Outdoor Retailer: Texting from the trail with SPOT and DeLorme

12:18 a.m. on August 3, 2010 (EDT)
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This thread is for comments on the article "Outdoor Retailer: Texting from the trail with SPOT and DeLorme"

We take the DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w with SPOT Satellite Communicator out for a hike, and ponder the nature of communication in the backcountry.

Full article at http://www.trailspace.com/blog/2010/08/03/outdoor-retailer-spot-delorme.html

5:03 a.m. on August 3, 2010 (EDT)
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The anti-tech freak in me rebels.

I fail to see how this will enrich my backcountry experience. I have no desire to be connected to the outside world while in the backcountry. Part of why I trek is to sever all tethers to civilization. I am willing to accept the consequences of obtaining no help or a delayed SAR response, as the cost of truly getting away from it all and feeling free, if only for a limited time.

Ed

7:28 a.m. on August 3, 2010 (EDT)
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Ed: this point of view is well known to those who make backcountry gadgets.

From the hiker's perspective, the challenge is "just because you can doesn't mean you should."

From the company's perspective, the challenge is "just because they can doesn't mean they will."

I've seen the same skepticism about backwoods gadgets as long as I've been reading backcountry forums; while they may not be representative of the entire population of outdoorspeople, I don't see a lot of people on the trail using gadgets, so I'm guessing the view is pretty widespread.

8:29 a.m. on August 3, 2010 (EDT)
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I hear and feel Ed's point. I personally find it interesting how quickly there has been a general shift in attitude over what is and is not the norm or expected.

DeLorme told me that they're interested in the person who already sees value in carrying a handheld GPS receiver and also wants the communication functions. They aren't trying to go after the person who is happy with their lighter weight map and compass and so on. So they won't be out there trying to convert the anti-tech people.

And they probably don't have to, if the impressions of the EMS buyer on my hike are any indication (and from reading our own forums). The expectation for instant communication is increasing anyway among many, many people, and there are plenty of technology freaks out there who will be interested as well (provided it does what they want, the unit works properly, and they're willing to pay).

So, even if you or I don't want to stay connected on the trail, there may be plenty of others who at least want to carry along the option.

8:32 a.m. on August 3, 2010 (EDT)
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There will always be those who see a dichotomy between something they love and its relationship to the ever-expanding Internet. In fact I was just reading a very accomplished food and cooking author who suggested that taking pictures or notes during a particularly enjoyable meal was tantamount to religious heresy. There seems to be this push towards forcing a particular mode of response to a given stimulus, be it nature, food, or something else.

My point here is that being "disconnected" was never a motivation for any of my personal hobbies, including those involving the outdoors. Those who would suggest that being connected somehow cheapens the experience get confused looks from me, a technophile who sees these devices as a way to connect two activities I love.

8:59 a.m. on August 3, 2010 (EDT)
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I do not have any desire personally to carry such a gadget, but neither do I feel offended if others want to carry them. I do however dislike the fact that the general status-quo expectation is likely to develop that you should carry something like this.

My wife's mother has, shall we say, control issues. Before this particular device came out she was already insisting with great rigidity that I should be carrying something like it.

Though I can completely understand why family may want you to carry a device that, in their minds, will "keep you safe" I do not like the general shift in public opinion that you SHOULD carry a locator/communication device. Especially considering that the shift towards such expectation is based largely on ignorance and unrealistic ideas of how much it would increase the actual "safety" of the user.

9:33 a.m. on August 3, 2010 (EDT)
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Well, I'm not one to let my purchases of communication/safety devices be determined by online discussions. :) The responses here are not surprising and I really understand the impulses behind them.

For myself, this would be a difficult purchase. Quite frankly, the cost of the unit and service is just too much for my use. And, it does lessen the psychological impact of being apart in nature.

However, this is something that I would seriously consider when I take my kids out with me. At that point, both my level of risk and responsibility increase exponentially and I would have a difficult time telling my wife "No" to a piece of mind.

As for it becoming a perceived "safety" device by the general public... oiy. Nothing substitutes for good ol' knowledge and preparedness... but a gadget seems to suffice these days! :)

I'm glad to see that the TS crew got their hands on it (and that very, very sweet geocoin! Jealous!). I figured it would be pushed at OR pretty hard and am glad to see some shots of it! Really looking forward to the other reports that you publish!

9:42 p.m. on August 3, 2010 (EDT)
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For me, thirty years ago I felt exactly as Ed does on the point of being too connected to the outside world when on deep adventure travel backcountry trips. Even up untill about 6 years ago I felt this way.

But now in my mid-50s and after two major operations, both of which had I been somewhere in the wilderness away from all communication probably would have cost me my life or made it quite miserable trying to get out with my complications.

I would like to get a SPOt unit so if need be I can contact someone in the outside world even just to calm my nerves after a close encounter with a bear or some other close to life threatening incident

11:34 p.m. on August 3, 2010 (EDT)
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Those who would suggest that being connected somehow cheapens the experience get confused looks from me, a technophile who sees these devices as a way to connect two activities I love.

Perhaps on a solo trip: to each their own.

The problem is the gadget freaks I have camped with too often fail to connect with their fellow campers. Hey, a friend likes ham radios and cocktail parties. But if he showed up with a transceiver at a mixer I was hosting, and proceeded to conduct air check exercises, I would ask him to leave. That’s a 507, 10-4! There is a time and place for everything but many wireless gadget users are clueless of their electronic faux pas.

