smartphones-3

The Ultimate List of Scouting Apps

Once upon a time, we used maps printed on paper to find our way. We studied laminated sky charts to identify constellations. We counted seconds after thunder strikes to locate storms.

What were we thinking?

Today, thanks to the ubiquitous smartphone, we can do all that and more with a few taps.

As Scout leaders, we can now carry a library, GPS, weather radio, compass, map, camera, and field guide in our pocket. But which apps are worth downloading or — in some cases — paying for?

I tapped our Facebook friends to find out. 

Smartphones in Scouting

A post about smartphones isn’t complete without a discussion on whether these devices are appropriate in Scouting.

For Scout leaders, smartphones can be an important tool in tracking advancement, researching questions on the spot, and keeping Scouts safe from weather hazards. For Scouts, I think the best approach is “everything in moderation.”

While smartphones can be a distraction from the great outdoors, they can also be a modern-day Swiss Army knife — a multipurpose tool to enhance a young person’s Scouting experience. Facebook friend Michael Kunz agrees. He wrote: “Mobile will become an accepted practice in Scouting. Prepare now for it.”

In fact, next summer’s national Scout jamboree will again embrace the use of smartphones by Scouts. Boys and girls who bring their connected devices will have an enhanced jamboree experience that allows them to find their way around the site, learn more about jamboree activities, and connect with other participants.

Related: Should you allow your Scouts to bring their smartphones on camping trips?

Readers’ Favorite Scouting-Related Apps

Here’s the list with links to download them. Each was submitted by you, and I should point out that most of these aren’t “official” Boy Scouts of America apps. In other words, use at your own risk.

AccuWeather

Devices: Android, iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad, Windows Phone

Cost: Free

Description: “Voted ‘Best iPhone App’ by the 2012 Mobie awards, AccuWeather for iPhone is free and users tell us it is their ‘Go-to weather app.’”

Download: Android. iPhone/iPod Touch. iPad. Windows Phone.

Animated Knots by Grog

Devices: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: $4.99

Description: “Teaching and reference tool for boaters, climbers, fishermen, Scouts and hobbyists. Watch as knots tie themselves in simple step-by-step photo animations.”

Download: Android. Apple.

Audubon Birds

Devices: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: $4.99

Description: “The award winning, must-have bird guide. Now including 49 new species and field marks for over 650 birds.”

Download: Android. Apple.

BackCountry Navigator DEMO and BackCountry Navigator PRO

Devices: Android

Cost: Free for demo, $9.99 for pro

Description: “Use your phone or tablet as an offroad topo mapping GPS with the bestselling outdoor navigation app for Android! Explore beyond cell coverage for hiking, hunting and more.”

Download: DEMO. PRO.

Backpacker GPS Trails Lite and Backpacker GPS Trails Pro

Devices: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: Free for Lite, $4.99 for Pro (no ads, offline maps, video shooting)

Description: “Record hiking trails, backpacking trips, and camping adventures with Backpacker GPS Trails Pro. View maps, navigate with GPS and digital compass, take photos, and backtrack to the trailhead.”

Download: Free Android. Free Apple. $4.99 Android. $4.99 Apple.

Boy Scout Handbook

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: $9.99

Description: The official “first digital version of the Scout Handbook.”

Download: Here.

BSA On-The-Go

Device: Android

Cost: Free

Description: “The most complete collection of BSA requirements on the Android.” Includes Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Venturing, and Varsity awards and advancement.

Download: Here.

Camera+

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: $0.99

Description: An upgrade to Apple’s built-in Camera application, featuring lots of handy tools.

Download: Here.

Camera ZOOM FX

Devices: Android.

Cost: $2.99

Description: “The award-winning camera app for Android devices! Camera ZOOM FX is now Editor’s Choice on Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Mashable and SlashGear. Replace all your camera / photo FX apps with just one.”

Download: Here.

Campfire Songs

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: Free (or remove ads for $1.99)

Description: “A collection of 175 classic campfire favorites. Great for use at Campfires, Campouts, Troop Meetings, Pack Meetings or whenever you have the desire to sing. Songs can be accessed by a type, such as Patriotic Songs, by an alphabetical index or by their tune.”

Download: Here.

Camp Recipes!

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: $1.99

Description: “Whatever you can think of to cook on a campfire, this app has 10 ways to cook it. And they aren’t just made up either….these are campers’ favorite recipes from all over the country, tried and true, cooked and eaten. With over 700+ recipes conveniently listed by category, by time, and by keyword search, you can literally go on 100’s of campouts and hike’s without eating the same thing twice.”

