According to Apple, they have more than 1.8 million apps in their store. That, my friends, is a whole lot of apps. And you can find an app for just about any interest and activity.
Want to find the perfect Emily Dickinson poem to match your mood? There’s an app for that.
Want to plan the perfect road trip? There’s an app for that.
Want a wiring diagram of your car? There’s even an app for that.
So many apps to choose from and so little time. I can’t begin to count how many apps I’ve downloaded (and deleted over the years), and I’m sure you can relate.
But there are a few tried and true apps that both Brad and I have found ourselves using on our off-road and overlanding adventures again and again. These are apps that not only make our journeys easier, but also more enjoyable.
Oh...and just in case you were wondering, this is not a sponsored post. We just really love these apps, have found them all extremely valuable to us personally, and wanted to share them with you!
So, without further ado, here’s a list of our favorite apps.
Brad’s Top 5 Favorite Apps
1. Gaia GPS
View of saved tracks in Gaia GPS.
View of map overlay menu.
View of wildfire overlay.
View of overland overlay.
I have used many navigation products and software applications over the years, but the one that has just worked the best for me is Gaia GPS, which is both an app and a website. The simplicity of planning and recording my routes, as well as dropping waypoints for campsites and other points of interest are done with ease.
One of the things I love most about this app and the website is how clean they are. This is especially important when I’m using my phone with its smaller screen because there is not a lot of clutter, so I see only what I want or need to see on the screen.
What makes Gaia the most power navigational tool, in my opinion, is the availability of several different map overlays. I typically have the overland map layer on and will frequently add the forest fire and private property layers as well. The forest fire overlay in particular has kept me out of trouble by being able to see active fires and safely rerouting around them.
I love that I can save and export the hundreds of trail miles I’ve mapped over the years for future trips or to share with friends looking for great places to explore.
You can use either the free version of Gaia GPS (both the website and the app), but the paid version, “Premium,” is only $19.99 for the first year, then it’s $39.99 and it’s worth every penny when you overland and off-road as much as I do.
Screenshots from the TrailsOffroad app showing a color-coded map and examples of the detailed trail information.
The TrailsOffroad website and their app are among my favorite tools for planning adventures, and I use them all the time. Whether you’re using the app or the website, they always have detailed information about routes and trails, including navigation and waypoints.
Each trail entry contains the difficulty level, status (open or closed), distance, duration. You’ll also find helpful information about the type of trail (out and back, through), elevation, nearest town, vehicle recommendations, nearby trails, and more.
In addition to their maps and write-ups, they provide photos of specific waypoints, scenic points of interest, and campsites, as well as trail videos. There are even user reviews with tips and information from folks who’ve driven the trail. All of this gives you a really great idea of what the trail is going to be like before you get there so that you can plan accordingly.
This is definitely my go-to app when planning a trip and I’m looking for trails to explore in locations I’ll be in.
Screenshots from iOverlander showing examples of the main map as well as detailed views.
iOverlander is an excellent free app and website, completely run by volunteers, that can help find campsites, places to fill up on water and propane, and more. I’ve used it more than once to find a place to camp in a pinch when my time-distance on a trip didn’t work out.
This app is completely crowdsourced, so campsites can run the gamut from a dirt road or a public campground to some amazing hidden gems. One thing I really like about iOverlander is that others who have visited the locations listed in the database can add comments and provide updates that are very useful to everyone else.
Images showing the Zoleo satellite communicator device and screenshot of an SOS message courtesy of Zoleo.
Being out in the backcountry and off the grid means there is usually no way to communicate with friends and family to let them know how I’m doing and to make sure everything at home is good. The Zoleo satellite communicator device and its accompanying app have given me the ability to let them know that I’m okay and for them to reach me if there’s a need, which has given us all peace of mind.
The Zoleo pairs seamlessly with a smartphone app so that I can send and receive text messages via satellite, share my GPS coordinates, check the weather when I’m in remote locations, and send out an SOS signal in the event of an emergency.
There’s no charge for the app, but the device itself is about $200 and there is a monthly fee, something I consider well worth it for the safety and security it provides when you’re in the backcountry, far from home. The Zoleo has become an essential tool and I don’t leave home without it.
Screenshots from Brad's Spotify, including the library, a playlist, podcasts, and the home screen.
I spend a lot of hours in my vehicle and while I can appreciate silence as much as anyone—probably more at times—I also love being able to listen to my favorite songs and podcasts when I’m on the road or trail.
