Best Android Apps for Outdoor Activities

Summer in Oklahoma is like sending yourself to hell, then pouring a molten lava bath and sitting in it. Needless to say, I (since I’m slightly “hefty”) don’t do too many things out-of-doors that don’t involve a lake, a pool, or a waterpark. That said, during any month that is not June, July, August, and half of September, being outdoors is quite enjoyable, and given Oklahoma’s fairly flat landscape and miles of shoreline, there’s a lot to do and enjoy. Using your Android device, you can enjoy activities all-year long.

Geocaching

One of the outdoor adventures my family enjoys is Geocaching (here’s the 2 minute low-down). This “game” started as a rudimentary treasure hunting program, and has evolved into one of the largest multinational adventure games. The object is to find “treasures” planted throughout the United States, and other countries. The “caches” contain anything from a piece of paper and a pencil, to bounteous dollar-store booty. You can grab one of two really great Android apps, if you want to join the adventure. My preferred app is c:geo (free). This app taps into the geocaching.com database of geocaches, and delivers them to your smart phone. You can view a live map of caches close to you, and click to get more information.

The second app is Groundspeak, Inc.’s Geocaching app ($9.99). This is the official production app from the creative team at Groundspeak, Inc. You check out a list of features here, but unfortunately, with the paid version, you’re really not tapping into much. The only real beneficial feature of the Geocaching apps versus c:geo is the ability to send caches to your device from your web browser. For the cost, I’ll pass.

Biking, hiking, or moving

Mountain bikers or other off-road enthusiasts (I guess those of you on-road warriors can use it too) will love the My Tracks app (free), from the My Tracks team at Google. I talked a little about this app when I discussed vehicle mileage. This app follows your trail via your GPS, and displays the information on your phone, or on upload to Google Maps to share with  your friends. Of course, Google just updated Google Maps for Android and added biking navigation, but that will tell you where to go, not where you’ve been.

If you’re interested in some backcountry navigation, you’ll probably want to check out the BackCountry Navigator app ($9.99) from Crittermap Software LLC. You can download a demo, and test. There’s a plethora of resources to use like maps and markings, but of course, they’re worthless if you can’t charge your phone.

Trimble Navigation released two similar apps, Backpacker GPS Trails Pro ($4.99) and Trimble Outdoors Navigator Pro ($4.99). I prefer the Trimble Outdoors app over the Backpacker app, simply because of some small bugs in the app’s UI and programming.

Golf

Golfers will want to check out SkyDroid ($1.99), which is hands-down the best-value golf app for Android. There is access to over 22,000 courses available. I love that there is only a one-time app purchase fee, and no course download fees. For the courses I’ve played, having the app is helpful and fairly accurate. Certainly worth the $1.99 price.

If you’re looking for an app that provides a variety of tools for just about anything, check out Smart Tools (free). I’m not sure exactly what “activity” this relates to, but since there’s a built-in compass and flashlight, I’m sure you can get lost somewhere, in the dark, and find your way back, even if it’s your own backyard.

Birding

As winter sets, birds will migrate. Check out Audubon Birds – A Field Guide ($4.99), iBird Pro ($4.99), or the mother of all books, Sibley Birds of North America ($19.99) – of course, that one’s only good if you’re in North America.

Fit and active

And finally, because of the popularity of the sport, I decided to evaluate and recommend several apps specifically for runners: MapMyRun GPS Running (free), runtastic Pro ($3.99), and Noom Cardio Trainer (free or $9,99). Each of the apps does essentially the same thing: track the distance and pace of your run, and display it graphically through a map or chart. Cardio Trainer takes a fairly fond place in my heart, since it was the first app I used for running, many, many, many months ago.

So, with everything in place on your Android device, time to get outdoors and enjoy the waning days of summer, fall, and the early vestiges of winter and spring.

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.