Best iPhone Apps for Campers

The Top 5 IOS Apps for the Modern Camper

Best iPhone Apps for CampersWhen it comes to smartphones, we’re a house divided. My husband loves his Android and I love my iPhone. So, when he asked me to write about the best camping apps for smartphones I had to start with iPhone apps for campers.

From survival to entertainment, apps can make camping trips enjoyable. Just remember to charge your iPhone’s battery and always have a backup plan for when that battery dies.

Survival and First Aid iPhone Apps for Campers

Survival Guide By Max Soderstrom
Based on the U.S. Military Survival Manual FM 21-76 and featured in PRIME living’s July/August issue 2012, the Survival Guide iPhone app is a guide book of sorts that covers everything from basic survival medicine to water purification, types of shelters and how to build them, building a fire and identifying dangerous plants. If there is anything you’d like to learn about surviving outdoors, this app will have you covered. Of course learning before you pitch your tent is advised, but I’d recommend even experienced campers keep this app handy.

St John Ambulance First Aid By St John Ambulance
While this app is based on UK protocols, I found it highly recommended as a first aid app. With instructions and illustrations for assisting people with allergic reactions, bites and stings, hyperventilation, diabetes and more this app could help you save a life.

An iPhone App to Help You Find Your Way

Spyglass By Pavel Ahafonau
Quite possibly the coolest compass app I’ve seen, Spyglass projects a compass over the image seen through your iPhone’s video camera so that you get a real sense of direction while using it. I’m terrible about finding my bearings, even when the sun is clearly rising in the east and I’m so excited to have found this app!

Entertaining iPhone Apps for Family Camping Trips

MyNature Animal Tracks By MyNature Inc.
Our oldest son’s favorite part of camping near the lake is waking up in the morning to discover all the tracks the nocturnal creatures have left on the beach and around the campsite. Having grown up in the country, I too enjoy trying to identify the footprints and track the creatures or speculate with my six year old about what they may have been doing while we were sleeping. MyNature Animal Tracks is sure to become a favorite app at our next camping trip.

GoSkyWatch Planetarium – the astronomy star guide By GoSoftWorks
Many of us camp to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and one of the best perks of a quite night away from it all is the view of the night sky… something we don’t see in our lit neighborhoods. Even if you’re not crazy about astronomy like my husband, you look up in wonder at the millions of tiny lights flickering above you. Next time you’re under the stars, try this app and see how many constellations you can find with it’s location based overlays of the night sky. Just lay down, point your iPhone at the sky and be amazed!

Water Purification: Survival Filtration

Some day, you may find yourself out camping or in the wilderness without any modern forms of water filtration and treatment. This does not mean you have to remain dehydrated. A survivalist water filter will clean the water sufficiently for short-term consumption. However, it is still possible that a few pathogens or bacteria will remain in the water after using these survivalist techniques, which is why you should only attempt them in a true  emergency.

In general, you have two options for purifying water in survivalist situations- boiling and making your own water filter. A combination of the two methods will produce the cleanest water.

Look for pure water sources

Before you filter or boil water, look for a pure source. Look for water features, such as:

  • Running water from a river or stream
  • Clear water
  • Sources away from roads, farms, cities, and other man-made locations
  • Water free of animal waste, dead plant debris, and dead animals

Building your own survivalist filter

Since it is nearly impossible to find fresh drinkable water in the United States, you will probably have to build a filter to strain out mud, tree branches, and other particles from the water. The easiest way to do this is with a sand filter.

If you have a plastic bottle or metal can handy, you can use that as the container for the filter. Otherwise, you will have to fashion a cone shape from bark or large leaves. Birch bark is ideal. Punch holes in the bottom of the plastic or metal container.

Fill the very bottom of the container with a 1-2 inch layer of small pebbles. You can also use non-poisonous grass or moss. Place a 3-5 inch layer of gravel over the pebbles. Fill the rest of the container with sand. If you have any charcoal leftover from a fire, place a 1-inch layer between the gravel and sand. Another filter recipe alternates layers of grass, sand, and charcoal. Use what you have on hand.

Pour water through the container and allow it to drip into another container. Keep filtering the water until it comes out completely clear on the other side. After filtering the water, boil it for safety. Boil the water for at least 10 minutes to remove as many pathogens, bacteria, and viruses from the water as possible.

Filtering water survivalist-style is not ideal. It is still possible to develop health issues from impure water using this filtering and purification method. However, a survivalist filter will produce cleaner water than simply drinking from a natural source, and you will have a much lower chance of injuring your body from impure water or dehydration.

What kinds of survivalist filters have you tried?


My Every Day Carry Knife: The Kershaw Ken Onion Leek

kershaw_black_leek_textWhen looking for a daily carry knife I look for three things,

  1. durability,
  2. ease of use,
  3. and size.

So when I received the Kershaw Leek, designed by the legendary Ken Onion, as a gift two years ago I was quite pleased.

