There’s No Wi-Fi in The Forest, But I Still Brought My Smart Phone

It’s been a year since last September and a year since I last decided to #OptOutside. While the “Opt Outside” movement started as an alternative to Black Friday, it has moved into choosing a life outdoors; my story is about a life outdoors with today’s technology. Much like last years adventure into the great wide open, a most enjoyable time with friends, new and old, animals, battling the elements, exploring the park between hillside-to-lakes and more occurred. Deep in the hills of the El Dorado National Forest, I was fortunate enough to experience some of California’s most visually stunning landscapes, as well as the accompanied sounds that come with it. For as amazing as nature is in it’s own, I still decided to bring some technology along for documentation purposes.

“There’s no Wi-Fi in the forest, but I promise you’ll find a better connection.” – Unknown

As the most popular meme about a connecting with nature alludes to, technology isn’t necessary to get through life, nor does it make it complete. The reason I brought it with me is simple: It’s a part of our lives, it’s something almost everyone uses daily and it definitely enhanced the trip by adding value to it for all parties attending. In fact, most everyone themselves brought some form of technology along with them too. Everything ranging from smart phones and tables to wireless/bluetooth audio speakers. Could we have gotten through the trip without it? Most definitely. Did it bring extra comfort and ambiance to the trip? Absolutely. With it we were able to call and check on friends who had gotten lost or let loved ones know that we arrived safely, even if we had to drive a bit further to another spot away from camp to get a signal. We were also able to provide a soundtrack to the days and nights and document the adventure on our smart devices.

Some of my fondest memories will be sitting around a campfire with good friends, great music and each of their own favorite favorite soundtracks and/or playlists they’ve curated and provided by their favorite streaming music service of choice that allows offline capabilities. On this trip, I feel like I arrived less digitally prepared as n techie than some of my less tech obsessed friends friends did; I feel like they each all had their own music playlists off-lined on their smart devices, outdoor/wet-rated blue tooth speakers and more, and while I had intended to bring a larger bag of tech devices with me, I didn’t because honestly, my smartphone very capable to do most of the work of what I ended up not bringing.

Our campsite’s sweet tunes were provided by a JBL wireless audio/Bluetooth speaker, that lived in a tree, adjacent to the campfire all weekend. The tunes were transmitted from multiple smart devices (iOS and Android alike — smart phones to tablets) and when their power ran low, I brought a few USB powered batteries for backup juice (“juice boxes” from Mophie). As a child, when we went camping, we didn’t have the luxury of our favorite music with us unless it was a mixtape I made by recording over an old one, or one that I made specially for the trip on a blank tape — which I guess is the same, except the amount of space used to bring a boom box, batteries and tapes vs. a smart phone, handheld battery pack and a compact wireless speaker is far less. While camping typically is meant to get away from modern day society, like it or not, I feel that more of modern day technology is being incorporated into these experiences.

Our campsite’s memories will forever live on in our mind’s database, and of course our smartphone’s, as well as a few other digital devices I brought along like my Tascam four-track handheld audio recorder with WiFi functionality, the DR-44WL. As far as I can remember, I have always appreciated art and tried to interact in as many forms that my creative/over-active mind would allow; photography has always been one of my favorite activities, for both the art itself, and for documentation purposes. Normally I would have brought a GoPro, one Sony DSL, and a bag of lenses, that range from a telephoto to fisheye, but I broke some pins inside the body, where the memory card lives, so lately I have relied on my smart phone which has really come a long way over the years in quality. With advancements in Low light, panoramic, photosphere, HDR and video, technology has really excelled in today’s devices. So much so, that in last year’s trip I really decided to use it more for documentation, because of services like Google Photos, where at the end of a trip, a photo album can be created through the multiple forms of media taken on your devices where geolocation is identified, movies can be built with a soundtrack, and even a book can be physically made to keep, and/or present your friends with to commemorate the journey.

For your next outdoor adventure, here’s a short list of technology that I recommend you invest in, for added value in your adventures:

  • A paid streaming music with high, or higher-quality audio, that allows off-line capabilities (Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, and while it’s not quite here in the US just yet, Qobuz).
  • A decent outdoor Bluetooth speaker that can hold a charge (preferably with aptX technology – but not necessary to enjoy the music). Some that really stand out to me are made by Logitech/Ultimate Ears, Riva Audio (not really outdoor, but IPX4 water resistant), & B&O
  • A smartphone with a nice camera, or cameras, that is also wet rated, and a rugged accessory case (plenty of Android & IOS devices to choose from here).
  • Both handheld battery packs (I brought a super reliable Mophie branded one ), and a larger/portable power station, like something from GoalZero.
  • Action cameras, like GoPro, Sony, Garmin, etc, and audio recording devices like Tascam’s handheld field recorders, or a Mikme.
  •  LED Flashlights, because one typically isn’t enough – you’ll find yourself using different sized ones, with different lumen outputs for different things. I’ve always been a fan of Maglite, but have tried a multitude of different manufacturers. 
  • Photo management services for mobile devices like Google Photos, and/or iCloud Photos.
  • Good quality in-ear sports headphones for running, climbing, hiking, & biking. B&OSennheiserJBL, Plantronics, Sony, Jabra, & JaybirdWestone Audio all have excellent options in this category.
  • Hiking/Biking apps like Strava, map apps with offline mode like Google Maps, and fitness/health apps like My Fitness Pal.

Obviously, technology isn’t everything you need for a fun camping trip, but it sure does help add fun, excitement, as well as help preserve the memories to last a lifetime. Next trip I’ll be bringing more tech (Go Pro Karma, A new Sony Alpha DSLR body for my lenses, an updated version of my current WearOS Smart watch, maybe some new mapping apps and most likely a new set of sport headphones and outdoor wireless speaker), along with more friends who are doing the same; what are you and your friends’ must-haves in tech when you #OptOutside?

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