Technology and outdoorsy stuff

So this guy amputating his arm, and a variety of other things, got me thinking about the role of technology in outdoorsy stuff. Given sufficient budget, technology enables us to (almost) never be out of contact with other people, and made it (almost) impossible to get lost.

Whenever I go hiking or climbing, I carry a cell phone, and I carry a GPSr. The cell phone, most of the time, allows me to call anyone in the world from anywhere I happen to be. If I were to get injured, I could call the local police, and give them my exact coordinates.

The GPSr, on the other hand, makes it almost impossible to get lost. Now, it is very possible to be out of view of the satelites, but usually if you wait long enough, you can see them again. So, whenever I go hiking in unfamiliar territory, I put a waypoint marker in the GPSr called “JEEP”. Thus, no matter how lost I get, I can always press “Go”, select “JEEP”, and know exactly what direction I need to go, and for how far, before returning to where I started. So even when I get completely turned around, as I did on Sunday afternoon, I simply *can’t* get lost.

Now, perhaps this removes some of the thrill of exploring, and perhaps it dulls some of the instincts that hikers work hard to cultivate. But, should I ever get stuck on a ledge, or under a boulder, or just lost in the woods, the danger is largely removed. And, given my tendency to go hiking alone – hiking is usually about getting away from everything, anyway – this is a great comfort to me.

So, while I tend to think that technology makes us dumber, and that it is usually pretty hard to find emerging technology that genuinely makes life better, in the arena of outdoorsy stuff, I think that we’ve got a winner.