Download: Here.

Dutch Oven Calculator

Devices: Android

Cost: Free

Description: “Calculates the number of charcoal briquettes needed to cook a given recipe in a camping Dutch Oven.”

Download: Here.

eTrailToEagle

Devices: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: $1.99

Description: “Using your eTrailToEagle account, you can use this application to manage rank and merit badge information for all of your Scouts. You also have quick and easy access to your troop address book to quickly contact anyone in the troop.”

Download: Android. Apple.

EveryTrail and EveryTrail Pro

Devices: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: Free or $3.99 for paid version with no ads and offline maps

Description: “EveryTrail is the best way to share trips, connect with other travelers and find great new things to do. Plot your trip, photos and videos right on the map and upload it to EveryTrail.com, Facebook and Twitter.”

Download: Free Android. Free Apple. $3.99 Android. $3.99 Apple.

First Aid by American Red Cross

Devices: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: Free

Description: “Accidents happen. The official American Red Cross First Aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. Get the app and be prepared for what life brings. With videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice it’s never been easier to know first aid.”

Download: Android. Apple.

Geocaching

Devices: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Windows Phone

Cost: $9.99

Description: “Groundspeak’s Geocaching Application provides real-time, direct access to Geocaching.com’s database of worldwide geocaches, as well as many other features designed to provide you with a lifetime of outdoor geocaching adventure anywhere in the world.”

Download: Android. Apple. Windows Phone.

Knots 3D

Devices: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: Free or $1.99 for paid version with “slow-motion and zoom control, favorites list and over 70 knots”

Description: “Choose from over 70 knots and see how they’re tied in incredible detail.”

Download: Free Android. Free Apple. $1.99 Android. $1.99 Apple.

Leafsnap

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: Free

Description: “Developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. This free mobile app uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves.”

Download: iPhone/iPod Touch. iPad.

Munzee

Devices: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: Free

Description: “Munzee is a real world scavenger hunt game where items are found in the real world and captured using your smartphone. You then level up and gain rank based on your score. Points are obtained by capturing other people’s munzees or when your deployed munzees are captured by someone else. Munzee is based off of the fundamentals of geocaching and adds another layer of fun to the hunt.”

Download: Android. Apple.

National Parks by National Geographic and National Park Maps HD

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: Free for National Parks, $3.99 for Maps HD

Description: “National Geographic presents an award winning, new, beautiful, and interactive guide to twenty of the most-visited U.S. national parks with a new app for iPhone and iPad.”

Download: National Parks. National Parks Maps HD.

The Night Sky

Devices: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: $0.99

Description: “Enables you to identify the stars, planets, galaxies, constellations and even satellites you can see above. Just stand anywhere and hold your device up to the sky and The Night Sky will display the names of the stars, planets and other objects you are able to see.”

Download: Android. Apple.

Pack Badges

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: $3.99

Description: “Helps you track the advancement of Cub Scouts, including requirements for Tiger, Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, and Webelos badges, and the various electives and activity badges for each year of the Cub Scout program.”

Download: Here.

SAS Survival Guide and SAS Survival Guide Lite

Devices: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Windows Phone

Cost: Free for Lite, $5.99 for the version with full text

Description: “For over twenty years, the SAS Survival Guide has been the definitive guide to surviving any situation, anywhere in the world. Now, for the first time ever, the million-copy bestselling book has been reinvented for the iPhone.”

Download: Free Android. Free iPhone/iPod Touch. $5.99 Android. $5.99 iPhone/iPod Touch. $5.99 iPad.

ScoutTrail

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: $0.99

Description: “Be Prepared with ScoutTrail, the app that every Scout and Scouter should have for up-to-date information for all BSA ranks, merit badges, and special awards.”

Download: Here.

Sky Map

Devices: Android

Cost: Free

Description: “Turns your Android-powered device into a window on the night sky. Open sourced and donated by Google.”

Download: Here.

Spyglass

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: $3.99

Description: “Spyglass is a powerful toolkit essential for every outdoorsman. Augmented reality navigator and a compass for the off-road. Packed with many useful tools: a hi-tech viewfinder, milspec compass, gyrocompass, maps, GPS tracker, speedometer, sextant, gyro horizon, inclinometer, angular calculator and 5x zoom camera. Tag, share, find and track your position, multiple locations, bearings, Sun, Moon and stars, all in real time.”

Download: Here.

