The Best Outdoor Apps

Whether you're looking to go for a short day hike in the Whites or are about to set out on the AT for months in the backcountry, you may want to peruse through the app store on your smartphone and snag some of the most exciting new apps available to outdoor adventurers. This can be an invaluable asset to any 21st century camping equipment checklist.

There are hundreds of apps out there for outdoor enthusiasts, but here's a quick glance at some of the most pioneering outdoor technologies.

Terrain and Mapping Apps

The first set of apps to touch on are those that can be essential for helping you get to where you want to go.

MotionX GPS is widely regarded as one of the best apps available for topographical maps. Because this app lets you download and store these topo maps ahead of time, you won't have to worry about losing your way just because you lose cell service. The technology also lets you track your position on the map wherever you are, save certain way points and has a track record of reliability that is unparalleled.

The app is a nifty gadget that uses augmented reality to give you approximate distances to far away mountain ranges. By simply holding your phone's camera up to a nearby range, the app will quickly give you the name of the peaks, their individual elevation and the distance to each one.

GPS Trip Journal combines useful navigation with sentimentality. You can use this app to make notes alongside photos throughout your journey, and pair them with waypoints on a map thanks to outdoor GPS. This makes it easier than ever to share your adventure once you're back in the concrete jungle.

Sky and Weather Apps

Among the most popular are apps that have taken thousands of years' worth of human observation and condensed them into a single handy guide. This includes apps that closely monitor changing weather conditions and even some that give you a brief explanation of every star and planet visible from earth with the naked eye.

Pocket Universe has garnered rave reviews for its stellar usability and amazing insight into the night sky. Using location-specific technology and animations, any hiker can see what's above them at the time, as well as what - and where - to look for stars, planets and constellations as the night goes on. One of the greatest selling points for this app is that it works perfectly without using any roaming data - a wonderful feature for anyone who's regularly off the grid.

NOAA Radar Pro is another must-have app that will help you become master of the skies. This app syncs up with the nearest NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather station to give you accurate, local and current weather conditions. This includes the true temperature, heat/wind index temperatures, barometric pressure, wind speeds, humidity, dewpoint and other readings.

While it's always good to know that a halo around the sun or moon suggests rain is on the way or how to navigate by the stars, it can't hurt to bring these apps along to guide you along the way.

Get to Know the Wildlife Around You

It's true that no app can guarantee you'll see that elusive Bicknell's Thrush or a majestic moose, but there are certainly apps available that can help you learn about the native wildlife that's around you.

iTrack Wildlife Lite is one of the best options for learning what critters could be scurrying about. With this app, you can use your phone's camera to snap a shot of any track you come across, and an easy interface lets you search the print shape, size, symmetry and other factors. It's also a good starting place to learn more about how to track animals without the help of your phone.

For bird lovers, the Sibley eGuide to Birds of North America could be one of your best resources out on the trail. Offering information on more than 800 species of North American birds, the piece of outdoor technology is based on David Sibley's classic "Sibley Guide to Birds," which is regarded as one of the most comprehensive bird guides available. The app also comes with recorded bird calls that can help anyone identify what type of bird is singing which song.

To take bird sightings - and sightings of any other creature, for that matter - a step further, you may want to try out a new app called Project Noah. Anyone who uses the app can help scientists all over the world collect data on species and sightings. It also lets you upload a photo of any insect, bird or other animal you come across for others to help you identify.

Survival Apps

Robert Wood's renowned "2 Oz. Backpacker" guidebook, military survival books and Survivorman all offer some good tips that can really come in handy in the outdoors, but now you can get all of that in a few apps you carry on your smartphone.

The SAS Survival Guide app is based on a comprehensive survival manual written by a former British Special Forces officer, and is a must-have for anyone who may get into sticky situations. If you want a well-developed, clear and concise way to learn how to start a fire without matches, which plants are edible, what's possible with a single multi tool, poisonous or medicinal, how to navigate by the sun and emergency first aid, then you'll be more than pleased with this survival app.

The Knot Guide is a great, simpler app that offers lessons on how to tie just about any knot you might need on the trail. The program contains illustrations and directions for hundreds of knots, ranging from hanging hammocks to securing makeshift tents

Advancements in technology have made smartphones an integral part of safe, fun and memorable treks into the wild. Make sure you have all the apps you need to make it the trip of a lifetime.