Digital media on the trail, part 1

Bored-nothing to do:

9 subscriptions to consider

So you’ve made the leap – you’re thru-hiking (or maybe you’re hiking a section). The call of the wild and the woods was strong. You packed your bag and hit the trail, seeking that peace in nature. However, after days/weeks/months with little more than your thoughts, the mosquitoes, the rain, and the never-ending climbs and descents to entertain you, perhaps you’re ready for a little distraction. Endless hiking can wear thin and a good story or jaunty pop song can help you motor up those mountains with a spring in your step. But how to be sure you’re not listening to the same songs on endless shuffle? *Enter the internet* There are many, many digital media options to consider and below, I’ve compiled some of the more popular ones.  

Nine (9) subscriptions to consider:

Digital media subscriptions have their advantages. And for someone who will want to update their digital media more frequently than they have access to a computer, subscriptions are a great option. With a subscription, if you want to refresh what you’re listening to, just pop on the WiFi at your next town stop and voilà! All done.


Spotify logo

1. Spotify

Spotify has a large selection of music, literature, and poems. You can make your own playlists, access other people’s playlists, or peruse Spotify’s many quality playlists. With a Spotify subscription ($10/month; $5/month student membership), you can download playlists and songs to listen to offline. They also offer a $15 subscription for a ‘family’ – up to 6 separate accounts that all reside at the same address. They have an Android, Windows, and Apple app.

Pandora logo

2. Pandora

While talking about this article with friends, one of them mentioned Pandora. I wasn’t aware that Pandora had expanded and now offers both Plus and Premium membership. A Plus subscription ($5/month or $55/year) offers the ability to replay tracks and listen offline to 3 of your most played stations. For more variety, a Premium subscription ($10/month or $110/year) offers all the benefits of Plus, as well as songs on-demand, fully customizable playlists, and more offline listening options.

YouTube Red logo

3. Youtube Red

With this $10 subscription, you can download YouTube videos and playlists and play them offline on your phone with the screen off. That $10 also includes a Google Play Music subscription as well (and if you have Google Play Music subscription, you also have Youtube Red). I haven’t had this service but I imagine it might take up more space on your phone as opposed to just audio files. They have an Android, Windows, and Apple app.  


Google Play Music logo

4. Google Play Music

With this $10 subscription, you can download subscription songs, albums, and radio stations to listen to them offline. Google Play Music can build you custom playlists, depending on your requirements (activity you’ll be doing, lyrics/no lyrics, style of music, etc). Additionally, this service offers you space to sync up your home music collection to the cloud, so you can access it on the go without having it all on your phone. There is a Google Play Music app for both Android (built-in) and Apple; there is not currently an official Windows version of the app though there are 3rd party apps.



Amazon logo

6. Amazon Music

If you have Amazon Prime, you might consider Amazon Prime Music; Amazon Prime Music is free with Amazon Prime membership and “features over 2 million songs and more than a thousand playlists and stations programmed by Amazon’s music experts.” If you want a larger selection of music, the Amazon Music Unlimited “offers tens of millions of songs and thousands of expert-programmed playlists and stations, including the hottest new releases from today’s most popular artists.” The individual plan is $7/month (or $79/year) for members, and $10/month for nonmembers. For their Family Plan (up to 6 family members), it’s $15/mo or $149/year, regardless of Prime membership. Both versions of Amazon Music can download songs, albums, and playlists for offline listening. There is an Amazon Music app for both Android and Apple; there is not currently an official Windows version of the app though there are 3rd party apps.


Audio Books


Audible logo

6. Audible

Audible gets a lot of attention as an audio book service. They have monthly plans (1 or 2 books a month included – $15 or $23 respectively) and annual plans (12 or 24 books all at once – $150 or $230 respectively). With any kind of plan, you get get 30% off all Audible purchases beyond what your subscription gives you. They have an Android, Windows, and Apple app.



Photo thanks to OverDrive

7. OverDrive

OverDrive is free and available only through libraries. Your hometown’s local library could be a great online source for audio books as well. Many have subscriptions to OverDrive and you can log into their audio book service using your library card either online or through the OverDrive app and download books on the go, all for free. Offline listening is supported. The selection is limited to what is currently available/not checked out, but you can put yourself on a waiting list for the audio books you want. If your state offers a library card that works across the state at all libraries, you can try the OverDrives of different libraries from your state, as they’ll have different books available. You just need to make sure you have a current library card and carry the information with you. It may be easier to set up the app with your login information when you’re at home. They have an Android, Windows, and Apple app.


Scribd logo

8. Scribd

Scribd is only $9/month. They offer as many audio books a month as you want. The subscription includes access to their ebooks, emagazines, news, and sheet music. They have a smaller selection than some other services but it might fit the bill if you want endless access to audio books and ebooks without paying a lot more. They have an Android, Windows, and Apple app.



Netflix logo

9. Netflix

While it might not be something most people want to spend their battery life on, videos can be nice, especially on those rainy days stuck in a shelter shooting the shit. The subscription coasts $8/month for 1 screen; $10 for two screens at once; and $12 for 4 screens at once. If you have a Netflix account, you can download episodes of TV shows and movies to your phone. They have an Android, Windows, and Apple app.

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