How to Survive in the Woods With Only a Smartphone

When you're deep in the woods, it helps to know where in the woods you are. (Photo: Nicholas_T/Flickr)

You're lost. Stuck in the woods, out in the sticks, marooned in the boonies. It's not really important how it happened, just that it did happened. The actions you take in the next few hours could make the difference between making it home alive or becoming another sad story in the local paper.

The good news is that you have your cellphone with you and the battery is more than 85 percent charged. The bad news is that there's no cell service to be found, so you can forget about calling or tweeting for help. You only have your wits, your hands, and whatever apps you installed back in civilization to help you survive long enough to get help.

We rounded up eight awesome apps that will help you survive in the woods with your smartphone. Cherish your remaining battery power and use these apps well. Good luck not being eaten by bears, beetles and bacteria!

BootPrint Survival App

BootPrint App

Generally, you want to get out of a bad situation as quickly as you can. The BootPrint Survival App is an ingenious application that keeps track of the last location where you had a cell signal. If and when you find yourself off trail and without a cell signal, you just open up BootPrint Survival, which tells you the direction and distance to the last location you had a signal. Then it's simply a matter of finding your way back and placing a call for help or hiking out yourself.

Google Earth

Google Earth

For whatever reason, the BootPrint Survival app wasn't able to help you out of your survival jam. The next best thing to placing a phone call and being rescued is doing the rescuing yourself. That's nearly impossible to do if you don't know where you are to begin with, so a good maps app can be invaluable. While there are a lot of good apps to choose from, there are few that can match the resources behind Google Earth. The app offers up both visual maps of terrain as well as elevation components, which will come in handy when you're contemplating which ridge line to hike over.

One important thing to note: Google Earth needs a cell signal to load areas of the world that you have never visited, so you'll want to save those places in offline mode ahead of setting out into the wild.

MotionX GPS Maps

MotionX app

MotionX GPS is an alternative to Google Earth that offers map downloads at no extra charge and an easy way to keep track of your path. Information is power, especially when you're trying to figure out how to survive in the woods, and having an app like MotionX GPS could allow you to self-rescue in the event of a survival situation.

The great thing about this app is how handy it is in non-survival situations, allowing you to track your runs, bike routes, and days snowboarding on the mountain.

Wild Edibles

Wild Edibles app

"Wildman" Steve Brill is a experienced forager and naturalist who poured his extensive knowledge of wild foods into this handy app. Though humans can go weeks without eating, we function much better with a little food in our belly. Out in the wild it can be just as dangerous (if not more) to eat the wrong thing vs. eating nothing, and the Wild Edibles app can help you navigate through the forest larder. It features detailed descriptions and multiple pictures of each edible as well as preparation instructions and medicinal information when relevant.

American Red Cross First Aid

Red Cross First Aid app

Twisting an ankle or cutting your hand on any normal day is a painful inconvenience but it usually won't kill you. In the wild, it's a different story. The magnitude of an injury is magnified in the woods. That sprained ankle means you'll have a harder time moving around, and the cut on your hand could soon fester if not properly cleaned. The American Red Cross's First Aid app is a comprehensive collection of first aid knowledge that should probably be installed on everyone's phone. The app allows its users to quickly find instructions for dealing with health emergencies like broken bones, burns, heart attacks and fevers.

SAS Survival Guide

SAS Survival Guide app

If you've gotten to this point, it probably means you're looking at spending at least a night out in the elements. The SAS Survival Guide was born as a book written by John Wiseman, a former SAS (British special forces) soldier and instructor. The 400-page book has been translated to both iPhone and Android apps and comes chock full of information on first aid, shelter-building, eating, drinking, and location-specific tips to guide you through places like deserts, the sea coast and cold weather environments.

Army Survival

Army survival app

You can't have too much good information when it comes to saving your life. The Army Survival guide app draws from a survival manual written by the U.S. Army and covers shelters, ropes and knots, dangerous animals to avoid, weather, water, and how to find and prepare food. Like the SAS Survival Guide, this app also goes over environment-specific topics like cold weather survival and how to get by in the desert.



This one is obvious — it's nice to have light. Survival is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one, and nothing chases away the oppression of a dark surrounding forest like a beacon of light. Besides scaring away forest creatures and the bogeyman, a flashlight can also be used as a signaling device and is a great way to add some dramatic flare to the ghost stories you start telling your imaginary friend Bob on day three.