Star Walk

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: $2.99 for iPhone/iPod Touch, $4.99 for iPad

Description: “Augmented reality app that labels all the stars, constellations, and satellites you point your iPhone at.”

Download: iPhone/iPod Touch. iPad.

Theodolite

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: $3.99

Description: “Based on a centuries-old navigation instrument, Theodolite is a cool multi-function augmented reality app for the iPhone that serves as a compass, GPS, map, zoom camera (photo & movie), rangefinder, and two-axis inclinometer. Theodolite overlays real time information about position, altitude, bearing, and horizontal/vertical inclination on the iPhone’s live camera image, like an electronic viewfinder.”

Download: Here.

Trail to Eagle

Devices: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Windows Phone

Cost: $0.99

Description: “A reference guide for Boy Scouts. Quickly look up the Scout Oath or Promise, Scout Law, Scout Motto, Scout Slogan, or Outdoor Code. Easily track a scout’s progress along their trail to Eagle. All ranks; Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, Eagle are available.”

Download: Android. Apple. Windows Phone.

US Army Bugle Calls

Devices: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost: Free

Description: “This selection of United States Army bugle calls allows people to play from 18 classic bugle calls. Great for Soldiers, family members, ROTC Cadets, Boy Scouts, band members and anyone who wants a soundboard of Army bugle calls.”

Download: Android. Apple.

The Weather Channel

Devices: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Kindle Fire, Windows Phone, BlackBerry

Cost: Free

Description: “Accurate and relevant weather information whenever weather matters to you. With 200+ meteorologists and, our ultra-local TruPoint(sm) forecasting technology, we provide you with the weather tools you need to plan your day, week, or even the next hour.”

Download: Android. iPhone/iPod Touch. iPad. Windows Phone. BlackBerry.

Your turn

Which of these apps do you like or dislike? Which of your favorites are missing from the list? Help me keep this list fresh by leaving a comment below. Thanks!

83 thoughts on “The Ultimate List of Scouting Apps

  1. Just remember, these apps SUPPLEMENT other things. Do not rely solely upon them for whatever you may be doing. A Scout uses ALL his resources; not just one!

  2. Part of getting the Scouting Story out is the visuals we provide. To do that we need to make the visuals “Pop”. I reccomend a bunch of fun and easy photography apps for the iphone:

    Photogene2 – it’s a mini photoshop for your iphone. Take a photo, crop, and adjust it then tell your story on facebook – all without leaving your phone.

    Big Lens – This allows you to isolate a part of your photo while “slightly blurring” the rest. This makes your subject really pop out.

    Plus there’s iTimeLapse – Make a time lapse movie with your iphone, add music from your library and publish the result right to you tube or facebook. Here’s my first attempt done at summer camp and added to facebook in minutes: http://youtu.be/AYwh-MvZI-s

    Any one of these can help you make great visuals and help share Scouting’s story.

  3. i liked this post on facebook but then it occured to me… isnt scout to get away from the big world full of electronics and other such things. My troop has a rule, no electronics at meetings and camping trips. I have heard several other troops say they have this rule. So this confuses me and makes me question what boyscouts is turning into. And no i dont think you can make the argument that they are adapting to new times becuase theyve tried so hard to keep the scouts looking in the past and keeping the scouts acting as in the old times with all the merite badges aimed at the past. I would love to hear everybodys thoughts on this and feel free to message me on facebook

    • Sam,

      Great point. I shared a few thoughts on that in the blog post, but I do agree that it’s a topic worth discussing at the unit level.

      Though I’ll bet some Scouts will see this list, the apps (and my blog) are targeted primarily at Scout leaders.

      - Bryan

    • i would say look to the Scout Motto – “Be Prepared”. what are you preparing your scouts for? life? then electronics needs to be a part of it. the merit badges reflect this thinking – electronics, computers, etc. (i’m not up with the current list, i’ve been away from scouting for a while) but i remember technology oriented merit badges back when i was a scout in the 80s. i can understand a rule about it during meetings – it could get disruptive and cause problems. but do electronics have a place in scouting? of course! Be Prepared! life is not only lived in the woods. (unfortunately)

    • How does this technology conflict with that?

      Let’s say there is a Scout who has become quite interested in knots. They’ve already mastered the few knots that are in the Handbook and are interested in learning about additional knots that may be more useful. To learn more, they go to the library and check out a knot-tying book / find a knot tying website / download a knot-tying application / ask someone that is knowledgeable about knots. This is simply a way to access information. Generally restricting the same information content because of a different delivery mechanism makes no sense. Limits make sense during meetings and campouts – you don’t necessarily want Scouts running off to the library in the middle of meetings or a Scout calling his uncle about geology in the middle of a campout or downloading an application about veterinary medicine during the flag ceremony.