My knife has been through it all, paper, wiring of all kinds, meat, vegetable, wood, plastic, and even sheet rock. I’ve carried it in mundane spaces like the office and through rides down rapids swimming beside an over turned canoe, and it’s weathered it all.


The Leek does require some maintenance, especially if you pocket carry the knife. It has a lot of crisp edges which are wonderful for maintaining grip, but also great at gathering pocket lint. I find myself blowing out the lint every week.

It’s pretty good at keeping an edge, but if you’re consistency cutting material known to dull knives, you will find yourself sharpening this blade every other week or so.

I mentioned grip earlier. I’ve somewhat large hands — can palm a basket ball most of the time — and this knife feels better in hand than any other knife I’ve had.

The Speed Safe assisted open operates just as advertised allowing you to open this folder with one hand; either hand.

Tech Specs

  • Made in the USA
  • SpeedSafe® assisted opening
  • Frame lock
  • Reversible (tip-up/tip-down, right) pocketclip
  • Steel: Sandvik 14C28N, DLC coating
  • Handle: 410 stainless steel, DLC coating
  • Blade length: 3 in. (7.5 cm)
  • Closed length: 4 in. (10.3 cm)
  • Overall Length: 7 in. (17.9 cm)
  • Weight: 3.0 oz.

As of this writing you can pickup this knife for $75 – $100 which is more than fair for the build quality. At that price I’ve not been hesitant about using this knife every day. If you’re an Amazon Prime member it’s going for $38.38 right now.

More Info

Multi Tool on a Budget

Tim Leatherman

Ever since Karl Elsener  started producing the Schweizer Offiziersmesser, “Swiss Officer’s Knife”, in 1891 human kind has been producing multi-tools. Today, everyone from adventurers, military types and do-it-yourself enthusiasts have found various multi-tool configurations have become essential parts of their packs and tool kits.
While the Swiss Army knife has always been centered around the knife, Tim Leatherman chose to make pliers the core of his multi-tool platform and a new legend was created. He started production in 1983 and new models have been produced every year since.

I’ve owned several Leatherman models and every one has been stolen. While that’s very frustrating for me, it certainly says something about the tool’s image and desirability. I’ve certainly been happy with each model I’ve had and keep purchasing replacements.

Today there are about 30 different models of Leatherman so you’re sure to find one that will fit your need and wallet. Today we’re going to take a look at one of the more economical models, the Wingman. As of this writing you can pick one up from for about $35.

L_Wingman_ADThe Wingman was created in 2011 and has 14 tools. It’s a little heavy at 7oz. so you ultralight backpackers probably won’t want this model. However, the diy person or casual camper or backpacker on a budget will love this model. It’s put together well with very little play allowed in the joints. In fact when you first get yours you’ll find the tension and friction of the moving parts to be just slightly to tight. Leatherman’s are known for this and will loosen to be just right with some use. I personally think this is indicative of Leatherman’s attention to detail.

Like all Leathermans, the primary tool is the plier assembly. This model effectively gives you needle nose pliers, standard pliers and wire cutters. The plier’s are spring loaded which makes single hand operation pretty easy. Other tools included are a knife, file, wire striper, bottle opener and the list goes on. See Below.

While Leatherman has other models which have more tools, and some with tools more suited for camping, the Wingman is an excellent starter / budget conscience model.

Tech Specs

2.6 in | 6.6 cm (Blade Length)
3.8 in | 9.7 cm (Closed)
7 oz | 198.4 g (Weight)

Tools Included
Spring-action Needlenose Pliers
Spring-action Regular Pliers
Spring-action Wire Cutters
420HC Combo Knife
Package Opener
Wood/Metal File
Spring-action Scissors
Small Screwdriver
Medium Screwdriver
Phillips Screwdriver
Ruler (1.5 in / 3.8 cm)
Bottle Opener
Can Opener
Wire Stripper

More Info

MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter

I’m doing some research on micro filters in preparation for some hiking / camping trips planed for 2013. If funds allow, the MSR® MiniWorks® EX is one I intended to pickup and field test — I’ll update this post with my experiences. In the mean time, here are some reviews that have convinced me this model is one to try. If you’ve used the MiniWorks EX, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Made in the USAThe founders of Cascade Designs® setup shop in 1972 to produce Therm-A-Rest® sleeping pads. By 1991 they had released the first MSR® water filter, the WaterWorks®. Today we’re looking at the WaterWorks grandkid, the MiniWorks® EX Microfilter.


Weight 1 lb / 456 g
Width 2.75 in / 7 cm
Length 7.5 in / 19 cm
Filter media Ceramic Plus Carbon
Filter pore size 0.2 microns
Flow (L/min) 1 liters per min
Flow (strokes per liter) 85
Cartridge life ~2000 liters
Cartridge replacement indicator Yes

More Info


Worth every penny!