For the past year or so, Spotify has been my go-to app for just about all of my listening needs. I really like that it’s one app for both music and podcasts, which makes it easy to switch whenever I feel like it. If I’m in the mood for rocking out with Def Leppard, I’ve got a whole playlist for that. Or I can spend some time enjoying my favorite podcasts like “How I Builts This” or Mike Rowe’s “The Way I Heard It.”
You can listen to Spotify using both their app and their website. There is a free version of the app that allows you to listen to your favorite artists and podcasts, but you will have to put up with adds and you can’t download for offline listening. If you don’t mind that, this is a great option. Or you can choose one of their premium options that starts at $4.99 for students and $9.99 for individuals to listen without adds and whenever you’re off the grid.
If you want to check out some of my playlists, here’s a link:
Regena’s Top 5 Favorite Apps
Screenshots from Regena's Paprika app, including recipes in the "Family Favorites" category, a recipe, a meal plan, and a shopping list.
I’ve been using this recipe app for years and I absolutely love it. Not only can I create my own recipes with it, I can also easily important them from my favorite websites and modify them however I’d like.
But it’s way more than just a recipe app. I plan meals (color coded by breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack) using the built-in calendar and create grocery lists (that can be printed or emailed). When I need to scale servings up or down the app automatically recalculates the amount of ingredients required so I don’t have to do the math.
The cost of the app for the iPhone and iPad is $4.99 each and for the Mac it’s $29.99. If you want the app on all your devices, you do have to purchase them each separately. But this is a one-time purchase and once you have it, there aren’t any additional charges or in-app purchases. (Note: Every year for the past few years, they have offered a Thanksgiving-Black Friday sales on all versions of the app, so keep that in mind if you’re interested in adding Paprika to you apps.)
What makes this app perfect for off-roading and overlanding is that is syncs flawlessly between my Apple devices and I never have to remember to download anything because my recipes are always available offline.
Screenshots of augmented reality views and information in the Skyview astronomy app.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been fascinated by the stars. Maybe it’s because I used to watch Star Trek reruns with my dad, or because I fell in love with the first Star Wars movie, or because there’s just something magical about these specks of light twinkling in a velvety night sky. Whatever the reason, I love losing myself in the night sky and exploring it with the Skyview app.
There are several astronomy apps available, and I’ve tried a few of them, but I keep coming back to Skyview. I love it because it’s so easy to use and doesn’t require a PhD in astrophysics to enjoy. Basically, you just open the app and start exploring the night sky using the augmented reality screen. Just aim your phone at the sky and the app will show you the stars, planets, constellations, and more, wherever you are in the world.
I also enjoy the educational component built into the app. As you hover over an object, its name and basic information will appear at the bottom of the screen. You can click on the “i” to learn more about it, and there is usually plenty of information available about every object, including mythologies related to certain constellations and NORAD identification information for satellites as well their velocity and the year they were put into orbit. This app will definitely enhance your appreciation of the night sky, make you a little smarter and, at the very least, better at trivial pursuit!
There is a free version (Skyview Lite) if you want to try it out first or the paid version is a one-time purchase of $2.99. While there aren’t any adds in the free version, it does have a more limited library of stars and other celestial objects. I started off with the free version but it didn't take me long to switch to the paid version so I could get all the information.
Screenshots from the Audible app.
Reading has always been my thing. There’s just something wonderful about losing myself in a good story. I’m an equal opportunity genre reader, devouring everything from history, biographies, fantasy, romance, horror, and classics like the much loved Jane Austen.
Several years ago, when I realized I’d been reading less and less because of my crazy busy life—working long hours, commuting, shuffling kids to football practices and games, household chores—I discovered Audible and rediscovered my love of getting lost in a great story. I became a voracious listener of audio books. In fact, as of today, I’ve listened to 349 audio books since I opened my account in 2016.
Whenever Brad and I are getting ready to hit the road, we always download a few audiobooks to help us while away the miles, particularly those spent on pavement. And one of the cool things about Audible is that through our Amazon Household account, we can easily share audiobooks across our devices. This means that Brad can easily open any audiobooks on his phone that I’ve downloaded to my phone and vice versa.
The basic membership, Audible Plus, is $7.95 a month and gives you unlimited access to podcasts and thousands of audio books. Audible Premium Plus is $14.95 a month and you get all the benefits of Audible Plus as well as 1 credit each month for any book you’d like. There’s also the Premium Plus plan with 2 credits a month, which is $22.95.
The Plus Catalog that comes with every level of membership is like a lending library and it’s packed with great titles, including Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” read by Rosamund Pike, “Skyward” by Brandon Sanderson, “Tom Sawyer” read by Nick Offerman, and “The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco.
