There are four things that I grab every day before I walk out of the house. My keys will get me to work, my wallet has my cash, my knife is my do-all tool, and my phone that allows me to contact my loved ones. Of those four things, the phone has by far the most uses. Not only is a lifeline to family and help in an emergency, but it’s a portable computer that can Google any information so long as you have an internet connection.
If you’re stuck without an internet connection, however, your phone can still be a wealth of information. It’s all about the apps you choose to keep installed. Here are my ten favorite prepper/survival apps (and all are free!)
If your phone can take an SD card, and they almost always can, then you can stick a large number of survival PDFs on that SD card and access them any time using Adobe Acrobat Reader. It’s a quick fix that can help you if you take the time to prepare it ahead of time.
I’ve fluctuated between a fairly large number of weather apps, and this is the one I’ve landed on as the best. There are two major features that I really like – it has a radar function that is pretty accurate, and it’s good about giving me the most emergency alerts. This one does require the internet to work.
There are a number of knot-tying apps out there as well, and this is another personal choice. Like most of the apps on this list, it downloads the entire set of files to your phone so you can use it without requiring the internet. Knots are one of the most important skills you can have in a survival situation, and they’re among the easiest skills to forget, so it’s nice to have the reminder.
Google Maps are my favorite for navigational purposes, but again, this requires an internet connection, and it certainly likes knowing your position at all times. What I like about HEREweGo is that you can download a local copy of a very large local area and store it on your phone. Google Maps has that feature as well, but it’s harder to use in my opinion, and HEREweGo is a little more user-friendly in terms of being willing to work without knowing where you are at all times.
(Note: if you’re willing to pay for it, there’s a number of topographical map apps that allow you to download large area topographical maps, but I can’t find a very good free one)
A first aid manual is something that is infinitely useful, and perhaps more useful at times than the actual supplies themselves. The American Red Cross first aid app is even better than the phyiscal book, is fully downloadable, has no ads, and even contains quizzes that can help you learn the material. If you don’t want to use it as a learning tool, it’s also quite useful just using it in a pinch, as it has a lot of search features that are quite helpful.
(Note: the ARC Pet first aid app is also very nice if you have a four-legged friend, and that’s something that you’ll have a lot of difficulty finding information about without this app.)
I like the wide variety of languages available in Google Translate. It’s not a perfect app by any means, but it allows you to communicate, even in a simplistic way, with almost any person on the planet. Conversations will often be more about you typing something in your phone to show them, while they type something in their phone to show you, but it’s better than nothing. If you travel a lot, or live in a diverse area, then this is something that you should definitely get for your phone. Don’t forget to download the Offline translations for common languages.
Compasses on phones are very hit or miss. Map programs are certainly easier to use for navigational purposes, and the compass apps are not all that accurate, but I do use this one on my phone in a pinch. This app has a paid version that takes away the ads, but it’s not essential. I purchased it because I used this app quite a bit when teaching my children how to navigate with a compass. This app is unique in that not all phones have the mechanical requirements to run this app, so certainly try it before you buy it.
This is a gardening app more than a survival app, but I have had some success using this app to take photo images of plants or plant parts, and having the app suggest potential plant matches for what I’ve shot. Like all plant ID apps, this one can be hit or miss, but for my climate in the Midwest, this app has had the most relative successes compared to other apps.
Need to conserve power? You’ll want a battery saver app that can run in the background during these circumstances that will turn off all unnecessary applications and processes. It might not make a huge difference depending on the model of your phone, but any help is useful in my mind. PowerPro is the app I use, although there are others that all deliver similar results.
If you have any issues whatsoever in converting Imperial measurements to metric, then a unit converter app is essential. I use mine all of the time.
Audobon Birds Pro: A birding app that has a large number of search criteria and information on a variety of different birds. I’m not sure how useful this one is, but it’s certainly nice to have on a hike when I see something unusual.
Survive – Wilderness Survival: This is a game about surviving in the wilderness. Essential? Probably not. Fun? Yep. The reason I included this on the list is that I find it a thought-provoking exercise from time to time, and I think that for teens and kids, it might be a path towards interesting them in some basic survival skills like making a fire or building a shelter.
Flashlight: Flashlight apps are largely unnecessary, as most current smartphones have this feature built-in, but in case yours doesn’t have this feature, get a flashlight app to turn the light on your camera on, and I think you’ll use it everyday.
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