Intrusive Technology?

Posted by: Bill Kennedy

Intrusive Technology? - 07/01/18 03:41 AM

I posted this question years ago, but did a search and couldn't find it:

At what point if any (for you personally) does technology intrude on the backpacking experience?

I'm thinking of "modern" technology here, of course, as even a "Trapper Nelson" would be technology. We all use fairly hi-tech stuff, like nylon fabrics, Gore-Tex, titanium pots and DAC tent poles. But what about things like GPS, cell phones, drones, blogging from the trail, etc., but not necessarily just electronics.

And if you don't think they detract at all from the experience, what would? How about an anti-gravity pack, or a GPS-enabled tour guide of the trail? Where would you draw the line?
Posted by: aimless

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 07/01/18 02:32 PM

The technology I accept best is that which serves basic functions. I need to have clothes, a pack, a sleeping bag, a light source, food and water, whether or not these are enhanced by a higher level of technology. So, for example, I love the advent of LED lights, sturdy lightweight synthetic fabrics, improved ultra-light tents and so on.

Where I least desire or accept technology is when it serves mostly to distract me from my surroundings. A digital camera doesn't detract from my engagement with whatever I am photographing, but an MP3 player just fills my head with sounds that mask the sounds of wind, water, birds, or other wildlife. A GPS is marginally more useful than a paper map, but can easily become a distraction, too, by continuously updating my hiking statistics. It takes discipline not to become fixated on those stats.

A drone is little more than a noisy toy and an annoyance to everyone but their owner. I hate them.

As for the theoretical anti-gravity pack, it would make wilderness access so easy that the either the wilderness we have set aside would be too small and need to be greatly expanded, or else it would cause overcrowding or invite draconian restrictions and quotas, so nice as it sounds, I think the Law of Unintended Consequences would make them the worst technology, yet.
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 07/01/18 08:02 PM

A beautiful answer, aimless.
Posted by: Bill Kennedy

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 07/02/18 05:05 AM

Originally Posted By balzaccom
A beautiful answer, aimless.

I agree.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 07/03/18 11:06 PM

Having a fighter jet come out of nowhere and nearly take your head off is very intrusive, LOL. This has happened a few times in the southern Sierra where an air base is nearby.

To me it boils down to wanting to get away from civilization and all its trappings/distractions. There is so much technology now, that we have to make conscious decisions what to take and what not to take on each trip. Unfortunately many young people do not even know what it is like to be without all their gadgets.

I often choose to leave my technology at home. I even leave my watch at home some trips,so I can be on natural time vs. man-made time. I also go without any kind of illumination sometimes, just to see what that is like. Sometimes even the "good" technology can distract. A stove is much easier to use for cooking, but you then do not experience the totally different aspect of cooking on a fire. Technology that enhances efficiency will let you walk farther, but that may not be what you always want to do. It is always a trade-off. When I do not take a camera, I tend to study the scenery more because I will not have a photo to look at when I get home.

Blogging while on the trail is most intrusive. The last thing I want to do is talk to someone on a cell phone at the top of a pass.

Those LED lights are very intrusive if you are camped next to anyone else.

I am not a fan of either loud music or loud clothing or gear that makes every backpacker within a mile visible.

When I am in my tent trying to fall asleep, then a half hour of mellow music on my I-pod is not intrusive. I would never listen to music on the trail or during daylight hours (unless stuck in the tent during a long storm).

Initially many backpackers get bored. There now is all sorts of technology to distract you with sounds and sights of civilization. Without these gadgets, you are forced to begin to listen, see, and feel the more subtle aspects of wilderness. Kids are a good example. When I take kids out, I do not allow their electronic "toys". And they eventually learn to entertain themselves with what nature provides. Often they see and discover things I never noticed!
Posted by: Bill Kennedy

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 07/04/18 04:28 AM

Another great answer. It seems there are so many things to distract and "entertain" us, we get used to being constantly distracted and entertained. I've been asked a number of times, "What do you do out there?" About the only answer I can come up with is that I just like being there.

I confess I enjoy the blogs, or rather, vlogs of some of the thru-hikers, Dixie in particular, and I notice that she (and her editor) have used a drone for aerial views pretty tastefully.

