Walk The Distance is a type of app that motivates a very specific type of person to get off the couch and exercise. Instead of walking escaping zombies or catching Pokemon, you can virtually walk long trails like the Appalachian Trail (AT) and Pacific Ridge Trail (PCT) – perfect for those of us who don’t mind our local hiking trails. routes. but I would like something more picturesque.
For every mile you walk at home, you see a small icon with your photo move around the map, making its way between famous landmarks such as Springer Mountain in Georgia or Kennedy Meadows at the foot of the Sierra Nevada. And when you reach certain points, Walk The Distance will provide you with photos and facts about them. In a way it’s a bit like a game Oregon trailexcept that instead of sitting in front of a computer, you’re exercising. (It’s worth noting that there’s actually an official Oregon Trail app that does something similar if you prefer a more historical journey.)
In my time using it, I enjoyed returning home from a walk and looking into the app to see which sights I had virtually passed. The descriptions he gives you are short and sweet, explaining things like the weather or landscape at a particular location, or talking about certain aspects of hiking the trail, but for me the photography makes them worth seeing every time. I also found myself looking at the map ahead and planning how far my next hike would be – when I read the description of the Hawk Mountain sanctuary, which says that the next stop is about seven miles from me, I used AllTrails ( another great app) to find an eight mile hike nearby.
Theoretically, all my short walks will amount to many thousands of miles, and I will complete the AT Walk The Distance version. The app also offers many shorter hikes through various national parks and cities if you want to start with a less intimidating destination.
Let me get this over with very quickly, now that you’ve seen the screenshot: I don’t think Walk The Distance is a pretty app. Actually, I think it’s a bit ugly. However, if you can overlook it, the app’s functionality is pretty solid – you can see where you are on the trail compared to other users virtually walking on it, view your walking history to see how many miles you’ve walked each day , and re-visit the sights you have already passed. There is also a whole set of backpack settings that allow you to customize a lot of features.
There’s even a social element to Walk The Distance, though I can’t say I’ve played with it much. In addition to all users publicly broadcasting their progress, you can also add friends to follow the trail, and the app has a mode that simply shows you where you and your friends are on the trail. (If the developers are looking for some free advice, it should not be the “friends” section, but the “tramili” section, after the typing of “trail” and “family” that is used in the walking community. would be a nice addition to the fact that the app lets you choose “route name” instead of display name.)
I also – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – appreciate Walk The Distance’s pricing structure. This gives you a lot of flexibility in how you want to pay for the app, or if you want to at all. You can do the first or two big tours for free and then pay to unlock the rest. It costs $4.99 to unlock the entire AT, and $9.99 to unlock the PCT. Some of the national parks and city walks are free, while others cost $0.99 each.
However, if you don’t want to pay for things in installments, there’s a $2.99/month/$29.99/year subscription that lets you do all the walks for free and unlocks Fitbit or Garmin sync. Syncing to Apple Health or Google Fit is free (and because I use another app to sync my Fitbit data to an Apple system, Walk The Distance picks up that data right away).
So far, I haven’t gotten to the point where I need to start paying; for the AT, this happens after about 155 miles. However, when I do, I plan to buy at least this track. REI, an outdoor products company, has calculated that it actually costs about $6,000 to hike the Appalachian Trail, so I really come out ahead by doing it for five dollars.
Of course, the “Walk the Distance” form of motivation won’t work for everyone, because not everyone is a big hiker. However, for those of us that it really works for, getting to the next virtual hideout might just be the motivation we need to get off the couch and get outside for a bit. Personally, I’m really looking forward to making significant progress on my Appalachian Trail virtual journey this summer when I hike the Pacific Crest section because that’s exactly what I find very fun.
Walk The Distance is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.
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