Help Or Hinderance? Technology In The Wild

I’ve talked before about the 10 Essentials — the items you need for a day trip (or overnight) in the wilderness. We’ve even done a Ready Radio episode on the topic.

Not on the Top 10 list, but also recommended, are things like two-way radios, cell phones, satellite phones and GPS receivers.

But does technology really help or hinder?

This article from PopSci makes a great point: “Rather than come prepared, inexperienced hikers plan to rely on their gadgets — GPS devices, cellphones, what have you — to save them. They know they can use a cell phone to call for help, so they may take greater risks.”

The article relates stories that support both sides (lives saved with technology and really stupid uses of the same), but comes to this conclusion:

People are increasingly relying on technology, rather than training and preparation, to cover their backs when they push themselves too far. An inexperienced hiker might be excited about his new handheld GPS, so he takes it into the backcountry, but forgets the essentials: Water, a compass and a map. (And, of course, warm clothing, food, etc.) Then what happens when his batteries run out? Not to sound all Boy Scout-y, but it’s best to be prepared for any scenario, and to avoid depending on technology.

We agree. Don’t assume that having a cell phone can replace knowing how to create a makeshift splint in the middle of nowhere. Get the skills before you go and consider taking a Wilderness First Aid class to really be ready for anything the great outdoors sends your way.

UPDATE: The New York Times recently ran another article about the dangers of relying on gadgets: Technology Leads More Park Visitors Into Trouble