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Technology on the Trail


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Aaron Zagrodnick

Sunscreen. Duct tape. Extra food and water. Some warm clothing. Rain gear. Some of the typical gear and equipment suggested for most hikers and backpackers. And in the early 21st century, another item to bring and suggested by many? Interactive technology: Be it mobile devices, a SPOT or similar. Technology has always been with us in the backcountry: Nylon tents weigh a fraction of the canvas tents used at an earlier time, shirts wick away sweat and help keep us dry and warm and small stoves heat up our hot chocolate rather quickly and with a lot less fuss than a campfire ever could. Interactive technology in the backcountry is a relatively new concept. With a five ounce or so device, a backpacker can make a phone call, check the weather, post photos live on Facebook, get GPS coordinates and look at maps. But interactive technology is changing the view of wilderness and how we enjoy it…

Paul Magnanti with thoughts on technology in the backcountry, read the full article below in Issue 16:

Technology on the Trail

Issue 16 Page 1

Using Technology on the Trail While Backpacking and Hiking

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PaulMags

Thanks Aaron for the introduction. My day job is as an IT Monkey. So, I find the idea of interactive technology becoming part of the outdoors experience an interesting trend.

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Walking Enigma

Aaron, I've read several of the articles through the back issues, now. You're a great writer, but more importantly, and I don't mean to be sappy but you can feel your passion for the sport vis a vis let's just say the other magazines/sources to sell ads and move product.

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Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron, I've read several of the articles through the back issues, now. You're a great writer, but more importantly, and I don't mean to be sappy but you can feel your passion for the sport vis a vis let's just say the other magazines/sources to sell ads and move product.

Walking Enigma, thanks for the kind words! Glad you're liking the writing and the magazine...Unfortunately I can't claim authorship to this great article, PaulMags put in all the effort on this one! :D

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  • 4 weeks later...

While we can use a broad definition of technology describing it in terms of "sunscreen, Duct tape, extra food and water(?), warm clothing, rain gear, nylon tents weighing a fraction of the canvas tents used at an earlier time, shirts that wick away sweat and help keep us dry and warm, small stoves that heat up our hot chocolate rather quickly and with a lot less fuss than a campfire ever could" or for that matter covered wagons and horses becoming ATVs or mountain bikes, a tree branch as a hiking staff becoming UL carbon fiber trekking poles, a wool blanket becoming a high tech synthetic or down sleeping bag/quilt, etc. few types of technology are changing outdoor and hiking experiences to the degree of interactive electronic technology, never more evident than in wealthy countries like in the U.S.

While interactive technology like GPS, Spot, accessing weather reports/maps via the net, etc are sometimes evident in my backpacking adventures throughout the U.S. BY FAR what I notice most in regards to this type of technology are people on phones. Maybe, this will change but that is BY FAR the number # 1 use of interactive technology - staying connected.

On so many backpacking and peak bagging adventures I notice people on cell phones in the back country and at summits not making emergency calls, communicating with their stock brokers, conducting life or death biz, accessing weather reports/maps, etc but engaging in much self absorbed, often LOUD, ho hum rather mundane "guess where I'm at?, "I'll be on the road at 7P.M., what's for dinner" type chatter.

What concerns me the most is that "connectivity" to and via electronic interactive technology, while most often only hearing about and seeing the potential upside of it, very often comes at a steep price - an ignorance of and loss of connection to Nature, personal social interaction with other humans/life forms, and possibly even with self. The picture included in the article of the two folks atop the mountain on their phones are perfect examples of what I recently experienced at the very crowded summit of Mt Marcy in the Adirondacks on a beautiful October weekend - literally some one hundred frantic people trying to get phone reception focused solely on that! - Eyes down, shoulders down, some stumbling around because they weren't watching where they were placing their feet, isolated in several aspects to their immediate environment, and ignoring everyone and everything else. It was most analogous to those poor agonizing alienated souls I've witnessed tethered and addicted to crack, heroin, and alcohol in seek of their next fix. I couldn't help but recall John Muir saying "thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.” I started to wonder where interactive technology can often take us, that's it's not always such a good thing. It includes a loss of connectivity, that connectivity to one thing means disconnecting from something else, perhaps of greater value than all the info we might gain from being consumed by and focused on interactive technology, which is something we rarely hear about.

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Bobo Uzala

On so many backpacking and peak bagging adventures I notice people on cell phones in the back country and at summits not making emergency calls, communicating with their stock brokers, conducting life or death biz, accessing weather reports/maps, etc but engaging in much self absorbed, often LOUD, ho hum rather mundane "guess where I'm at?, "I'll be on the road at 7P.M., what's for dinner" type chatter.

Dogwood, I had to quote you on that thought, there's nothing more disconcerting and aggravating than getting to the summit and there's a bunch of boneheads talking on the phone. Arghhhh, put down the dang phone, look around, why did you spend the time to climb Marcy?!? I can relate and agree with your entire post. I was sitting in a shelter on the AT when a hiker dropped his stuff and sat down next to me at the picnic table. Didn't say a word to me, instead he pulled out an iPad. It didn't matter to me if he didn't want to talk, but wow, it felt so impersonal.

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grizzled

Dogwood, I had to quote you on that thought, there's nothing more disconcerting and aggravating than getting to the summit and there's a bunch of boneheads talking on the phone. Arghhhh, put down the dang phone, look around, why did you spend the time to climb Marcy?!? I can relate and agree with your entire post. I was sitting in a shelter on the AT when a hiker dropped his stuff and sat down next to me at the picnic table. Didn't say a word to me, instead he pulled out an iPad. It didn't matter to me if he didn't want to talk, but wow, it felt so impersonal.

The solution: find a place where there isn't any cell service. Can't get away from satellite, but it really thins the crowd someplace without cell service-and there are some big swaths of county that remain cell phone free.

Thanks Paul for a well written read.

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jshanks24

Dogwood, I had to quote you on that thought, there's nothing more disconcerting and aggravating than getting to the summit and there's a bunch of boneheads talking on the phone. Arghhhh, put down the dang phone, look around, why did you spend the time to climb Marcy?!? I can relate and agree with your entire post. I was sitting in a shelter on the AT when a hiker dropped his stuff and sat down next to me at the picnic table. Didn't say a word to me, instead he pulled out an iPad. It didn't matter to me if he didn't want to talk, but wow, it felt so impersonal.

Although I never talk on my phone I am a technology geek. When I get to the top of the summit I immediately pull out my phone and check the gps coordinates, create waypoints, and take pictures. I try to never miss opportunity to talk to new people because I learn so much that way.

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