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Go into any camping or outdoors store and you'll find a bevy of customized devices, references, and services for al fresco activities, whether it be books of ski run maps or identification guides for mushrooms or bird songs. Luckily, your iPhone or Android phone can perform the functions of many of these specialized resources, and usually for less money. Consider these apps to assist in your outdoors endeavors, and in some cases you could even save some dough to put towards a new set of golf clubs or a telescope.
1. Orvis Fly Fishing
Perhaps you've just seen A River Runs Through It and have decided that fly fishing is something you absolutely have to take up. You could invest in books like the L.L. Bean Ultimate Book of Fly Fishing ($16.47 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $1), but it's not exactly a lightweight travel companion. Consider instead Orvis Fly Fishing for iPhone or Android ($14.99 bundled with a $10 Orvis gift card). This software includes a full tutorial on the art of fly fishing, including fishing reports, site suggestions, how to tie knots, how to cast, and how to select the proper fly for the fish you are pursuing.
2. Surfline Surf Report
Surfs up, dude! Find out where the conditions are perfect for an afternoon of riding the waves with Surfline Surf Report. This app lets you you can tap into live streaming video from HD cameras at over 100 of the best surfing sports in the United States, including Hawaii. Plus, stay apprised of weather forecasts for wave action. Best of all, the app is free for iPhone and Android users.
3. Golfshot: Golf GPS
After your drive, you're a portion of the way to the golf hole, but uncertain about the distance remaining; should you hit a five or six iron? Take the mystery out of this golf conundrum, with the Golfshot: Golf GPS app ($29.99 for iPhone or Android). This software works via the GPS chip in your phone and can show you where you are in relationship to the hole and golf course entrapment. This app features maps from more than 37,000 courses, and can handle scorekeeping, handicap calculation, and keeping a history of your rounds.
An app that's pushing $30 might seem like a lot, but compare it to hiring a caddy that knows the course and can advise about club selection; a caddy at Pebble Beach, for example, costs $75 a round.
There are some great bird guide books in print, like the Sibley Field Guide Birds of Eastern North America ($12.91, with free shipping via Prime, a low by $1). Unfortunately, they too, can be a bit cumbersome to carry and have one serious deficiency: they can't play you a bird's song, which is so important in identifying a species. The iBird app ($14.99 for iPhone, $9.95 for Android), on the other hand, is perfect for birdwatching and has 148 sound clips and 445 hi-res photos, in addition to supplying information on a species' physical attributes.
5. Hunting Call
The savvy hunter knows his game by its hunting call, and artificially recreates it in order to draw the animal near. Whether it's the mating grunt of deer or a come-hither song of a goose, these calls are a time-tested method for hunters seeking to bag their limit. Depending on what you're looking for, this may require a number of separate calls, each at least as expensive as the Flextone Buck Collector Deer Call ($11.69 with $5.95 s&h, a low by $2). An alternative to lugging around these contraptions is the Hunting Call app ($2.99 for iPhone, $3.99 for Android), which turns your smartphone into a hunting call box with over 100 different calls for small and big game — 18 for deer alone!
6. GoSkyWatch Planetarium
Ever been out at night and wished you could identify stars, planets, and constellations? The GoSkyWatch Planetarium app ($3.99 for iPhone) turns your iPhone into a virtual planetarium. Simply hold your phone up to the sky and your camera will not only help identify what you're seeing in the universe, but offer an in-depth history of any star or constellation.
7. Satski V2.0
For the skier stats freak, the Satski V2.0 app ($4.99 for iPhone or Android) offers information that hitherto has been hard to get: Just how fast was I traveling on that run? How many feet of elevation have I skied today? It's also a tool that replaces the old resort map (a nuisance), allowing you to plot your day by planning your sequence of runs via detailed maps of ski areas residing within.
8. Audubon Mushrooms
As more people become interested in locally grown and organic foods, some are taking to the woods and fields themselves to gather nature's bounty of nuts, greens, and fungi. Mushroom gathering can bring some delicious, exotic flavors into your kitchen, but there can be dangers lurking in the fold. The Audubon Mushrooms app ($9.99 for iPhone or Android) claims to be the most comprehensive and accurate guide to 560 common mushrooms. And in our opinion, risk-free eating is reason enough to spend the $10.
With over half a million smartphone apps already on the market, outdoor enthusiasts will find thousands designed to make their experience richer, easier, cheaper, and more satisfying. These eight are just a sampling of how the pocket computer, i.e. the smartphone, is reshaping our world.
Front photo credit: Inc.com