4 Reasons to Pack Gadgets When Camping or Hiking

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While you shouldn’t bring a cellphone, tablet or phablet along when you’re hiking or camping, the flipside is that these gadgets can be very useful in an emergency. Read up on why you should still at least have one gadget handy when you’re exploring the great outdoors.

For the seasoned hiker or backpacker, taking along your phone or tablet sounds wrong. After all, the purpose of hiking trails, camping out and roughing it is to completely “unplug” and de-stress. Gadgets are considered sources of stress, but there are valid and practical reasons for taking them along.

Packing gadgets while hiking and camping, however, isn’t unusual for even the most experienced outdoorsmen. In some survivalist circles, it’s actually encouraged. It may at first sound unappealing, but there are valid and practical reasons why you should take a cellphone or tablet along while you explore the great outdoors.

  1.  You Can Stay in Touch

A number of popular hiking trails aren’t 100% off the beaten path. Cellphone signal may be spotty in most hiking trails, but you have a better chance of getting a signal in the hiking trails that are ranked “easy” to “moderate”, like these hiking trails in Utah. The most obvious advantage of keeping a cellphone or similar gadget handy is communication. While there will likely be “dead spots”, you can still get service in certain areas, or make your way to areas that will have decent cellphone signal.

Maintaining an open, direct line to reassure your loved ones that you’re safe is great to have while you’re roughing it. Some national parks have cellphone signal, like Yellowstone, which boasts of 50% cellular network coverage. This means that if you find yourself in any trouble, you can easily call the Ranger Station or rescue teams for assistance.

2.  You Can Navigate

You’re probably familiar with big GPS companies like Garmin which make navigation devices for drivers and outdoorsmen. Now, you can simply use your cellphone. Phones, tablets and phablets that run on either iOS or Android usually have built-in GPS apps, and you can always have your pick among dozens of free GPS apps to download. Even in the most remote hiking trails, you can determine your position and navigate with GPS, as it works with radio waves from satellites and a special receiver chip on your phone. Even if there’s no Wi-Fi or cell coverage, GPS should work as long as you aren’t under anything that could significantly interrupt line of sight to the satellite. And if you or any family members don’t check in within a reasonable amount of time, yours or their phone’s GPS can be used by the authorities to find you or any missing family members.

3.  You Can Take Pictures

Instead of taking along a bulky DSLR or SLR camera with all the clunky lens, bags, batteries or chargers and other unwieldy accessories, you can bring your phone. If the camera on any of your devices has a decent-enough resolution, taking brilliant photos and documenting your exciting journey will be a cinch. Be careful not to fall off a cliff or mountain when you take that selfie, though.

4.  You Can Have an Emergency Fire-starter

As an absolute last resort, your gadgets can be used as an emergency tool for lighting a fire. This involves breaking open the case and exposing the battery. You’ll also need some aluminum foil, foil-lined paper (like in chewing gum wrappers) or steel wool to do this. It must be emphasized that you should only do this with your phone, tablet or phablet if you absolutely need to get warm and have no other means to start a fire.

Note that doing this causes your gadget’s battery to release toxic gases, and leaving the destroyed gadget can be harmful to the environment. Don’t bury the “remains” of your gutted phone or gadget. Pack it out for disposal later when you make it back to civilization. Even if you’re in an emergency situation, it’s best to follow the “leave no trace” principle.

Prepping Your Gadgets

Let’s say you’ve planned on going on a hiking trip at one of these trails in Utah. If you forgot to place your device in a protective casing and dropped it, recover it and take it to a phone repair shop later. Layton City is close to some of the more popular trails in Utah, like the Adams Canyon Trail, making it a viable option for repairing any damaged gadgets. Remember that before you set out camping or hiking, protect your gadgets with the right sort of casing. The case should be “ruggedized” and tough enough to survive falls from reasonable heights, and keep the gadget waterproof. Don’t forget to pack a means to charge them if you’ll be outdoors for an extended amount of time–  a solar-powered or a mechanical/hand-crank charger.

Final Notes

Packing a phone, tablet or phablet when hiking or camping doesn’t make “unplugging” and enjoying time away from the city impossible. Think of it as another navigational tool, and a backup plan that will keep you safe by giving you a means to contact your family or the authorities for help. So keep that phone in your pack, be safe, and happy trails!

Hattie B. Trosclair

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