Top Outdoor Apps for Nature Loving Nomads

Top Outdoor Apps for Nature Loving Nomads

If you’re like me, then not only do you like to explore the outdoors every chance you get, but you also like to learn things about the world around you. I want to know the names of the birds I see, what kind of flower is growing next to my tent, and where I might catch some salamanders. That’s why I’ve assembled a list of my top outdoor apps for anyone who loves being in and learning about, nature.

This list includes 3 of my all-time favorite apps. They have been tried and tested by me over several years. You should check them out too!

What’s that? Well, let’s find out!

I’m a bit of a science nerd. But it makes sense because I am a biologist after all. I love to know the names of the organisms around me. And I usually need to know them for the scientific studies that I may be working on. But I also love knowing them, just to know them. And a lot of other people do too, no matter the occupation.

Here are my favorite identification apps, many of which I use nearly every day!

(Insert Your State Here) Wildflowers

Available on: Android and IOS

Price: Free!

Why I like it: Easy to use, accurate, needs no internet connection

Downsides: I honestly don’t think there are any


Desert PaintbrushThe reason I titled this app as I did is that there are many different versions of this app for many different states. I use the Utah Wildflowers and Idaho Wildflowers versions but the developer has made wildflower identification apps specifically for Washington, Northern, Southern, and Central California respectively, Oregon, British Columbia, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Alberta, Florida and East, and West Texas.

I LOVE this app. It is way easier to use for field identification than flipping through a guidebook or trying to deal with dichotomous keys. You simply choose certain characteristics of the plant you want to identify from a list of categories such as plant type, color, number of petals, location habitat, etc., And the app narrows down the possible plants based on your choices. Then you hit show plants and choose the most likely candidate from the list of possibilities.

The app will then show you some basic information about the plant and provide you with some links to learn more. You can even save the plant to a list and revisit all the plants you’ve identified later.

The best part is, it doesn’t require an internet connection to work! Which is great because I for one, rarely have an internet connection in the field.

OK, I lied, the real best part is that it’s free (it doesn’t even have ads) and has been more useful to me than numerous field guidebooks that cost $30 or more. I have found it to be quite accurate and have used it to identify countless plants!

Audubon Bird Guide

Available on: Android and IOS

Price: Free!

Why I like It: Easy to use, excellent visuals, a ton of information

Downsides: Takes up a lot of phone storage if you choose to download the field guide

OwlI’m only a casual birder, but I love this app, and the hardcore birders will love it even more. It combines a field guide, an identification system similar to the wildflower app above, and a citizen science platform where users can mark and share sighting and photos.

You can create lists of your own bird sightings and include the location, any photographs you may have, and field notes.

The information included in the field guide is phenomenal. It has lots of excellent pictures and information about the birds’ range, habitat, conservation status, behavior and more.

But my personal favorite part about the Audubon Birds app is that you can listen to bird songs and calls. You can even play the songs and birds will likely respond to your call.

The field guide can be downloaded and stored on your phone so you can use it right in the field. It does take quite a bit of space though so be prepared for that. If you don’t have enough room, you can use the field guide without downloading it but only with an internet connection.


Available on: Android and IOS and its also a website

Price: Free!

Why I like it: It provides a lot of interesting information, helps you find plants and animals near you, allows you to identify literally anything with the help of experts, and is nerdy and sciency which I love

Downsides: Many features can only be used if you have an internet connection

InsectiNaturalist is a citizen science platform that allows hundreds of thousands of people around the world to record their natural observations and share them with the world. You can use the app to discover plant and animal species near you, record your own observations, get help to identify what you’ve seen, or identify what others have seen.

The app also features countless guides to whatever species you may be interested in. And you can create or join specific projects, to collect observations in a specific area or on a specific day. Many government agencies like the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management use this app to conduct something called a bioblitz.

A bioblitz is when people come together in a specific area and try to identify as many species as possible in a short period of time. Bioblitz’s are useful and fun!

My favorite iNaturalist feature is picture identification. You can take a picture of your observation, be it plant or animal, and iNaturlist will automatically suggest an ID. I’ve used it for several plants and it can work well if you show the flower in your picture.

Even if the auto-ID doesn’t cut it, once you record your observation, experts on the platform can see it and suggest IDs based on their own knowledge. You can identify anything if you have a picture of it. Reptiles, insects, flowers, trees, fish, mammals, you name it.

Another fun part of the app is the ‘Missions’ feature. You can use your location and iNaturalist will give you specific plants and animals to go out and find. You could have a natural scavenger hunt every day!

The one problem is that many parts of the app require an internet connection. But even without a connection, you can still record your observations and then upload them later when you have connectivity.

You no longer have an excuse not to be nerdy

Go out and get your science on. I mean it! Learning about the natural world around you instead of just trekking on through it will help you appreciate it even more and deepen your connection to the earth, and increase your enjoyment.

It might even help you impress your friends the next time they ask what that flower growing on the side of the trail is.

If you’ve already used any of these apps, share your experience below! And as always, if you have any questions, please ask them, and I’d love to try to help you out.





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21 thoughts on “Top Outdoor Apps for Nature Loving Nomads

  1. It sounds as though it’s not only easier to look up plants and animals on these apps than in books, but it’s also easier to have them on your phone than carrying a number of guidebooks around. It also sounds like fun to play the bird calls around wild birds and to see their reaction. 