November 8, 2009 By R. Zamudio from

[editor’s note: Corrected some spelling errors. Possibly the best review I’ve ever seen on Amazon and a major factor in my decision to try this filter.]

I researched filtration systems for almost a month before settling on the MSR miniworks. I figured I could just go pick one up at the local Cabela’s or REI, but BOTH retail stores were sold out of these, while there was still a good supply of the other MSR and Katadyn filter systems on the shelf. I took this as a sign that this is the filter to have and ordered it from Amazon, and it has been worth every penny. Read on….


MSR MiniWorks EX


In Camp:
The filter is very simple to use and has a good output-per-pump ratio. You never really feel like you are doing more work than you should for the amount of water you are pushing through, especially if you take into account the fact that every pump is worth about one gulp of nasty water that you WON’T have to drink. If you do see a diminished output, simply unscrew the filter housing and give the element a light scrubbing. We were taking water from a brown lake that is loaded with tannins and we would get about 2 liters through (about 2 full-size nalgene bottles worth) before we noticed the filter could use a cleaning. Tannin-loaded water is supposedly some of the worst for clogging these ceramic filters, so if you have cleaner water sources at your site than we do, your element-cleaning cycles should be farther apart. The water came out crystal-clear and almost tasteless. It didn’t taste like Dasani bottled water, but it definitely didn’t taste like tea-colored lake water either. Pretty much neutral. More importantly, it tasted CLEAN and nobody got sick. Also, the MSR Miniworks requires no chemical additives but still claims to filter everything but viruses. The chance of contracting a waterborne virus from a U.S. lake or stream (think Polio, Hep-A, SARS, and a few others which you have probably had vaccinations for) is far lower than getting sick from bacteria or parasites. If this still bothers you, you can still boil your clear, clean-tasting water just to be sure.

Out of Camp:
The maintenance on this filter is very simple. The unit breaks down into 4 major parts, and the wrist pins on the pump assembly are quick-release squeeze-and-push types. You can literally have this thing stripped down and cleaned completely in about 5 minutes, and that includes the sterilization of the filter element. A couple dabs of silicone grease or chap stick is all you need to lube it up when you are reassembling the unit.

The Hidden Bonus:
$80 may seem like a lot for a water filter, but the MSR miniworks pays you back exponentially…
Prior to buying a filtration system, everyone in our backpacking party hauled their own water needed for the entire trip. We would calculate what we needed for hydration and cooking each day, plus a bit more just in case, and we strictly stuck to these rations. We would have enough water, but never enough to truly quench one’s thirst. Having this filter in our party allowed us to drop about 15 lbs carried, per person! Plus, we didn’t have to pack out a bunch of empty water bottles anymore. One filter supports 4 of us and we now drink as much as we want. When you think about how important hydration is to your body’s systems (Read Cody Lundin’s “98.6 Degrees” book and you will know more about the subject than you ever wanted to), shelling out $80 to have clean, safe water on-demand anywhere you can find a water source is a small price to pay.

-Put a coffee filter over the hose inlet and secure it with a twist-tie, rubber band, or fishing line. This will make your MSR filter pump more efficiently for longer without as-frequent element cleaning. Every time you clean the element, you are scrubbing away some of the element’s overall diameter. When it gets too thin, you have to get a new element. Fewer cleaning cycles = prolonged filter life and more money remains in your pocket. Filter element, $40. Coffee filter, 3 to 4 cents.

-Bring a spare filter element if you are going on an extended trip or are going to be absolutely dependent on this filter for your drinking water while you are out! Meaning: hiking back to your vehicle and driving like a madman to the nearest 7-11 for a drink before you go into a coma from dehydration is not going to be an option! The word is, these ceramic elements are fragile. Finding this out at the wrong time and being caught without a spare would be a very bad thing. If you spent the cash for the filter and other people in your party use it, have them pony up the $40 and buy the spare element for you. It’s only fair…. right?

-USE A NALGENE BOTTLE WITH THIS UNIT (or other similar one that will attach to the adapter). The motion created while you are pumping is far too violent for precision-aiming the output stream into any loose container, except for a bucket. You can also attach another length of rubber hose to the outlet and run that to your container, but we have not tried this yet. The Nalgene bottle seemed like the simple solution to use with the filter and we filled our other containers from this bottle.

{Product use update} – Our party of 3 did a 4-day back country hike in the Grand Canyon (search: Tanner Trail) this past winter. This is definitely NOT a tourist trail, and the first 2000-3000 ft of elevation is not much a trail at all. The noted only water source along this entire route is at the very bottom of the canyon, the Colorado River. We were able to augment our hike-in water supply by searching for pools of water trapped in depressions of the rocks near the places where we made camp, and pumping water from them using the MSR Miniworks. I don’t even want to think of what was in those water pools, but what came through the filter was clean and refreshing. We made notes of the larger water pools, which allowed us to lighten our water load on the hike-out and stop by the pools for a top-off when we needed it.