I'm apparently the last man on earth without a cell phone. I'll probably change that, but I wonder if having it along, even turned off, will make a difference.
Posted by: PerryMK

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 07/04/18 07:26 AM

The only bad technology is the technology imposed on me. That is, other people's technology. I may choose different tech at different times, but that's my choice.

I'm pretty easy going about keeping to myself and moving on if someone wants to listen to their music or use their phone whatever, but don't force me to participate. I usually don't even like having my photo taken, and certainly not without permission.

True story. When I was getting out of the army and turning in my military ID I told the guy I didn't have any photos of myself so could I have my military ID photo. He cut it out and gave it to me. So even the army doesn't know what I look like (smile).
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 07/04/18 12:27 PM

Yeah, I understand that logic. I still carry my draft card, just in case. I’m a long time out, but I don’t trust them. (Of course, if they re-activate me at 68, it will only be to lead the morning calisthenics: “bend over, tuck your head between your knees, and kiss your a— goodbye...”) smile
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 07/05/18 02:51 PM

Having a fighter jet come out of nowhere and nearly take your head off is very intrusive, LOL.

Ah yes, this happens frequently in the North Cascades, thanks to the Whidby Island Naval Air Station. The planes roar through river valleys and over passes at treetop level. I've heard of at least one horseback rider being injured. No self-respecting horse will stay calm with a fighter jet 50 feet above him!

It is kind of interesting to be on a mountain and see a formation of fighter jets a thousand feet below you!

In addition to the air traffic, there are the increasing numbers of "plugged in" folk whose volume is loud enough to be heard even when they're wearing earphones. I suspect that as they get deafer from the too-loud volume, they turn it up even louder.
Posted by: 4evrplan

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 07/05/18 04:35 PM

Ironically, this would be a plus to me, as I love fighter jets! It's even more ironic since I'm a bit of a pacifist. I hate that they are tools of death, but everything else about them (their speed and power, agility, sleek looks, sound) is awesome!
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 07/05/18 05:08 PM

I get that feeling, too, just not when they're ignoring the statutory altitude (3,000 ft. above ground) over designated wilderness areas. The F-15 National Guard Unit at the Portland, OR airport (the only air defense we have in the Pacific Northwest) flies over my house several times daily on their takeoff/landing practice. It's during the day, so it doesn't bother me. When they do night practice, they schedule it when the days are short, let us know in advance, and do it in early evening. They have been called out on several occasions when someone violated closed airspace during Presidential visits or unidentified planes approach our coast.
Posted by: HPD

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 07/31/18 12:11 PM

Originally Posted By Bill Kennedy
I posted this question years ago, but did a search and couldn't find it:

At what point if any (for you personally) does technology intrude on the backpacking experience?

I'm thinking of "modern" technology here, of course, as even a "Trapper Nelson" would be technology. We all use fairly hi-tech stuff, like nylon fabrics, Gore-Tex, titanium pots and DAC tent poles. But what about things like GPS, cell phones, drones, blogging from the trail, etc., but not necessarily just electronics.

And if you don't think they detract at all from the experience, what would? How about an anti-gravity pack, or a GPS-enabled tour guide of the trail? Where would you draw the line?

I draw the line when it intrudes on my experience-If I can hear it and/or see it.
That would include music being played, drones being flown and the occasional loud talker on a cell phone.

I must admit that I now have a "smart phone" and carry it on hikes and backpacking trips. It is my camera, GPS map assist and on rare occasions a phone. It has become essential equipment for me now.
Because I take a phone I will also carry a phone charger that I just purchased to insure that the phone works as long as I'm in the backcountry.
Used to carry a SPOT device to stay somewhat in touch with loved ones and, in case of emergency, to seek help.

