There is literally an app for everything outdoors, from fishing to hunting, hiking to skiing.
What sort of outdoor apps exist nowadays? Just check out the multiple lists of top outdoor apps provided by Backpacker.
Sure, they’re cool, but apps take away from the unknown adventure, the primitive bond, the sacred tech-absent solitude that has always been the best part of nature travel. They have created an outdoor culture that is app dependent instead of self-dependent.
The Outdoor App Culture Doesn’t like waiting
My cousin, who lives and teaches in Vail, Colorado, ski capital of the country, says that there is a popular app that tells skiers how busy each lift is so they can find the shortest line or clearest run. The problem is that everyone spends the day on their cell phone, chasing the shortest lines. Rather than enjoy the ski experience, it becomes a race to avoid the people and the wait. Sometimes skiers end up taking runs they didn’t want to take just because the lift was less busy.
Our culture has become obsessed with knowing. We don’t like mystery anymore.
Deep down, I love maps and gazetteers. It’s so nice to see the big picture, to feel the crisp edges of the paper. I wish I was brave enough to let go of my phone’s GPS for an old fashioned gazetteer, but the gazetteer doesn’t tell me exactly how many miles, how many feet, until the next turn. It doesn’t show me close-ups of the upcoming intersection, traffic updates, road construction, or ETA’s like my amazing phone does. Since I’ve come so accustomed to the all-knowing phone, traveling with anything less is scary.
Say Goodbye to Gut Feelings, There’s An App for That.
The other day I was hiking in Boulder, Colorado and had a map of the trails on my phone in case we got lost. At one point, I grew suspicious, wondering if we were going the right way. It wasn’t the map that told me we were lost, but a gut feeling. The way the trail was continuously descending and curving to the right didn’t feel right, when our general direction should have been up and to the left. Finally, I broke out the map, which cleared some things up. We decided to go back the way we came, and for the rest of the hike, I checked the map at every turn, just to be sure.
The thing is, my phone wasn’t what originally told me we were lost – it was common sense and outdoor wits. Neither people nor apps are flawless, but the app isn’t the living thing experiencing everything first hand. It can’t see or hear or feel. The map in many ways distracted me, confused me, or made me second guess my gut. If I didn’t have the map upon realizing I was lost, I would have simply turned around and gone back where I came from, no questions asked. No wondering if there was a shorter, alternative route to get back.
Are Apps Helpful or Just Another tech Dependency?
Outdoor apps have in a lot of ways replaced gear and maps, compacting them to the size of a cell phone at the ease of the fingertips. They provide us with fun and helpful information, often making our outdoor adventure easier and safer. But think for a second how apps have created a new anxiety among the masses, making us dependent on technology to show us the way, which means dependent on service, battery life, plugs – our eyes glued to a screen, worried about time and efficiency. Think about how they have taken over our need and ability to think for ourselves, work out problems, weakening our gut instincts and survival prowess, as they are no longer needed. Think about how apps have replaced nature’s mystery, true adventure, and common sense.