    1. It is really fun! I have personally used the bird calls to get birds to come closer to me so I can see them better. They really do respond.

  2. Top outdoor app for nature lovers is the perfect article I really love it. This article is so informative I love the way you give all the information needed especially for a person who are out in the wilderness more than they are in the city. It is going to be great to be able to have an app that doesn’t need data or Wi-Fi this is going to be perfect.

    Thank you for this very informative article it was a great read. I love all the information you shared.

  3. Thanks for the great information about free apps for identifying the many birds, plants, animals, and insects in the world around us.

    I have 2 very curious grandchildren that my wife and I take with us on walks. They see lots of things and always stop to look at them. Then, of course, come the inevitable questions that grandma and grandpa have to answer. To be able to find answers quickly is essential to keeping them interested and learning.

    iNaturalist is particularly useful because the grandchildren show so much interest in insects. The ‘Missions’ feature is of particular interest because it will add another dimension to our walks. The kids will have a lot of fun looking and finding things.

    1. Yes I think that’s a great idea. It will be so fun to do “missions” with your grandchildren and see if they can find the specific animal the app gives you. 

  4. I love the Outdoors and in the past I did a lot of camping, fishing and boating went way up North in Ontario, Canada.

    Like you have mentioned in your article I too like to explore and get to know the flora and fauna around me, although, I am not a biologist 🙂

    Anyway, I don’t think anyone has to be as long you love being in Nature.

    I am pleased that you mentioned that there are apps available for different regions, I have to check it out if there are apps available for Canada and the different provinces.

    I really appreciate the review on all the apps it helps a lot.

    1. Hi Sylvia! I hope you check out one of these apps and let me know what you think. Only the wildflower one is region specific. The bird app is for all of North America and the other one is for the whole world!

  5. Hello Mariah

    Thanks so much for sharing your post on outdoor Aps, I`m travelling to Africa soon so escape the cold even if it`s for 2 weeks and your post is exactly what I needed without even realizing it as I understand I will be outdoors quite alot taking long Safaris.

    what makes these Aps even more interesting is that they are free,I love free stuff. I`m not very techie so I will look into Audubon Bird Guide as I will be going bird watching too. Now you mention this App takes alot of storage, I still need my phone for other things while away, what`s your advice to use as little space as possible but still not miss out?

    I really appreciate you which are sharing free APS, not all of us have money to pay for APS download.

    Very informative and fun to read.

    1. Unfortunately the Audobon birds app is focused on North American birds so I don’t know if it will work very well for you in Africa. As far as space-saving goes. If you know you’re going to have cell service you can choose to not download the troops guide to internal storage, this allows you to use the app without taking up so much space.

  6. I would definatly use the Inaturalist…as an avid hiker and photographer I am always taking pictures of nature…flowers especially and since I don’t always know the names of them I can see where this would be a go to app for me!! Thanks for the inforrmation I had no idea…. Nature and technology it seems is full of wonder.

  7. I, too, am a nerdy nature lover, but I was unaware of these awesome apps until reading your article. I’m disappointed not to see a Tennessee Wildflower app listed, but perhaps one is coming soon? I will have to keep an eye out. The iNaturalist app sounds particularly appealing since it seems to encompass information and identification on anything, be it flower, tree, animal, reptile, or insect. I’m a little partial to bugs, myself. 😉  Have you participated in a Bioblitz? It sounds like a wild (haha) and awesome experience! Thank you for opening my eyes — and my smartphone — to these great options that will surely help me enjoy my time in nature even more than I already do.

    1. I have participated in a number of Bioblitz’s my favorite was focused on butterflies. It’s good to hear from a fellow bug lover!

  8. Hi, Mariah.What an interesting article. I do like my walks in the country but it never occured to me to look for an app to help with flora and fauna identification. I’m always trying to remember what it is from my young. I was a Boy Scout many years ago and I had learnt a lot then but decades down the line my memory is not so quick. I’m going to have to get a couple of these apps you’ve mentioned. I also like free! I love your “How To’s” as well. I’m amazed how much I’d forgotten.Keep up the good work,Paul

  9. Great site!!  I love that there are apps that can tell you about things outside.  We live on 40 acres of land in Texas and I often wonder about some of the flowers and birds that I see.  I didn’t know that there are apps that can give that info.  Thanks for putting that out there, I’ll be checking that out.  

  10. Wow, that is pretty cool! I didn’t even know these types of apps were out there. Learn something new every day! I think for me I like the flower app the best. I like the fact that it is easy to use, it’s free and I have an Android phone. Besides, flowers are so beautiful. It is so interesting what you can use your phone for. Flowers and nature are so much fun to learn about that it makes it exciting to check out. Thank you for this interesting article.

  11. I really love the wildflower app.  I like all kinds of flowers and it looks really beautiful.  My state isn’t listed since I live in Canada.It is great that it does not need an internet connection.  It sounds like a great way to identify they wildflowers around you.

    All of this and for free too.  Wow.

    1. If you’re state isn’t listed I would recommend using the iNaturalist app for wildflower ID. But notice there are a couple of apps for locations in Canada