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 feel like I need to document every adventure and track every route.

I’d like 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 up to.  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 an amazing book of digital memories someday. Plus keeping tracks 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 wish I could just hike and not think about all of the nerdy statistics and details.

I feel like I’m caught 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. When I have to stop, find a good angle, chase the light, or ask my kids to smile at the camera.

I’m working on finding this balance, here are three things I’m going to try for the next month.

1. I’m going to leave my cell phone in my daypack on one hike every week. I’m not going to take any photos. I’m not going to track my route. I’m not going to shoot any video. Hopefully, this will allow me to be better connected with myself, the trail, and whoever I happen to be hiking with. But if there’s an emergency I can still use the technology to help.

2. If I’m not hiking on a new trail and it’s not a ‘no-technology hike’ I’m going to limit myself to 5 photos. I think this will help me look for only the best shots. But if I’m on a new trail and hiking it for work purposes I’ll give myself permission to take the appropriate amount of photos and videos for every trail that we put up on Just Trails.

3. I’m going to think about how to teach my children about technology in the wilderness. I want them to have a healthy respect for nature and to look forward to treks into the woods to unplug. But at the same timeI know that we live in a society addicted to technology and there’s goodness in technology. Learning balance needs to start at a very young age.

But, I’m a work in progress. Read about what happened when I went skiing without my phone last winter.

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Let's Chat

I’m curious what your thoughts are about using technology in the wilderness? 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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3 comments on “Technology in the Wilderness: Finding Balance

  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):

    http://outdoorsyarchivist.com/2015/08/24/the-outdoors-and-social-media-my-lovehate-relationship/

  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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