When I first started hiking as a kid, I always relied on my parents to lead the way and get us safely to our destination. I remember unfolding the large Bibbulmun Track maps and dad teaching us how to read elevations, distances and what all the colours and logos meant. I cherished the maps and still have most of them floating around somewhere. These days, however, map navigation has progressed to online databases and apps, accessible in the palm of our hands and at the tap of our finger. No complaints from us though, we love it as it enables us to research new and exciting adventures, navigating our way through the Australian outback with a sense of safety and confidence.
So which are the best apps for WA you ask?
There are hundreds of them, literally but they aren't all reliable. One thing to remember when choosing an app is that some have two versions and it's usually the pro version that allows GPS navigation and downloadable maps, that function offline. Be sure to do your research and read the fine print as most pro versions come with a cost. The other thing to remember is who made the app? Creator information can be found on the app store and keep an eye out on which country the app was made in. For example, many apps are made in America or Asia with information uploaded by the public, without the information being checked if correct or current. This could get you in some sticky situations if proper research isn't done before heading off. Just a few things to keep in mind.
If you are ever unsure a great community to join is the TrailsWA Group on Facebook, ask any queries you have in there and you will be amazed by how much everyone wants to help out.
So here is the list of our TOP 5 apps for trail users in 2021.
GPX Viewer - This GPS locator and tracker app is what we have been using for years as it allows us to easily download maps and files off of the Trails WA website and follow them out on the track. The alert function is handy, beeping if you go off track, allowing you to pocket the phone and enjoy the scenery instead of staring at a screen on the trail. You can also record your hike/ride and keep a trackbook of all your adventures, storing information like elevation gain, speed, time, waypoints and air temperature. Other map layers are also available and there is a section for the current and forecasted weather. Over the years we have tried other similar GPS trackers and while they were great we still enjoyed GPS Viewer the most.
Leaf Snap - We have been trying out a few different plant apps, that record and educate its user on wildflowers and plants on their trail. Leaf snap for us has been the most accurate, including recognition of bark as well.
Snap Send Solve - An amazing app that allows you to take a photo of dumped rubbish or vandalism on the trail, automatically sending the information and location to the local shire. We have used this countless times and receive a call or email from the local ranger, informing us the incident had been cleared. I continue to recommend and push this app, as the more people use it, hopefully, the cleaner the trail is for the next passer-by. https://www.snapsendsolve.com/
BOM - It's a given to check the weather before you leave but we also check UV levels, humidity and wind direction. You may not be in a prescribed burn area but if there is one nearby and the wind is headed in your direction, that trail will quickly become smokey, detracting from that nice view you had planned for over lunch. It's also perfect for night skies and star visibility and sunset/sunrise times.
St John First Aid - Download this app, now. Even if you aren't exploring on a trail. Like the Emergency Plus app, you can dial 000, advise your longitude/latitude location and locate your nearest medical centre or defibrillator. It also supplies a long list of action plans in case of emergencies, useful in everyday life. Plans that could save a life on the trail include snake bites, stings, sprains, strains, broken bones, heat-induced conditions, asthma attacks and more. There are DRSABCD instructions, a CPR metronome and even a skill tester so you can be sure you are ready if ever needed. Nothing could ever replace putting yourself and family members through an actual St Johns First Aid course, but this app gets pretty close and available immediately, on a trail
There are plenty of other apps out there, that you may prefer or find easier to use than our list, so if you know of others comment and share. We love learning about other apps and it will give our readers a chance to explore all their options.
Before we finish up we just wanted to state that we never start a trail without researching first. This includes checking the weather, park alerts, park closures, trail maintenance or diversions, prescribed burns or any other emergencies in the region. Links and information can be found via the Trails WA website, Parks Alert or Emergency WA. Below is a list of the websites for you to save.
Considering our above suggestions we are also very excited about the proposed NEW Trails WA website. The new version, will offer additional functionality including interactive, offline maps and will be accessible on both iOS and Android as well as desktop and tablet. The great thing about Trails WA is it promotes trails of all types in WA - including hiking, snorkelling, MTB, kayaking, horse riding, trailbike, and selected drive trails - including delicious wine and dine trails! The new site will help you find trail-related events and services - and you will also be able to create itineraries, bucket lists and plan your entire adventure on the one system. This will be the first of its kind and an incredible achievement for Trails WA and its trail users.
Have questions? Flick us a message on Facebook or Instagram and we can answer any queries you may have.
*Please note this is just a guide and what we have experience with. We are not affiliated with any of the above-mentioned apps and recommend researching multiple options, watch reviews on Youtube and choose apps based on your individual needs.