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Top 10 Mountaineering Apps

by Kristian Whittaker |

Let’s face it, as often as we say we get into the mountains to escape modern life, there’s a good chance we’re bringing our phones with us. And that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do! These days, there are a ton of apps to help us out when mountaineering, from mountain-specific weather forecasts to first-aid repositories that can replace a 2lb book. Plus, downloading a few seasons of Yellowstone to stream during a week-long storm in Antartica isn’t the worst idea in the world. 

Gaia GPS

Price: Free, $19.99 a year

Platform: iOS/Android

When it comes to route finding on a smartphone, Gaia is by far the best option. With cross-platform useability, you can plan a route on your desktop and then access it later on your smartphone. Plus, you can download huge areas of maps for offline use, so you can navigate regardless of your connection. They also have a ton of different overlays, so you can find the best maps for the specific peak you’re trying to bag. They’re primarily a US app, but have overlays for Europe and other areas of the world as well. The free version gives you access to all online maps, while the paid subscription allows you to download maps for offline use. 

Another great option for GPS and route planning is OnX Backcountry, which has all the same great features as Gaia, plus some really snazzy ones like slope angle and avalanche danger! OnX has a free version, or is $29.99 a year for the pro version. 

Ramblr

Price: Free

Platform: iOS/Android

Sort of like Strava, but for mountaineering, Ramblr is a great activity tracker if you don’t have a smart device like a Garmin watch to track your stats. Tracking stats like distance, speed, elevation, and more, Ramblr also allows you to upload notes and images after your climb, acting as a bit of a digital journal. They also have the ability to create routes on your desktop and use them on your smartphone, although we still recommend Gaia for navigation. 

OpenSummit

Price: Free, $29.99 a year

Platform: iOS/Android

A weather app meant specifically for mountains? Heck yeah! OpenSummit provides hourly forecasts for the actual mountain location and elevation, not just nearby towns. With color-coded data detailing precipitation, lightning, temperature, and wind forecasts, it’s easy to tell when your best weather window will be. And with detailed hourly maps, you can check out incoming weather up to two days in advance (5 days with the paid version). They’re also the first weather app to estimate trail conditions based on recent weather, so you can know what footwear to bring before you go. 

If you're planning at home, be sure to check out Windy.com, a favorite of the guides over at RMI. Great for tracking incoming storms, or even for forecasting air quality (a big issue in the PNW during fire season) Windy.com also has a mobile app. There is a free to use version, or a pro version for $29.99 a year. 

Mountain Hub

Price: Free

Platform: iOS/Android

Created by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Mountain Hub is an open-source community platform meant to keep climbers and hikers up to date on route conditions, weather, snow science, and more. Designed to make the never-ending quest for “beta” a little bit simpler, Mountain Hub relies on its thousands of users to give accurate and current feedback on their recent adventures, so planning your next one is that much easier.  

Cairn

Price: Free, $26.99 a year

Platform: iOS/Android

Cairn is the app you should always have, and hopefully, never use. Originally a source of data on cell reception in the backcountry, Cairn now has helpful “just in case” features like contacting your loved ones if you’re overdue from a trip. If you are late in coming back from a trip, Cairn sends out helpful information to your emergency contacts, like how and when to contact search and rescue, and will work regardless of whether you have service. Plus, the open-source service maps are super helpful if you want to upload a quick IG pic mid-trip. 

The Premium version of Cairn includes features like sharing of your real-time location with your safety contacts, automatic overdue alerts, and the ability to downloaded maps from anywhere in the world for offline use.

American Red Cross First Aid App

Price: Free

Platform: iOS/Android

While it won’t replace a WFR or WFA course, the First Aid app from the American Red Cross is a great addition to any first aid knowledge residing in your head. It includes downloaded content that can be accessed at any time, and a huge amount of information that can be sifted through while you’re in service, including interactive quizzes to help you retain important info. 

Packing Pro

Price: $2.99

Platform: iOS

Ok, it might not be the prettiest app in the world, but Packing Pro is a great organization app for any trip leaders or ultra-organized climbers. You can build out packing lists for yourself and your group members, and add info like item weight, cooking instructions, trip type, and more. Unfortunately, this app is for iOS only, but Android users should check out TrekPack as an alternative. 

The Dyrt

Price: Free, $29.99 a year

Platform: iOS/Android

If your climb requires a basecamp, you’re going to want to make sure it’s not on private land, in order to avoid the occasional backwoods crazy asking you to “git” off their property. The Dyrt is a great app for that, allowing you to overlay maps with BLM, National Forest, and National Park land in order to make sure you’re camped where you’re supposed to be. Plus, with over 50,000 campsites listed on the app, it’ll make camping on the way to/from your objective a breeze. 

Peak Visor

Price: Free, $29.99 a year

Platform: iOS/Android

Ever looked at a peak and thought “man, I really wish I knew what that one was called?” Well now there’s a way to find out! Peak Visor uses augmented reality (AR) to show you in real-time what peak you’re looking at. Using your phone’s camera, it’ll give you info on the peak you’re pointing at, making it much easier than trying to get your buddy to line up their eye with you finger. 

Animated Knots by Grog

Price: $4.99

Platform: iOS

If you ever wanted a complete knot tying compendium in your pocket, now is your chance to make your dream a reality. Animated Knots by Grogg is a huge resource on knot tying, organized by activity and knot type. With over 195 knots in categories like climbing, rope care,  camping, and search and rescue, if the knot you’re trying to tie isn’t in this app, it’s probably just plain old made up. 

So there you go, our top ten apps for mountaineering! Have questions or other app suggestions? Put them in the comments below! 

As always,

Happy Climbing!

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