The world of smartphone navigation apps can be confusing, with new options appearing constantly. Alex Roddie takes a look at some of the best hiking apps to help you find your way in the mountains.

Hiking apps, for many of us, are here to stay in the hills. Most smartphones are reliable, waterproof, and with a few simple tricks (such as activating Airplane Mode and carrying a backup power pack) battery life is more than good enough. Here, we take a look at the best hiking apps to help you find your way in the mountains.

Digital mapping and navigation hiking apps occupy various positions along a spectrum of use. Many people prefer to navigate with map and compass and only want a hiking app as a last-resort backup. Some like the convenience of route planning on hiking apps but still prefer a paper map for hill use. Others go all-in with digital navigation and the traditional nav kit remains in the pack as the backup system.

For the sufficiently experienced, each of these approaches is valid and can be done safely, so the first question is to ask yourself what role you’d like a mapping app to play in your mountain adventures. There are several advantages to using a digital mapping tool. Planning routes is often significantly quicker and easier, and will automatically calculate distance, total ascent, and other data.

You can zoom in and out on the map, and carry maps for the entire world in your pocket. Locations of interest can be saved as waypoints. Some of the best hiking apps enable you to show a huge amount of data on the screen at once, such as multiple planned routes (often colour coded) and large sets of waypoints (such as all the Munros).

Google Maps will not cut – see why with our article on Google Maps for hiking. At a minimum, the best hiking apps must offer detailed offline topographical mapping. Although several good options exist, for many years ViewRanger was commonly recommended as the best choice however that was discontinued in 2022.

We do not recommend that you rely solely on a smartphone app for mountain navigation. Always carry a paper map and compass and know how to use them.


 Best hiking apps for digital mapping 2023 reviewed

  1. Topo GPS | Recommended
  2. Outdooractive | Best Buy
  3. FATMAP
  4. Gaia GPS
  5. Hiiker
  6. MapOut
  7. Memory-map for all | Recommended
  8. OS Maps | Recommended
  9. komoot | Recommended
  10. OS Locate | Recommended
  11. UK Map App | Recommended

Topo GPS

Screenshot and rating of the TOPO GPS hiking app
  • RECOMMENDED: Power user
  • Rating: 4/5
  • Likes: simple interface, reliability & speed, excellent planning tools, good range of international maps, colour coding, great for complex GPX files
  • Dislikes: no 1:50K OS mapping, international map costs can get expensive, no community features, no website planner
  • Costs: Basic use free (no topo maps); 1:25K OS maps available for £24.99/year subscription or £2.49 per 256km2 tile; other maps available with separate purchase
  • Platforms: iPhone and Android
  • Maps: 1:25K OS maps, OpenStreetMap (world), topo maps for many countries
  • Features: route planning, OS grid ref, track recording, GPX import/export, geotagged photos
  • Offline? yes, download areas of map to device

Topo GPS is a relatively simple app, yet is deceptively powerful. The interface is minimal and devotes maximum screen space to the map, including a central crosshair. At the bottom there’s a grid reference (this can be customised to OS Grid). In the UK, OS mapping is present, but you only get 1:250K overview or detailed 1:25K – no 1:50K at the time of writing. The subscription cost for OS mapping is reasonable although each map type worldwide has its own cost, which can make it expensive (for example, French IGN maps cost £17.99 a year).

Topo GPS was awarded “Walkers app of the year” in our TGO reader awards. They also recently celebrated 10 years of being on the app store.

Read more: Topo GPS review

BEST BUY: Outdooractive

Screenshots of the Outdoor active app and rating score given
  • RECOMMENDED: All-rounder
  • Rating: 4.5/5
  • Likes: great range of worldwide maps, easy and fast route planning, community routes, website planner
  • Dislikes: learning curve for ViewRanger users and some features not present yet, OS grid reference not easy to use, minor bugs
  • Cost: Basic use is free (no topo maps, ads); Pro is £2.23/month (OS & topo maps, no ads, offline); Pro+ is £4.45/month (Harvey & specialist Alpine maps, 3D planning).
  • Platforms: iPhone, Android, web planner
  • Maps: OS, Harvey, excellent range of international topo maps
  • Features: route planning, OS grid ref, track recording, GPX import/export, community, augmented reality, 3D route preview
  • Offline? paid version only. Two modes: either download map areas or download all maps for a planned route

