DIY optimize

What technology would you take with you into the wilderness?

Joe Rosberg is hiking the Colorado Trail but wrote this piece on the technology that he decided to take with him. What would you take into the wilderness on a solo journey into the back country?

Joe Rosberg is hiking the Colorado Trail, but he wrote this piece on the technology that he decided to take with him. What would you take into the wilderness on a solo journey into the backcountry?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As you read this, I'm somewhere between Denver and Durango on the Colorado Trail (Google Earth Colorado Trail). As I explained in a previous blog piece, I'm attempting to hike its entire 500-mile length, and whether or not I was going to take along any technology was a big consideration. On one hand, I wanted to leave the modern world behind. On the other hand, however, it might mean the difference between success and failure --and in the worst-case scenario, a major failure that could even be life threatening.

In planning for such a backpacking trip, keeping bulk and weight to a minimum is a huge consideration. Ounces really do count; they add up to pounds very quickly. For that reason alone, it would be easy to decide to leave behind all modern pieces of technology. But I decided to take a few things with me. Here's what was packed into my backpack and why I decided to take it.

1.       A satellite personal tracker unit called Spot: Not many people could manage to take the time necessary to attempt a 500-mile hike, and as such, I'm forced to break the first rule of back-country hiking -- I'm going by myself. As an experienced hiker and camper, I realize that's not the best thing to do, but in this case, I really have no choice -- other than not going myself, of course. This Spot unit is a neat little device. Through a system of 24 satellites, a customizable support service and Web interface, and Google Maps, I can keep up to ten (10) people informed via e-mail as to my precise whereabouts any time of day or night. I can request help from a list of predefined people, which I'm using to coordinate resupply points. And, in the case of emergency, there's a 911 function that will alert rescue personnel as to my exact location. If I can't go with someone else, this is certainly the next-best option. It's a 7-ounce unit that will not only give peace of mind and coordination, but it could actually be a lifesaver. 2.        The GARMIN eTrex HC GPS Personal Navigator: Getting lost in the mountains or the backcountry is always a huge concern. And although the Colorado Trail is fairly well marked, any number of factors could cause a person to get off track. Whereas the Spot unit lets other people know where I am, it does nothing to let me know where I am. Although I'll have maps and a compass (one of the hiking ten essentials), and my orienteering skills are probably good enough to get me back on track, I decided to take this unit anyway. It's preprogrammed with literally every road in the United States, and it accepted an upload of the topographical maps and 500 GPS way points specifically created for the Colorado Trail. At only 4.4 ounces and about the size of a small cell phone, it's something that could save me a lot of time and a lot of miles should I find myself off the trail. 3.       My cell phone: It would be so nice to leave the cell phone behind, don't you think? And I'm one who often does just that. I'm taking it, however, only to coordinate with people who will be resupplying me along the way. Along with the Spot unit, it will make the where and when of coordination a little easier. Otherwise, however, it will be turned off. At only 3.4 ounces, it's something that might save a lot of time, trouble, and miles, not only for me, but for those who are coordinating with me for resupply. And the 2.4-ounce battery-powered recharger will make sure I have the power when it's needed. (Of course, getting cell coverage in some of those places might be questionable, at best.) 4.       A digital camera: I was going to leave this behind, but on such a trip, I just have to have some pictures to share and relive the experience, don't you think? But with weight and bulk a consideration, I couldn't possibly think about taking the top-of-the-line digital camera I already had, so I purchased one specifically for this trip. I wanted one that was small and lightweight and ran on AA batteries. The 5.2 ounce (with batteries) Canon PowerShot A480 seemed to fit the bill. It has only 3.3x zoom capacity, but with a 4GB memory card and a couple of extra lithium batteries, I'll be able to record my experience with about 700 photographs.

It's said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so I don't think my 22.4 ounces of technology is too much. Ensuring safety and coordination and having something to share and remember is well worth the extra weight. What do you think? What kind of technology would you take on such a trip?

54 comments
DHCDBD
DHCDBD

1. Package of fishhooks and nylon 10lb. line. 2. Flint and steel. 3. Kbar. 4. Personal First aid kit (not store bought, has other things in it.) 5. Depending on weather, sleeping bag. All else is superfluous. Lived a year in the Rockies, in the wild and that is all I took. Everything else I caught/trapped, skinned, cooked, tanned, made (bow and arrows, clothing, moccasins, etc.), and gathered.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Even that minimum is a cop-out, although I quite agree with your choices. Except for the first-aid stuff. I would put ahead of that, professional training in emergency medicine. That way, you are equipped to know whether to act or, the knowledge enough to know when to hang it up and participate knowledgeably in your own demise.

