Paddling is a terrific way to escape, unplug, and get away from it all. Bringing a smart phone out on the water can seem counterproductive if you’re seeking some tranquility, but for safety reasons, it’s best to bring it along, even if you put it on silent or airplane mode. With a wide range of waterproof cases out on the market these days, it’s becoming easier and easier to safely bring that phone in a kayak, without the worry of ruining it.
We’ve put together a list of apps that any paddler may find useful and fun to have while spending a day on the water.
Safety first! While this app is geared a bit more towards boating than paddling, it’s still an incredibly useful resource, no matter what kind of vessel you’re in. Get real time data for NOAA buoys in your region, file a float plan and send to a trustworthy friend, or review boating regulations if you’re traveling to an unfamiliar state!
Local Weather Apps: WAVY and WRIC
You should always check the weather forecast before you plan your paddling trip, but it’s also smart to have access to forecasts while you’re out and about. Local weather apps like WAVY and WRIC can notify you of changes in the forecast or potential hazardous conditions such as pop-up thunderstorms. Another useful tool in these apps is the hourly forecast, as that shows wind speed and direction.
Need a quick and easy way to check the tide in any given area? The Tides Near Me app is a simple, easy-to-navigate app, that lists tides, as well as sunrise and sunset times. You can also save your favorite locations for quick access.
If you’re paddling any of Virginia’s rivers, a good app to have handy is the RiverApp which shows current (and historical) river levels and flow rates. You can even set up alarms for specific rivers and their current levels, so you’ll never miss a time when the conditions are favorable!
While nothing beats the interactive maps of the Virginia Water Trails website, the GoPaddling app can be super helpful when exploring outside the coastal Virginia region. Not only does it show where launches can be found, but most of the entries are complete with photos and details, including pertinent information such as parking fees and whether or not there are bathrooms onsite.
GPS Tracking Apps
There seems to be an endless list of GPS tracking apps out there, and everyone seems to have their favorite. From Strava and Map My Fitness, to GeoTracker and Paddle Logger, there’s a lot to take in! It is worth trying out a few apps to see which one suits your needs the most. Some drain your battery faster than others, some require a cell signal and all times, and some come with a small fee. However in most reviews, the four apps listed above seem to come out on top for paddlers!
While there are tons of birding apps out on the market, the Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America seems to be the most comprehensive. Sibley’s has been a well-known and respected field guide for years, back when all we had were books to bring to the field! The $19.99 price tag may seem a little high for an app, but it is PACKED with everything the book would have, plus the ability to play bird songs. You can even try a free, “lite” version on an iphone for 30 days before purchasing.
Are you loving how paddling really gets you out in nature? Are you seeing wildlife that you’ve never noticed before? Download the iNaturalist app and start learning about the flora and fauna you see along the water trails. Snap photos and quickly identify what you’re looking at! Start building your “life list” and even share your findings with others.
Be a part of citizen science! The Chesapeake Dolphin Watch app was developed by University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science as a way to learn how often dolphins are coming into the Chesapeake Bay.
If you’re paddling around the Chesapeake, VA area, be sure to download the Visit Chesapeake app and sign up for the “Paddle the Peake Passport” program. The most places you go to paddle, the more prizes you might win! Snap photos of designated signs and you could win some cool stickers, a water bottle, or a dry bag!
As you can see, having your phone with you while paddling is not to distract you from the outdoors, but it can actually enhance your experience and keep you safe! So take a moment and download a few of the apps and try them out for yourself. Happy water trails!