At the time of writing most of ViewRanger’s features have now been added to the new app, although the interface is more complex and some features are more difficult to find. The main interface includes the map view, any planned routes or waypoints you’ve added to the special ‘My Map’ mode, and buttons for route discovery, planning, tracking, and ‘My page’ (your social profile on the app, including planned routes). To get a grid ref, you have to tap on a location, then tap through to ‘Details’ to get a list of coordinate formats (OS Grid listed near the bottom). This is much less convenient than ViewRanger’s approach.

Users signed up to the Pro or Pro+ membership are able to Outdooractive gain multiple benefits and discounts from brands such as Samsung, Helly Hansen, Garmin and more.

Read more: Outdooractive review

Gaia GPS

  • Rating: 4/5
  • Likes: great for international trekking, powerful route planner, advanced features
  • Dislikes: no OS maps or OS grid ref
  • Costs: free (basic use, no offline maps); $39.99/year (Premium, offline & worldwide topo map)
  • Platforms: iPhone, Android, web planner | Maps: Gaia Topo (worldwide), many international topo maps with Premium subscription
  • Features: route planning, track recording, GPX import/export, community, geotagged photos, area calculator
  • Offline? yes, download areas of map to device (large areas & multiple map types at once supported)

If you’re going trekking abroad and you need a lot of functionality, Gaia GPS is the app to look at. The standard Gaia Topo map is based on OpenStreetMap data but is quite clear, with contours, paths and hill shading (no cliffs marked). Although there’s no OS mapping, internationally Gaia GPS has most topo maps you could want, including USGS Topo (USA) and numerous European map sources. All can be downloaded for offline use (Premium only) and you can even overlay multiple map types with transparency (superb for border areas where two map types are needed).

Read more: Gaia GPS review

FATMAP

Rating for the Fatmap hiking app
  • Rating: 3.5/5
  • Pros: good value, international map options, easy route plotting, innovative visualisation tools, integration with Strava and GPS watches
  • Cons: route planning requires internet, no OS grid reference, cluttered interface, can’t display own routes on main map screen
  • Costs: basic use free but very limited; FATMAP Explore costs £24.99 a year
  • Platforms: iOS, Android, web
  • Maps: OSM-based “Global Topo” (free version); paid version gives OS maps and many international top maps
  • Features: route planning, track recording, GPX import/export, route discovery via community, avalanche prediction and avoidance tools, 3D map, integration with Garmin, Suunto and Strava |
  • Offline?: yes, paid version only. Some functions don’t work offline, such as route plotting

fatmap.com

For mountain users, FATMAP is a valuable app with features for both casual and advanced users. It offers a social network, route discovery tools, and the ability to download offline maps. The paid version costs £24.99 per year and includes a Strava subscription. The map view is clear but cluttered, but users can choose between topo map layers and additional information like live snow and terrain visualization. The app can also be viewed in 3D. However, it cannot display your location as an Ordnance Survey grid reference and requires an internet connection. FATMAP also connects to GPS watches from Garmin and Suunto and communicates with Strava. While it has a snap-to-path feature, it lacks offline functionality and a cluttered main map screen. Overall, FATMAP is a valuable tool for casual users seeking inspiration and easy-to-use navigation.

