Best Scouting apps for iPhone and Android, 2014 edition

Empty your backpack and leave everything behind. All you need on your next Scouting outing is your smartphone.

OK, so maybe that’s an exaggeration.

What is true, though, is that for the two-thirds of Americans who own smartphones, it’s now possible to fit reference books, a GPS device, a weather radio, a compass, a map, a camera, a field guide, a recipe book and more in your pocket.

But which apps are worthy of downloading (or even — gasp! — paying for) to enhance your Scouting experience? Your fellow Scouters helped me compile the ultimate list below.

First, though, a quick note on smartphones in Scouting. They’re here to stay; resistance is futile. When used properly, these technological tools can actually improve your Scout unit. The BSA’s Deputy Chief Scout Executive, Gary Butler, made a compelling case for viewing them as a cure, not a curse. Read his comments here.

With that out of the way, check out the best Scouting-related apps after the jump.

The best Scouting-related apps

Here’s the list with links to download them. I should point out that most of these aren’t “official” Boy Scouts of America apps.

Scouting-apps---camp-scoutCAMP SCOUT!

Devices: iOS

Cost: Free

Description: Use this official Boy Scouts of America/Boys’ Life magazine app to plan your next outing with ease. It lets you find BSA properties near you and with the activities you want to do.

Download: Here.

Read more: I blogged about the cool, new app. Click here.

Scouting-apps-Yahoo-WeatherYahoo Weather

Devices: Android, iOS

Cost: Free

Description: Considered by many the current best weather app. Gives accurate hourly, 5-day, and 10-day forecasts to help you properly pack for your next Scouting adventure.

Download: Android. iOS.

Scouting-apps-Knots-3DKNOTS 3D

Devices: Android, iOS

Cost: $0.99

Description: This easy-to-use app is popular among Scouters and Scouts because it’s fun and allows you to digitally tie, untie and rotate more than 90 knots with just your finger.

Download: Android. iOS.

Scouting-apps-KindleKindle reading app

Devices: Android, iOS

Cost: Free

Description: Now that official BSA publications like the new Fieldbook are being introduced digitally (in addition to the traditional print version), the Kindle reading app becomes even more powerful. I like that if you buy a book once, you can view it on all your devices, even if you use a mix of Android, iOS, PC or Mac.

Download: Android. iOS.

Scouting-apps-Dutch-Oven-calculatorDUTCH OVEN CALCULATOR

Devices: Android

Cost: Free

Description: It could use a design update, but there’s no simpler app for calculating the number of charcoal briquettes needed to cook a given recipe in a camping Dutch oven.

Download: Here.

Scouting-apps-GeocachingGEOCACHING

Devices: Android, iOS

Cost: $9.99

Description: The only app you need to enjoy the fun outdoor activity that spawned a Boy Scout merit badge. Helps you find one (or a dozen) of the 2 million geocache containers hidden across the globe. “My Scouts always love it when I start up the Geocaching app when at camp,” Scouter Richard Walters says. “They love getting a group together and grabbing a cache wherever we go.”

Download: Android. iOS.

Scouting-apps-AudubonAUDUBON BIRDS PRO

Devices: Android, iOS

Cost: $3.99 for Android, $9.99 for iOS

Description: Help your Scouts or Venturers identify birds they see or hear with this excellent app that includes 821 species, 3,200 images and eight hours of bird sounds. I like that 8 percent of every sale goes directly to Audubon to support its mission to conserve and protect nature’s at-risk birds and wildlife.

Download: Android. iOS.

Scouting-apps-camera+CAMERA+

Devices: iOS

Cost: $1.99

Description: My favorite iOS camera app, it’s an upgrade to Apple’s built-in Camera application, featuring lots of handy tools to capture Scouting memories.

Download: Here.

Scouting-apps-camera-zoom-fxCAMERA ZOOM FX

Devices: Android

Cost: $2.99

Description: My favorite Android camera app, this one’s fast and feature-rich to make your Scout meetings, campouts and trips look even better.

Download: Here.

Scouting-apps-star-walkSTAR WALK

Devices: Android, iOS

Cost: $2.99 for iOS, $3,17 for Android.

Description: There’s something magical about the night sky, especially on a camping trip. This app helps you understand just what you’re seeing. I love the augmented reality feature that labels all the stars, constellations and satellites you point your phone at.

Download: Android. iOS.

Scouting-apps-first-aidFIRST AID BY AMERICAN RED CROSS

Devices: Android, iOS

Cost: Free

Description: The only app on this list that may some day save a life. The official American Red Cross First Aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. Includes videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice.

Download: AndroidiOS.

Scouting-apps-adobe-readerAdobe reader

Devices: Android, iOS

Cost: Free

Description: Save a tree! The BSA is making more and more of its forms and guides (like the Guide to Safe Scouting) available online as PDFs. A PDF reader allows you to easily view these, fill them out, search them and share them. There are others with more features, but this one’s free.

Download: AndroidiOS.