Don't think I'll be around to see any anti-gravity packs or GPS tour guides and that's a good thing.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 07/31/18 12:40 PM

I don't know about Colorado, but out here in the Pacific NW, there are many, many areas--not just designated wilderness--with no cell phone reception. They will probably stay that way because there is insufficient population to support a cell tower. Last August, during the solar eclipse, my whole family camped together along the Metolius River near Sisters, OR. That area has lots of resorts, summer homes, year-around homes, and almost continuous campgrounds that are open year-around, so it's definitely not wilderness! There is no cell phone reception at all in that area. The few of us who needed daily access to phone messages had to drive out to the main highway to get reception.

I would never, ever count on a cell phone for emergency communication in a wilderness area! You may be able to get some reception by climbing a mountain, but you won't be able to do that in an emergency.

I always take a Personal Locator beacon for emergencies.
Posted by: HPD

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 08/02/18 10:00 AM

Originally Posted By OregonMouse

I would never, ever count on a cell phone for emergency communication in a wilderness area! You may be able to get some reception by climbing a mountain, but you won't be able to do that in an emergency.

I always take a Personal Locator beacon for emergencies.

Of course not! Don't believe I said that I would.

Going into the Winds next week, 2 day hike to get to our destination. I'll have my phone, primary use as my camera, secondary as a GPS tracker (I'll also have maps) and lastly, in case I find service on some pass (which happens occasionally), I'll call my wife and tell her I'm fine and that I love her.
Posted by: Talthing

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 10/01/18 09:12 PM

dirt bikes and hunters. (sometimes even a 2-fer (a hunter on an ATV)
Posted by: prussicnot

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 10/07/18 07:56 PM

I've followed this thread, but I am at a loss to understand it. If you opt into an app, or sign up for a feature presented by some service, you have to accept notices and "intrusions". If you don't want to be bothered, why not just don't sign up for this stuff? You know going in that you will receive communications.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 10/07/18 08:10 PM

This thread really has nothing to do with apps (as long as they are kept private) but with more basic intrusions of modern technology on the wilderness experience. If you read the above posts, you'll see complaints about aircraft, people's sound systems turned up too loud, drones, and other modern items that intrude on the experience and privacy of others.

Some of us prefer to avoid things like cell phone apps (in my case, even the phones themselves). That's a matter of individual choice.
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 10/07/18 09:19 PM

I agree, Mouse. I’ve been reading Laura and Guy Waterman’s books, Wilderness Ethics and The Green Guide to Low-Impact Hiking and Camping, and this is a hugely important point that too many people tend to forget.

One of the things we go out for is to connect with wilderness (or at least a sense of wildness.) I don’t necessarily mean danger, just a sense that this area we are in temporarily has not been subjected to the will of man, that it remains “uncivilized”, and that we have to accept it on its own terms.

Apps, music, and other intrusive technologies that bring “civilization” with us into these areas directly attacks that sense of wild. The fact that they create a “safety net,” even if you intend not to use it, degrades the experience. I agree with that. That doesn’t mean you have to. But it does mean that your right to believe that it’s OK ends where it intrudes, from whatever distance, on my right to accept the wild on its own terms. It also means that, if you can’t tolerate accepting the wild on its own terms, you may be better off staying home - or in the car campground.

In their books, the Watermans quote a report from Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board: “ ‘Gadgets’ are bad if their purpose is to serve as a substitute for skill and knowledge. As the skill level of the sportsperson increases, then the reliance on gadgetry should decrease.” I think that sums it up just about as well as anything I’ve seen.

By the way, I highly recommend those books. I don’t agree with them 100%, but they make me think, long and hard, about how I choose to connect with the areas I visit. And that’s never bad.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 10/09/18 11:57 PM

Later in the season when you have darkness and inside a tent for 12 hours and are solo hiking, after the day walking in the wilderness, an hour or so of listening to music is a godsend. I do not feel my 1 oz I-pod takes away from my wilderness experience. In fact, without it, I may not even go into the wilderness in the late season. In these conditions I also take a solar LUCI lamp. It allows me to maximize my hiking time and have a good light to cook dinner or read maps inside the tent.

In mid-summer I often do not even take a lamp at all, or my watch, or music.

The only "gadget" I always take is a camera. Photography is one of my main activities and reasons for going out at all.

I am not a survivalist. I do not go into the wilderness to prove I can survive. I go to enjoy myself.
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 10/10/18 01:05 AM

Originally Posted By wandering_daisy

I am not a survivalist. I do not go into the wilderness to prove I can survive. I go to enjoy myself.

Amen! Preaching to the choir over here, Daisy
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 10/10/18 08:51 AM

Hmmm. I may have come on a bit strong (and I am also not a survivalist.) I tend to limit my gadgets because I find I don’t need them. I, too, have spent those long winter nights in a tent; I’ve always been tired enough that I fell asleep pretty much right away, and stayed asleep for 10 hours. If I did need something to do, I’d pull out my map, and start looking at tomorrow’s route. But that’s just me, and I didn’t intend to mean everyone should be me. (And I’m very sure your music never is loud enough for anyone else to hear.)

But on the whole, I try to avoid gadgets. Perhaps a large part of it has to do with where I hike. Here in the East, wildness is somewhat elusive and tenuous. It comes in small chunks, is rarely remote, and bleed-over from civilization is hard to avoid (airplanes, distant road noise, etc.) Not using GPS, or radio, or phone apps does, for me, help preserve what wildness I can find. Cell phone? Yes, I bring one - at my wife’s insistance - but it goes on airplane mode and stays there, tucked deep in my pack, untouched until I get back to the car. Cameras? I’m never offended by someone taking a picture, but I never carry one myself. It makes me feel like a spectator rather than a participant (but that also carries over into my everyday life; Karol and I have precious few photos of birthday parties and such, but we do have some great memories of being at those parties and enjoying our kids as we played with them.)

Crowds further diminish that sense of wildness, and with crowds come their gadgets - which invariably do intrude on my experience. Crowds also diminish wildness, around here, in another important way: they destroy things. I don’t mean they go out to purposely smash things up; it’s the sheer numbers that do the damage. One example: the Red River Gorge in Kentucky is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever seen. I haven’t been there in 10 years, though, because the area is being loved to death. You can’t walk any of the trails without encountering dozens of people, even on weekdays. Trails are being closed into the more ravaged areas. The last time I was there, you couldn’t find a quiet spot to camp. If you camped in the valley, you were part of the herd (mostly divided into loud, raucous groups) using the pounded down campsites that now line every stream; if you managed to find a secluded spot up on a ridge, you had the noise rising from the valley campsites on either side of you: boom boxes, guitars, loud conversations, and “Yahooo” all night long. The next day, you passed remnants of campfires where there should have been none, complete with beer cans and Jim Beam bottle fragments. Oddly enough, there is a small designated wilderness area adjacent to the Gorge, that has about 10 miles of trail (no room left over for bushwhacking); there is enough buffer that the sound doesn’t carry over. It’s not well-maintained trail (blowdowns aren’t promptly cleared, for example), and as a result the crowds avoid it like the plague. I still go there occasionally for an overnight trip - but spots like that are few, small, and far between. There is definitely a sense of the wild there.

I think that’s what probably got me coming on a bit strong. We need a certain number of tools when we go out (I’m not advocating for leaving my pack behind), but beyond the stuff I need to stay warm, dry, fed, and found, I tend to shun the rest in order to preserve what precious little sense of the wild I can find around here. And I enjoy myself every time.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 10/10/18 12:52 PM

Everyone is different. Although not "technology" I quit taking books with me (or books on tape for mu I-pod) because I would get so wrapped up in the book that I would find myself thinking about "what happens next" in the story instead of focusing on the wilderness! Soothing music, on the other hand, only at night, using ear buds, simply help pass the long winter dark hours and going to sleep. I am at the age where the music gets my mind off the aches from the day.

As for photography, as a kid I loved to thumb through my family's photo albums. My family was not wealthy, but no matter how poor, someone had a camera. Today my photos are put on my computer screen saver (slide show mode) so I get to relive trips! The older I get, the more I enjoy this when I am on the computer. Taking photos actually enhances my wilderness experience because I really have to examine a scene to get a good photo. And often when I look at the photo later there will be some feature or animal that I totally missed! It is like getting a surprise Christmas present.