      A key point in Scouting is education, and telling scouts they should never use technology to learn about Scouting skills just makes no sense.

    • To me it is simple. A lot of “No Electronics” was set in place was when electronic devices were only music and game based. That has now changed. Now we have electronic learning tools and if scouting can benefit from the learning/teaching experiance, they should be concidered.

    • Our troop has the same rule about electronics. The only difference is that we allow them to bring them on long trips and can only be used in the vehicles. once we hit our destination all electronics stay in the car except for adult leaders cell phones and those are used only if needed.

    • Our troop has come to the same realization as Ronald. The electronics, specifically smart phones, have gone way beyond transistor radios and Mattel electronic football. There are guidelines out there for troops that want to allow the use of electronics. Generally our policy is that smart phones are allowed to be used because of apps like this. However there is no Facebook, angry birds, etc.. allowed. In other words the devices are to be used for education or as tools. This does not mean we allow the tools to supplement traditional skills. They are only meant to augment existing skills like using a compass, reading a map, etc..

    • Sam,

      The BSA has modernized during the past 100 years, as has the Scouts Association (GB), and Scouts Canada, as well as most other Scouting organizations, I would presume. However, in 1970, a group of people resisted the modernization of the Scouts Association in Great Britain, and formed the Baden-Powell Scouting Association, targeted as Traditional Scouting. There are counterparts in Canada, the US, and elsewhere. Here, in the US, this group is call the Baden-Powell Service Association (they were served with a Cease and Desist order by the BSA, as the BSA’s Congressional Charter allows the BSA the exclusive right to use the term “Scout” and “Scouting”). The BPSA is a member of the World Federation of Independent Scouting Associations, and has seen considerable growth in the past few months. They bill themselves as Traditional Scouting, utilizing the original “Scouting for Boys,” as their primary handbook, as well as the original advancement system established by Baden-Powell, with differences accounting for location (George Washington Cord, as opposed to the Queen’s Cord, etc.). They also bill themselves as Scouting for All, and are coed, and fully inclusive in membership (to include orientation and religion – or lack thereof).

      While the BPSA would frown on the use of technology in Scouting activities (forget flint-and steel – they require all fires to be started strictly by friction, alone!), the BSA has always tended to embrace advances in technology. Take a look at the merit badges that have followed the nation’s top industries, as well as changes in requirements, over the years. Look at the Scout geocaching award/ program, and let’s not forget the “Video Games” Cub Scout belt loop (is that academic or sports?)…

      While I think it is great to understand our roots, and to be able to use those skills, I do believe that it is ok to use technology to supplement, _not_ supplant, our Scouting Skills, traditions, and roots, just as we use technology to aid us in our daily lives…

  4. I would also add GPS Status for Android. It is very good and quick at finding your location. And Overland for travel and mapping.

  5. I always thought the rule for charcoal for Dutch ovens was 1 briquette for every 10 deg. F. The app shows about 10 fewer than that.

  6. All thes apps and smart phones are great. And for the most part are great tools to have. But it is still a good idea to teach the up coming scouts to use a compass, protractor, scout book ect. Food for thought. What do you do when you smart phone dies?

  7. Wow totally leave out the Blackberry. I know it is sub par compared to the devices above but some of us are at the mercy of our companies.

  8. GPS Status is a fantastic compass for Android. Lat Long Calc Pro works well for setting up or checking an orienteering course. Since many (most?) Scouts don’t have smart phones anyway, teaching manual methods only makes sense. Battery die? Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar recharger!

  9. Myradar is a great free app to show real time weather radar o nyour iPhone or iPad. Very helpful in the fieldnfornseinf if a storm is going to,hit your campsite.

  10. Columbia Sportswear has a great free app called What Knot To Do. You can search knots by name or category (hitches, loops, etc.) You then can get info on what the knot is used for as well as a step by step graphic with instructions on how to tie the knot. It also gives you category info- for example, explaining what a hitch is for along with it’s subcategories are and how to tell them apart. I am a female leader with no knowledge of knots so this is really helpful for me- it has taught me a lot! I used it to teach my wolf cub scouts how to tie a square knot (which I learned is called a reef knot!) last year.