Scouting-apps-gaiaGaia GPS

Devices: Android, iOS

Cost: $19.99

Description: It’s not cheap, but Gaia GPS is by far the best hiking GPS app around. It offers the functionality of a standalone backcountry GPS unit and lets you download maps for those times when you don’t have a cell signal.

Download: AndroidiOS.

Advancement-tracking tools

I know that many advancement-tracking tools are out there on Android and iOS, and most have robust Web features, too. But I didn’t want to single out one as “best” because I don’t have enough experience with them. If you’ve found one you like, share your experience in the comments section.

Your turn

Which of the apps above do you like or dislike? Which of your favorites are missing from the list? Your comments below will keep this list fresh. Thanks!


Note: Prices were accurate at time of posting but may have changed.

74 thoughts on “Best Scouting apps for iPhone and Android, 2014 edition

  1. I agree with a lot of your iPhone app recommendations, such as Star Walk and First Aid. Thanks for the pointers to some I hadn’t heard of.

    I also have the Boy Scout Manual on my iPhone, which is great at meetings or where ever. It’s a bit pricey though and I doubt I’ll get a free upgrade when they release the next edition! :-/

    My favorite hiking GPS app is Motion-X GPS for $.99. It lets you download and save topo maps of the areas you’re going hiking in, so you don’t need a cell signal to get download them when you’re on site. It has lots of ways to navigate to spots, such as street address, Lat/Long, point on the map, etc. The company produces a great line of apps, all for $.99.

    As for Advancement apps, all I had seen seemed WAY over-priced, until I saw the mention from Scott Fisher above. I’ve never tried it, but at least they have a decent pricing model (1 Scout in a family is free, Troop for $10). I can’t believe that other apps/sites wanted $60 per year, which is the opposite of THRIFTY. (No, I’m not affiliated with any Advancement software company.)

    • Oops, I just read the Scoutbook.com pricing structure more thoroughly and the $10 is for the first 5 boys in the troop, so our 15-boy troop would cost $25 per year. Still do-able, but not the bargain I thought. Sorry for the misleading info.

  2. With the upcoming change to the Cub Scout curriculum, will BSA be releasing their own ‘official’ achievement tracking app? Seeing as how it will be obsoleting all the existing cub scout tracker apps currently available, it’s a great chance to position themselves as a market leader in that category. Plus they still have a year to build it, plenty of time.

    If BSA is looking to outsource this, they should look at the folks who built the Boy Scout tracker TheScoutApps. https://thescoutapps.com/ That is my vote for best tracker app. Excellent interface, web/cloud integration, feature upgrades, so pay for what you need.

    No affiliation, in fact, they are my competition (I wrote the Cub Scout Achievement Flow app for iOS). 🙂

    • Thanks for the shout out 🙂 We are a little bit new to the scene, but are excited to try our hand at creating awesome tools for Scouters!

      • I just downloaded the Scout App. I love it so far.

        Can you add the Rock Climbing Merit Badge to your app?

        • Thanks! Glad to hear it 🙂 I’ll add your request to our log and we’ll get it out with our next update.

        • Are you referring to the Climbing merit badge? If so, that is already in the app.

        • Haha! Sorry. I didn’t realize.
          My son wrote “Rock Climbing” on the blue card, but the award card says “Climbing”.
          Thanks 😉

    • I have heard lots of good things, but my issue with the scout app is that it is ios 7 only. I am an android user but I also have an ipod with ios6. I cannot use the app.

    • Been using the Scout App for quite a while and am growing to love it. Can’t wait for add-ons for awards other than rank and merit badges! Love that it backs up and syncs between multiple devices!

      • Check out Scoutbook. (Found at Scoutbook.com ). They are already rarin’ to go for the upcoming program changes. I don’t foresee them getting outdated any time soon regardless of program changes.

        I came across Scoutbook a few months ago and have become a big fan!

  3. Goggle Sky (free) is an excellent star map.

    If you’re going to pay for knot-tying app, then Animated Knots by Grogg is the best thing out there.

    • BTW, if he is talking about the iPhone app “Army Survival Study Guide”, it’s $1.99.

      Another app with similar name “Survival Guide” is free and says “… it is completely based on the U.S. Military Survival Manual FM 21-76.”

  4. I use BSA On the Go SD on my android. I like that I can see all achievements needed for Cubs, Scouts, Venture and Varsity, as well as telling me about Scouter awards. You can put in as many scouts as you’d like for free. It allows you to check off what has been completed but won’t show you unless you open that category. It also has all merit badge and belt loop and pin requirements. It becomes very useful when you don’t have a scout book around. http://www.georgercainjr.com
    We also use KnotsGuide and Knotster. Both show 3D steps on how to tie each knot and what they are used for. Both also free on Andriod. http://www.facebook.com/knotster http://www.susasoftx.com

  5. There’s a free IOS App Called “Path to Eagle” which has all the rank requirements for each rank, and merit badge offerings. In addition, virtual notebooks and quizzes for boards of review. Very handy indeed

  6. I use the scout trail app to track my scout’s achievements and look up merit badge requirements. It’s great although it only allows you to add one scout.

