The Summon Monster and Summon Nature's Ally spells offer incredible versatility. Not only can summoned creatures fight for you, but they can perform other services -- so long as you can communicate with them. Given that, you can ask your conjured friend to help you out in all kinds of ways.
Take tracking, for example. A druid is at home in nature, but unless she has the track feat, all those ranks in Survival are less useful. Still, why waste a slot on tracking when your friends can track for you? Several of your Nature's Allies are excellent trackers. All the following have scent, the track feat, and ranks in survival (or equivalent):
- SNA I -- Wolves have a +5 on survival checks.
- SNA III -- Dire Wolves, +6 on checks.
- SNA IV -- Deinonychus, +10 on checks.
- SNA VI -- Megaraptor, +12 on checks.
- SNA VI -- Invisible Stalker, +13 on checks.
And if you are in an aquatic adventure, recall that sharks have a special keen scent ability that is almost as good as tracking.
You may be better off summoning a less potent tracker, since if you have more than one, they can use Aid Another to boost the main tracker's roll, or, if two or more are tracking independently, if one loses the trail, the others may still have it. Or you may have lower level spells to spare, and as a druid, you can cast summons spontaneously.
The only problem with this strategy is that if you have a long ways to go, the spell may expire before you get there. You can cast another, or rely on extended spells, but that only gets you so far. For a druid with a tracker animal companion, like a wolf, you are all set. If you have time to burn, you can always dismiss a non-tracking animal companion and summon a new tracking one tomorrow.
Clerics and arcanists can pursue the same strategy. Celestial dogs, celestial riding dogs, and fiendish wolves are all +5 on track rolls. Hell hounds (SMIII) track at +16! Hell hounds, in fact, are better trackers than dire wolves, yeth hounds, and shadow mastiffs (although yeth hounds can fly).
Unfortunately, summoning a hell hound, a yeth hound, a fiendish wolf, or a shadow mastiff is an evil act ... impossible for a good-aligned cleric, and dangerous for a good-aligned mage. To call an equally skilled good-aligned tracker takes a SMV spell calling for a hound archon, who tracks in canine form at +16.
Summon Monster VII offers the invisible stalker, but I'm not convinced that that's better than the hound archon or the hell hound. Finally, SMIX offers the leonal, who has no scent but can track at +17.
Clerics have another option for long-term tracking, via Planar Ally spells. Calling a Hound Archon for a long-term track can be very handy. And don't forget, wizards, sorcerers, and adepts, that if you chose well, your familiar can track -- cats, rats, snakes, and weasels all have the scent ability.
And of course, any character can use a bag of tricks to call forth a tracker! Even the weakest bag offers four creatures with scent out of five, and the badger has the track feat. So there's no reason to be shy ... let your friends do your tracking for you!