Now that milder weather has (finally) arrived in most areas of the country, it’s time to get outside and commune with nature. Before you set out on your next picnic, nature walk, or hiking adventure, download these helpful, informative, and incredibly cool outdoorsy iPhone Apps:
The premise behind Leafsnap is deceptively simple: Snap a picture of a leaf, upload it and this impressive new app will identify it. In order to develop such capabilities with a high degree of accuracy, however, collaborators from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institute used face recognition technology to create a vast library of leaf images with which users’ photos are matched. The image library is scrollable too, and is rich with information about numerous U.S. tree varieties. Note: Leaves must be photographed against a white background in order for the app to work, so grab a piece of scrap paper or a napkin before heading out on the trail (Free). You can even use it to photograph nature taking over abandoned buildings.
Finally! Bird lovers can leave those unwieldy guides at home. With authentic images, range maps, and other important classification factors, as well as songs and calls courtesy of the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, iBird is an immersive identification tool that won’t weigh down your backpack. (Free for the 15 most common birds of North America; $9.99 for comprehensive regional guides; $29.99 for the 900-bird pro version)
This elegantly simple app allows you to hold 10 trays of butterfly samples in the palm of your hand. Scroll through the collection to find the butterflies you’ve observed, then click to identify and animate them. ($1.99)
Topographical maps from every major National Park in the U.S., all in one place. Need we say more? Planning your summer road trip has never been easier. (¢.99)
The Facebook of mobile hiking apps, EveryTrail plots your hike, run, ride–or even sail–as you go, creating a real-time “interactive trip map.” Friends at home can vicariously experience your adventure as you post pictures, video, and even blog posts right from the trail. (Free; $3.99 for the enhanced version)
A must for camping out or just taking a late night stroll, Star Walk ensures you’ll never look up at the cosmos again and wonder what the heck you’re seeing. Hold your iPhone toward the sky and in real time, the app identifies the stars, planets, and constellations you’re viewing. Click on a heavenly body for detailed information and coordinates. ($2.99. Note: Motion tracking technology works only on the 3GS or higher.)