Same for fishing. Yes, I need "gadgets" to fish but fishing also makes me really look at the water I am fishing. Fishing is one thing that makes me a bit crazy- I will spontaneously walk the shore or go to nearby lake I would never go to if I rationally thought about it. To me, supplementing my own food is a real wilderness experience. I used to do a bit of foraging too; I really have to get back into that. Wild raspberries- the best!
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 10/10/18 04:37 PM

I wouldn’t consider fishing to be “gadgets” - like cameras (if photography enhances the experience), they are tools to an end, and they don’t intrude on others’ experience. (Now, if you brought “fish radar” like I’ve seen used in boats, I might accuse you of cheating. smile ) Additional activities can actually enhance the experience and the connection.

The beginner groups I help lead usually generate a couple of hundred photos on each trip. I usually look at them, once. To me, photos seem, well, one-dimensional; the memories I have of the trip are definitely multi-dimensional and vivid. When I find my memories of a place fading, it means I need to go back there. (I’m really the only one in my family who enjoys the backcountry, so going through albums doesn’t resonate with them. I’m not sure how I failed them, but I can’t help feeling like I did.) I can understand how my feelings about photos are in the minority, though.

I really do think that much of my feelings are created by the fact that I have to concentrate so hard to connect to the natural world, to block out the intrusions of the man-world that tries so hard to impinge.
Posted by: GrumpyGord

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 10/11/18 06:04 AM

I don't take pictures. If I forget I just have to go do that trip again.

I do take my Kindle now. As I get older I quit earlier and have more time in the evening so I read. With my Kindle I can take a hundred books so that I have reference books as well as what ever I feel in the mood for.
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 10/11/18 11:02 AM

Gord's answer is a wonderful example of how we each hike our own hike. I don't take an e-book because I can read those anywhere--I want to spend the time on a backpacking trip doing the things I can't do at home. Those things include looking at the mountains, fishing, sitting quietly by a lake or stream....and taking photos so that I can explore painting the scene when I am back at home...
Posted by: JustWalking

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 10/11/18 02:45 PM

I am, perhaps, a bit different than most on here when it comes to reasons for backpacking. I don't backpack for the wilderness experience per se, I backpack to share time with friends while expending energy, generally in a place I haven't been before. I enjoy being in the mountains, camping next to some alpine lake, seeing various wildlife, etc., but that's simply a benefit to spending time with friends while expending energy in the woods. I've done some nice bike tours around the world (just a friend or two, no group trips/organized trips), all on roads through towns and such, and enjoyed them just as much as backpacking for the same reasons.

When backpacking, I take an inReach because my brother likes to 'follow along' when I'm on a trip, and we usually send a text or two at night. I take my phone as a conduit to the inReach and as my GPS. I take a camera so I can share the gorgeous sights (and sometimes wonderful sounds) with friends and family when I return.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Intrusive Technology? - 10/11/18 03:37 PM

Different trips have different purposes. Any technology I take has to mesh with the goal of that particular trip, and certainly not distract me from my purpose. If sharing the experience is really a goal, then sharing-enhancing technology is good.

But I think we all know that there is a fine line between using our technology to enhance vs. getting caught up to the point where we are missing the experience.

Fishing is quite addictive for me and can take over, so I sometimes do not take fishing gear so I can focus on other things, like photography. Sometimes a watch stresses me out; other times NOT having a watch stresses me! Sometimes I do not take a camera, because it too can get addictive. I will admit, that spending a day just looking at a lake is not something I can do given my personality. I personally choose NOT to use a GPS because I REALLY like to navigate from maps alone and find my own route. My husband is one of those who simply has zero aptitude for maps, so the GPS actually ALLOWS him to get into and enjoy the wilderness. For me a GPS takes away one aspect of backpacking that I really enjoy.

I think we can all agree that if OUR technology spills over into someone else's wilderness experience (like loud music on the trail or a tent lit-up like Las Vegas at night), then it IS intrusive. Add to that our technology that detrimentally impacts wildlife. And yes, I see the irony- I kill and eat fish!

Lucky are those who think they can remember their experiences as they age, or think that much later in life they will actually be able to do the same trip. I have watched my family members age into their 90's, and pictures are very useful in prompting memories.