Last updated on, adding new screenshots of the subscription-only features of the official WarmShowers app.
While I will always encourage you to make your first cycle tour as low-tech as possible, almost every rider today is packing a smartphone by default. But what exactly are the best apps for cycle touring and bikepacking?
It’s a tricky question. To my knowledge there is no single app that provides a comprehensive range of features for someone travelling by bicycle long-term.
And that’s probably because the cycle touring or bikepacking lifestyle is a complex, multi-faceted thing, taking in an incredibly diverse range of activities and needs. No one app can (or should) serve all of them.
My list therefore represents a suite of apps for life on the road on two wheels.
In other words, I’ll be listing apps that augment all aspects of cycle touring and bikepacking – for example, accommodation and hospitality exchange apps, weather forecasting apps with an outdoor focus, community-generated maps of safe wild camping spots, apps to help with common travellers’ concerns such as budgeting, communication and translation, apps to monitor and conserve battery usage for big days on the road, and an eclectic selection of other apps I’ve personally found useful on long cycle tours.
This is not a comparison of navigation apps like the ones you’ll find if you search your preferred app store for “cycle touring apps” or “cycling apps”. That list would be hundreds of entries long, and the mainstream cycling media have published plenty of listicles in the battle for search engine traffic anyway.
Smartphone technology moves fast, and the app scene is constantly changing. That’s why – like all my other ultra-detailed posts about aspects of planning a bike trip – I’ve been updating this post regularly since I first published it way back in 2012. My goal for the original post was to answer the frequently-asked question of what the best apps for cycle touring or bikepacking are. This latest version of that list has been curated with the same goal in mind.
I’ve included links to Android and iOS (iPhone/iPad) versions of each app wherever they exist, and broken the list down into eight handy categories covering navigation, weather, accommodation, transport, communication, photography, finance, and everything else.
Shall we begin?
Mapping, Route Planning & Navigation Apps For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking
Know this for a fact: there’s no single best app for cycle touring or bikepacking where mapping and navigation is concerned.
That’s because the industry is young, the growth trajectory is steep, and there’s a ton of competition for this huge and growing customer base.
In any case, you may prefer to navigate with paper maps, road signs, or just following your nose, because – despite rapid advances in digital mapping – there’s still a multitude of methods to find your way on a bike trip.
But if you do intend to use digital mapping apps and the navigation features that come with them, and you don’t already have a favourite app that works for you, I would suggest trying all of the following apps to see which one best matches your riding style. Most have free trials or some way to try them out before upgrading to a paid premium version.
Unlike the robot writers of spam blogs about cycling apps, by the way, I have actually used all of these apps on my own bike trips. Here’s my current pick of the bunch…
1. Google Maps (Android/iOS, free)
Why start with the most obvious mapping and navigation in the known universe? Well, because commercial mapping is often your best friend in places there’s money to be made – ie: urban areas. Most bike trips start in, end in or pass through towns and cities where you commonly need to find specific street addresses. This is where the big platforms like Google Maps excel.
In terms of navigation, bicycle-friendly routing is offered alongside directions for motor vehicles in cities across much of the developed world. Where it isn’t, using the walking directions will often offer you a low-traffic route. You can also bookmark places and categorise these bookmarks into preset and customised lists.
The latest versions of Google Maps have incorporated the Street View functionality that used to be the domain of a separate app. I tend to use this handy 360-degree VR imagery if I’m heading for a specific spot in a city, such as a Warmshowers (see below) host’s house or a local bike shop, and want to visualise the location in advance.
In short, if you’ll have good cell service throughout your ride and you’re sticking to paved roads in developed parts of the world, Google Maps may well do everything you need in terms of navigation.
Using Google Maps on a bike tour becomes more limiting when you switch off mobile data or stray beyond the reach of cell service. The app does allow you to download offline maps in the default style, and your lists of saved places will be accessible, but it won’t cache terrain or satellite basemaps, which makes it difficult to judge a route’s elevation profile and impossible to use aerial imagery for following unmapped routes. Nor can it store anything about saved places other than their name and street address, plus any text notes you may have made about them. Many aspects of route planning and directions also depend on being online.
Finally, map coverage remains poor across much of the developing world, and even in remote regions of developed countries where there’s little or no no commercial activity. This is why it’s often worth pairing Google Maps with one or several of the other mapping apps in this list
Pro tip: In the former Soviet Union and in other countries where Russian is the default second language, you’ll usually find that the Russian equivalent to Google Maps, Yandex Maps, has better map coverage and traffic data. As a bonus, the smartphone app is available with an English-language interface.
2. Maps.Me (Android/iOS, free)
In the last few years, Maps.Me seems to have fought off masses of competition to become the most popular Google Maps-style alternative mapping app for travellers. And with a wealth of offline functionality, it’s easy to see why.
When you first open the app, you are prompted to download parts of the world region by region, starting with your current location. All of the app’s main functionality will then work offline within these regions. Usefully for cycle tourers and bikepackers, this includes bicycle-optimised routing and directions. This means you can conserve battery power by activating flight-safe mode while retaining the ability to use your phone as a GPS navigator.
On my 2018 trip in Thailand, I used these features daily. Typically, I planned my route by cross-referenced Maps.Me’s routing suggestions with Google Maps’s walking directions, and then used Maps.Me’s offline maps to follow quiet, back-road routes across the country. This combination worked like a charm.
You can also search offline for nearby points of interest such as cafes, grocery stores, lodgings, drinking water fountains, etc – all of which are downloaded with the offline maps. When you’re online, accommodation searches are supplemented with results from booking platforms like Booking.com – indeed, affiliated links to these platforms are a significant part of the app’s revenue model.
Like most of the other apps in the mapping and navigation section of this list, Maps.Me depends on the OpenStreetMap (OSM) database to generate its basemaps. This can make it vulnerable to coverage issues in less-visited and/or less well-mapped regions, although not necessarily any more so than Google. In some regions, you’ll find the mapping is actually better, more detailed, and more up-to-date than commercial mapping platforms, simply because of the strength of the mapping community contributing to it.
If I have one issue with Maps.Me, it’s that the map does not display any topographical data (contours, hillshading, elevation colour coding, etc). This is partly compensated by the elevation profiles generated along with the cycling and walking routes. If detailed elevation data, tracktypes, and other detailed cycling-specific navigation functionality is important to you, however, you may be better off with one of the other navigation apps in this list.
3. BackCountry Navigator (Android, free/$20.99)
With its raster maps, dated-looking interface, and lack of route planning or sat-nav style navigation features, it may not be immediately obvious why the Android-only app BackCountry Navigator is still recommended for cycle touring or bikepacking in 2023.
For me, the main reason is its ability to download for offline use a wide variety of specialist basemaps beyond the often simplistic vector maps that come with most other modern mapping apps. Preconfigured basemap styles include OpenCycleMap, which (as its name suggests) is an OpenStreetMap-based map style for cyclists, showing cycle-friendly infrastructure and points of interest; OpenTopoMap, which resembles a modern outdoor-oriented printed topographic map; and high-resolution satellite imagery layers from Esri and Bing.
Offline aerial imagery at this level of detail is a rare feature among apps in this list, and riders going off the beaten track to explore off-road, off-grid routes will find plenty of reassurance in having satellite imagery to refer to while navigating.
There’s plenty of other functionality in BackCountry Navigator that will be more familiar to hikers and outdoorspeople, such as the ability to load in GPS tracks in various formats and overlay them on the basemap, as well as keeping a tracklog of your movements if you so desire.
Really, though, it’s the wealth of offline raster maps at your fingertips that make the Pro version of this niche app worth the $20.99 one-time purchase price.
- Download BackCountry Nav (free) for: Android
- Download BackCountry Navigator Pro ($20.99) for: Android
4. Russian Topo Maps (Android)
Previously known as Soviet Military Maps, this wonderful app has now been renamed to Russian Topo Maps, but it still offers a fantastic mix of genuinely useful topographic and landcover detail and Cold War nostalgia which may hold particular appeal to map nerds (like me).
Produced during Soviet rule and updated every few years until the late 1970s, the scanned sheet maps offered by this app cover the entire world at the 1:100–200,000 scales. In places where OpenStreetMap, Google/Yandex and paper map coverage is sketchy or non-existent, and particularly in the former USSR, these may still be the best maps you can find without raiding a little-known railway depot on the outskirts of Riga in search of the captured wagons containing vast caches of original printed source maps. I wish I’d known about it before that time I went to Outer Mongolia. (Then again, it was 2010, and this app probably didn’t exist.)
The free version allows you to browse these maps and use all of the GPS features, while the paid version allows you to also download the maps for offline use.
5. RideWithGPS (Android/iOS)
Offering some of the most in-depth navigation and route planning features available, RideWithGPS is also the only mapping and navigation app in this list which is built specifically for cyclists (as opposed to the range of outdoor activities catered for by some of its rivals).
The result of this focus is that RideWithGPS has grown into an established favourite in the long distance cycling community, particularly among off-road bikepackers, who often need to plan extremely detailed routes in remote regions. Indeed, Bikepacking.com use it as their preferred platform for delivering their vast library of community-created routes.
The platform has a web interface with plenty of additional screen real-estate, allowing you to plan routes at your laptop and then seamlessly switch to navigation mode on the smartphone app. Once you’ve planned or recorded a route, you can also use the platform’s social features to share it with friends, followers or fellow riders.
As with many apps of its kind, there’s a free version with basic functionality or a premium subscription version currently priced at $59.99/year. Upgrading unlocks the app’s turn-by-turn navigation mode, offline functionality, and a couple of other features you’ll probably find useful if you decide to make RideWithGPS your primary route planning and navigation app.
In short: if you’re keen to plan, track, analyse and share your daily cycle touring or bikepacking activities, and you prefer extreme detail over simplicity in your route planning, RideWithGPS is currently a hot favourite. If, on the other hand, you’re after a simpler and perhaps more passive way to get directions from A to B, you should probably look elsewhere in this list.
6. komoot (Android/iOS)
komoot (with a small ‘k’) is a relative newcomer to the smartphone mapping and navigation scene. Its particular strength for the cycle tourer or bikepacker is in its automated route planning features, which will appeal to those who want to spend less time poring over waypoints and more time actually riding.
Using one of the most powerful routing algorithms of any of the apps in this list, komoot draws on the OpenStreetMap database and combines it with third-party elevation data to calculate an optimal route via any number of points. Usefully, it allows you to specify variables such as the type of bike you’re riding (road, mountain, touring, e‑bike, etc) and how fit you think you are, resulting in a variety of generated routes and accompanying information on gradients, road surface types, etc.
It has some nice social features, too, which set it apart from competing platforms. Users can submit highlights of places they’ve visited – either specific points of interest or favourite segments of a route – which are then rated by the community and included in future generated routes based on their favourability.
Like RideWithGPS, komoot has a web-based interface which makes route planning a little easier to manage.
All said, komoot is my personal favourite of all the apps in this category when I’m exploring new places – so much so that I’ve published a full review of the app separately from this post.
Weather Forecasting Apps For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking
For multiple reasons including comfort, safety and route planning, it’s good practice to check the weather forecast before setting out on another day of cycle touring or bikepacking, or indeed when looking for a place to wild camp.
While there’s no substitute for learning how to read nature’s signs, the following apps will at least help you confirm what you suspect, or highlight something you’ve overlooked when it comes to upcoming weather conditions.
7. Windy (Android/iOS, free)
I’ve tuned into the finer details of the weather in recent years as a result of spending a ton of time in the mountains, where the effects of weather tend to be multiplied. In terms of sheer quantity and range of data, nothing I’ve found beats Windy, which visualises almost every weather factor you could ask for on a zoomable interactive map, as well as generating 11-day forecasts for specific point locations.
As the name suggests, Windy’s featureset was originally designed for outdoor pursuits in which wind is a major factor, such as sailing and surfing. But it’s easy to switch the map overlay to show cloud cover, cloud base elevation, precipitation, ground temperature, and a wealth of other metrics. You can even see isobars and air pressure across altitude bands if, like me, you’re into that level of nerdy detail. When it comes to forecasting, Windy can draw from a variety of models, including ICON for Europe and ECMWF for global coverate.
There is a premium version (£18.49/year) which enables 1‑hour forecast resolution and higher data precision, but in my opinion the ad-supported free version is more than enough for 99% of cycle touring or bikepacking scenarios.
If you’re into making your own forecasts or want an in-depth perspective on what you’re seeing and experiencing, give Windy a data connection and it will give you all the information you could wish for.
8. Yr.no (Android/iOS, free)
Alternatively if you just want a local forecast at a useful level of detail for the outdoorsperson, the Norwegian weather agency’s official app seems still to be the most cited option.
Accommodation Apps For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking
When you’re ready to stop for the night, here’s my pick of the currently-available apps to help cycle tourers and bikepackers find a bed for the night – whether that be staying with hospitable local people, checking into a nearby hotel or campground, or wild camping for free under the stars.
9. iOverlander (Android/iOS, free/donation)
Though primarily aimed at overland travellers with motor vehicles, iOverlander’s app is incredibly useful to cycle tourers and bikepackers. Why? Because it’s the closest thing to a ‘wild camping app’ in existence.
With an active community behind it, this user-generated global database of points of interest includes vehicle- and bike-friendly hostels, paid campsites, wild/free camping sites, mechanics’ workshops, water refill points, and more. Other apps do exist that aim to serve the wild camping niche, but none as successfully on a global scale as iOverlander.
As with so many community platforms that rely on user-generated content, iOverlander is free and volunteer-run. You can contribute either by making a donation, adding your own content (including reviews of existing points of interest), or both.
It’s worth mentioning that in some countries you may find that another platform has, for whatever reason, gained preference over iOverlander. For example, when I began planning a ride along the New South Wales coastline and noticed that iOverlander content was lacking, a friend told me that in Australia – a country with a huge bush camping culture – WikiCamps was in fact the ubiquitous platform.
10. Booking.com (Android/iOS, free)
When it comes to paid accommodation in many parts of the world, you’ll often find that the Netherlands-based Booking.com features the widest range of hotels and guesthouses, having grown over the years into a global market leader in the vastly lucrative business of online accommodation bookings.
One of the features I like best about it is that you can often book accommodation at extremely short notice, ie: for the same night, as well as being able to search accommodation based on your current location on the map. Google’s partnership with the platform means you can often click through directly from a Google Maps search results listing to the Booking.com app reservation page for that property, making it possible to source nearby overnight accomodation on the fly and with minimal friction.
Be aware that booking platforms like this charge accommodation providers a lot for the privilege of appearing in their listings – up to 15% of the value of the booking. While big hotel chains can build this into their pricing and negotiate for discounts, the impact on revenue for a small accommodation provider can be substantial. For that reason, if you want to help give small businesses a fairer deal, I recommend you do your research on Booking.com or its local equivalent, find the phone number on Google Maps, and then contact the provider directly to make your booking. You’ll often find that guesthouse owners will thank you for this gesture.
Note that in specific locations you may find another platform has gained prominence. In South East Asia, for example, the Singapore-based Agoda often has a bigger selection and better prices.
11. Hostelworld (Android/iOS, free)
Low-budget hostels are underrepresented at Booking.com (perhaps because they can’t afford the fees!), but Hostelworld steps in to fill this niche.
Especially in the developed world, you’ll find way more cheap beds here than through the mainstream booking sites.
There’s little more to say – with Hostelbookers having shut down, Hostelworld now holds the monopoly on hostel bookings, and its free app has all the features you’d expect of any accommodation booking platform.
12. AirBnb (Android/iOS)
Though it’s by no means the quirky and inexpensive alternative it used to be, AirBnb is still worth checking out, particularly if you want your own self-catering apartment for a few days off, or if you like the B&B experience as it used to be (ie: an actual person hosts you in their home and cooks you breakfast).
Sign up through this referral link to get £25 in credit towards your first stay, then install the app to search for options and make your bookings.
13. WarmShowers (Android/iOS)
The original online hospitality exchange platform for cycle tourers and bikepackers was Warmshowers. Starting as a passion project, it is today incorporated as a nonprofit organisation based in Colorado, USA, with nearly 200,000 members worldwide. My own profile page tells me I’ve been a member for over 15 years.
The original Warmshowers app was a noble volunteer-led effort. It was recently replaced by a new professionally-built app, which makes searching for willing hosts much easier and has an interface that’s arguably better and more user-friendly than the website itself. The map search function is particularly useful. The trade-off is that using the app to find hosts now requires a small subscription fee – £2.79/month as of the time of writing, which I personally think is a small price to pay for keeping the app updated. Using the web interface remains free, as does signing up as a host.
The distribution of hosts is not exactly even in a global sense, but it’s always worth looking at the map to see who’s about on any given route. Other hospitality exchange networks do of course exist, but none offer the instant common ground you’ll share with people who’ve signed up specifically to host people on bicycles.
While some in the community have noisly abandoned the platform over the introduction of fees to use the app, I’ll continue flying the flag for WarmShowers for as long as it exists and I’m still riding my bicycle. I love the spirit of it, and – having some experience of running a nonprofit – I don’t mind lending a little financial support to those who voluntarily keep this community going.
14. Couchsurfing (Android/iOS)
Where WarmShowers hosts have not yet reached, Couchsurfing is still there with its however-many-million users, and if you can be bothered to wade through the oceans of inactive profiles and unresponsive hosts you might still find someone cool to stay with. The lack of a map search is a woeful omission, but most other aspects of the app interface are fine.
Personally, I use Couchsurfing more now to meet travellers and locals for a drink and a wander in a new city than to find a host, for which I either use WarmShowers (see above) or – now I’ve been on the road a few years – ask around my networks and usually end up finding a friend of a friend to stay with.
If you do use it to find a host, make sure they know you’re showing up on a rather expensive bicycle and that you probably won’t want to leave it locked to the fence outside!
Travel & Transport Apps For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking
Sometimes you need to take a plane, train or bus to get yourself and your bike from A to B. This could be at the start of a cycle tour or bikepacking trip, at the end, or even in the middle if you’re taking an open-minded approach to where you travel by bike. That’s where the following apps may come in handy.
15. Kayak (Android/iOS)
When it comes to searching for and booking flights, Kayak is my go-to platform these days. As well as extensive search result filtering capabilities, it also usually turns up the cheapest tickets – especially if your dates are flexible, as it’ll search for the cheapest fares in a given month or in a 7‑day window.
Of particular interest to the cycle tourer or bikepacker is the ability to filter by airline, which can make a huge difference at the check-in desk depending on the baggage policy of the carrier in question (a topic for another article, perhaps).
Kayak is mainly just a search aggregator – you have to click through and book elsewhere, though they have started selling tickets direct now too.
16. TripIt (Android/iOS)
This one is a simple itinerary management tool. Allow TripIt access to your inbox and it will pull in confirmation emails for flights, hotels and what have you and spit out a simplified, offline-accessible itinerary with all the details you’re likely to need while you’re in transit.
Communications Apps For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking
You’ll be wanting to communicate while you’re on the road, both to the people you meet and to the people back home. Guess what? There’s an app for that…
17. Signal / WhatsApp / Viber / Telegram (Android/iOS, free)
I’ve listed four phone number-based instant messaging apps here because, at the time of writing, three of them predominate depending on what country you’re in, and one of them won’t sell your data (Signal).
You’ll be likely to use these apps for such common travel tasks as communicating with Warmshowers or Couchsurfing hosts; making enquiries with local businesses such as guesthouses, hostels, bike shops, etc; or joining group communication channels with other riders in the areas you’re passing through. Telegram in particular, with its ability to locate groups and users within your local area, can be a good way to connect with other travellers you’d otherwise struggle to meet.
Don’t forget that you’ll also likely use at least one of these apps for keeping in touch with friends and family back home.
Such is the competitive nature of this market that other apps may one day replace those listed here. But for now, if you’re heading off on a bike and you plan to use your smartphone to communicate, you may find it’s best install all of the following:
- Download Signal for: Android | iOS
- Download WhatsApp for: Android | iOS
- Download Viber for: Android | iOS
- Download Telegram for: Android | iOS
18. Google Translate (Android/iOS, free)
I’m listing Google Translate here as an aid to face-to-face communication with people whose native language you, as a foreigner, are unable to speak.
It’s more and more common to find travellers realising they can dictate to the app in their mother tongue and have a translation audibly read out to their conversation partner – then simply reverse the direction of translation for the reply. I’m sure it won’t be long before this evolves into near-simultaneous translation, probably via some kind of futuristic earpiece or neural implant.
Translate also allows you to download offline translation dictionaries for a large (and growing) number of languages.
One tip I recently learned is that if you rotate your phone to landscape orientation, the word or phrase you’ve translated will be enlarged to fullscreen, thus allowing you to brandish it at roadside noodle stands while trying to order a stir-fry with ‘no onions’.
Finance & Budgeting Apps For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking
Here are a few selections on the financial end of things, which may ease your pedal-powered wheelings (sorry, couldn’t resist) and dealings:
19. XE Currency (Android/iOS, free)
Based on the highly popular xe.com currency exchange website, the XE Currency app will allow you to choose a handful of currencies and convert between them all at the latest mid-market rates.
I mainly find this useful to ensure I’m not getting ripped off by money-changers, but also to watch for spikes in conversion rates that may affect my travel budget (other Brits abroad may remember 23rd June 2016 particularly well).
20. Toshl (Android/iOS)
My travels of late have tended to involve a slightly more complicated financial picture than the ‘spend as little as possible, preferably nothing’ approach of my earlier cycle tours. To track and visualise what I’m spending, I use an expense tracking app called Toshl, into which I spend a few minutes each day putting my expenses.
For someone who was more or less financially illiterate, this has shed a remarkable amount of light on the actual flow of funds through my travel activities and, in turn, helped me adapt my ways to better fit my means.
If keeping track of travel money is a source of stress for you, I would highly recommend starting to use a simple tracking app such as Toshl as the first step towards a remedy. It can also simply produce an interesting summary of the financial aspect of your journeys, which I’m planning to demonstrate in a future article.
21. Starling (Android/iOS) [UK only]
The UK’s newest fee-free overseas spending debit card provider, Starling Bank, relies on this app to communicate with its customers. Though technically not just an app but also a bank account, I’m including it here because of its particular relevance to the bicycle traveller looking to keep their overseas card withdrawal and spending fees down.
Here’s a full write-up of my experience with Starling if you’re keen to read more.
- Download the Starling app and sign up for an account here.
Photography & Media Management Apps For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking
Most new smartphones come with absurdly good cameras, sensors, processing algorithms and editing software built-in, so I no longer consider any third party app truly essential in the photography department. Keeping your photos backed up is another story, however…
22. Google Photos (Android/iOS)
My main reason for including Google Photos here is for its automatic backup feature, which upon detecting a WiFi connection will upload in the background all the photos you’ve taken since the last backup, storing them in your Google Storage account.
In its free incarnation, Google Photos used to allow you to backup an unlimited number of compressed photos a slightly reduced quality in ‘storage saver’ mode. Nowadays, only the owners of Google-branded (ie: Pixel) phones get this perk. You can, however, pay to upgrade to a 100GB or 1TB capacity account if you need it. Connect with a compatible ‘proper’ camera, copy the images over, and it’ll backup these photos too.
Recently-added features I also find useful as a cycle tourer and blogger include the ability to search my image library by location and keyword.
But for me, this app is mainly for backing up my images, rather than photography per se (and you do care about having backups, don’t you?).
23. Dropbox (Android / iOS)
If you don’t like everything being Google-oriented, the Dropbox app will perform exactly the same backup function for your photos via its Camera Uploads feature, though I find Google’s web interface and in-app editing features more appealing. Again, free and paid options differ mainly in terms of the amount of storage you get.
Other Apps For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking
Finally, I’ve come across many other useful apps for cycle touring and bikepacking that just don’t quite fit into any of the other categories. Here are a few:
24. AccuBattery (Android, free)
AccuBattery will give you detailed stats on your phone’s power consumption, including estimates of how long it’ll currently last with the current fleet of running apps; useful when you don’t know where the next charging opportunity is going to be.
It’ll also prompt you to disconnect your charger at a level that’ll reduce battery wear and help prolong its life – useful if you’re charging your phone on the go with a power bank or dynamo hub.
- Download AccuBattery for: Android
25. Sky Map (Android, free)
I’ll probably never learn the constellations unless I actually need to navigate by them, but the (formerly Google-owned) Sky Map app is great fun when you’re lying out under a starry sky and you want to identify what you’re looking at. It’s also great for picking out other celestial bodies when they’re visible to the naked eye.
- Download Sky Map for: Android
26. AnkiDroid / AnkiMobile (Android/iOS, free)
The apps accompanying the open-source flashcard platform Anki allow you to memorise things effectively on the go, using the scientifically-proven learning technique of spaced repetition.
I find it particularly useful for language learning, memorising words, phrases, letters of new alphabets, etc. The open platform gives you access to shared, community-created ‘decks’ of cards covering most such topics.
The Android app is free; the iOS equivalent is paid and the revenue supports the broader Anki project.
27. One Trusted VPN App
Ride for long enough and you’ll inevitably reach a country where some website or app or service you rely on has been blocked by the government. Pre-empt this by installing a VPN (virtual private network) app and setting it up in advance.
What these services essentially do is make it look like you’re accessing the internet from somewhere else, encrypting your data in such a way that your actual whereabouts is untraceable.
There are thousands of free VPN apps out there. Choose one that’s been audited by a trusted and impartial source with a reputation worth losing. TechRadar have an updated list for 2023. I personally use ProtonVPN*, which is included with my ProtonMail subscription.
That’s it for 2023’s best cycle touring and bikepacking apps! Any I’ve missed that you’d recommend to another adventurous rider?
61 replies on “27 Incredibly Useful Apps For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking”
As usual, a good and very comprehensive list Tom. Many thanks!
As much as we’d like not to be the case, the truth is that nowadays most of us tour with our phones, relying in many of the apps you mentioned which creates another challenge for a multi-day tour: how to keep our devices charged?
My first long tour was in Japan where I used mainly paper maps and my phone to confirm my position every now and then. Fast forward 6 years and now I use mostly my phone. I have survived with a 10,000mAh battery pack and plugging my phone at the campsite but I find that quite inconvenient as you don’t want to leave your phone(s) lying there for a couple of hours in a random plug you found available, neither you want to sit next to it for that many hours so I’m looking at alternatives to generate my own power and quite surprised I couldn’t find much information about that on your site.
It will be great if you could share your view on the different options available and if you’ve tested them: dynamo hubs, solar, and even a reincarnation of the bottle dynamo that claims to be a lot more efficient than hubs! (https://pedalcell.com/)
Thanks Carlos! This is a topic I plan to cover soon. In fact, on my recent tour in Australia I used a generator hub to power my smartphone, and on previous tours I’ve used solar power and power banks. It’s going to be a big and detailed post, so keep your eyes peeled.
https://cycle.travel has recently expanded from UK to East Europe/Aus/NZ and more. VERY useful for me in the UK.
Excellent recommendation, Steve. Looking forward to the Android version of the app, but the web interface will do for now!
Not an app but a website: FallingFruit.org has a map of publicly accessible fruit trees, orchards, etc globally. Great for grabbing some free fruit fresh off the tree/bush/vine while cycling touring.
Their database is also downloadable, either in full or just for a region, so you can grab it and open it in a spreadsheet while offline as well.
Also publicly editable, so you can add any new places you find.
I love this! Thanks so much!
I also allow myself to add Cyclope which is very good.
2021 THE best app for bicycle navigation is cyclers plus! even the free version is outstanding. best route planning. i use maps.me, Sygic (the best for motorcycle), naviki, OpenTracks, Brouter (also extremly good), Komoot. But Cyclers is the best.
Very hepfull list of many good tools. For my last holiday I used roundtrips4you to plan my trip. It is still under development, but is a great tool to list all your stops etc.
Thanks, Marco. I assume you are involved in roundtrips4you in some way?
A big recommendation for very easy, intuitive cycle navigation is the app from mapy.cz — You can download offline maps freely worldwide. Using the app ist easy. GPX import and export ist possible. You can plan on Your PC and use the routes on the app on the smartphone then (with free account). Tracking and sharing of tracks is also possible and simple. Based on OSM.
For the ones looking for an offline maps app, Magic Earth is the best I’ve ever used. I was a big fan of Google Maps, then used Maps.me for few years but both are violating the privacy through telemetry trackers. Magic Earth works better than Maps.me, but with respect to privacy of the user.
OsmAnd+ is a good app too, worth to pay the extras. But the interface is too confusing although that confusion is due to extensive features only it offers.
Hi, I took a look, but can´t find any cyclepaths indicated on magic earth app. Is it somehow possible, to make cycle infrastructure (not in every country it exists, that´s clear, but in many parts of Europe it does!) visible? thanks
Thanx for a great site. I’ve done a lot of touring in Europe, and can only agree and get inspired by everything you say !
I’ve used OsmAnd all the time, great offline maps for every country. Worth mentioning. But mostly when I got lost, or to find the nearest shop or campground. Very useful.
Recently cycled through Spain,France and Belgium and although paper maps ( Michelin Regional) have always been my preference, I now find them harder to come by. In the past I would just purchase the next required map at a Tabac or newsagent, but fewer people stock them now. In fact one lady in a store just said no one buys anymore and held up her phone. I still prefer paper maps, you get the big picture of travel and it doesn’t tell you where to go but just gives you options. However nowadays it makes perfect sense to use both and Google maps for towns and cities is great. It’s a pity but it won’t be long until the traditional maps are a thing of the past.
(Maybe a stupid question )
What is the app used on the first picture (On the Huawei in the orange cover)
It looks like the map is showing together with the elevation profile.
That would be komoot.
Thanks a lot Tom. We have been using these apps for our Cycle Touring & Bike packing
AnkiDroid / AnkiMobile (Android/iOS), Sky Map and DropBox.
If you want you can use IOS App for Roadtrippers https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ezroadtrips/id1455625472
Agreed on the first tour being electronics-free.
Having (hurriedly, admittedly) attempted to plan routes on Komoot and load them to my garmin for a tour of Portugal (north border to south coast — it was amazing), I found I went on crazily indirect routes. It was my first tour, and — had I been sans Garmin — I would have just put my faith in the good old paper map we had with us a lot earlier and paid attention to the rough direction of travel, and where the balance was between an interesting and direct route.
As it was, it took me until the third day to decide to track where I’d been on the garmin, rather than plan ahead. Two days of effectively being the car driver that followed the sat-nav in to a ditch and couldn’t get out again. Lesson learned, never again.
Since then I have ditched the pre-loaded maps and just track my route retrospectively rather than planning each turn, and find this a much better balance. For me, the joy comes from uploading my routes to Relive afterwards and seeing where I actually went, rather than confirming that I followed the route I planned.
Also, agreed with Jeff, above. Revolut is exceptional. We rarely travel without it now, by bike or otherwise.
Thanks for this really helpful summary Tom.
We’re finding Revolut incredibly useful for managing our various currencies whilst travelling. Loads of powerful features, it’s essentially a card for pre-loading with multiple currencies (purchased at wholesale rates!) and moving cash between them as required. The app is great, and whilst we started cautiously, Revolut is now our new go-to for managing money whilst travelling abroad.
Great list. Thank you. For currency conversion, check out Elk. No need for typing. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/elk-travel-currency-converter/id1189748820
Thanks for putting together this list, you’ve mentioned quite a few handy apps that we’ll have to look into!
Looking back, both Paul and I wish that we could have had smartphone route finding technology on our first trip. It is SO handy! With just paper maps – there was the continual anxiety of getting lost, not arriving at stores before they shut, having to ride crowded roads because the back roads didn’t appear on maps, etc. etc.
But as for social media and the ability to blog – so glad that that wasn’t available during our first tour. With nothing to distract us — it made us focus on experiencing our trip as it happened.
Nowadays even long-distance cyclists have gotten sucked into going after ‘likes’ on social media. But on the other hand, they can stop twittering, Instagramming — whenever they want without any recriminations.
But that can’t be said for charity cyclists. For many of them, it’s their first bike trip and they’ve never blogged before. So they put together a website, and announce that their final destination is some far-away school in Asia or Africa. And that they’re accepting contributions.
Once they’ve collected some money, they feel guilty about wanting to change their route. Plus they feel pressured to keep blogging. So for these long-distance cyclists, the advantage of electronics (being able to blog, social media, etc.) can turn on them.
I don’t read all but one App i use is “windy map” for Android and ios.
It is free and all country arepossible to use offline.
I use it in Sweden and denmark and it Works great!!!!!!
Fantastic map! It´s the same app under a different name as the mapy.cz app! Used it all over Europe so far, but compared it with detailed paper maps of the Pamir HWY area and Cuba, and it looks that no tiny road or track is missing. Great!
I use Locus (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=menion.android.locus.pro) for routing, planning, mapping, … Even the unpaid version is very useful. Very active development, too.
+1 for GPS Logger (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mendhak.gpslogger), especially for long recordings: can be configured to use very little of system resources.
maybe not part of ‘free’ apps, but ASCI offers (for a small amount of money) access to list of campsites in Europe (you can easily search on the map). I was using it already on my bike trips in France and was of a great use if you want to stay flexible on the way and just check which campsites are on your way 🙂
Can’t believe you didn’t mention mtbproject.com, another good ride planning software with great routes for biking in the USA.
Hi. Planning a phone guided trip across France atm for sept. Hav you or others suggestions for an app to enable dot watching? Family and friends got hooked on a friends progress in the TCRno5 and want to do the same with me as I wobble back to Blighty from Basel.
Hi Tom in 2006 I cycled around Europe and used cycling map books. All in german but awesome as the day to a page ride had camping options. I can’t recall their name but they were easy to get for any cycle path.
Im wanting a cycle path app that includes the camping options for my ride in Germany and Switzerland in June 2018.
Have you found anything?
Here a few campsite app for North America. Free Campsites(free), WikiCamps USA (free),
RA Camping (free)
Hi Tom. ‘Overdrive’ for the readers out there. If you’re a member of a public library there’s a good chance it may be supported by this app (mine is — small town NZ). Borrow books for free to your device for 2 weeks — deletes automatically. Cheers.
Great site, very useful!
I’m very satisfied with OSM-AND for navigating. Detailed maps, including height profiles and hillside shades, can be downloaded for offline usage. There is a max however, but it’s possible to delete some maps and download new ones.
I agree with Osmand, actually bought it a while ago and always have current map updates. The details are better than anything I have seen, for exploring where I am when out on tour.
For planning on the pc I often use bikemaps.net or Komoot, but Osmand allows full offline routing. Great in combination with Brouter as a routing machine.
A great list Tom
I adore this app: PeakFinder — Panoramic Mountain View
If you cycle through hills and mountains and ever wonder, what is that peak there in the distance, this app will tell you. Fantastic! You can screenshot its views to make great labelled line-drawings of the terrain you’re looking at. I love this app. It works worldwide. Often best to download relevant data st home.
Thanks John! Do you think it does a better job than ViewRanger’s Skyline feature? I mainly ask because the latter is free, whereas PeakFinder is paid-for.
I can’t comment on Viewranger as I haven’t used it. The screenshots of it on the appstore look nice. But I like the simplicity of
PeakFinder’s line-drawing views and the way you can get info on how far away a peak is, it’s height etc. It also has a new feature of superimposing its data on what the phone camera sees. I haven’t tried this.
Hi Tom ! Great article. Recently I bumped into an app called Komoot which includes navigation by voice, I find it quite useful especially in urban areas where I keep on earplug in and listen to the voice commands while cycling (and it saves a lot of battery since the screen is black all the time)
A lot of people have flagged up Komoot. I’ll give it a try and add it to this piece on the next update. Thanks!
Yup, been using komoot for quite a few years now. Nothing beats it really both for planning routes and using it for navigation. Has been stable and reliable enough for long trips too.
For navigating I use MotionX GPS or Gaia GPS which allow downloading of maps for offline navigation. Gaia is expensive, MotionX is not very intuitive but you get used to it.
Great list, some nice new one for me — Windy is perfect, and some classics.
*Pocket Earth* (iOS only, sorry) has become my favourite map. Much like Maps.me but has detailed topography and geotagged Wikipedia articles, all offline. Can import GPX files which I’ve not seen very often. Has an impressive layer with water taps on it and some nice routing features. Only slight drawback is calculating a route requires a connection.
*Komoot* A fantastic bike tour planning tool, similar to RideWithGPS et all, but I like how it shows the road surface.
+1 for iOverlander: bit sporadic and more van / RV based but has been useful.
Thanks Tom for the update!
I try to rely on my phone as little as possible, but I find it indispensable for one reason mainly (regarding routes). I can avoid the busiest roads easier and discover the beautiful tracks. Every time I put my phone away and go with my instinct, or ask locals for good scenic routes, I would end up in the middle of traffic or just plain boring asphalt roads. Using satellite view on google maps helps a lot in this matter!
For anyone who might concern, these are my recommend apps:
Another app that I use everyday is MoneyLover. It is the only finance app that I recommend. I’ve used dozens of finance apps, some paid, and all of them didn’t fulfil my needs, I’d stop using them after a period of time. Then I found MoneyLover, it has the most appealing and easy user-interface, nice looking colours, it’s very customisable, there’s a handful of features that helps you track your expenses in a easy detailed way. And the apps is updated regularly with good customer support. There’s a free good version, and a paid version, which is paid once and it’s around 5€, a great deal since it helps you manage your money efficiently and end up saving a lot (or spending it wisely). You may even access your account on your desktop and add transactions. I’ve kept record of all my transaction since 2015, every cent.
One other app that might be useful for the cycle touring community is BikeMap. Very similar to Ride with GPS, but it has a nicer user interface and the useful features are free. They claim to have the largest cycle route collection, and you can search these routes marked on a world map. I think I’ll be using this to record my future tours on-the-go.
And one more, Strava!
I know that this app is more oriented to the sports community, but some of its features are very useful. Specially the route planner, it supports bike routes all over the world, unlike google maps and other apps, so it’s easy to make estimations. I use the route planner to plan ahead, and then I’ll export the GPX onto Maps.me or Google Maps. I also like to keep record of my rides, it will record the route, elevation, time etc, all offline if i wish.. Handy if you want to share them later. All the basics are free, and the paid version is only useful for professional cyclists.
And finally, Furkot.
Furkot is a trip planner, a very good one. You can use it to plan ahead, or record your trip later once it’s finished, as a way to share it with friends or other cyclists. There is no official smartphone app, it’s mainly for desktop, but they say you can use it on you phone browser and it even supports it offline. For me the best thing about it is that I can record, day-by-day, my touring trips, adding all the POI along the route, lodging, and even the means of transportation, it’s very very complete, you have to give it a try to see its full potential. There is 2 drawbacks that I hope they will fix it in the future. The first is bike routes, some countries don’t support it so you will have to chose “walking” or “motorbike”. The other is that, while editing your route, the plan looks very detailed, but once you publish it, it gets stylised and not all the POI get to be seen by the people you share it with, but every detail will be on the right-side panel day-by-day. You can have a look at my Spanish tour on the link below to get an idea, I made this map once I got home, it’s around 90% accurate. Luckily Spain supports bike routes.
iOverlander! Becoming popular on the road for recommendations of campgrounds, hotels, hostels — even ‘boondocking’ sites, as well as info about border crossings and places to eat. We’ve found some great places through this, and Overlanders are often looking for the same things as cyclists — economical, safe, etc. Getting better all the time!
This reply template doesn’t like my website for some reason: http://www.cycletruant.com. See technology!
I’ve recently started using MapOut https://mapoutapp.com to plot/plan routes
Tom there’s an app called Rome2rio it gives every travel option to any destination so if you ride to somewhere and dont want to make it a round trip or want to start somewhere and ride back home its a great resource.
Hi! Does any of these digital maps have distances? I mean all proper paper maps do. It would make it easier to use offline.
Yes, Maps.Me supplies distances for offline generated routes. All the maps at least include a scale.
Thanks! I’m taking my family on a bike tour this summer and these apps will be very useful.
Thank you Tom, you write a great article.
I am today is rarely travel by bicycle, but quite often traveling to a place that has not been known before. Several times I tried the app maps from Google and today I’m wearing a maps application from Here WeGo. It’s quite easy to use in addition to Here WeGo maps application can be run without the use of internet access but previously had downloaded the data in advance and stored online in Smartphone devices.
Hey Tom , thanks for putting up all these infos. I am going to have a bike tour from Berlin to south italy and back over Spain france and …
I was wondering if there is an app for free/paid camping places. Thanks in advance.
Yes – check out iOverlander. It’s mentioned in the list above!
Great blog post Tom. The world of cycle touring and technology are forever changing and it’s difficult to keep up. I posted a blog post about my favorite Offline Mapping Tools for Cycling Touring and it’s already stale. Would love to see an updated post.
All good apps. I’m especially excited to try Orux out. My suggestion would be Wikipedia Offline. It’s incredible — like something from a Douglas Adams novel. i have almost the entirety of wikipedia on my phone accessible any time anywhere without the internet. Such a joy for finding out some of the general history of a city/region etc. as your travelling through.
Wow — I had no idea that existed. Thanks! Do you have a direct link to the app on Google Play?
Backcountry Navigator is a worthwhile alternative or accompaniment for mapping and navigation.
Just seen you’re riding through my second homeland… enjoy!
Hey — I cycled from Munich to Scotland this year, and these are the sites I used to plan my routes:
UK: http://www.sustrans.org.uk/ (App available)
hi Fabian, could you give some more details how did you plan your route? Given that im leaving in Munich now, it sounds pretty interesting 🙂
Nice apps. Using MapDroyd, Compass, GPSLogger, WSAndroid, CouchSurfing and Foursquare here.
Thanks Mathieu. I’ll check these out for sure.
Last month I traveled to France, the most useful app I used was French Flashcard by BH Inc.
It was a big help, I learn a lot of new words and phrases for everyday use. Link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bh.superflashcard.french.android
They also have apps for many other languages too
Nice one — thanks Rodney!