I do the majority of my HF operating while out at portable locations. Like most people these days, I always have my cell phone handy. While I have a bunch of apps installed, there are a few that I use most often to figure out where to go and where I am.
Before I begin, I should mention that I use an Android phone. Some of these apps may be available for the iPhone or there may be similar apps available for you.
I should also point out that I do most of my hiking and biking on well-established trails. Suburban Philadelphia is not exactly a wilderness area. Wilderness and backcountry folks will likely have different needs.
Having said all that, here are the non-ham-specific Android apps I use most often in the field.
Where Am I?
This appropriately-named app by Ejelta LLC does exactly what it says. Using your phone’s location services, it shows where you are in the world. It shows your city, zip code, phone area code, sunrise and sunset times, elevation, and GPS coordinates. It also identifies the county you’re in, which is useful for setting up a new location in the TQSL software for Logbook of the World (LoTW).
The sharing feature is also important to me. When I’m out alone, I use Where Am I? to text my location to my (far) better half. I can send her the location of where I parked my truck and where I stopped along the trail to play radio.
Maidenhead Grid Locator
Another piece of information I need for LoTW is the grid square I’m in. For years, I used (and still use) an app with the simple title, Locator. As I started writing this post, I found that this particular app is no longer available in Google Play. No worries; there are lots of other apps to determine your Maidenhead grid square. Here are a few:
- Ham Locator (by OH5GQF) shows your grid square (6 characters) on a map. You can toggle between street view and satellite view.
- If you use HamLog (from Pignology) for portable logging, check the “Tools” tab. There’s a grid locator tool there. You can navigate around a map to find the grid square anywhere on earth.
- HamGPS (by EA4EOZ) is a grid locator on steroids. It shows your current grid square out to 10 characters, along with your coordinates and compass heading. It also shows the location and status of the GPS satellite constellation. That can be fascinating to watch.
TrailLink and AllTrails
These are two similar apps that I use for planning trips to new trails. The Rails to Trails Conservancy produces TrailLink, while AllTrails is from AllTrails, Inc. They both give you maps, directions, reviews, and more. Both apps have paid versions that will let you save maps to your phone. That’s handy if you are in an area with poor cellular coverage.
Last but not least… There’s no shortage of weather apps for your phone. I have one that I use for the usual weather forecasts: daily, hourly, and so forth. I also use Storm Radar (The Weather Channel) and it has saved my bacon on a few occasions.
Of course, Storm Radar‘s radar display lets you see exactly what’s coming your way. What I really like, though, is the real-time rain and lightning alerts. Even if I don’t have the radar display up, Storm Radar gives me a heads up on nasty weather headed towards me. There have been times when this app helped keep me and my gear from getting rained on.
So these are some of my favorite apps for portable operating. I didn’t cover any apps that are specific to ham radio but I may do that in a future post.
Do you have any must-have apps for outdoor operating? Let me know in the comments.
72, Craig WB3GCK
[My usual disclaimer: This blog is not monetized in any way. I have no financial interest whatsoever in any of these products.]
OK. With that out of the way, here are links to the apps mentioned in this post: