The growing popularity of smartphones has sparked debates about the negative implications of our over-reliance on technology. In particular, there is much discussion about the need to spend less time staring at a screen and more time being active and interacting with nature.
As a technology-enthusiast and nature-newbie, I wondered how I could use my smartphone to do just that. I researched apps designed to enhance my outdoor recreation and nature experiences (by providing directions, safety information, easy access to field guides and citizen science opportunities), and compiled a list of my favorites, all of which are free to download. Check them out!
Parks Canada Learn to Camp app provides helpful tips for first-time campers. Available in English and French, it includes photos, videos and information about the basics of camping for all of Canada’s 42 national parks.
Waterkeeper Swim Guide app provides water quality information for beaches. Every beach is marked with a green or red icon to indicate whether or not the water is safe for swimming. If you are a dedicated beach-goer, this app is for you.
The Sonic Repeller app emits a high frequency sound that deters insects, thereby helping to protect you from some insect bites. I think this app is good for people that spend a lot of time outdoors, including field staff, and people with severe reactions to bites. The app comes with a warning: while most people cannot hear the sound it makes, it may be audible to small children.
The UV Canada app helps you enjoy sunlight safely by telling you the level of ultra violet (UV) radiation rays in your location of choice. The app uses a graph to show the UV status at each time of day. You can also input your environment, skin type and sunscreen SPF to receive an estimated time of when you will start to burn.
* Available on iPhone and Android
Besides downloading apps, there are many other ways your smartphone can help you enjoy nature:
As a flashlight: You can either use the flashlight feature on your smartphone or download a flashlight app so that your phone can help you navigate at night.
As a camera: If you see an animal or an amazing sunset, or you are just having a great time with friends, your phone can help you capture special moments.
As a map: If you have cell reception, you can use the Google Maps app to get directions. You can also use the compass feature that is either on your phone already or can be downloaded from the app store.
Although I believe there are many ways that smartphones can enhance nature and general outdoor experiences, I still enjoy the occasional technology-free excursion.
Can you think of any other ways that smartphones enhance nature and outdoor experiences? I would love to hear your ideas and opinions.
Chloe Stanois has been the communications intern at Ontario Nature. She has a communications and sociology degree from Wilfrid Laurier University and is completing a post-graduate corporate communications and public relations program at Centennial College.