gay hookup apps

Illustration by Max Fleishman

The 7 best gay hookup apps you didn’t know existed

The new wave of online dating apps is right under your nose.


Cooper Irons


Nico Lang


Posted on Dec 24, 2015   Updated on Oct 6, 2023, 12:40 pm CDT

When it comes to gay hookup apps, two platforms dominate the market: Grindr and Scruff. Launched in 2009, Grindr quickly became the most successful app— with more than 10 million men logging in worldwide. Meanwhile, the Scruff app boasts 8 million members. (Full disclosure: I am one of them.)

But as the app market grows, they are far from your only options. That guy sitting next to you on the train? He might just be updating his account on one of these apps. —Nico Lang

The hidden gems of gay hookup apps

1. VGL

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Created by Josh Liptzin and Andrew Vurlumis, VGL hit the already crowded app marketplace in 2013. What sets it apart from the rest? It’s the hookup world’s answer to Hot or Not.

The gay hookup app allows users to rank each other with an in-app rating system. High-ranking profiles are sorted into one category, so you can weed out any Threes or Sixes nearby.

The only problem? If you’re looking to talk to these alleged hotties, you have to pay for the premium version. With the VIP version costing $9.99/month, it’s something of a pricey game. Free users have to keep fishing in the general pool.

The interface itself is poorly designed and has a way of obstructing users’ profile images. When you select a profile, their stats appear on top of the main photo, obscuring the picture even more. If you want to see the picture, you have to tap the screen and wiggle the image up and down.

VGL users can “follow” each other in order to build a network of updates from favorites’ photo posts. Likes and comments can even be left for extra flirting.

A scroll down feed shows the latest photo uploads from around the globe. It’s a nice change from your usual overwhelming checkerboard menu of men with tiny profile thumbnails.—N.L., C.I.

2. Surge

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It would seem that the Tinder boom is over. But if you’re feeling nostalgic for the swipe life, Surge is very similar to the online dating zeitgeist.

It’s men looking for men as far as you can swipe. Surge has peskier advertisements, but allows for more in-profile stats.

Non-premium users only get one “power like”. But seeing the locked gallery of men who swiped right on you is always tempting.

Going premium for $9.99/month offers quite a bit of tricks. For instance, the ability to reverse swipe decisions and narrow your geographic search.

Incognito mode allows you to chat with only your selected favorites, filtering out any riff raff you want to avoid. Hey, its immaculate five stars in the App Store must be indicative of some success or another.—C.I.

3. Most diverse gay hookup app: Jack’d

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Jack’d is a more affordable alternative to Grindr and Scruff—with premium rates as low as $2.08 a month. But you know the old saying when it comes to saving money. Are you getting what you’re (not) paying for?

Starting with the good, Jack’d (which markets itself to gay black men) is predominantly populated by people of color. Apps like Grindr have notorious issues when it comes to racial inclusion among their users. Comments like “no Asians” or “it’s just a preference” are common.

While the design is passable, there’s no ability to signal your interest to users you like without messaging them first. On Scruff, the “Woof” option is similar to a Facebook Poke. It allows you to get someone’s attention.

It can be depressing to spend your time devising the chillest version of “Hey, what’s up?” just to have no one answer back. The “Woof” cuts out that overt rejection. There’s a swipe game to be played, though the terse “Yes” or “No” feels slightly more cutthroat.

Jack’d Pro provides an upgrade and users are spending less than most other options at only $4.99. Pro users get an experience with more options and no ads.

Most curiously, Jack’d offers touch ID. That may seem a little overdramatic, but it’s a nice safeguard.

The real drawback to the app is that it’s a memory hog on your smartphone. The most common complaint about Jack’d in the iTunes store is that it takes up way too much space. Others maintain that the new version freezes regularly.—N.L., C.I.

4. DaddyHunt

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Unsurprisingly, there are few actual daddies on DaddyHunt. This gay hookup app is primarily host to other guys seeking older men. If you can get over that, the platform does a lot of things very right.

My favorite thing about DaddyHunt is that the photo browser allows just three profiles per line. That means each image is larger and easier to see without clicking on the photo first. Scruff’s standard is four photos per line, but you might find that a teeny, tiny photo can be misleading.

Unlike Grindr, DaddyHunt is surprisingly face pic-centric, which gives the community a warmer, friendlier vibe. That feeling is built into the interface itself. DH allows users to “Poke” each other, and send different “Shout Outs”, like “dateable” and “burning hot”.

The app’s “FotoFeed” allows users to upload photos of themselves into an Instagram-style RSS. It offers a unique way to browse photos of guys you might be interested in.

Aside from the mismarketing, the major complaint is a standard for startup apps: numbers. DaddyHunt has a smaller user base than Grindr and Scruff, which means your options are limited, but growing.

The free version doesn’t allow you to filter by geography, interests, or body type. You really have to update to the Premium version to get to make DaddyHunt’s platform work for you.—N.L.

5. The most communal gay hookup app: Hornet

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According to Hornet’s CEO and co-founder, Sean Howell, the platform stresses conversation and community among its users. “People don’t just use us for dating,” Howell told the Huffington Post. “They’re using us for business networking, to get a job, to explore moving, [and] to plan their vacations.”

If that sounds a bit like DaddyHunt, the two apps are strikingly similar. The sleek browsers look nearly identical, lacking many of the banner ads that bog down other free apps.

Where Hornet bests DH is quantity. There’s no limit on how many profiles you can search, so you can keep scrolling all day long. The paid version of the app allows you to see which users have visited your profile.

Howell bills Hornet as “less sleazy” than other apps, but what distinguishes Hornet is its simplicity. And it’s been doing good on its promise to be a little more immersive and communal.

What really gives Hornet an extra sting? Its acquired database of suggested spots nearby to meet up for a date. This makes it especially helpful when traveling.—N.L., C.I.

6. The kinkiest gay hookup app: Recon

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Having launched way back in 2001 as a desktop site, Recon is actually far from new. Regardless. the site is always topping itself when it comes to innovation. Today it’s a deluxe hub for those in the kink community.

Whether you’re into leather or rubber, a dom or a sub, be prepared. Recon sports a more menacing interface to go along with the darker desires of the kink mindset. Users can rate faceless photots and specify “Active” or “Passive” if needed.

This gay hookup app provides a safe space for individuals to connect beyond the “leather” tribe over at Grindr. You can send friend requests and browse YouTube videos that humanize the kink community.

Recon also holds its own events, including AIDS fundraisers. Just be prepared to hop a plane for them since most are across the pond, in Recon’s Euro homeland.—C.I.


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Another more obscure gay hookup app, GROWLr may be the answer to DaddyHunt’s overabundance of twinks and otters. The app, which launched back in 2010, is geared towards bears and bear-hunters.

Scrolling through the honey-sweet interface means you’ll have to dodge annoying tool tips and pop-up ads. But those trees will part to reveal a cuddly playground of furry faces who are willing to chat.

GROWLr also kindly includes options for stating HIV and PrEP stats in profiles. Even cooler is the likes of Pups and Sirs being included in “Looking For” options. This could help ease guys into kink communities without taking the potentially menacing cannonball into the Recon pool.

Not only is there also an event calendar to peruse, but you can also send out a “Shout!” to those in your current community or a geo-set location. You can also preview the estimated reach of a post promoting a business, event, or greeting. Makes it easy to know just how many growls you may get in your neck of the woods.—C.I.


Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance. 

Illustration by Max Fleishman

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*First Published: Dec 24, 2015, 2:10 pm CST