Taking your phone with you when you're trying to connect with nature can be a little counterproductive, but we've tried out a few apps that actually make your outdoor experience better.

Whether it's camping, hiking or simply stargazing from your back porch, check out these five apps that will enhance your outdoor lifestyle.

Leafsnap

Cost: Free for iPhone, not yet available for Android.

Made by: Columbia University, University of Maryland and Smithsonian Institution.

Purpose: If you take a photograph of a leaf, this app uses visual recognition software to identify what tree it came from. If you're out hiking and you spot a tree you want to identify, you can use the "Snap It" function of the app, or browse through hundreds of photos of leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds and bark to try to identify it yourself.

Leafsnap, an app that identifies types of trees and other plants using visual recognition software. Courtesy photo
Leafsnap, an app that identifies types of trees and other plants using visual recognition software. Courtesy photo ( Picasa )

Star Walk

Cost: $2.99 and only available for iPhone. Android users, check out a similar app, SkEye.

Made by: Vito Technology Inc.

Purpose: This app allows you to become an informed stargazer. Point your phone at the sky, and you'll see all kinds of celestial bodies in their proper place from where you're standing. When you move your phone, the app updates the stars, planets and constellations in real time. Tapping on an object allows you learn more about it. You can also explore the sky from the past or in the future using the Time Machine function.

eGPS Elevation

Cost: Free for Android users, $1.99 for iPhone users


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Made by: Exetik Systems

Purpose: This app tells you altitude and elevation readings for your spot on a map, even when your phone's GPS is turned off -- perfect for climbing fourteeners and off-trail travel, too.

The app's interface is clean, and you can switch between U.S. or metric units. Click on the globe icon at the bottom of the screen to see latitude, longitude, accuracy and altitude.

Global Summit Log

Cost: Free for iPhone, not yet available for Android.

Made by: Sichtwerk AG.

Purpose: If you plan to hike some fourteeners or other peaks -- and you're checking them off as you go -- this app lets you log each summit and share your virtual trail register with other users. You don't need cell service to use this app, and you can pre-download the app's 300,000 recorded peaks and maps before you go and access them offline.

Waterlogged

Cost: Free for iPhone, not yet available for Android.

Made by: Shadel Software, Inc.

A screenshot from Waterlogged, an iPhone app which reminds you to drink water throughout the day and tracks your intake. Courtesy photo
A screenshot from Waterlogged, an iPhone app which reminds you to drink water throughout the day and tracks your intake. Courtesy photo ( Picasa )

Purpose: This app reminds you to drink water. It shows you a glass the size of your daily goal, which you can change if you're say, hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail. Then every time you drink water, you record it and the glass fills up until you reach your goal. You can look at graphs of your water intake over time, and you can set the app to remind you when and how much to drink.

--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.