Our full thoughts can be seen in the First look: FATMAP App

HiiKER

Hiiker app rating and review
  • Rating: 4/5
  • Pros: clear and uncluttered main map screen, detailed Harvey maps, prominent grid reference and elevation, offline map downloads available to free users
  • Cons: grainy OS maps, route planning requires internet, can’t display own routes on main map screen
  • Cost: Hiiker Pro+ is £41.99 a year or £5.99 a month
  • Platforms: iOS, Android, web
  • Maps: wide range of OSM-based free maps; paid version gives OS maps (including Ireland and Northern Ireland), Harvey maps, international topo maps, and various historical maps
  • Features: route planning, track recording, GPX import/export, OS grid reference, route discovery via community, stage-by-stage breakdown of longer trails, printable maps
  • Offline?: yes, both free and paid version. Some functions don’t work offline, such as route planning.

hiiker.app

Hiiker is a walk-sharing app with a clean interface and a good balance of features, including Harvey maps. It offers a list of nearby trails and curated walks, and allows users to download maps for their routes or export a GPX file. The app also offers a print map option, which splits longer walks into day stages and generates a PDF with a map for each day. Offline map downloads are free for all users, but detailed topo maps are only available for Pro+ users. The main map tab is clear and minimal, but OS maps have poor image quality, while Harvey maps are clearer and more visually appealing. Route planning is excellent, but importing a GPX file is clunky and users cannot view their own planned routes on the main map.

Read more on Hiiker with our Hiiker app review

MapOut

MapOut rating
  • Rating: 4/5
  • Likes: simple interface, fast and reliable, excellent route planner, great for organising complex libraries of routes
  • Dislikes: no OS maps or OS grid ref, no route sync
  • Costs: £4.49 one-off purchase
  • Platforms: iPhone only
  • Maps: worldwide basic topo map based on OpenStreetMap data
  • Features: route planning, track recording, GPX import/export
  • Offline? yes, download areas of map to device (large areas supported)

Due to its lack of support for OS mapping, MapOut won’t be your only app for UK use, but it can be useful as a sidekick app. The map is based on OpenStreetMap and covers the entire world. You get contours, footpaths, and basic topographical features, but it isn’t as detailed as a proper topo map and I wouldn’t recommend navigating off-path in the mountains with it. Where MapOut excels is its simple interface and efficiency, making it perfect for getting an overview on a complicated route or set of routes.

Read more: MapOut review

Memory-map for all

Memory map for all app
  • Rating: 4/5
  • Pros: excellent map screen, flexible for power users, high level of customisation
  • Cons: Steep learning curve; route planning could be improved; no Harvey maps; missing many European topo maps
  • Cost: Costs vary depending on mapping purchased; full OS mapping from £24.99/year
  • Platforms: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows
  • Maps: Europe Basemap and OS 1:250K Road Atlas (free); OS maps & small selection of international topo maps (paid)
  • Features: route planning, track recording, GPX import/export, OS grid reference, viewing routes & waypoints on main map screen, extensive customisation
  • Offline?: yes

memory-map.com

Memory-Map for All focuses on a map-viewing experience and managing your own library of routes. It lacks route recommendations and social features. The app features a large, uncluttered map view with buttons in the corners and edges, and a nested menu system. OS maps are available for purchase or subscription, with the cost reasonable for UK mapping. OS maps scroll and zoom quickly, with excellent clarity. The ‘List overlays’ menu allows users to control user data on the map screen. Route planning is good, but snap-to-path is currently unusable. A better implementation is on the wishlist. GPX file import and export are easy and reliable, and route appearance can be controlled. For advanced users, the app offers powerful features but is overly complicated for basic needs and needs an overhaul. It is not a great option for European topo maps.

Read our full review on Memory-Map for all

OS Maps

OS MAPS Hiking App
  • RECOMMENDED: Simple solution
  • Rating: 4/5
  • Likes: simple to use, excellent website planner with printable maps, good integration with paper maps
  • Dislikes: no waypoints, can’t show multiple routes on the map at once, snap to path only works in national parks, offline mode a little cumbersome
  • Costs: £29.99/year (OS Maps Premium)
  • Platforms: iPhone, Android, web planner
  • Maps: 1:25K & 1:50K OS, ‘standard’ (basic maps with contours & paths)
  • Features: route planning, OS grid ref, track recording, GPX import/export, community, augmented reality
  • Offline? yes, download areas of map to device, download maps for planned route, or download purchased paper maps

This is the Ordnance Survey’s official smartphone app. It has all of the basics for mountain use, including OS mapping, a clear interface, offline support, the ability to create and follow routes, and OS grid references. The app has improved recently and is now stable and reliable in general use, with smooth zooming between map scales.