DHCDBD
DHCDBD

After mission debriefing, a shrink asked what I would do if I were in the woods and I came across a bear. I answered,"It would depend on whether I was hungry." The shrink asked "what does hunger have to do with it?" I answered, "If I were hungry I would kill the bear and eat it." She broke her pencil in half and stormed out of the room fuming "I have never had anybody kill and eat my bear." Every once in a while, I become fed up, gather the listed tools and take off. After I came back from the above "Camping trip," my wife worried for over a year that I would head back into the hills. She still worries when I have had a few bad weeks in a row. There is something exhilarating about being totally dependent upon yourself.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

is a perversion of necessity. If you're not the biggest and the baddest it will get you taken down a notch (at the least) sooner or later. It's also a waste.

boweb
boweb

..raping, looting, killing, stealing, in other words, hunting for fun.

santeewelding
santeewelding

All the while knowing that your "self" depends for its very existence on the rest of us. Still, pushing on the envelope in the direction you describe is, I agree, exhilarating.

santeewelding
santeewelding

For analog encounter. It's called, sidearm.

santeewelding
santeewelding

I did not mean bears.

Lost Cause?
Lost Cause?

There's that story from New Mexico where a man wanted for murder was camping in the forest and somr hiker apparently found him and was killed by him. Then the alleged murderer killed a sheriffs deputy with the hikers pistol. There can be many types of encounters in the wilderness - human, bear, cat.

jhoffmaster
jhoffmaster

I'd agree with this, but a concealed firearm permit is next to impossible to obtain in my state. So for me it's a very large knife.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

Some states are anti-concealed carry but pro open carry. Meaning you can wear it on your hip openly, just not concealed. Depending on what park you are in, t may be unlawful to even carry a firearm. Legal or not, I never venture into the woods without my colt. On a trip like that, however I'd carry a 10mm glock. Why? Glocks are ugly yet indestructible, ridiculously light and completely reliable. Why 10mm? Close to the size of a 45, yet has the muzzle velocity of a fast 9mm. The only reason to have a firearms is the extremely remote, finite chance of a mad mama bear charging me. If that happens, the only handgun that will help is something with a large bullet diameter, extremely high muzzle velocity and extremely accurate (read: lucky) shot placement. No handgun will stop a bear unless you get a round or two into the head or the base of the spine. Through the heart or other vital organ will kill it, but not before she finishes her charge and kills you anyway. I've shot a bear through the heart with an extremely large rifle caliber. It made a big hole and killed the bear very quickly, but momentum would have carried her 10-15 yards or more. Moral of the story: I'd carry a handgun, but I also realize in the remote chance that I need it...I'll probably die anyway. I conceal carry often, so I'm a "don't leave home without it anyway" guy.

rfredtelles1
rfredtelles1

they make a type of pepper spray called a bear spray which is about the size of a small fire extinguisher which would be first choice second choice would be an ax or a large caliber hand gun

hartcreek
hartcreek

My 20+ years of ballistics training says a 10 mm is the wrong calibre to take in the woods if you are consirned about a bear encounter. First off your comment about shootin a bear in the head shows how little you know about bears. A bear's skull is one of the hardest things to shoot through and most bullets would only glance off. In bear country you need a magnum calibre hangun with bear specific handloads so that you get penetration. 44 Magnum., 454 Casull and such calibres are what you need. If you are on the small side custom loads for a 357 Magnum will work but shotplacement is still the key. Pepperspray for bears would still be the best option as I doubt that the writer has had the shooting practice for any handgun to make the difference. Even a shovel can work as I dispatched one pesky black bear that way.

AV .
AV .

It doesn't weigh much. You just have to have a digital recorder to document your trip. It looks like the hike of a lifetime for sure. I'd also bring an emergency crank radio. There are small ones. Its not likely that I'll ever hike the CT, especially alone. That has to be a little scary at night. I hope you'll share your adventure with us. Stay safe. AV