  11. Kevin wrote: “Sad that you can’t get the Official BS Handbook on Android”

    The PDF version of the Boy Scout Handbook can be read by many apps on smartphones, laptops and desktops, and it has searchable text (the iPhone app doesn’t do search). BSA also has PDF versions of the Scoutmaster Handbook, PL Handbook, Fieldbook, the Cub Scout handbooks, (at least 37 of the) merit badge handbooks, and more. I have purchased most of these in paper as well; they are dog-eared from use, but when I need to find something (“what Bear achievements have to do with hiking?”) I go straight to the PDF.

    Unfortunately, only a few of these are easily accessible on scouting.org (Troop Program Features, Cub Scout Leader Book, and Cub Scout How-To Book). Why not the rest?

      • I would buy a bunch of other BSA publications in PDF format, if they were available. I have had the Cub Scout handbooks in PDF for several years, and they are incredibly useful. But I won’t be buying any more poor, platform-limited apps with no search capability, like the Boy Scout Handbook app.

      • “Why give them away for free when you can charge money for it?”

        Well, how about, because we’re volunteers and already spend quite a bit?

    • @ Doug –

      I have been looking for the PDF versions of the merit badge pamphlets, SPL and PL Handbooks… Can you tell me where you found them? They are not on Scoutsource.

      Thanks!
      Craig (schufford (a) g(oogle)mail-dot-com)

  12. We have a no electronics policy on outings as well, but there is a time that these apps and others like it can be integrated into the larger program. For example, we’ve used the Geocaching app to introduce Geocaching to our Cub Scouts. Our leaders often use Trimble and other similar apps to track and record hikes. I use Leafsnap to help identify trees and other plants since I frankly have had a block since I was a Tenderfoot on plant identification and I prefer to not give the boys an incorrect answer. The key is to use technology as an enhancement to the program and not as the program.

  13. I’m trying to figure out if the Guide to Safe Scouting application was forgotten from the list or simply left off it because it’s not that good. It’s essentially a .pdf file that you can only view with an active internet connection.

  14. Brian wrote: “I’m trying to figure out if the Guide to Safe Scouting application was forgotten from the list or simply left off it because it’s not that good.”

    I didn’t know there was an app for that. I downloaded the GSS PDF from scouting.org and saved it on my phone, thus meeting the Tour Plan requirement to be “in possession of a current copy of Guide to Safe Scouting”. No Internet connection required and, of course, it’s searchable.

    ob-app-recommendation: I have used some of the above GPS and mapping apps, but many of them draw their own contours then overlay points of interest, which don’t always convey the details. I like having real USGS 7.5′ quads, downloaded for off-line use in the backcountry. The two iPhone/iPad apps that I use are “Topo Maps” ($7.99), which has full-resolution quads (with collars and stitching) as well as GPS features; and “Trail Maps by National Geographic” ($2.99), which has both quads and aerial views.

  15. What’s the point then in being a scout???
    A real scout will know what to do when your battery dies, the phone takes a swim, gets left in the sun, the app bugs-out, etc, etc…

  16. What’s the point then in being a scout?
    A real scout will know what to do when their Handbook is missing, pages are ripped out, it catches on fire, etc, etc…

  17. Great post! Here’s a few I found in the Google Play store that look pretty promising, but I have no experience with:
    Audubon Trees – Android – $4.99
    North American Trees – Android – $0.99
    Audubon Wildflowers – Android – $4.99
    Trees Free/Trees Pro – Android – Free/$9.99

  18. Pingback: Cell Phones at Camp: Not Very One-Sided Anymore « Ben Luedloff

  19. Pingback: New York OA Trader | Today’s Links August 10, 2012

    • Ronald, is that the one where the cover says “U.S. Army Survival Guide” and when you open it up, it says “Call the Marines.”? :)

      U.S. Navy (Retired)

  20. Bryan, I realize that in this day and age that electronics are our future. And devices like our phones are common place and are a “good” replacement for the old “manual” devices we don’t seem to use much of anymore (compass, map, the stars…). However, our troop also has a “no electronics” policy. The problem with letting boys bring electronics on campouts and to meetings is that all they end up doing is sneaking off to find ways to play with them when adults aren’t looking. I believe that “arming” your troop with a few “smart” devices and GPS units is smart to teach them the ways of the future, but teach them the past first. But don’t let your boys bring their phones and iPod’s to meeting and campouts or you’ll lose their attention.

  21. Pingback: Night Sky iPad App | kevindevin.com

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