Route planning apps have been a feature of most adventurers' virtual kitbags for a good while now. Pretty much every hardware gadget you buy these days has some sort of mapping service bundled with it (of varying degrees of quality and usefulness) and there are countless third-party options. In such a crowded marketplace it can be hard for an app to really stand out, which makes the arrival of relative newcomer* Komoot doubly impressive.
"The six founders were outdoor enthusiasts before they were tech entrepreneurs"
The app has been making waves recently, garnering press attention and near-universal positive reviews. It’s not just because it’s easy and straightforward to use, it’s because it boasts several nifty features that you can’t find elsewhere. Here are five reasons why you need Komoot in your life.
1) It works for a whole range outdoor sports
A lot of apps claim they cater for multiple sports but let’s face it, they’re usually better suited to one activity or another. You find that features designed specifically to suit road cyclists have been crowbarred into working for mountain bikers, or vice versa.
Komoot on the other hand is a genuine multi-sport app, designed right from the outset to be universally useful for hikers, trail and road runners, mountain bikers, road cyclists, gravel bikers and mountaineers.
The founders hail from the Alps, and were outdoor enthusiasts long before they were tech entrepreneurs. They’ve been doing all of the sports above since they were kids, and when you look at the app’s functionality, it shows.
You can select your preferred sports so the route recommendations are tailored to that activity and sports are separated properly, so “cycling" isn’t just one tab – there are different tabs for gravel biking and road biking for example, as well as enduro-style mountain biking vs. cross country riding.
It also automatically lists road surfaces (asphalt, gravel, unpaved roads etc.) and trail types (distinguishing between singletrack, path, streets and access roads among others) and tries to route you along the surfaces most appropriate for your discipline - another really useful tool.
2) The highlights feature is genuinely awesome
One of Komoot’s unique features (and certainly one of our favourites) is the ability to highlight standout sections of a particular route. These are then shared with the app’s other users and provide an excellent guide to the best things to see, ride or hike to around any given destination.
Highlighted sections for hikers might include particularly stunning views. On the mountain biking tab they’d include challenging single track descents, or if you selected road cycling as your favourite sport, you’d see the most lung-bursting climbs.
Most highlighted sections have photos so you can see what you’re getting yourself into, and you can opt to include particular highlights as part of your route, so Komoot will plan an itinerary around them. If you’re new to an area, highlights are a great way to get genuine recommendations from fellow hikers, bikers and climbers. We fired up Komoot while exploring round Fort William recently, and one look at the highlights gave us an instant guide to the best places to hike to.
3) It’s super easy to use - whatever your ability level
Compared to a lot of navigation apps, Komoot’s user interface is blessedly straightforward. You simply select your prefered sports (and yes, there is an option for “all sports"), select a destination and any highlights you want to include and it will plan you a route best-suited to your sport’s preferred trail types and surfaces.
You can also set your ability level (on a range that runs from “couch potato" to “pro") and the app will plan easier or more difficult routes accordingly. If you want to alter the route, you can simply drag the line around and add in points of interest, more highlights, or waypoints. It’s all super intuitive – even if you’re the world’s biggest technophobe you’ll get your head round this in no time.
The maps show topographical information as well as roads, trails and paths and are easy to read on the fly. The app itself is free, and free to use if you have a data connection. If you want to download maps to your phone for offline use, you have to pay per area but it’s not much – the package for the whole world costs just US$29.99 (£21.40) and you get given one offline area for free when you download the app initially.
The turn-by-turn navigation is really clear and straightforward, and Komoot can sync easily to Garmins and a variety of other devices. If you’re tracking an excursion or riding along a planned route, Komoot will provide you with all the data you’d expect from a mapping app – including elevation, total metres climbed, min, max and average speed etc.
4) The Community Aspect Adds a Whole Other Element
One of the best things about Komoot is the community aspect to the app. You can follow fellow cyclists, hikers, mountain bikers or climbers like you would on Instagram or Twitter.
Unlike those apps however, you’re not reduced to just enviously flicking through your friend’s photos - Komoot will tell you where they were shot and how to get there. If you’re looking for a bit of adventure inspiration, this is the real deal.
While some apps rank performance and give out prizes for the quickest times, Komoot is more about encouraging friendly co-operation. Of course, you can share details of times, speeds etc. should you wish, but there’s no league table or anything like that.
Instead, Komoot gives out awards to the people who’ve contributed the most to mapping out the local area - experts in each individual sport can earn “Pioneer" status, which indicates that they’re valuable contributors to the community, and particularly worth following.
5) Millions of people agree Komoot is great - it’s already Europe’s most popular mapping app
When we referred to Komoot as a *“relative newcomer" above, we weren’t telling the the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Komoot is a relative newcomer in the UK market, but the app, whose headquarters are in Berlin, is already massive in Germany. Komoot is in fact the number one outdoor app in its homeland (where the outdoor sector is far bigger than it is in the UK) and is consistently ranked number one overall in the iTunes App Store.
This makes it Europe’s most popular outdoor app - an impressive stat in itself but one which also has practical benefits for Komoot users. With more than 10 million tours already completed using the app, there’s a huge wealth of info on routes and planning already available. Given the impressive range of functions Komoot offers and how easy it is to use, we’d be surprised if a whole lot more didn’t get added soon.