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Sleeping bag, check. Tent, check. Flashlight, check. Smart phone, check. A few years ago, the last item on this camping list would not have been included. But with a vast number of lifestyle, navigation and citizen science mobile apps available nowadays, why would you venture out into the wild without a useful set of tools right in the palm of your hand? With the camping season about to heat up in August and September, Scientific American has put together a list of six practical mobile apps for adventurers based on functionality, content, offline performance and user reviews.
Offline capability is especially important because campers do not always have Internet access when they are off the beaten trail. As one developer points out, this has been a challenge. "A data connection is common to all the weather radar apps that are available in the iTunes store," says Joe Sirott, owner of Shuksan Software, LLC, the creator of NOAA Radar iPhone and iPad app.
Another challenge is keeping Apple iOS and Google Android phone software up to date. When testing the iPhone apps on our list, for example, many required iOS 3.0, whereas others needed iOS 4.2 or later.
So, just like any good Boy Scout, be prepared and know the requirements of each app. Update phone software, pre-download maps and hit the road.
View a slide show of screen captures and additional information for each of the six mobile camping apps.