No one can ever predict when they’ll be in a survival situation, but it’s never too late to be prepared. When you’re lost in the middle of nowhere with limited resources, everything you have on your person becomes important — including your smartphone. Believe it or not, your smartphone can help you survive much more effectively than you might think. With a little preparation, you’ll be all set for your next trip to the middle of nowhere.
One of the most overlooked aspects of being stranded with a smartphone is the fact that most apps need an internet connection to work. If you have an internet connection or a phone signal, your rescue solution is obvious, right? That’s why we’ve combed through the available outdoorsy smartphone apps to find the ones that would be most appropriate for a survival situation where internet connections and phone signals are nonexistent.
Smartphones as real-world survival tools
First, there’s the trusty flashlight. The aptly named Flashlight (download Flashlight for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad) and Brightest Flashlight (download Brightest Flashlight Free Edition for Android) are simple apps that use your phone’s tiny LED flash to illuminate as well as any small modern flashlight you’ll find in the camping aisle of your favorite retail store. These two apps were chosen for their simplicity and ease of use in a situation where getting light is more important than any unnecessary extras that are included in other light-up apps.
Your map is the ultimate tool for making it out of a lost situation, and app stores are swimming with choices. For the sake of this article, we’re going to take a look at two of our favorite apps that can be used completely offline. TomTom USA & Canada (download TomTom for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad) and Navigon (download Navigon USA&CAN for Android or Navigon North America for iPhone and iPad) both use preloaded maps and your phone’s GPS to track your current location. You can also set a path to track your movement, so you don’t have to worry about walking around in circles.
An essential partner for your map is a compass, and thanks to a simple magnetometer within your phone (which doesn’t require an internet connection), you can find your direction quite easily. Spyglass (download Spyglass for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad) is an app that has more bells and whistles than you’d normally want to use, but they’re all helpful features. Smart Compass (download Smart Compass for the Android) is a slightly less feature-rich version for Android that gets the job done reliably and easily.
Smartphones as invaluable repositories of knowledge
4. Wild edibles database
In addition to these real-world archetypes, there are also some very useful research apps that will help you survive in the wild. Foraging for wild edibles is an important first priority for survival, and the Wild Edibles app (download Wild Edibles for iPhone and iPod Touch or Android) has everything you’ll need to help identify which plants are friends and which are foe.
If you’re more into the meaty side of the food chain, you have several options to help you trick and trap your next meal. Qwik Hunting Calls & Sounds (download Qwik Hunting Calls & Sounds for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad) contains 35 of the most popular calls and sounds from animals you may encounter in the wild. Critter Call (download Critter Call for Android) is another great choice with 30 animal calls and sounds and the added ability to play up to five sounds simultaneously.
6. Animal tracking tool
A wide variety of animal tracking apps can help you better identify what types of animals are in your area. MyNature Animal Tracks (download MyNature Animal Tracks for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad or Android) is the most comprehensive tracking app out there, with databases for front and hind animal feet, scat identification, gait patterns, animal sounds, range maps, and much more.
If you’re near a large body of water, fishing is also a viable choice for survival. MyNature Fishing Knots (download MyNature Fishing Knots for iPhone, iPod touch, and Pad or Android) is an invaluable resource for tying the 13 most common knots used in modern fishing. The app features illustrations, detailed instructions, and even animated videos to make sure you won’t have to worry about the one that got away.
8. First-aid resource
A large part of survival involves more than just food and navigation. Safety and first aid is essential to making it out alive, and First Aid (download First Aid for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad or Android) is an app made by the American Red Cross to help you through any injury or accident. With comprehensive step-by-step instructions, videos, and preventive safety tips, this app is full of the expert advice you’ll need. For Android users, there’s another First Aid app (download First Aid for Android) was not developed by the American Red Cross, but it can still help you through the stress of dealing with an injury. Illustrations and videos accompany the text instructions to help you get every step just right.
Now, you may be looking over this list and wondering how on earth your smartphone’s battery could possibly keep up with all of these apps. Luckily, there are a few products that will recharge your battery — but with a twist.
The Vodafone Booster Brolly might look and feel like a normal umbrella, but it’s actually a solar charger and signal booster in one. It uses an antenna and low-power signal repeater to connect phones to its networks, with the added bonus of boosting the signals of all phones around the device. Solar cells are literally sewn into the umbrella material, allowing the product to be both lightweight and sturdy. Unfortunately, the Vodafone Booster Brolly isn’t available for purchase just yet, but don’t fret! There’s another option on the current market that we absolutely love: the BioLite Campstove.
The $129 BioLite Campstove is a lightweight gadget that allows you to charge your USB devices by burning wood. That’s right — this handy stove is not only compact (weighing slightly more than 2 pounds, at 8.25 inches high by 5 inches wide when packed), but it can cook your soup or boil your tea while charging your smartphone’s battery, all through the use of renewable biomass like twigs or pine cones. In a wilderness survival situation, this stove would prove more reliable than solar, since it can be used day or night.
Download these apps before setting off
Hopefully you’ll never need to use this guide in a true survival situation, but it’s nice to know that your smartphone can actually help save your life. Of course, these apps will need to be downloaded onto your phone beforehand, but it may be a good idea to prepare yourself before a camping trip or vacation away from civilization.
[Top image credit: Shutterstock]
Shawn Schuster writes the bi-weekly column Staying Connected for Tecca, all about bringing hi-tech to small towns. His day job is Editor-in-Chief at Massively.com, with some consulting work at a local college thrown in for good measure. He also hosts an array of gaming podcasts, moonlights as a drummer, and has dreams of one day becoming a small-scale organic farmer. Tecca is a next-generation personal electronics information and shopping service. We bring together the web’s leading content, commerce, and community features to provide comprehensive solutions for consumers’ ever-growing technology needs. Think of us as that tech savvy friend who helps you when you have questions about what to buy, what to pay, how to make the most of you already have, and when it’s time to upgrade. Get to know us on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.