Can The Wilderness and Technology Coexist?

The headline pretty much says it all. That’s the question that Sam Huleatt asks in his blog, specifically in this entry entitled The Wilderness/Technology Conundrum.

Sam talks about his love for both technology and the outdoors, and how the two can be at odds with one another. He talks about how his group of mountain biking and climbing buddies would ridicule him when he brought a cell phone or his iPod along on their outings.

As someone who loves both technology and the outdoors, I can relate to Sam’s thoughts on the subject. But I also don’t feel that the two have to be at odds. There are some days when I head out for a hike that I enjoy having my iPod along and others when I just want to hear the sounds of nature around me. Plus, Apple’s little music device has become such a cultural phenomenon that you’re hard pressed to not see them in use anywhere you go, including on big mountains like Everest.

GPS devices are another piece of technology that I think is excellent, and has enhanced my enjoyment of the outdoors. Anyone who has tried Geocaching would probably agree with me. And then of course, there is the technology that makes us safer while we’re out and about, like sat phones, locator beacons, or other new gear designed to keep us warm and dry.

In fact, those mountain bikers complaining about someone bring an iPod or cell phone, might want to take a look at their ride, and see all the technology that goes into making it lighter, faster, and easier to peddle. I’m not sure they’d want to give up their slick new bikes for the older, heavier models that first hit the market.

In short, I think technology, when used correctly, can greatly enhance our enjoyment of the outdoors, whether by allowing us to listen to our favorite tunes for hours while we hike, or making us safer in the backcountry. When I head out to Kilimanjaro in April, you can bet my iPod is coming along for the ride.

Kraig Becker

5 thoughts on “Can The Wilderness and Technology Coexist?”

  1. I would argue that this depends on whether you’re actually in a wilderness area or not. That distinction is important. If you or your friends are on mountain bikes, then you aren’t (hopefully) in wilderness areas, since the presence of a mechanized transport would be a violation of wilderness.

    In the U.S., the qualities of a designated wilderness area are described in the Wilderness Act. Look in particular at section 2c about the definition of wilderness:

    I only take the minimum technology I need for life-and-death safety into wilderness areas. In other backcountry areas, I’m not going for the purpoise of experiencing a place essentially untouched by human civilization, and so I might bring a few toys.

  2. True. I did kind of lump “wilderness” and “backcountry” all into one big category, so you’re right, technically you wouldn’t see a mountain bike in a government owned wilderness area, although there are plenty of privately owned wilderness areas where you might.

    That said, the sentiment is the same. I see no reason why you can’t bring your tech toys with you when you head out as long as you enjoy them. “Wilderness” and technology don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

    I tend to balance it out with the weight of the object, room in the pack, and whether or not batteries/recharging are an issue. I also think there are big differences between something like an iPod and a GPS/locator beacon, but the technology still is useful in the backcountry none the less.

  3. Thanks Steve! That really is a good rule of thumb for cell phones and other technology items.

    I know that when I carry a cell phone while out in the backcountry, it’s usualy turned off, and in the bottom of my pack, only to be used in an emergency. After all, we like to head outside to get away from all of those things for the most part, right?

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