“Many apps can in fact contribute to improved safety in the mountains. For example, coordinates can be sent automatically in an emergency situation. Navigation functions and weather warnings can also help people avoid dangerous situations,” said Mario Zott from the Austrian Alpine Association. Other apps are more for entertainment purposes.
From the identification of surrounding peaks, plants and animals to survival training, there is something for everyone. But a few things should be kept in mind when using apps in the mountains. Most apps use a lot of battery power. Especially with the poor reception in the mountains, the higher transmitter output can quickly drain the phone’s battery.
Alps app cost trap
Many apps provide offline functions, but they usually establish a data connection when possible. Some functions cannot be used at all without an Internet connection, which often makes them useless in the Alps. But when there is a signal that is strong enough, hikers in border regions need to keep in mind that the mobile communications network on the other side of the border may be stronger than the signal in Austria.
Transferring data via a foreign provider can get expensive very quickly. So it is very important to ensure that data roaming is turned off when hiking close to the border. But other than that, there is nothing to prevent smartphones from being used even in the high mountains. futurezone presents some interesting smartphone apps for hikers:
Combined app for nature fans
The environmental protection association Naturfreunde Österreich offers its tour portal as an app for iPhone and Android. The app offers hikers a package with different functions. In addition to extensive tour planning, it also has an emergency call function and a mountain weather forecast. The combination of multiple services means that mountaineers do not need to purchase some other apps. The app costs 79 cents for Android and 89 cents for iOS.
Alpine association to go
The alpine associations in Germany, Austria and South Tyrol have set up the alpenvereinaktiv.com tour portal. They also offer a free app for Android and iOS. The application allows users to navigate in the mountains using GPS, send emergency calls, save hiking routes and access weather information. The alpine association app tries to cover all needs.
Extensive mountain knowledge
Salzburg Research has developed a free app, Peak.ar, that lets inexperienced mountain fans impress their friends with knowledge of the surrounding peaks. When the camera is panned over the surrounding mountains, the names of the various peaks are shown on the display. Available for Android and iOS.
The Pilzführer Pro mushroom guide is available in the Google and Apple online stores for about ten euros. There is a free demo version. The app allows you to identify 300 mushroom varieties based on different features. The possibilities are narrowed down by entering characteristics, and the final identification is made on the basis of photos.
Safe plant identification
Die bunte Welt der Alpenblumen is an app that allows smartphone users to identify plants on their hikes. The app starts at EUR 3.70 and is available for Android and iOS. The selection is limited based on the month, color and form of the flowers, and the final identification is made using photos.
Eating roots and bugging bears
Hard-core adventurers can also use a series of apps designed to help you survive in the mountains when you have no hope of a warm bed. The free Army Survival Guide for Android offers visual instructions for making fires, splinting broken bones and finding water. The app is also available for iOS, but is not free.
The night sky is most impressive in the mountains, far away from civilization’s light pollution. The free Android app Google Sky Map allows you to identify stars and constellations. Comparable applications are available in the app store for iOS.
Runtastic is an app that allows athletes to track and save their activity using GPS. It also works for hiking. The app is free and is available for Android and iOS, and there is a pro version for EUR 5.00. The app measures the distance covered, including elevation changes.
Getting home dry
Storms can surprise hikers in the mountains. Regen-Alarm is an app designed to prevent this. The app analyzes weather radar images to create a forecast for your location, and issues a warning when rain is coming. The basic version is free for iOS and Android.
Not always on the beaten path
People who prefer traditional means of navigation over maps can install a compass app on their smartphones. The company runtastic also offers one; the basic version for iOS and Android is free. In addition to the compass, the app offers wind, temperature and elevation data.
Fast help in emergencies
There are apps for the iPhone and for iOS that establish contact with emergency services at the push of a button. Some of the apps can only be used in certain areas. Bergrettung Tirol establishes a connection with the Tyrolian mountain rescue in the Tyrolian mountains, and sends the user’s GPS coordinates.