    • Steven,

      The full Scout manual is available on iPhone for $9.99.

      They also just released the new Scout Fieldbook on Kindle for $19.99. (Yeah, it’s pricey)

  7. MyRadar gives you a very readable NWS Doppler weather display on your phone so can see where that storm is relation to your campsite in real time.

    Topo Maps allows you to download actual USGS 7 1/2 minute topographic quadrangles to your phone or tablet. Most other online maps lack decent contour lines for route planning.

  8. On Android, try “Backpacker GPS Trails Lite” (free!) or the “Pro” version ($4.99). The same functionality described here at less cost! It also can use USGS topo as the basemap, and gives you stats such as elevation change and distance for your hike, ride or walk. It will also cache your chosen area and works fine without a signal.

  9. I love seeing the BSA embrace environmental friendly ideas for their books.

    Though, I’d love to see the BSA start also releasing their books on Google Play.

    DRMs are a pain, and a lot of people hate using multiple apps for books – myself included. I mean, I guess I *could* have my BSA books on Amazon and use the Kindle app, and have other books on Play and use the play app … … but its more likely that someone (*cough*) would just attempt (and succeed) to breach the DRM on the book and convert it as a PDF or upload to another eBook reader program (like Google Play Books).

    The better option would be to not force the hand of people to violate the DMCA and release it on additional publishers. Not that I am endorsing that kind of action in any way.

  10. In honor of John James Audubon’s 229th birthday, seven of Green Mountain Digital’s excellent Audubon apps: Birds Pro, Trees, Insects and Spiders, Wildflowers, Butterflies, Mammals, and Mushrooms for Android & iOS are all on sale for $0.99 (Google Play/iTunes App Store sale ends May 1st; Amazon sale ends May 4th)
    http://contentz.mkt4800.com/mson/2014/04/25/Yen9ooYD1a2Y/index.html
    I also recommend BSA On-the-Go SD, First Aid-American Red Cross, Google Sky Map, MapMyRide (all free) & Nynix Knots 3D ($0.99). I’d rather carry a 2nd battery in my pocket than 5+ pounds of guidebooks. 🙂
    I do keep paper guidebooks in the Scoutmaster’s box for Scouts to borrow during camping trips.

  11. For geocaching we prefer c:geo. It is better overall than the geocaching app. It allows offline (no cell coverage) geocaching (as long as you have stored the cache ahead of time), it does not limit number of caches per day,
    it has seamless integration with GPS Status, and it’s free. The only drawback is that it is not available on iOS. If you need iOS, iGeoKnife is recommended. It has most of the benefits of c:geo.

  12. I came to add my favorite apps to the comments and there are already 61 comments. Perhaps we need our own version of the Appys focused on Scouting.

    I am going to provide my favorites in short form. I am an Android user with a preference for free community supported apps where available though I’m not afraid to put money down for a quality product.

    Weather
    1Weather (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.handmark.expressweather) with ad supported and paid versions is a beautifully designed weather app. You can track weather in multiple locations and receive weather alerts as they occur. You can also view satellite and radar images.

    Geocaching
    c:geo (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=cgeo.geocaching) is a free geocaching app that works well for beginners. More importantly c:geo allows you to host your own geocaching server which makes it easy for Scouts and Scouters to create a private database of caches that could be used on private or BSA property.

    Navigation
    Locus (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=menion.android.locus) provides an add supported and paid navigation app useful for the outdoors. It includes many of the features of popular GPS devices and can be used offline.

    Navigation in the woods is only half the problem. How is your patrol getting to and from the trail head. Waze (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.waze), a free in car navigation system now owned by Google, not only allows you to route around traffic jams it has collaboration features that will allow you to track the progress of all your unit’s vehicles. Having tools of this nature can help alleviate the temptation to caravan, but they are best employed in the hands of the navigator and not the driver. Waze also has a companion website that can be used to help plan routes.

  13. Has there been any thought about making on-line BSA training – such as (and especially) Youth Protection Training – available for IOS/Android mobile platforms? Clearly, making a training course like YPT available for mobile devices should increase its availability to the nation of Scouters requiring this training, which should in turn increase the completion percentage of that training.

  14. Not an app but don’t go out with your smartphone as your ‘map’ without a solar charger (one that charges a battery that you use to charge your phone) or an external battery that’s good for 3 or 4 cycles.

    • I’m not sure about the others, but TheScoutApp works offline and syncs any changes back online when a connection is restored.

  15. I’ve always sort of really not trusted 3rd party Advancement applications (not too happy with the current BSA one either but…) however, after using if for almost 3 years now I really and very much like etrailtoeagle.com….and I’m a bit picky being a current member of our Council Advancement Committee and my unit person for a long time also…take the tour, it works and will be my choice until I see what the ‘new’ BSA offering will be

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