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Best gadgets and apps for camping with your Android

Camping season is here and it's time to head for the wilds. Check out these gadgets and Android camping apps to help you make the most of your trip.
April 30, 2013
google nexus 7 camping commercial

It’s been a long winter, but, with trees and flowers in full bloom, spring is finally here. With any luck we have a long, hot summer in prospect, and that means camping season. You can head off into the wild at the drop of a hat, if the weather looks right. More people go camping every year than jet off to foreign climes. It’s an affordable way to escape your daily grind and find a little adventure. For the tech-obsessed, the idea of being without your Android could be enough to put you off, but fear not, you can take it with you and enhance your trip with the right camping gadgets and apps.

We’ll kick off with some gadgets that bring your creature comforts to the great outdoors, and then we’ll move on to round up the best Android camping apps in the Play Store.

Keeping your gadgets safe

If you’re going to take your smartphone or tablet camping with you, then you’ll want to be careful how you carry it. Your standard everyday case probably won’t deal with a dip in the river, and tablets can shatter if they’re packed in a rucksack that gets dropped or bumped.


Anyone taking a tablet or a netbook will want the right luggage. You’ll struggle to find a tougher solution than the Pelican ProGear S140 backpack. It combines the crushproof and waterproof credentials of a case with a comfortable backpack that has all the pockets and features you need to carry your gear and keep it safe.

You can also find a few waterproof cases at OtterBox. They offer an affordable way to pack your smartphone and other precious items, like your wallet and keys, safely away and protected from the elements. Some of them are crushproof too.

Power supply

There’s no doubt your Android smartphone or tablet can prove really useful on a camping trip, but you have to have a plan to keep that juice flowing. If the battery expires and you didn’t prepare, then you’re left with dead weight.

A spare battery is an obvious place to start, assuming your smartphone has a replaceable battery. If you took your car, a charger that plugs into the lighter socket is a must. You could get a cheap one, but the Cellet Elite Charger is worth a little extra.

How about harnessing the power of the sun? The SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station from Gomadic is basically a solar panel in its own neoprene carry case. It works best if you buy the high capacity battery pack with it. If you have a fixed camp and plenty of sun then you can leave it to charge up while you’re off exploring and then re-juice your Android gadgets at the end of each day. It is quite big, but you’ll find that smaller solar charger devices struggle to collect the power you need.

What if your battery is dead, there’s no sun, and you desperately need to make a call? Check out the SOS Charger. This clever device was born through Kick Starter and it combines a 1,500mAh battery with a hand crank. Wind for five minutes and you should have enough juice to make a call. It has a standard USB port so it will charge anything, it’s really portable, which makes it perfect for camping, and it gives you a workout.

Staying entertained

There’s nothing better than good tunes around the campfire at night, but what if you forgot the acoustic guitar? The Rukus Solar is definitely worth checking out. It’s a Bluetooth stereo speaker system with an internal battery and a solar panel to keep it juiced up. There’s an always-readable, e-ink display, basic controls, and a carry handle, and you stream the tunes from your smartphone or tablet. As an extra bonus the Rukus Solar has a USB port, so it can actually double up as a charger.

On the next page we’ll run through some handy apps to install before you go.

The Play Store has over 800,000 apps now and the variety is incredible. Here’s a quick rundown of the best Android camping apps that you should be downloading and installing before you embark on your adventure.

Don’t forget a flashlight app

Your Android probably came with a flashlight app preinstalled and it could prove super useful when you’re camping. Test it out before you go. If you don’t have one, or your existing one is sub-par, then we recommend Brightest Flashlight Free as a great way to illuminate any situation. You could also try Tiny Flashlight + LED, as it includes warning light options that could come in handy in an emergency.

Planning your trip

When you’re getting ready to go it pays to be organized. Finding out that you’ve forgotten something important when you arrive at the campsite is a painful experience. That’s why you might want to try something like Camping Trip Planner, as it basically lays out everything you need for a camping trip, divided into categories. You can create your own checklists and make sure you never forget an item again.

For working out an itinerary and keeping all your travel plans in one place, you could look at TripIt Travel Organizer Free. It’s a well-designed app for planning all kinds of trips and it offers an easy way to share your plans with others.

Finding your way

If you’re hunting for a good campsite then you could try Alan Rogers Camping for free advice on over 3,000 campsites across Europe. If you’re in the States then the Camp Finder – Campgrounds app covers 17,000 campsites and RV parks. You’ll find reviews, photos, and directions for each campsite.

Depending on where you are headed, you might find Google Maps meets your needs. You could also use My Tracks to record your route.

Anyone heading off the beaten track and into the wilds will need a good offline GPS navigation option. One of your best options for topographical maps is BackCountry Navigator PRO GPS, although you should check if it covers your destination before you buy. OruxMaps is an excellent free alternative for offline maps and waypoint navigation. If you’re using traditional maps then you might want to check out the best compass apps to help you navigate.


Survival and food

For comprehensive survival tips in a range of environments you won’t find a better app than the SAS Survival Guide. It covers everything you could think of and a whole lot more besides. The Army Survival Guide is a good free alternative.

You’ll find a range of tasty ideas in 100+ Camping Recipes Free. They’re pretty detailed and easy to follow, as long as you can get your hands on the ingredients.

Wildlife, night sky and scary stories

Our last category provides a little entertainment on your camping trip. If you want to spot and identify wildlife then there’s a great range of apps available from Audubon, such as Audubon Birds – A Field Guide. There are also options covering trees, mammals, insects and spiders, and even mushrooms.

At the end of the day, you should definitely take advantage of the visibility you can enjoy in the wilderness and check out the night sky using Google’s free Sky Map app.

Later on, when you’re all huddled around the campfire, it’s time to tell some scary stories, especially if you have some teens in your party. The Creepy Tales app will provide you with 100 categorized stories to frighten your companions with.

That’s it for our Android camping guide, but if you have something to suggest then share it in the comments.