There are now oodles of handy Android or Apple apps specifically designed to up the fun, help you coordinate your campsite and even prepare you for the unexpected on your next group camping trip.
Of course, when it comes to car camping (and especially backcountry camping), battery- and reception-dependent smartphones can't always be counted on. Good gear and outdoor smarts are really your only constants.
With that disclaimer in mind, here are a few useful apps to put to the test on your next campout.
Campsite Preparation & Organization:
Camping Checklist is the Android go-to for campsite organization. This customizable checklist comes pre-populated with 225+ possible camping items, yet makes it easy to edit and categorize to your liking. My favorite perk? You can email friends your tailored checklist in order to coordinate who's bringing what on your next group camping trip.
Camping Manual is really an e-book in app format. This Android/Apple guide is full of family-oriented how-tos and fun camping activities. The catch? Its only interactive function is a single bookmark—no table of contents with chapter anchors here.
Campgrounds Premium is an Apple app that matches you with the most compatible campsite near you among 5,000 U.S. campgrounds. This app syncs up nicely with GoogleMaps and can save campground contact info to your address book, making it easy to navigate or call ahead when you're on the road. I found myself wishing that the campground info pages listed campsite fees, though.
Pocket First Aid & CPR is the American Heart Association's app answer to unexpected medical pickles. From cuts and bites to seizures and diabetic emergencies, this Apple app has solutions handy for you. It even has a quick-reference shortlist that tackles the most common mishaps so you are less likely to fumble during a crisis.
The Classic Camping Cookbook by Coleman helps bring good eats to your campsite. The Apple recipe hub smartly organizes dishes by cooking method (dutch oven, grill, foil, on-a-stick, you name it). The recipes are not the simplest (most require 4–8 ingredients), but the app does let you filter by available ingredients in case you have a limited stash.
Fun Times at the Campsite:
Group Games is campgames.org's collection of fun, interactive games to entertain the whole group during campsite downtime. This Andoid app lets you find the perfect game based on the number of players and their ages. With icebreakers, teen games, campsite activities and more—you can leave the board games behind and save room for the gear you need. (Bonus: The app updates itself periodically with fresh group games.)
100 Horror Stories, Sounds and Scares lets you bring 100 ghoulish, creepy and haunting tales to the backcountry (e.g., Frankenstein, Dracula, The Turn of the Screw). What makes this Apple app campfire ready? Its reader-friendly format makes it simple for the designated storyteller to read aloud, plus play any of the 40 sound effects whenever you want to build suspense in the story (and startle the bejeezus out of your audience).
Living Room Guitar Player Folk Songs Vol. II is an Apple-created library of lyrics and beginner-friendly chords for folk song favorites. Sounds like it a fine formula for creating many musical campfire memories—but just make sure that a fellow camper helps keep the smartphone awake so the guitarist's hands can focus on strumming.
Fun Camp Songs (by various artists) is actually one of the many music albums out there that can help make great sing-along family memories on the trail or around the campfire ("Down by the Bay," anyone?). After all, it's hard to find a more useful app than your Apple/Android smartphone's music library.
Have any smartphone apps enhanced your group camping trips? Spill, please.
Hungry for more apps to bring outdoors? Check out Part 1 of our app series: Handy Smartphone Apps for Outdoor Adventurers.