Switch to the Android demo video.

Two years ago, a series of iPhone apps called "Guthook's PCT Guides" hit the App Store, and became a mainstay of hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail. The next year, we added several new guides to our line-up, including the Appalachian Trail, Long Trail, John Muir Trail, and Tahoe Rim Trail. We also added Android versions of all of the apps.

This whole endeavor got started from a conversation between two through-hikers on the PCT, Paul Bodnar and myself, about the growing trend of hikers carrying smartphones. A year later, Paul, his wife, Alice (now a PCT through-hiker as well), and I started learning to write programs. We had no idea if hikers would have any interest in the apps, but the response was surprisingly positive– in the past two years, more than 1000 hikers on the AT and more than 1200 on the PCT have used our iPhone and Android apps. Over time, we've added new features and improved old ones, responding to our group of app users and their requests. Hikers are a minuscule portion of smartphone users as a whole, but we understand what works for hikers and what doesn't, so we really enjoy the rapport.

The past year has been the busiest time of all. Beyond improving the functionality of the apps and making for a better user experience, we've been working with several guidebook publishers and trail organizations to produce the official apps for their trails. The first of these are guides to South Downs Way in England for Trailblazer Guides, the Continental Divide Trail for Bear Creek Survey, and the trail system at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Soon, we'll add guides for the Pacific Northwest Trail and a few others that are in the works.Just the three of us do everything from mapping trails to programming to customer service and tech support, all of which are incredibly time-consuming. For any normal company, this would be a job for a dozen people, but we like to think the through-hiker spirit and our love of the hiker community sets us apart. We didn't get into making apps for hikers in order to get rich or famous (if we wanted that, video games and social networking would be the way to go). We just wanted to make an impact on the hiking community, and make the best possible tool for hikers on the trail. I think we've done that, and we'll continue to do so as long as people enjoy our work.

We have plenty of exciting plans for the coming years, from new trails to new app features for planning hikes and sharing itineraries with friends. But we can't do it without your support. You can help by following us on Facebook and Twitter, telling your friends, or buying the apps.

This post was contributed by Trail Ambassador Ryan Linn aka Guthook.

May 19, 2014 — Brian Fryer