Read more: OS Maps review

Komoot

Komoot rating
  • Rating: 4
  • Likes: great for route discovery and social community
  • Dislikes: no OS maps or OS grid ref, limited manual control over route planning
  • Costs: free (basic use, no offline maps); €4.99/month (Premium, offline maps and other features)
  • Platforms: iPhone, Android, web planner
  • Maps: worldwide komoot map based on OpenStreetMap data with hiking and cycling layers
  • Features: route planning, track recording, GPX import/export
  • Offline? yes, download entire regions for offline use

If you’re into road cycling or mountain biking, or if you want an app that’s both social platform and route planner combined, komoot is worth a look. Unlike most apps tested, the map screen is not front and centre here; the default page is ‘Discover’ (a social feed showing what your friends have been up to, plus selected route highlights you might be interested in). Click through to a route and it’s displayed with photos, distance, expected time, ascent, a map, and terrain information.

Read more: komoot review

OS Locate

OS Locate rating and features
  • Rating: 5
  • Likes: instant access to OS grid reference, simple and reliable
  • Dislikes: nothing
  • Costs: free
  • Platforms: iPhone, Android
  •  Maps: none
  • Features: OS grid ref, virtual compass, integration with OS Maps
  • Offline? Yes

Navigation apps don’t come simpler than the Ordnance Survey’s OS Locate – a free app dedicated to giving your position and elevation. It does this perfectly and with minimal fuss, making it ideal as either a backup option or a digital companion to a traditional navigation system.

Read more: OS Locate review

UK Map App

UK Map App
  • Platforms: iOS
  • Price: base maps are free and good enough for most uses; OS mapping from £1.99 per region
  • Maps: free 1:25k and 1:10k UK maps based on OS VectorMap with footpaths superimposed from OpenStreetMap; paid OS maps at 1:50k and 1:25k scale
  • Features: route planning, OS grid ref, track recording, GPS import/export, 3D route preview
  • Offline?: yes, all functionality except downloading maps
  • ukmapapp.com

The main map screen is clear and uncluttered, with a few buttons around the edge. Zooming in and out is fluid, and contour shading for hills is on by default. The app allows for easy access to an OS grid ref and can search for locations offline. However, the interface feels confusing and cramped due to the custom interface. The downloadable free mapping is excellent quality, with contours, footpaths, and crags/rocks. Traditional OS 1:50k and 1:25k maps are available, but expensive for the entire UK. There is no subscription option. GPX file management is good, with the ability to import and export files offline, view elevation graphs and distances, and display multiple tracks and waypoints. Route planning is rudimentary, with no snap-to-path. While the app is an old-school navigation app with no social or online features, it may feel a bit too old-school for some users.

Read our full UK Map App review

Hiking app features to look out for

Maps

Look for detailed topo maps of the country you’ll be walking in.

Offline use

The app must let you download maps and planned routes for use offline. You should be able to plan routes when offline too.

Planning

The best hiking apps for route planning let you ‘snap to path’, automatically tracing the lines of paths on the map. This saves a lot of time!

Grid reference

Although not essential, a quick OS grid ref is very useful, especially if you also use paper maps.

Website

A companion website lets you plan routes on your computer and may even let you print maps to scale.

Recording

Most apps let you record your walk for future analysis (or save it as a route to follow again later).

Compass

A phone compass is rarely as accurate as a magnetic compass; use for general guidance only.

GPX import/export

Easily exchange routes with other apps thanks to the cross-platform GPX file format.

Community features

Some apps act like a social network, letting you share routes, see where others have been walking, and download new routes for instant use.

Cost

Most apps have a free trial, but to get the features you need you’ll usually have to pay. A monthly or yearly subscription is now the norm.

Find out more in our guide on how to use GPS for hiking navigation.

How we tested these hiking apps

Alex tested these apps throughout spring and summer on a variety of day hikes and backpacking trips throughout the UK and Ireland, in most cases testing both the Android and iPhone version of the app where available.