I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely hike, camp, backpack, mountain bike, cross-country ski, or snowshoe without my iPhone, my camera, and my GPS.

I fight the need to document every adventure and track every route.

I want to say that this is just the nature of the beast when it comes to mapping new trails, writing trail guides, and sharing experiences about the outdoors, but I know better.

I want to put up pretty pictures on my Instagram account.

I want to put photos up on Facebook so grandparents who live far away can see what their grandkids are doing.

I want to tweet about it.

I want to share a video. I want to look on a map on my computer and see my tracks. I want to know how far I hiked, how long it took, and how much elevation we climbed.

Those things aren’t bad. I would argue that my children are going to have a fantastic book of digital memories someday.

Plus, keeping track of my routes is fun. I enjoy seeing that data.

But deep down, I wish that I didn’t feel the need to update Instagram and Twitter and Facebook.

I want to hike and not think about all of the nerdy statistics and details.

I feel like I’m in the middle of a fight.

That fight is technology vs. the wilderness.

Unfortunately, most of the time, technology wins.

I’ve noticed that every time I take out my phone or my camera, it takes away from the experience that I’m having.

Balancing call phone use in the backcountry is a challenge.

I’m working on finding this balance, and I’d challenge you to do the same.

Here are a few thoughts.

Would we get more enjoyment from our hike if we didn’t take any photos?

Or shoot any videos?

What if we didn’t track our routes?

What if we pulled into the trailhead more often and put our phones right into our daypacks instead of our pockets?

How would we feel if we went on technology-free hikes and took time to enjoy being in the moment?

I’m not anti-technology.

But I do believe that we live in a society that craves the dopamine hit we get from social media. Let’s not have the mental and physical benefits of being outside overpowered by technology use. 

What do you think about balancing technology in the backcountry? Do you think technology is good, necessary, useful, evil? Or do you think that there’s a way to balance it all? Or better yet, how do YOU balance technology use in the wilderness?


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6 comments on “Balancing Cell Phone Use In the Backcountry

  1. This is such an important topic, I’m glad you acknowledged it. I definitely have some of the same struggles, because I also really like to digitally document the data from my hikes (especially for off-trail stuff, and to see elevation gain etc, it’s so fun). It’s always hard to find that balance, and I think your plan is a good one. It’s interesting, last week I was climbing Mt. Saint Helens with a few friends, and had to explain to them why I carry a Delorme InReach (I maintain that it’s a technology that’s totally worth having), and it was fascinating to see their different reactions. In the end, it just seems important to finding your own personal style. But, man, it’s hard to not hike sometimes and think “Oh that would be a great instagram photo”….

    I feel like you and I must be on the same wave lengths lately! I was pondering the whole social media in the outdoors thing recently on my blog, haha (as you can see, I do in fact have al ove/hate relationship with it):


  2. My approach is a little different because I truly enjoy taking pictures and miss doing it when I don’t. So I’m not going to limit that! Traditionally I’ve tried to minimize phone use (no calls), but my new phone takes amazing HDR-like photos, so I use it as a camera more now (still no calls, though). What I do limit is social network platforms — I am not on Twitter or Instagram and don’t plan to be, and I don’t put that much up on Facebook. The pictures are for ME, like the hikes. And if I’m organized enough get a trip report put together afterwards, then I get to go back and re-live the awesomeness again later.

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