June 25, 2012

Think Hiking with a Smartphone is Enough? Think Again


With the explosion of smartphone apps that take advantage of the GPS capability, it can be tempting to rely on a smartphone to guide you on your backcountry trek, or even a quick day hike in the mountains. The trouble is that people don't plan on trouble, and a lost signal or low battery can mean a night in the wilderness leaving you wanting for that equipment you left at home because it was too heavy.

A few things I always bring on a day hike when I am relying on my GPS - a handheld, not my smartphone:

  1. A backup map & compass - always useful if the electronics bite the dust
  2. Second Set of Batteries - they are small, and will get you through day two with that GPS
  3. Water - obvious, and variable depending on climate
  4. Rain Gear with warmth layer - we hike in the White Mountains, and a quick rain shower, with a drop in temps when you are wearing a cotton T-shirt could mean disaster
  5. First Aid Kit - I have a small one, that includes enough for a few people out for a few days. I took a NOLS Wilderness First Aid class recently, and it opened my eyes to what I needed.
  6. Headlamp - Even on a day hike. We recently went out on a day hike, someone got injured and we found ourselves arriving at the trailhead at last light. We had one headlamp in a pretty big group. I am packing one from now on.
  7. Knife - a wondertool in the hands of a survivalist, and not too bad for us normal folk.
  8. A Smartphone with extra battery - Hey, let's face it, it's cool to be able to take pics, upload your GPS tracks instantly once the successful hike is done. Just make sure it's not your sole direction finding device. You probably don't go anywhere without it anyway.

Here's a related article that appeared in the Boston Globe today that talked about people relying on their smartphone and having a reality check when they do. Cellphones are changing how people experience the outdoors, sometimes for good, sometimes not.

ReadMore at the Boston Globe

Scott Martin Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

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