Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Technology in the Outdoors

Hello Everyone,

It's been a while since I last posted on my blog. I've been pretty busy lately but things are slowing down now and I'm looking forward to getting outdoors more and posting here more often. It's been a cold, rough winter in the northeast along with most other parts of the country. I hope everyone is doing well.

Some Thoughts on Technology in the Outdoors

Technology is something I deal with on a daily basis. My job requires me to keep up on new technologies and help others implement it. I am a believer in tech making a difference in everyday life. I've seen technology make things simple and I've certainly seen it make things a heck of alot more complicated.

One place that I feel people are becoming a bit too dependent on technology is in the outdoors. It seems that every time I pick up a magazine or look online there's more stories of peoples' reliance on technology and electronics getting them in trouble. Batteries die, a weak satellite signal and all of sudden it's an emergency. Often, it's someone who, with a little common sense and proper preparation, could have easily gotten out of, or never gotten into, the situation in the first place. I believe that GPS units, SPOT locators and the like can and do make outdoor experiences better and safer, but only if used safely and intelligently. If you go into the woods and rely on a GPS as your only means of navigation, you're asking for trouble. I have and sometimes use a GPS, but when I do, I also carry a map and compass with me and often refer to it often to keep my skills fresh. I'm a firm believer in redundancy when you carry equipment. One of my first posts on this blog was about carrying three of everything you may need to rely on in the woods. Always have a backup plan.

One technology I do carry in the woods for emergencies is a phone. I know it's not very bushcrafty but I always have mine on me when I'm out, although it's always turned off and packed away. I'm not someone who you will ever see hiking down a trail blabbering away to someone (We've all seen it!), But If there's a real emergency, it will be one of my first means of communication to try. That doesn't mean rely on it, because you can't always guarantee a signal. It's not a replacement for first aid knowledge or emergency preparedness, just another tool to use if you need to get help quickly for you or someone else.

One technology that has improved my enjoyment of the outdoors are iPods and Mp3 players. I could guarantee that if I was staying any where near a popular camping or hiking spot, someone would always have a radio playing, sharing their choice of music with everyone around them. One of the things I really enjoy about the outdoors is the solitude and sounds of the environment around me. Since portable music devices have become popular, I almost never hear anyone else's music anymore.

One electronic device I have never used is a digital compass.  I see them for sale almost everywhere, always at about twice the price of a good liquid filled magnetic one.  I don't quite understand the reasoning behind taking something as simple and foolproof as a magnetic compass and making it dependent on batteries, but maybe they have advantages that I'm not aware of.  If anyone has one, post a comment and let me know if you like it and if it has any advantages over a standard compass.

I guess the point of this whole post is to use technology as you would any other tool in the woods. Have a backup plan, don't rely on it to keep you out of trouble, and don't count on it to be there when you need it. Always carry multiple tools and have the skills and knowledge to be able to do without it.

Thanks for reading, I hope to see you in the woods!



  1. Just purchased a Bushnell Back Track this year. Have not been able to really put it to test yet put with spring coming on hope to soon. Can't beat the old reliable common compass, just another electronic toy to play with I guess.

  2. When it comes to outdoor equipment, I'd still choose to rely on the trusty olds. Out there where there are no electrical sockets or spare batteries, what would I do should my digital compass goes busted?

  3. It depends on what kind of "feel" you want for your outdoor trip, though safety is something not wise to leave out on regardless of the intention. Just have something to cushion an emergency situation.