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The major thing for me would be the ability to send a 911, so the Spot is a great thing. If it were me, I wouldn't take any more than this. Well, maybe the electronic Yahtzee. Only 1.5 ounces and gives you something to do while waiting for rescue...or waiting for other things.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

except the spot -- the rest are crucial I never go without a digital camera or 2. Cell phone (charged and an extended battery pack) is crucial if something happens. I take a GPS with me just about everywhere these days (lots of exploring). Oooh, a wind up flashlight -- in case I run into a cave or something (or end out late)

rfredtelles1
rfredtelles1

I picked up a hand crank head lamp which I really like. I have not tried it camping yet but have tested it to read in bed with all of my lights off. This is great because you never have to worry about running out of batteries also on the low tech end signal whistles are great because if someone is looking for you you might get too hoarse to yell but as long as you can breathe you can blow a signal whistle magnesium fire starter: fire is one of the greatest tools for survival is fire with it you can keep warm, keep animals away, cook a meal, heat water for tea or to drink as well as to signal searchers ax: again a low tech tool, but there is so much you can do with an ax or a hatchet from cutting firewood to making shelter, weapons and other tools

njoy_d_ride
njoy_d_ride

Flashlight / radio of some sorts to get weather reports / extra cards for the camera / portable water filter More memory cards...

santeewelding
santeewelding

With what has no business with what means to come.

PM III
PM III

I'm jealous. Really jealous. So, can that Spot unit handle Outlook and Word docs? I may never come home if it does!

prush
prush

Wouldn't it be easier to take pictures with the cell? It must be a quality issue.

santeewelding
santeewelding

I think you're right. Were it me, I wouldn't settle for anything less than the best digital SLR. One thoughtful poster here did point out that Joe is a reporter. Given content of his original post about this, I suspect he is Joe first, and reporter second. Nevertheless, I will be interested, as I'm sure you will be, in what and how he reports. It does sound to me as though this is his personal trek, or walkabout, or jihad. Let us hope that bears two and three do not run him down. Or, run someone else on the trail down. Then he has to postpone it all in order to help them, if he can, or does.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Less storage on the cell, more difficult to transfer pics from the cell. And, as you noted, lesser quality with the cell.

tundraroamer
tundraroamer

I live in Alaska. A lot of people rely on technology when they come here. Guess what? It is guaranteed to fail you at the most critical time. However, cell phones are useful for locating you. We call your number and then listen to which bears stomach is ringing! Make sure you use a nice ring tone. Hello Moto gets old and aggravates the bear anyway. If you need electronics, then a wind up charger is better. Buy 2 and change it out at the half way point. So bring your laminated map, proper compass and your brain packed with survival and backwoods experience. Always use 2 of those 3 items at any one time. Don't forget the 100% Deet and if your really smart, female companionship. In case of bear attack, you can usually out run them.

user support
user support

I live in Pennsylvania and in the past several years children to adults seem to depend on technology to replace the chore of critical thinking or reasoning. Children want to use calculators for math. Instead of going outdoors, they use a DS or a pc to play games with others either on WI-FI or a LAN. Adults depend on directions from Mapquest, Google or Bing or their GPS instead of reading a map. Camping and hiking were originally thought as a way to get back to nature or retreat from mind numbing stress of job. Now we live in fear that we can't go into the wilderness without a GPS or a cell phone. How's that for progress?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

take it. Put it in a pocket in your good coat, next to a map and compass though. Learn how to use all three, before you leave civilisation behind. Wait 'til your completely lost, your skills are inadequate, and you are out of beans? That's a pretty terrible plan you know...

thesnowfamily
thesnowfamily

While I certainly understand and agree with the attitude you have when "going into the woods" I think it would be ignorant to not use something you have access to that could save your life. The Spot would certainly be a good choice while not intruding on your break from the world. I also think having a GPS with you is a good idea. Just because you have it does not mean you have to use it. Leave it in your pack until you are completely lost and your skills and strength are depleted. Other than that, the other things, I think are fluff. A camera might be nice just to have a history of the trip. I think just about every person takes one, or has taken one, on a major adventure. Even the great explorers took them! Sounds like a fun trip though. Call me, I would be glad to join you!

pjohnson
pjohnson

I like to get in the woods and leave my tech gear behind. It's nice to get away from the complexity and the man-made noises.

boweb
boweb

..will cover cellphone, gps(..), music, camera, ebook(survival/medical tip..), maps Small binocular lens for the camera, small LCD googles, roll-able keyboard, Portable Micro Speaker set Mini portable Quiet Power generator with solar backup system. LED appliances ..

