I am recently endowed with a smartphone (thank you, Santa!) and between the first applications I tried there are the outdoor apps. In this article I will make an overview of the first impression about some of them (they all are rigorously free), positive and negative. I am not an expert, as you have guessed, but I own a GPS device for many years and I was curious to discover whether and how it could be integrated in a mobile telephone to track (or follow) paths. Then this is my judgment at present:
First of all, it's important to highlight that the use of the smartphone for outdoor activities should be integrated with a battery extender... remain without battery power at the climax, in the middle of nowhere and unaware about the trail to follow is a funny experience only once you have concluded it and you can narrate it!
The following outdoor apps have been all tested on an Android phone; in some cases it does exist the corresponding app for iPhone (iOS), as well as there are some apps (very good, by hearsay) available for iOS only.

My Tracks

This Google App is quite basic and allows you to track your own path during an excursion, providing the most common statistics (distance, speed, time in movement...). It allows you to back your files up in a database and share it directly on Google maps, Google+ and other social networks. You can mark out waypoints and import tracks from an external memory card. However it is not possible, at the moment, to modify your own tracks directly from the application, as good as alternative maps to Google ones are not available. It's good for neophytes and for those who have not many needs.
app my tracks

Orux maps

I found this free maps app very complete and exhaustive, a pleasant surprise. You can record a track, back it up and have a list of your own tracks, create waypoints (photographic too), download maps for an offline use (you will save a lot of battery power and avoid risks to lose connection), you can create your own track and then follow it in the field and also many statistics are available. Furthermore the available maps are tens: in addition to the classical Google views, there are topographical maps from U.S. but, above all (as far as I am concerned), Openstreetmap maps and the Topo 4umaps (EU). It is also possible to share on the social networks your own track or uploading it on the most popular sites of track sharing (GPSies, Everytrail, MapmyTracks...). I think I will often use this app.
app orux maps

Outdoor Atlas

An easier application than Orux Maps but very practical. Maps you find already installed are those from Opencyclemap (besides some particular french maps), and they can be used offline too. Further plugins allows to install other maps like Alpstein Tourismus Maps (for North-Eastern Italy, but I have not tested them yet). You can also upload a track from GPX files and follow it or create a tour one together with waypoints (from this point of view, Orux Maps is much more customizable) or record your own track during the excursion.
app outdoor atlas

Every trail

This is the app of one of the most popular track sharing sites. It is very clear and simple, perfect for those who want to track their own itineraries and share them with the community of Every Trail, but the free version has a lot of restrictions: you can display just three of your own tracks and favorites tracks, you cannot download offline maps and maps are from Google only. Its point of strength are the multitude of guides available (in English) with itineraries all over the world and the ease of use: you can easily switch from descriptions to maps, pictures and information about points of interest...
app every trail

Trimble outdoors navigator

It would be a good application for outdoor if it weren't suitable mostly for the American and Canadian market. Available maps are mostly for overseas countries indeed, in addition to the same old Google maps. Furthermore the possibility to caching maps (download them on your own SD card and display them also out of connection) is available only for the paid version. In this app too you can create a chronology of your tracks, see detailed statistics of your itineraries, add medias (pictures, videos etc.) as well as Geo-tagged waypoints.
app trimble outdoor nav

Alpine Quest

At first sight it looks like a very complete app but things you can do with the Lite version (the free one) are actually few. The maps selection is reduced to a couple of options, you can create various waypoints but the localizer is available only on the paid version. There is a practical compass but not much else. You cannot upload, create or follow tracks and the Italian menu is not very clear due to a literal translation of the items.
app alpine quest

All Sport GPS

This application, developed by the same company of Trimble Outdoors Navigator, is good for those who want to monitor their own progress in training, rather than hikers who want to exploit the cartographic potential of a smartphone. Entirely similar to the previous app (Endomondo), it allows to choose a kind of activity (MTB, BDC, trekking etc.), display the map of the chosen trail (Google maps), a set of statistics (speed, time, distance, altitude gap etc.) and a detailed graph of your track.
app all sport
Almost all these apps are available on PRO version with some additional features, but I will let you discover them...
Although it's certainly practical to have all the features in a single device, I think I'll keep integrate the use of the smartphone as a specific outdoor tool with the GPS device I own for some years by now: the precision, and the battery life above all, are absolutely unmatched. But the point of strength of applications is the possibility to hold some additional features that a classical GPS device doesn't support (create photographic waypoints and videos, track the path directly on the device, different maps easy to download...) and these features, for those of us have also decided to share their own tracks online, would make them save a lot of “desk work”.
To increase the speed to hook satellites up I recommend to download applications like GPSFixFasterGPS o FasterFix, whereas to control the satellite condition, precision and other data you can use GPSstatus.
After testing the outdoor apps, since I am a cycle-tourism and bike trips lover, I tried to experiment and evaluate five free apps for cycle-tourism of which you can read my impressions. If you are looking for something more accurate, solid and performing than a smartphone app you can buy an outdoor GPS device: here the most popular producing companies.
And you? Which outdoor apps do you use? Which would you advise or advise against?
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Slow bicycle traveller with a passion for writing and photography. If he's not traveling he loves to get lost along the thousand paths that run through the beautiful mountains of Trentino and Lake Iseo surroundings where he lives, both on foot and by mountain bike.
Eternal Peter Pan who loves to realize their dreams without leaving them too long in the drawer, has devoted much of his life to cycling, traveling in New Zealand, the Balkans, Norway Argentina and many other countries. Lately he spent ten months by bike in South East Asia and crossed the Andes by bike.

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