You can also access tons of podcasts, including Audible Originals like “Moriarty” with an all-star cast, “American History Tellers,” “NPR News Now,” “Lore,” and two of my personal favorites, the “History of English” and “The History of England.”
Screenshots of the Autio app, including the story map, bookmarks, and story details.
Have you ever been on a road trip and wondered about the places you were passing through? How did a particular town get started? Who were the first people to climb that mountain? Why did someone build a bridge there?
Autio, the app formerly known as "Hear Here" and co-founded by Kevin Costner, seeks to answer questions like these and so much more by telling true stories about the locations around you. From California’s “Devil’s Postpile” and the “1872 Owens Valley Earthquake,” to the “Tragic Silver Bridge Collapse” in West Virginia and “Montana’s First Female Lawyer,” each episode shares the stories of the people and places that shaped America.
Listening to the app while you’re out on an adventure helps give you a sense of connection to the places you’re visiting and a deeper appreciation for what makes it special.
The stories are all snackable, lasting about 2-5 minutes on average, and the voices of the diverse narrators lends character and depth to the telling of them. You can listen to Kevin Costner talking about the origins of the Northern Great Plains, John Lithgow sharing insights about Footloose filming locations, or Chris Brinkley talking about Fallon, Nevada.
You can download the app and listen to your first five stories for free, but after that a subscription is required. You can purchase a one-year subscription for $36 or a three-year subscription for $70.
Screenshots from the Roadtrippers app including the "Trips" screen, detailed itinerary, interactive map, and waypoint overview where you can include additional trip notes.
Roadtrippers, just like the name implies, is a great app for road trips! It’s a hybrid trip planner and navigation app but for me, what I like most is the ability to find fun, interesting, and completely quirky places and points of interest along the road, wherever you are. Even though I think this app was created with RVers and Vanlifers in mind, it's still a great app for long overland trips too!
Roadtrippers is both an app and a website and there are two different ways that I personally use them:
- I use the website to create a predetermined route and identify places to stop along the way
- I use the app to find fun stops while we’re on the go
When I’m using the website for planning a long-distance trip, I’ll take a route Brad has created using Google maps and re-create it in Roadtrippers on the desktop. This way, I can easily zoom in and out to see what points of interest are along our path. I’ll click on the icons for additional information, which often includes pictures and reviews from other “roadtrippers.” When I find something intriguing, I’ll add it as a waypoint to my route.
After you create a waypoint, you can click on it to get additional information, including the address, hours of operation, and more. You can also customize the waypoint by including your arrival date or notes. If a place is really interesting, I’ll do some research and add more information in this section.
For those times when we’re on the road and I haven’t preplanned a route using Roadtrippers, I’ll just open the app, select the map, and zoom in on my current location to see what points of interest or fascinating places are nearby. It’s perfect for impromptu detours, spontaneous adventures, or just sharing fun facts with your fellow passengers.
The website and app sync seamlessly and everything I create or add is immediately available in both locations. There’s also much more to Roadtrippers than I’ve covered here and it’s definitely worth checking out if you like to find fun and interesting places during your adventures.
The website and app are free to use but they are more limited than the paid version, which is $29.99 for an annual subscription. With the free version, you can only add seven waypoints, including your beginning and ending destinations, which may be enough for some folks. The map is also not available offline, which could be a challenge, depending on where you go. But if you’re going on a longer trip, having the ability to add up to 150 waypoints and access your maps offline is invaluable. (And honestly, I’ve never even come close to adding that many waypoints!)
What Are Your Favorite Apps?
Now that we’ve shared our favorite apps for overlanding, what about you? Do you have an app or two that are absolutely indispensable for your adventures? If so, please share them in the comments below!
Hardware wise, I have one one the original DeLorme Inreach's with a yearly subscription. Great for keeping in touch with family when we're out on the road, and for them to know where we are via the tracking map. We also use PeakFinder ($9 pr so) to figure out what the various mountains are. I also use Gaia as well as TrailsOffRoad. For killing those on pavement miles we listen to Craig Johnson's "Longmire" books. You've given me some ideas of apps to try, especially Paprika (sounds very interesting).
Regina, We get the audio books from the library and download them to either our phone(s), or an older phone that is now repurposed as an mp3 player.
Thank you for mentioning the apps you use and book recommendation! I've heard about PeakFinder and will definitely check it out. As we're driving long distances, Brad and I are always spotting mountains in the distance and trying to figure out their names and which mountain range. Sometimes we can figure it out with Google Maps or Gaia, but sometimes we can't. :)