Phones are getting better all the time—and so are the ways to use them outside! There are hundreds of ways to use your phone at the crag, and these apps are some of the best.
Put simply, Mountain Project is the digital guidebook for climbing worldwide. A user-generate database of climbing areas lets users download information for crags, which is then available offline—so you can browse routes, photos, comments, and ratings all while off the grid. And with over 110,000 routes available worldwide, chances are good that you’ll run out of grip strength before you run out of routes. Available for iOS and Android; free.
Gaia is the best backcountry navigation app on the market—and it’s so good, experts say, that it’s actually replacing handheld GPS units in the field. You can download unlimited topos, set tracks, record each trip’s distance and elevation changes, cross-reference with other maps, and back everything up to an online server. The app offers a deep array of customizable settings and features for backcountry navigation, and with the newest version you can share trips with other users. And no, the app doesn’t require a cellular connection to work—you simply pre-download the maps you’ll need, then operate in airplane mode while you’re on the trail. Available for iOS and Android; $19.99 for the app, plus an additional $19.99 for the map database.
Rather than looking at forecasts for the closest town, this app gives detailed seven-day forecasts for crags themselves. With information about sky conditions, precipitation, and wind speed and direction for crags around the US, you can bring all the gear you need to stay warm and dry. There’s also a feature that uses your phone’s GPS to find the location and weather at your closest crags. Available for iOS and Android; free.
There are lots of knot-tying apps on the market, but this is a longtime user favorite for good reason. The easy-to-navigate platform gives detailed information and step-by-step instructions for hundreds of knots, and the multimedia animations make even the most complicated hitches seem simple. The climbing knots are extensive, but there are also categories for camping, search and rescue, fishing—even tying a tie! Kids will love learning to craft an emergency harness out of webbing. Available for iOS and Android; $4.99.
Cairn is the app you hope you’ll never need. Tell it where you’re going and when you’ll be back; if you don’t check in by a pre-designated time, the app will alert your emergency contacts via email, complete with a map of exactly where you’ve been. Bonus feature: the app also includes a crowd-sourced map showing where you can find cell service in the field. Available for iOS and Android; free.