I often joke with my wife that when I retire I plan on being a hermit. Not the shut-in-my-house-watching-tv type, but living in a cabin on a mountain, with nothing but her, a fishing lake and miles of trees between us and the next closest person. I have to laugh it off because she thinks I’m joking (surprise honey!)
This highlights a fine line I feel I walk sometimes in my excitement for new tech and using gadgets to enhance all the things I do; and the pure, simple pleasure that can be found in enjoying the great Minnesota northwoods.
Fortunately for my Jekyll and Hyde nature loving self, I have found a happy medium. These days it’s common to find tech gadgets and apps that outdoor enthusiasts can use in the field to enhance their outdoor experience. Just as Jessi is highlighting some of the top urban apps I want to highlight some of the great ways your phone can meet the forest.
MN DNR Lakefinder App
(free, Android beta)
I’ve lived in the area about seven years now, and I love to fish. However, in this land of 10,000 lakes, I have quickly discovered that I have not fished any measurable amount of lakes, let alone fished them enough to know them like the back of my hand. (for starters, none of these lakes have tan lines…) Thankfully the Minnesota DNR has a an app for that. The Lakefinder app for Android allows me to search for lakes by name, map, what’s nearby, and lets me save my most frequently visited lakes.
Once I’ve picked a lake, I get access to official DNR survey information, maps showing me how to get to the lake, and also information about what types of fish can be caught in that lake. So whether I’m 10 miles from home, or 100, as long as I’m in Minnesota and I have the Lakefinder app I can navigate the lakes like a pro!
Recreation.gov Camping (free, iOS)
It should be noted that there are more and more apps that are in this vein, so certainly look around before you decide on one or the other, this is just one I’ve had a little practice with. Recreation.gov Camping’s app is a neat tool that you can use when you aren’t quite sure where you want to stay that night, or if you aren’t sure if there even is a place to stay, this app can definitely point you in the right direction.
Using the GPS in your mobile device, this app will show you the closest federal campgrounds near you. You can also filter your results to include which campsites have electrical and water hook ups, or which ones are waterfront campsites as well.
Once you’ve found your preferred site the app will show campsite details, pictures if any were submitted, and will even help you book online if available.
(pricing varies, Android and iOS)
For the true woodsmen out there, if you’re going to ground, you might as well do it with some tech style! Using a compass app can be beneficial if you just want some cardinal direction. This can be useful when hiking in the woods to maintain your bearing, and can also be a fun recreation or teaching tool for kids.
Another benefit is many of these apps use magnetic sensors in your mobile device and are not tied to GPS exclusively, so even if you lose GPS or 3G signal, you will be able to find true north- which could be a real benefit if you’re really out in the sticks!
For added wow effect, look for apps that utilize your mobile device’s camera for a pseudo Augmented Reality effect.
(pricing varies, Android and iOS)
For all your birders, botanists and education sponges out there, check out the plethora of flora and fauna centric apps that are available. Too numerous to list, these apps range in capability to identify plants and animals to interacting with them. Don’t worry none of them have a bear attractant built in, but my wife and I really enjoy being able to confirm that we’re telling our 5 year old that what she was a 13 lined ground squirrel and not just your run of the mill urban chipmunk.
(pricing varies, Android and iOS)
Alright, class… raise your hand if you’ve ever been out camping/hiking/biking, and all of a sudden you couldn’t start your campfire, your bike seat came loose, or your shoelace broke. Accidents in the field happen, and if you don’t have a spare you could be in for a miserable time. Don’t despair! Using your mobile device you can access help in the wild! From looking up visual how to’s on YouTube or Howcast, or accessing your saved Survival Handbook e-book, you can be back up and running and save your trip! As a side note, don’t forget to check out some of the official First Aid and medically themed apps. While no replacement for true medical care, these can certainly help with slivers, blisters and bruises until you can seek professional help!
PHIL SEIBEL, Digital Manager, may be reached at 855-5862 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pseibel(@pseibel).
City dweller apps
While most “metro mallards” head north when the weekend rolls around to escape to the lake and enjoy God’s Country, there are still plenty of apps for those nights out in the Twin Cities, and even some that will relocate when you do, too.
City Pages (Free, iPhone and Android)
City Pages released their app in 2010 to great fanfare. A popular website and publication for reviews and tips on the local Twin Cities hot spots and activities, the app does all of that and even includes a calendar for vacation dates set up in advance. Whether you want to see what concerts are being held in the month of August in the cities and surrounding areas or just want to catch updated news for both entertainment and general in the area, the City Pages app has it all.
Because it processes so much information — breaking down restaurants and concerts by a variety of genres and specifics that could make your headspin — it at times can take a while to load and may shutdown unexpectedly if it becomes too overwhelmed, but with all the features so specific to the Twin Cities, it’s hard to not check it out from time to time. I am a fan.
My Night Out
(Free, iPhone and Android)
My Night Out is one of those apps that uses your current location to find dining, lodging and drink specials, daily events and even band venues in that area. It gives you options on the go, which is great for trips. It also has an option to switch to “My Day In” where it will list shopping sales, community events along with business specials. The lakes area even has it’s own “Lakes Area Night Out” page that can connect from the app for when you are back up this way.
The only downside I have come across is that not every city or area is listed as an option, with mainly larger scale cities being the focal point. Still a great app to find out some cool new events and activities happening in any community you might be spending your summer vacation time in — and with specials, giving your wallet a slight break, too.
And to keep saving money while finding your next activity….
While both City Pages and My Night Out (just two of my preferred “out-on-the-town” apps among many offered) offer a look at ticket, dinner and drink specials, two other great apps to use when looking for things to do that focus specifically on getting you the best deal: Groupon and Living Social. Both apps are fairly similar, again focusing on the location you desire. Groupon will send up to 30 deals in a day for a specific area, letting you choose what you are interested in (i.e. deals on dining, sports, getaways or random activities) and have more than enough options for users to choose from.
My personal favorite reason to use LivingSocial is for faraway trips. They offer great pricing on hotels that often include plenty to make any getaway complete. They also have daily deals, though not as many spread out like Groupon. Either way both of these apps will give you the best bang for your buck when looking for things to do on your summer vacation, no matter where you may be.