iPhone Nature Kit

I read a post called iPhone Survival Guide, about how your iPhone (or iPod touch) could be useful in an emergency. It’s worth checking out.

That got me to thinking about how an iPhone (or iPod touch) could be used for nature activities in general. The iPhone has a clear advantage over the iPod touch in a couple areas:

  • The iPhone is a phone, which is handy. (However, AT&T service is not available everywhere. Too bad it doesn’t work with Verizon.) But the iPod touch has wifi, so if you find a hotspot (at the lodge or wherever), you’re not too badly off.
  • The iPhone has a built-in compass and GPS, which are very useful in the outdoors.
  • The iPhone has a camera. Of course it’s a very limited camera. But combined with the other powers of the iPhone, it does some fancy things. (Note: If you have a cell phone that has a camera and a wifi connection for your iPod touch, you can get tricky: Take a photo on your cell phone, email it to yourself, download it on the iPod touch, and proceed as if the iPod touch took the photo.)
  • The iPhone has a built-in mic (although you can buy one as an accessory for the iPod touch).

The following apps or uses require an iPhone:

  • You can geotag photos with certain apps (do an iTunes app search for “geotag”).
  • Record colors of natural things (myPANTONE).
  • Email the photos you’ve taken on the iPhone to people, or upload them online.
  • GPS Tracker (free), iMapMyRun (free), TrackMe (free), Trails ($2.99), Trailguru (free): Track your speed, distance, etc. iPhone needed for GPS tracking features.
  • Metal Detector Pro (99¢), or other similar app: Could help you locate a buried tent stake.
  • TopoPoint ($9.99): Find your location on USGS maps.

However, both the iPhone and iPod touch work equally well with a number of apps useful to the nature lover. The following apps require Internet access:

  • With phone or wifi service, you can talk, email friends (or monitor work email, if you get the nagging feeling), send SMS messages, visit any website, etc.
  • Google Earth (free): Get the lay of the land, check out other people’s comments and photos of local attractions.
  • Ski Report (free), The Snow Report from the North Face (free), REI Snow Report (free): Check ski conditions.
  • The Weather Channel (free), Weather Bug (free), etc.: Get weather updates.

These apps do not require Internet access:

  • Use the built-in voice record, or app of your choice, to record those breakthrough insights that come in the wilderness solitude, or capture your final words for posterity. (Requires separate mic accessory if you have an iPod touch.)
  • Animal Tracks (99¢): Track animals.
  • Army Survival ($1.99): This is the big brother of the 99¢ Survival Pocket Ref app. Everything you wanted to know about survival, medicine, shelters, water, plants, animals, tools, environments (desert, tropics, etc.), orienteering, weather, knots. From an official Army survival manual. Includes pictures.
  • Brushes ($4.99) or other drawing app: Draw what you see!
  • Flashlight: Many uses. If you get one that can do signaling, SOS, different colors, all the better. Great for night games like capture the flag, too! (Use it to signal your buddies or whatever. The apps Banner or Fuzz Lites could be fun too.)
  • A Free Level (free), TiltMeter Pro (99¢), etc.: For setting up your campsite.
  • Guitar: Play and Share ($3.99), iRecorder (99¢), Ocarina (99¢), Pianist ($3.99), or other musical app: for those fun campfire moments
  • iBird Explorer Plus/Pro ($19.99/29.99): Photos/drawings of birds, along with sound samples of their calls, regional maps, etc.
  • iTrailMap 3D ($4.99): 3D views of ski locations. View from any angle. There is also a color version that is free, but not 3D.
  • Night Stand (99¢), or clock of your choice.
  • RiverGuide for Kayakers ($4.99): Name says it all.
  • Seismometer (99¢): Measure the shockwaves.
  • SkyGazer ($2.99), SkyVoyager ($14.99), Star Walk ($4.99), Starmap ($11.99), or other astronomy app: Learn constellations, get directions.
  • Sol: Daylight Clock (99¢): Predict sunrises, sunsets (great for photo shoots).
  • TideApp (free): Find out when tide will be in or out. Oakley Surf Report (free) is another, but requires Internet.

Always remember to bring the charging cable. You can get a cheap adapter that will give you a USB port from any power outlet. There are also hand-crank devices and solar devices that will charge via USB.

Be sure your device is protected in some kind of case. You don’t want to trip and fall and land on it, or suddenly get a rude reminder that you put it in your hip pocket while rock climbing.

Electronic devices require a little TLC, but can be very handy when exploring the great outdoors.

Michael Prewitt

Michael Prewitt is a creative director who has worked with digital graphic design techniques since 1992. His core skills include highly refined aesthetic taste, exceptional creativity, and highly practical problem-solving ability; he also has complementary skills in related disciplines, including writing and editing, web developing, programming, photography, retouching, and illustration.

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