Technology and the Outdoors

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By now, many of you have probably read the story that appeared in the New York Times that took a look at the effects of technology on our ability to concentrate, and how going outside, and more specifically getting away from all the technology that has pervaded our life, helps us to clear our minds. In that story, a group of researchers who study the brain, took a trip through the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah, a place that offers no cell phone or Internet service, and completely devoid of technology, except for what you bring with you. Some of them were skeptics about the impact of technology on the way we think, while others though that tech overload could adversely effect our concentration. They discovered, that the quiet calm of the outdoors, away from those distractions, did indeed change their perspectives on a great deal of things.

Following up on that story, the Adventure Life published this piece in which site editor Steve Casamiro shares his thoughts on the subject, coming to the same conclusions that many of us already have. A healthy dose of Mother Nature goes a long way to helping keep us focused, happy, and mentally healthy. But he also notes how useful some technologies can be in the backcountry, such as GPS, satellite phones, and so on. Technology like the SPOT Messenger could potentially save our lives and iPods seem like a piece of gear we seldom leave home without these days. The question is, should we be taking all of this stuff and how does it effect our enjoyment of our time out in the woods?

This is a subject I’ve wrested with a bit myself in recent years. After all, I use a great deal of technology to write about doing things outdoors. I am decidedly a tech nerd. I love gadgets and gizmos, and I think of ways that I can keep them well charged while on an extended trip away from civilization. But that said, I usually leave my cell phone behind and I’m quite content with unplugging from the Internet for awhile. That said, having my iPod along as been useful in a number of situations and a GPS is a tool that holds a lot of a value as well. They’ll both probably continue to find a place in my pack.

Like all good things, technology should be used in moderation. It can be very distracting, even at the best of times, and these days we’re often multitasking on our laptops, while texting friends and Twittering our every move. All the while, music, television, or both, drone on in the background. I head outside to get away from some of that, and it’s important to remind ourselves of that very thing from time to time. After all, if you’re reading this blog, you more than likely have a love for the outdoors, and it is would be a shame to miss a spectacular sunset or a rare creature on the trail just because we’re too busy picking out the next song on our iPods.

Your thoughts?

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5 thoughts on “Technology and the Outdoors”

  1. i tend to do a lot of solo training and therefore am i big fan of my iPod. i carry my cell phone along on long rides, runs and paddles but only for emergencies. I think everything in moderation is the indeed the key! i think the same thing can be said for people that use their technological attachments in public and have no regards for others around them…i.e. those that have the phone to their ear as soon as the plane touches down and talk so loudly that we are all a part of their conversation (aka..Johnny Tarmack). i find them almost as offensive as smokers…sometimes that are one and the same!

  2. I'm right there with you on the training activities clay. My iPod was dead last Friday when I did my 8.5 mile run, and it was a long run to say the least.

    I also carry my cell phone on my rides for emergencies, but it is usually off unless I need it.

  3. I'd say an iPod, cell phone with email capability and GPS are required on any adventure. I actually find that keeping up with email HELPS reduce the stress level–I don't worry about what is exploding at work, and if there is a disaster, I can choose to handle it then or put it off. It makes re-entry to work much less stressful–an issue not discussed much or at all. Also a photo capability on your cell phone helps keep you connected to others such as non-participating spouses, which makes it less stressful on them.

  4. Work to live, don't live to work.

    I don't bring an iPod when I workout, ride or run. When I'm training I'm there to focus on what I'm doing. When I go on a hike, a climbing trip, or a long bike ride I'll certainly have a camera with me to capture the action and a cell phone, typically turned off. I only bring it in case of a problem but never use it to check my email or text messages. I'm a gadget freak for most of the week but when I'm outside that's all I want to hear.

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