Technology in the Backcountry

Unpopular opinion: I refuse to use my phone in the backcountry.


Ok ok, let me explain. Having a phone is extremely valuable for certain situations when venturing out into the backcountry.


For example, FarOut, a platform that maps popular thru-hikes with waypoint markers, has proved incredibly useful in the past. I’ve used this app to determine where water sources are and aren’t, how much water is left at a cache, where trail junctions are located, etc. Not to mention, it has saved my butt a few times after taking a wrong turn.


In addition, my InReach has the ability to connect to an app on my phone, which allows me to text family and friends, and can also help with contacting rescue efforts in an emergency situation. Talk about a life saver. And yes, I’ll take an occasional picture or two to recount the memories created on the trail. It’s amazing how multi-faceted these devices are.


But practicalities aside, as soon as I step outside for a hike, my phone goes straight to airplane mode or off entirely. It is no longer a vessel for social engagement. 


No searching for service to hop on Instagram or Google. No listening to music or falling asleep to the sound of an audiobook. No playing games or movies to keep me entertained.


Call me old school, but part of the reason I set out on such excursions, or really most of the reason, is to escape the chaos of digital life.


Unplug. Reset. Meditate.


Being outside without distractions allows me to reconnect with myself. It’s like tuning out the noise and tuning in to nature.


Now I’m not saying there is a right or a wrong way to spend time in the outdoors, I”m just saying that all those luxuries are available to us at any given point on every other day. Part of the challenge of backpacking is to live simpler, with less. To leave the luxuries behind and in return to be rewarded with the beautiful sights and sounds of our natural world. So hear me out, next time you pack your bag for an outdoor adventure, what if you let your phone fall silent? Turn it off and tune out. I encourage you to give it a try and I would love to hear about your experience! 

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Comments 2

  • Jacqueline : Jul 22nd

    I totally agree with you that unplugging is so necessary at home and in nature. I am thinking of you and wondering how you’re doing and with the huge disappointment of having to stop your hike…? You are an excellent writer and I wish you all the very best.

    • Julia Atkins : Jul 22nd

      That is very sweet, Jacqueline, I really appreciate it. I am doing better since our hike ended, it was definitely an adjustment and a lot of heartbreak that took time to heal. But I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t mean the dream is gone, it just means I’ve learned a valuable lesson and will remember that going into it next time! Happy hiking!


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