Enhance Your Outdoor Experience
Technology, many times, is the first things to get left at home when going out adventuring. Even though technology is such a big part of our lives these days, we don’t stop to think how it can be used to enhance our outdoor experience in awesome ways. Some technology can be extremely useful for enjoying the outdoors! As a matter of fact, there are three very specific pieces of technology that I would highly recommend taking with you the next time you go out exploring.
The first item, and it may be somewhat obvious, is a camera. Cameras are a great tool for elevating your nature experience. Of course… having the memories captured for the rest of all time is great and definitely one of the reasons why this tech is on this list. However, that’s not the only reason. We can use cameras to see things that we normally wouldn’t be able to see with the naked eye. For example… nighttime photography can display stars, the Milky Way, and other beautiful elements of the night sky.
The same goes for the Northern Lights. Although there are different levels of intensity when it comes to the Aurora Borealis when I was in Fairbanks Alaska the Borealis was at a level that was not quite as visible to the human eye. However, when we took some still images with the right gear the Aurora came out in a spectacular way! We wouldn’t have been able to see the Northern Lights in this way without the cameras that we brought.
There was another time when I was in Alaska near a town called Girdwood. I was out on a bike ride when I spotted a moose. These are the most aggressive and dangerous animals in all of Alaska, so I wasn’t feeling too inspired to take a selfie with it. I pulled out my camera, put on a 300mm zoom lens and was able to get some pretty great shots from a decently safe distance. Having a camera and lens with those capabilities allowed me to enjoy that moment even more by getting closer to my camera than I wanted to in person. But of course, you can’t discount the value of taking a good photo or selfie to have a memory that lasts forever.
If you are new to the camera game but want to have something to take with you out in the wilderness then there are a couple cameras that I would recommend. Honestly, most cameras will do. Even your phone can be sufficient for wide landscape shots, selfies, or pictures of friends on a hike. However, if you want to up your game and have the potential for zooming in on an animal or feature that you may not be able to get too close to then I would highly recommend a point and shoot camera or a DSLR camera. There are a lot of point and shoot options out there that would be great if you are just starting out and you don’t know what you are looking for in a camera. I would personally recommend a Sony compact camera although there are other brands that carry very comparable cameras. If you are a little more into photography or want to give yourself a camera that you can grow into them I would highly recommend the Sony a7r Mark 2. It’s a little more money, but the value it gives is worth its price tag. This camera’s low-light capability also makes it perfect for nighttime photography. You can also find a wide range of lenses to use for this camera to fit the need of your expedition. Some great camera options can be found here: https://www.switchbacktravel.com/best-cameras-hiking-backpacking
The next piece of technology that I would highly recommend helping you enjoy the great outdoors, even more, would be a GPS unit. There are a lot of different GPS devices out on the market today, but they all serve pretty much the same purpose… To keep you from getting lost. Most of us use a GPS in our daily commute, whether it’s to help us find our destination or just check traffic patterns along with our standard route. The GPS devices that I’m referring to are specific handheld units that you can take out hiking with you just in case you get turned around. Now, you may be thinking, I always stick to the trail what would I need a GPS for? Well, I have two stories of people who stuck to the trail but ended up off the beaten path. A friend of mine was hiking in Oregon when he came across a bear cub. In an attempt to avoid a very dangerous situation if mommy was around, he decided to get off of the trail and try to go around. Once separated from the trail, he got turned around and ended up getting stuck on the side of a cliff while the sun was going down. A rescue team found him a day later as he was beginning to show signs of hypothermia. He has fully recovered, but I can guarantee when he started that hike he had no intention of going off-trail. A GPS may not be something that you intend to use every time you go hiking, but it is a great safety net just in case the worst happens. Another example I personally encountered was when I was out hiking in Central Oregon with my dogs. We were sticking to forest service roads and trails. As we looked at our map, it appeared that instead of going all the way around this heavily wooded area we could very easily cut through and make our way to another road that would get us back to our vehicle faster. As we came upon this forest service road we realized that it not only was no longer used as a road but was barely visible through all the overgrown brush. At this point, we were turned around enough to not be able to go back the way we came.
Thankfully we had a Garmin eTrex 30 with us and were able to identify where our car and other service roads were. We set a waypoint for the nearest service road and bushwhacked our way to safety just before it got too dark to see. The timing was perfect and if we had been stuck in thick brush much longer, we would have had to spend the night among a sea of chest-high bushes. The moral of this story, when you are out on the trail, your safety depends on you making good decisions. That being said, whether it’s a decision you make or an unlucky situation, it’s always nice to have a safety net. Having a handheld GPS with you when you are out hiking, whether you are hiking on a trail or going off the beaten path, can really save your bacon.
A GPS model that I would recommend for outdoor adventuring would be something from the Garmin eTrex series. However, there are many models out there and I highly recommend you do your own research to find the unit that will best serve your specific needs. I personally look for something that is waterproof, shockproof, easy to use one-handed and takes batteries. There are several models that you charge by plugging it into the wall instead of just putting in some more AA batteries. If you are out in the forest in a survival situation then you most likely won’t be able to plug it into a tree to charge it. However, you can bring a bunch of spare AA batteries if that’s what it runs on. This is why I prefer battery powered units over rechargeable ones. Either way, I recommend looking into sources like this to find the GPS that is right for you… https://www.switchbacktravel.com/best-handheld-gps
The final piece of technology that I recommend taking with you when you’re exploring the great outdoors is a drone. Now, I know that there’s some controversy around this topic, so before you take out your net launcher just hear me out. In the same way that my camera can preserve special memories for a lifetime, a drone can help you create memories in a totally new and unique way. However, aside from getting fun pictures and videos in outdoor settings, drones can be used for much more when you are adventuring. You can use a drone to explore areas that you can’t get to quickly or at all. When I was exploring the Gorge in Oregon, I thought I saw a waterfall down in this Canyon. I was able to get some great shots and experience that beautiful water feature only because I had a drone, and I was able to fly it down into the canyon. I had another opportunity to explore a desert canyon in Central Oregon which was not accessible on foot. Having a drone let me experience parts of the hike that I wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. However, my favorite experience with a drone while in the great outdoors was on the island of Maui. As I walked down the beach, I saw a turtle out in the water but it was kind of hard to see. So, I brought out the drone and flew out over the water to try to get a better view. As I got closer, I could then see from the air that there was not only one turtle but a whole group of turtles in that small area. It was mesmerizing watching them float around. It’s one of my favorite video clips I have, and I would never have experienced that moment if I didn’t have a drone with me. Drones can also be used to help you get your bearings in the case of an emergency. When riding an ATV, I have used a small drone to get above the treeline and confirm my location by observing natural features and landmarks. Using a drone in this way can also help you explore further down the trail or over a ridge line to see if it is worth making the trek or if you should consider a different route.
Turtle Watching With A Drone In Maui Filmed by Andrew Koehler
There are so many ways that drones can contribute to a positive experience out in nature, however, anyone who has a drone also needs to be very mindful of laws and regulations as well as the other people around them. It is very important for you to know the state and federal regulations for drones before you go out and fly. It is also important to pay attention to whether or not you’re in a national park. The current regulations state that you are not allowed to fly drones in national parks. State parks, however, are a different story. Some state parks say no, others say yes, so you will just have to do your homework before you go. It is also very important to be safe and courteous when you are flying. Even if you are obeying all the rules, you still have to take other people’s experience into account. In the same way that you would not want someone else to ruin your fun experience in the great outdoors, it is your responsibility to make sure you are not disturbing other people’s experience as well. This means making smart decisions on where to fly, when to fly, and how safely you fly. As a certified drone pilot and drone flight instructor, I can attest that safety is key, especially when you are flying around other people.
With all the different drones that are out on the market right now, it can be a little hard to decide which drone might be right for you. If you are planning on taking your drone on all kinds of adventures, then I would highly recommend something small and compact. The Mavic Air is one of the smallest drones on the market. However, I have had great results with the Mavic Pro Platinum. Both drones are great for traveling. If you have a little more room than I would also recommend the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. I have used the DJI Phantom series and Mavic drones many times in the great outdoors, and they have helped me to get incredible images from all across the world. They have also given me the opportunity to explore and experience nature in ways that I never thought I would. For more info on these drones, feel free to check out… https://www.dji.com/products/mavic?site=brandsite&from=nav
Flying In The Gorge Filmed by Andrew Koehler
So, in conclusion, bring your technology with you outdoors! The stigma when you go outside is that you should leave anything that sends an electrical current at home. This just isn’t true. Technology is such a big part of our lives these days and can be used to enhance your outdoor experience more than we could have imagined. So, if you want to up your adventuring game, then I highly recommend having a camera that can capture every moment, a GPS that can get you out of a sticky situation, and a drone to see things from a new perspective!