Hiking in the Age of Technology

By Doug Williams
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Hiking in the Age of Technology

Doug Williams
 
 
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Hiking in the Age of Technology: Are Hikers Placing Way Too Much Reliance on Modern Objects of Convenience To Help Them Navigate and Survive Their Hikes?

In this day and age it seems as though every person is addicted to the ease that technology has added to our lives in various different ways, in some ways it really is magnificent and it’s a huge benefit and addition the quality of life.

In other ways, however, relying too heavily on technological advancements can hinder us. This certainly seems to be the case in a recent death that happened as a result of getting lost while hiking. It was reported that the woman who ultimately ended up dying as a result of getting lost while hiking the Appalachian Trail did not even know how to properly use a compass, even though she was partaking in this extremely long and difficult hike.

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Since it has become apparent that many hikers are relying on their phone based GPS in order to guide them while hiking, as opposed to a map and compass, officials in New Hampshire have deliberately omitted cellphones from a list of ten essential items to take on a hike. They are aware that cell service tends to be weak in the area of hiking trails, and they do not want people to think that they can rely on their cell phones to help them through sticky situations, or to help them navigate rough terrain to find their way instead of a tried and true methods that work well, such as the map and compass.

 

Officials are genuinely confused as to why it has become increasingly uncommon for hikers to bring a compass and a map with them. While every person is aware that phones can certainly be an easier way to navigate, they are not reliable, especially in the wilderness. Most people should be aware when they are going on long hikes, particularly deep into the wilderness that technology is not the only option and is definitely not always the best option. Officials express that there needs to be more of an emphasis on the use of paper maps and compasses, almost reverting back to the good old days.

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Another cause for concern emanating from the increasing reliance that hikers are placing on their cell phones is one that people may not initially think of but can still be cause for concern. That is the fact that many times hikers will climb to higher altitudes than they normally would or should be climbing in an attempt to get more cell reception.
So, they’re putting themselves in danger trying to get the technology to work. This goes against the classic advice that is given to people in case they are lost in the wilderness, which is to stay in one place if you know that people are looking for you, or if you must move to head down the mountain where it will be warmer, and there should be more protection from the elements as well as a higher chance of being closer to roads and rescue.

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The National Park Service does suggest that people should not rely on their cell phones, as it is simply not as reliable as people think. They recommend that you tell family and friends where you are going , how long you’re expecting to be gone for and make arrangements to check in if it’s a long hike, keep them in the loop of what your plan is so that you are not completely on your own and they can raise the alarm with a good idea of your location if you don’t come back or check in.

It is also suggested you leave trail markers along the way so that in the case of emergency your trajectory can be seen. They can also see where the trail may have fallen off, to get an idea of where you got lost and where you might have headed.

From a psychological perspective, it does seem like people are willing to partake in more risky behavior when they have a cell phone with them because they have the false notion that they are somehow more protected by their phone and connected with the outside world, but as discussed this is simply not the case.

 

We hear and read stories regularly about people getting lost and tragedies that could have been avoided with some pre-planing and knowledge of how to use map and compass rather than rely on technology.

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Technology is certainly a great thing, and it does help in life a lot, but for something like hiking where you are immersed in the wilderness you should have a backup that’s proven to work, get yourself a map and compass and learn how to use them.

 
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