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

He's [u]hiking[/u] the Colorado trail. Would you want to carry several pounds of generator (and even more pounds of fuel) on your back for 500 miles? See post below re: "failure to think".

boweb
boweb

..consumed to much polluted air. It really is clouding your judgments.. I must say you are an aggressive bunch, and all from the same aria, interesting.

santeewelding
santeewelding

An unbounded two-dimensional surface, which probably agrees with your scrutiny of the affair. Prefer all you wish. I will ignore all I wish.

boweb
boweb

..but I would prefer you did not scrutinize me. Consider that the world isn't flat my friend.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Do me a favor. Review the use of "a" and "an" in English. I think it would do your presentation a world of good. Initially, you struck me as a thoughtful soul; even, intricately thoughtful. Went downhill from there.

boweb
boweb

..he is taking an phone, the spot and an digital camera..Maybe he will take his mediaplayer. Combining does may lift some ounces. 500miles is an long walk. Even if it is an know path.. And adding an ultra light charger, like the Potenco, to his belt, that charges when walking may come in handy or add more usage to the device. Maybe to keep an record of his trip, he is an reporter after all.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

This is not a day trip up the road from the car park. This man is hiking--[u]walking[/u]--500 miles, about the distance from Brussels to Munich. He is not hiking the Central European plain or the Rhein valley, he is hiking an unprepared, marked trail through the Rocky Mountain wilderness. Some portions of the trail climb as much as 4,495 feet (1,362 meters) from the beginning of the segment. There are no roads, no hotels, no rest stops, and no restaurants. He is carrying [u][b]everything[/b][/u] he needs in a rucksack on his back. What use will he have for any of the technology you advocate?

boweb
boweb

.. really are an idiot, aren't you. Maybe the fact that I am not American could explain the grammar. But your lack of technical insight is ridicules for an guy' who suppose to be an support engineer. If you can't figure out the practical usage or application of the device, then I wonder why you even bother to post on this part of the forum. But then again, your only interpretation was to howler an a 10 pound diesel generator on an hiking trip. Very insight full. The internet is changing, isn't it.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Before or after he has hiked his 15-20 miles/day? As for insulting you...done with that. Given the illiterate grammar of your posts and the obliviousness of their content, I've already wasted enough time and bytes. Now go lose yourself...in the mall parking lot. end of line_

boweb
boweb

@boxfiddler: Apparently I am speaking for you to. @NickNielsen: Indians didn't need what you take for granted.. Maybe a fad guy should not go hiking then as well. And treeing to insult me is really small minded.. Beyond that you two should focus on the technological part of this post. And try to find solution in stead of holding on your misguided believes an obsolete knowledge. Just an friendly pinch. Btw, try not to power an mobile home, just some low power devices. An maybe some kinetic energy..

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

So exactly which generator did you have in mind? Provide manufacturer and model. A link would be ideal. How much fuel should he take to augment the solar panels you mention? Can all of this come in under, say 5 pounds? Before you answer, consider that a gallon weighs roughly eight pounds. I said it below, I'll say it here: Anybody willing for somebody else to carry more than absolutely necessary over long distances has never done it s/he/itself.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

poster has never spent a night more than a couple hundred feet from a car. Or carried s/he/it's house from place to place for days at a time. Anybody willing for somebody else to carry more weight than necessary has obviously never done it themself.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Speak for yourself. You have no clue where anybody but you wants to stay.

boweb
boweb

..some of you look at it as an romantic and social thing. But its just life where we don't want to stay. Besides as long as you are mentally connected to your social life back home, meaning you have an comfortable place to come back to, you will never really understand it anyway. Then it is just an "get away" or "physical" thing for the social hapners. That does not mean I don't love the hike. But I don't elude myself by thinking I survived something. And I don't go killing for the fun or "challenge" of it, I take what I can carry and leave the meat. I am not in need and that's part of the trip. Taking technology does not mean you will use it to stay in contact with the rest of the world. Its an Tech thing.

boweb
boweb

..it clear your are not an into technology. It's 2009 NOT 1956 you know. If you are an meanstreamer then you probaly don't know this stuff. That's why we have these forums..

rclark
rclark

They make mats that roll up into a tube and will recharge about anything that uses low volatage rechargeables. Granted that you will probably be hiking during the times when it would be useful, you could afix it to the outside of your pack and ignore the loss in efficiency from indirect lighting. The ability to hole up and recharge is invaluable. Especially since most electronics are poor rocks if the batteries are dead. Alternative: Twofer. Wind up radio/small appliance recharger. I got one that has flashlight, radio, cellphone charger, sirene, and emergency flasher all in one. About 2x2x5 inches, but weighs about 12oz.

GSG
GSG

Think Geek has one of the wind up flashlight/radio/siren devices. That would be a good one to have. The other thing would be a water filter/purification system. They make tablets for that, or there's even a filter straw. After all, if anything happens, you can go a while without food, but if you go without water, you're doomed. And, since it's going to start getting cool soon, how about one or two of those shiny blankets that hold your body heat in? Good luck, and I'm glad that you're going to use Spot!

rfredtelles1
rfredtelles1

I have tried those space blankets and they are basically useless