mobile
Star Walk 2
There are probably as many apps for star gazing as there are stars in the sky (ok, not QUITE that many!) but Star Walk continuously receives the best reviews in terms of ease of use and as the most visually appealing. Simply point your device at the night’s sky and Star Walk 2 will map the night sky for you, constantly adjusting to the orientation of your device. The app uses augmented reality – just tap the camera icon and Star Walk 2 will overlay its virtual view of space on top of what your camera sees. We used this app on an autumn visit to the Lakes last year and had great fun making sense of the universe above our heads!
Find out more: starwalk.space/en
The best of the rest
There are a couple of apps which are worthy of mentioning but aren’t available all year round.
In July and August Sally took part in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count using the app to take pictures to identify and record her sightings. Similarly, Friends of the Earth run their Great British Bee Count in May hoping that a bit of citizen science might help the plight of these buzzy heroes!