Yes, if you’re like most people, you go kayaking in order to get away from your cellphone. No one wants to answer work emails while they’re out on the water, after all.
But on the water, the roles can be reversed. Instead of working from your phone, your phone can work for you with these awesome kayaking apps.
With the explosion in popularity of kayaking as a sport, tech developers have begun to jump on board with a variety of great resources for experienced paddlers and beginners alike. From simple GPS navigation to full-blown log books and guides, here are American Paddler’s choices for the best kayaking apps for the iPhone today.
The Best Kayaking Apps for iPhone and Android
Apple Watch enabled? Yes
Why you need it: Powerful and versatile route tracking
While not strictly a kayaking app, Routie is among the best route-tracking apps on the market today.
This app can do it all, from measuring speed, distance, travel time and altitude in real time to creating easy-to-read, interactive graphs that are shareable and customizable. You can track a single trip or multiple trips — over a day, a year or anywhere in between. Want to take a break? Routie knows to stop tracking when you stop moving, so you always get accurate statistics. And while you’re moving, you can program the app to get voice-updated feedback on your progress.
With a beautiful, clean interface, Routie also allows you to take photos along the way and add them to your track, so you can remember where you saw that great picnic spot or those epic rapids. You can also add custom notes and placemarks.
As with most tracking apps, Routie does utilize your phone’s built-in GPS, so be sure to bring an extra battery pack.
If you like to kayak in new places (and who doesn’t?), Paddling.com’s GoPaddling app is an indispensable kayaking app. Why? Because it takes the guesswork out of finding a place to launch.
GoPaddling’s simple map-style app is really a global database of users’ paddling experience, allowing individuals to plot points where launches, public beach access or amenities have helped them. Each point gives exact coordinates, facilities and driving directions, along with users’ comments and advice on more than 25,000 locations. Want to kayak on Detroit’s Belle Isle? “Seakayaker1” advises parking on the road between the U.S. Coast Guard station and fishing pier, and “abraxas” advises watching for poison ivy on your way to the beach.
Enjoy the app? Become part of the community of kayakers and add your own points and advice. The more people use it, the better GoPaddling becomes.
Apple Watch enabled? No
Why you need it: To read the tides for open-water kayaking
While there are many tide tracker apps out there for those who love sea kayaking or open-water kayak fishing, TideTrac doesn’t require an advanced nautical knowledge to understand and use.
The best part of this app — and what makes it worth the $2.99 — is the easy graphical interface that allows users to read tides in any location at a quick glance.
Using data from U.S. Coast Guard stations across the country, TideTrac can tell a prospective kayaker not only the best time of day to kayak a large body of water, but also the days of the month when tides are highest or lowest, making it ideal for planning longer excursions. With location services on, TideTrac automatically locates the nearest tidal station, and graphs can be downloaded for offline viewing.
Other features include a four-day tidal forecast, as well as info on sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset. However, TideTrac does not include information on currents or local weather.
While TideTrac is designed for open-water kayakers, RiverApp is the go-to resource for river paddlers. This app’s easy-to-navigate interface provides up-to-the-minute data on conditions for more than 12,000 rivers and lakes worldwide (including 7,291 rivers in the United States).
While RiverApp doesn’t appear to be location-enabled, it does allow users to keep an eye on specific rivers with saved favorites and push notifications. These can alert a user when water heights and currents are best for kayaking, and when they’re too dangerous to go out. Data is usually available for multiple sections of each river, and you can also view historic conditions for up to three months.
RiverApp features an intuitive interface with easy-to-read graphs for both water levels and flows. Still not sure how to read it? The app’s color-coded “traffic light” system should help: green means go, yellow means caution and red means “probably not today.”
While Routie edges Kayaklog if we’re talking strictly route-tracking prowess, Kayaklog definitely holds an advantage in terms of kayaker-specific features.
While both do a decent job tracking speed, distance and time, where Kayaklog really shines is its ability to link directly with its partner website, KayakLog.net, to create a real-time custom logbook with all your data, photos and adventure notes in one place. Once you’re done, you can easily share your conquests with friends via Facebook.
The real value behind Kayaklog, however, is its safety features. Paddlers can register up to three “emergency IDs” — such as a spouse, parent or friend — who can track your trips online and monitor your latest location in case you don’t arrive on time. Besides basic route-tracking data, Kayaklog also provides paddlers with information on currents, air temperature, wind speed and direction and weather forecasts up to 24 hours in advance.
One other bonus: Because logs are printable, they can be used directly for renewing sea kayak instructors course certificates in some cases.
If you’re planning to go somewhere you might not get cellphone reception, it’s essential to have a fallback plan.
While there’s no substitute for a good quality kayak GPS device, ViewRanger at least allows the ability to download maps of your route to your phone.
ViewRanger offers the ability not only to download detailed topographical maps for remote outdoor locations in 23 countries, but also provides trail guides, videos and information on a wealth of parks and routes across the globe. The free version offers street, aerial, satellite and terrain maps, while for a little coin you can upgrade to full topographical, land cover and slopes maps.
ViewRanger also offers a host of other cool features, such as its “Skyline” augmented reality feature, which allows you to pan your phone across a landscape and identify mountains, lakes and other landmarks.
Like other route-tracking apps, ViewRanger’s GPS feature also provides detailed route information and allows paddlers to share their location with friends and social networks.