Friday, September 21, 2018

Apps to amplify enjoyment of the great outdoors

One of the main reasons to get outdoors is to leave everyday life behind. No Netflix, no laptop, no smartphone. Well, maybe taking your smartphone isn't a bad idea.

More and more apps exist to aid those who like getting outside. Apps for weather, for maps, for finding fish, even for mapping the sky.

It used to be that outdoors lovers didn't need, or want, life's conveniences. But that appears to be changing.

"It's a mix," said Chris Kiddy, program coordinator for Hillsborough County's Conservation and Environmental Lands Management department and an avid hiker. "You have that generation that is opposed to the technology. But even among that generation it's a 50/50 split of those people who still want that technology when they are hiking. It does increase your safety.

"It's not just a matter of wanting all that technology. You have to think about your safety when you're out there."

Even in spots lacking cellular service, a smartphone can come in handy.

Numerous apps not only make the outdoors safer, but more fun. Here is a sampling, but first …

Cordless phone charger

Dead phones render apps useless. Portable solar panel chargers are one way to go. The more panels, the more power, but also more weight. They are usually good for one phone recharge, then must soak up more sun. Lightweight external batteries can easily be put in a backpack and used when a phone runs low. Most are light (6 ounces or less) and good for two full charges. No brand should cost more than $40. A good thing to carry around just in case.

The basics

Google Earth allows hunters or hikers to zero in on an area before leaving home. It's good for scouting an area to see how hilly or flat it is. A weather app, like the Weather Channel's free one, is also a must have. The key is to find one that provides radar so you can see what's coming your way.

Downloaded USGS topography maps

Using GPS to set your trail or give directions is nice, but what if there is no cellular service? Just download your trail on a smartphone and call it up whenever needed. "It actually tracks your routes and you can put way points in it," Kiddy said. "I think it's one of the coolest new advancements."

Moon phases

A pretty self-explanatory app. It can be used to find out when the moon will be at its brightest, or darkest. It's available for free on iTunes and available on Android phones. "It's a pretty neat app," Kiddy said. "We do a night hike once a month and I use it to find the different phases and what the moon is going to look like on that day. It gives you the rise time and the setting time."


It's a beautiful night on the trail or campsite. Someone asks what that bright star in the sky is. There's no need to guess. With this app, simply point your phone skyward and a map with marked planets and stars appears. A fun and educational device. Check out

Pro Angler fishing app

From the start of a trip to the end, this app does just about everything but catch the fish. Some of the cooler features are the fishing tips and reports from guides in 13 states, Florida included. And the guides are broken into regions, so there will be an updated report from Tampa Bay. It can also help you find popular reefs in our area. It has size and bag limits to make sure your catch is legal, instructions on how to tie certain knots and tells you where to find a bait shop or marina in the area. It even has recipes from chefs for cooking your catch.

Deeper Fish Finder

Not really an app, but a cool bit of technology. It used to be that you would anchor up or drift over a spot that looked promising, only to find out 15 minutes later that it was actually a desert. Who has time for that? That's where the fish finder comes into play.

Tie the Deeper Fish Finder onto a pole and cast it into the water. It sends information about the bottom to your smartphone using Bluetooth technology. It also gives depth and water temperature. You don't need a cellular signal and no data usage is required. It increases the odds of catching a fish, especially if you don't have a GPS device on the boat. One negative: An extra pole is needed to attach the device.

The most expensive versions provide data in water almost 300 feet deep. Expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $300.

Contact Rodney Page at [email protected] Follow @RodneyHomeTeam.

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