Before we begin discussing smartphone apps, we want to reiterate what we say on the emergencies page: carrying a cell phone is no guarantee of safety. People like to bring cell phones into the wilderness because it makes them feel safe. But cell phones don't make anyone safer — just the opposite. Having a cell phone creates a false sense of security and leads to risk taking. By believing cell phones are a safety net, people take dangerous leaps.
Despite Florida's status as a mega-state, there will be days on a thru-hike where you cannot get a cell signal. And the places where you would likely encounter trouble and need to call someone — the most isolated and remote places — are also the places with no cell reception.
That said, we understand that most thru-hikers will be carrying a phone with them and there are many smartphone apps that can be useful or fun while on-trail.
If your bank has a mobile app, then it's wise to install it so that you can check your account, move money between savings and checking, figure out if you're on budget, et cetera.
Your Credit Card
If you are using a credit card rather than a bank-issued debit card, then it's a good idea to install your card's mobile app. Use it to make monthly payments, check balances, et cetera.
The Florida Trail Guide
Similar to the Guthook apps for the AT and PCT, this app is based on the Florida Trail guidebook by Sandra Friend and John Keatley. The app uses your phone's GPS/location software along with topo maps and Google Maps to determine your location on the trail. This works even when you get no bars.
A red line indicates the main trail, while side trails are in blue. Dotting the trail are icons representing waypoints such as water sources, tent sites/campgrounds, trail junctions, roads, railroad tracks, power
lines, privies/restrooms, mile markers, and towns. Tap an icon to view
detailed info about that waypoint.
Additional features let you send your location to people via text message, email, facebook or Twitter.
Our Complaints: Maps do not come pre-loaded and you have to download them yourself manually. While they're free, it's still annoying. Also, while the initial download is free, it only comes loaded with the 43.5-mile Blackwater spur between the town of Harold and the Florida-Alabama border, which is not the main trail. You have to purchase the actual trail piece-by-piece or get the entire thing in one download for $35, which is called the "thru-hiker special."
ArcGIS Florida Trail Map
The Florida Trail interactive map found on the web here can also be accessed as a mobile app. After downloading the ArcGIS app, open the app and click "Maps" in the top left corner. Then select "gallery" and tap the magnifying glass icon. A search bar will appear. Then search for "Florida Trail" and choose the result with the Florida Trail shield logo.
US Postal Service & UPS
If the person handling your maildrops texts you the tracking numbers, you can use the USPS and
UPS apps to see if the package has arrived before you do. Bouncing something forward? Keep an eye on it using the app. Need to mail something home? Use either app to find a post office or UPS
store near the trail, office hours, and phone number.
There are lots of weather apps out there, but our favorite is from Weather Underground because it is hyper-local. This is important to people traveling on-foot since there can be a big difference between the weather where you're standing and the weather thirty miles away.
Weather Underground crowd-sources its information from a 100,000+ community of weather enthusiasts reporting live data from weather stations in their own backyards. This fills in the gaps between the airport weather stations used by standard weather services.
Key features include:
Rise - The Sunrise Sunset Calendar
Many thru-hikers like to rise at dawn and get moving at sunrise. And while the old Boy Scout trick of holding your hand out let's you estimate when the sun sets, you don't know when the last light of dusk actually fades. Use the Rise app to find the sunrise and sunset times for any day and any place in the world as well as the first light and the last light times, which can be quiet different from the sunrise and sunset times.
There are other apps that do this, often targeted at photographers, but what we like about Rise is the incredibly simple, no-frills user interface.
There are many different kinds of ticks and tickborne diseases. Was that a lone star tick or a dog tick? Do I have STARI or Lyme? Figure out what bit you and what you might have with this app.
While the CDC created it
for doctors, it is useful on a thru-hike too because it helps you:
Did you see a python? Developed specifically for Florida, this app allows you to both ID and report invasive plants and animals from the field, which helps scientists understand and control new
infestations before they wreak ecological havoc
You don't need to own a Kindle to use the Kindle app. Just download it, shop for books via the app, and read on your phone. That way you don't carry the weight of a book.
If you do already own a Kindle and want to read on the Trail, don't bring the extra weight of the Kindle. Instead, download the Kindle app and read on your phone. All your existing ebooks can be synced to your phone.
Kindle app features: