The perfect free hiking app has yet to be invented. But Endomondo comes pretty darn close.
Bicycling, running, and other sports may require a lot more in the way of bells and whistles, such as motivation tools and performance coaching.
But for most of us, hiking is less about personal bests than being able to look back and understand where you have been and what you have accomplished. When it comes to apps, I definitely subscribe to the give me simplicity or give me death philosophy. And that’s where Edomondo excels.
Here’s the thing: When I’m back home and on my computer, sure, it’s great to have all sorts of options and graphics. But when it’s me, my phone, and the trail, I just want the basic information without a whole lot of fuss.
After I downloaded Endomondo, what I first noticed was how clean and modern its graphics are. For one thing, there are no ads or pop-ups, which I really appreciate. After all, when you’re about to set off on a hike, you’re pretty unlikely to click on an ad.
With Endomondo, you arrive briefly at a mostly white screen with a green graphic of people engaged in all sorts of outdoor pursuits before the performance page pops up.
It clearly shows duration, distance, calories, and heart rate. And instead of simply showing the performance statistics, a second screen option spotlights duration, distance, and average speed above a map or satellite image that tracks progress.
On the main screen, you can choose to do the Basic workout, which, as its name implies, simply tracks what you have done. This works just great and gives you all of the information you need if you just want to maintain a hiking log.
The free version of Endomondo also has four options, including one that lets you set distance goals and another that finds routes that other users have created.
On the Trail
Like all GPS-based apps, Edomondo uses up a ton of juice. If you’re going for much longer than 90 minutes or so, you’ll want a back-up power source.
Personally, I’m usually looking for quiet on the trail. I also try not to look at time or distance too frequently so that I can stay a bit more in the moment as I hike.
But Endomondo has an audio coach option that will announce updates of distance and time. If you are trying to do a fitness hike for speed and performance, these reminders can definitely be helpful.
End of the Hike
A big plus of Endomondo is that when you finish a hike and stop the tracking, it immediately records the data instead of asking you to manually upload the information. And even if your phone has run out of battery power, you’ll still have a record of your hike—up until the point you’ve lost juice.
You have immediate access to a straightforward screen summary of the hike that shows a variety of data: distance, duration, average and maximum speed, calories, altitude, and elevation change. There’s also a map and a record of your splits shown by miles or kilometers.
A full history of hikes is also available on the phone without having to go to the Endomondo website. One small drawback is that the history on your phone doesn’t show the name you have given the hike (a function that is performed by accessing the website).