Even if you're headed into remote mountain terrain with no phone signal, you're probably going to tuck your smartphone into a pocket somewhere. Despite being worthless as a phone, your bundle of microchips can still be a useful ally high on the slopes.
So what should every self respecting app-aholic adventurer install before heading into the hills? Here's the download on three indispensable apps which will transform your Droid or iOS into your favourite mountain buddy.
Find your Way: ViewRanger Outdoors GPS and Maps
A smartphone weighs about the same as a good topographic map, but this software allows you to stuff an entire bookshelf into your pocket, which is especially handy if you're travelling big distance on tiny tracks only shown on detailed 1:25,000 scale maps.
You won't need deep pockets to buy the maps to go with it either, and once you've purchased and downloaded them, everything works offline. The GPS pinpoints you, and the compass tells you where you're pointing, taking all the guess work out of map reading. If you are in range of a data connection you can ping your location to friends using the app or to your Facebook buddies stuck indoors.
ViewRanger has detailed topo maps from a wider selection of countries than any other app we tried, and has particularly good coverage for the Alps and US mountains ranges. You'll still need a map bag to keep your phone dry in the rain, and make sure you are fully charged.
App Price: Free Maps: from £5.99 Available for: Android and IOS
Relive your Adventure: My Track
This is Google software at it's best; simple and reliable. Press “Record” when you start and it logs your track. Then hit “Stop” when you're finished. For expert users there's even a “Pause” button. It will tell you where you've been, how fast you went, how long you took and using the speed/elevation graph you can see if you run slower downhill than up — apparently it's quite common.
You can upload and share everything via Google Drive when you get back to civilisation, but it takes a bit of deft thumb-work to get the app to share its secrets with Facebook.
If you're anxious about Google monitoring your online activity, then you'll probably despair at them tracking you when you're offline too, but it's a small price to pay to be able to spend the rest of the week reliving the track from your weekend rock climb, abseil or BASE jump in three dimensions on Google Earth.
App Price: Free Available for: Android and iOS
Get rescued: Earthmate
Try calling for help when you're out of phone reception and you're going to need a sturdy pair of yodelling lungs. Alternatively the Earthmate app connects your smartphone with your Delorme InReach SE 2-way Communicator which in turn dials you in to the Iridium satellite phone network.
At the touch of a screen, your phone can send and receive 160 character text messages or emails from anywhere in the world. Update your support team, Facebook page and Twitter followers, call for a helicopter rescue, or just let your mother know you're running late for dinner.
Reputed to be more reliable than rival devices, the Delorme unit still needs a clear line of sight to the sky to prevent messages getting lost or delayed during their galactic voyage, but with unique 2-way messaging, the rescue team can reassure you that they've got your text and are on their way.
App Price: Free InReach SE 2Way Communicator: $250 + $10-50 monthly subscription. Message fees $0.25 – $1.50 Available for: Android and IOS