My distaste for these devices in the back country extends beyond my personal use, it also extends to how these devices affect the dynamics of a social group (e.g. campers). Spend some time observing couples out on a date, as one compulsively divides their attention between their companion and whatever is on the other end of the wireless gadget. I certainly would not put up with that conduct on a date, and am only a little more tolerant of it on the trail. I have camped with folks who were preoccupied with their cellular, be it calling home, texting, or just nonstop fiddling with the damn toy. If they did these activities during "down time" periods when the rest of us nap, read, fish, or just plainly pick our noses, it would be fine. But invariably these distractions intrude upon getting down the trail (oh let me stop and call home to brag how beautiful this is) or disrupts the ambience of campfire camaraderie. Sometimes this behavior is plainly antisocial, so bad that others comment too, wondering if we should invite the cell phone jay talker on any future venue.

Granted there are those who understand when not to plug in and boot up, but there are enough folks who fail to grasp this social nuance that it taints the attitude of many who may otherwise be more open minded.
Ed

10:35 a.m. on August 4, 2010 (EDT)
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yock said:

Those who would suggest that being connected somehow cheapens the experience get confused looks from me, a technophile who sees these devices as a way to connect two activities I love.

Perhaps on a solo trip: to each their own.

The problem is the gadget freaks I have camped with too often fail to connect with their fellow campers. Hey, a friend likes ham radios and cocktail parties. But if he showed up with a transceiver at a mixer I was hosting, and proceeded to conduct air check exercises, I would ask him to leave. That’s a 507, 10-4! There is a time and place for everything but many wireless gadget users are clueless of their electronic faux pas.

That sounds like a problem with the person. It also sounds hypothetical. I take the philosophy of letting people fail me before I fault them for it.

Quite honestly I don't think I'd go anywhere without at least some way of communicating with my wife. In my heart she trumps every trail, hobby, pursuit, job, or gadget. I still know when to put the device away.

3:46 p.m. on August 7, 2010 (EDT)
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I agree with Yock, there seems to be more of a person problem than a gadget problem. I also head to the backcountry to "sever [almost] all tethers to civilization." I keep my cell phone off, and love the fact that I have no obligation to turn it on. With that being said, I would prefer cell service to not having it. The Earthmate provides an additional safety net, without any additional weight or volume (provided you already use a GPSR).

Two final thoughts, the service fees are still a bit steep for someone like me, but perhaps they will decrease in the future as competition emerges or the technology becomes cheaper.

Finally, there is the when-to-use-it issue, in reference to the SOS function. Again, this is a person issue. While on the trail recently, my friends wife frantically texted everyone on the backpacking trip, requesting a call home citing an emergency. Upon calling home, it turns out that my friends daughter had become upset/emotional because her roommates went home for the weekend and she was alone (she is in her 20's). Unbelievable. People seem to have very different opinions on what an emergency is.

5:10 p.m. on August 7, 2010 (EDT)
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, my friends wife frantically texted everyone on the backpacking trip, requesting a call home citing an emergency. Upon calling home, it turns out that my friends daughter had become upset/emotional because her roommates went home for the weekend and she was alone (she is in her 20's).

Leaves me wondering if she made it through the ordeal......... I am thinking emotional scars............ Life can deal such heavy blows.

5:47 p.m. on August 12, 2010 (EDT)
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Ed said:

a friend likes ham radios and cocktail parties. But if he showed up with a transceiver at a mixer I was hosting, and proceeded to conduct air check exercises, I would ask him to leave. That’s a 507, 10-4!

Ummm, Ed, ham radio is very different from the modern wireless connectivity social networking kind of thing. Yes there are some new, invariably very young, hams who will talk for the sake of talking (they learn pretty quickly that this is not acceptable use of the spectrum). But the majority do not mix ragchewing (the ham equivalent of social networking) with other activities. In part this stems from the responsibility taught to hams from the very start that emergency communications and community service is a major part of ham radio. Ragchewing tends to be confined to DX (that's long distance, mostly on the HF bands), with the protocol being if someone has important traffic, like an emergency, you relinquish the band immediately.

And although I am vaguely aware that the "10-4" thing is part of pseudo police and "good buddy" chatter (I got that part by watching some Bert Reynolds movie years ago), what's with the "507"? Certainly not part of ham radio.If you used "10-4" on the ham bands, you would be laughed off the air, or more likely, reported to the FCC as a probable unlicensed person probably using a stolen radio. At the least, you would be strongly admonished against using strongly disapproved language.

Ham radio in the woods tends to be confined to (1) Field Day (a day each June set aside for emergency operations practice, done in the field with no commercial power source), (2) experimentation in remote operations or special circumstances like ducting under rare atmospheric conditions, or (3) some Boy Scout units will use it to maintain contact between groups backpacking at different speeds (though mostly this has gone over to FRS and GMRS radio).

6:12 p.m. on August 13, 2010 (EDT)
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Ummm, Ed, ham radio is very different from the modern wireless connectivity social networking kind of thing...

Bill:

I wasn’t commenting on ham, perse, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know squat about ham (the 507, 10-4 is actually police code). While ham and wireless are different communities, hard core techies often have a common unbridled enthusiasm for their preoccupation, often taking on an evangelical like mission to spread tech to the unwashed masses. I meant to illustrate how tech enthusiasts can be an unwelcome distraction when they bring their toys to events. For me camping is as much about the camaraderie as about the outdoors. Quite frankly attempting campfire chat with someone who has ear buds stuck in their head gives me pause about accompanying that person on any future trek. The same thing goes for those who can’t stay off their cellular at meal time or cocktail parties, or divides their attention between a face to face conversation and texting.

I admit I am anti-tech phreak, relative to current social trends. Likewise I am not a religious person. But I go camping regularly with people who have all sorts of gadgets, and tote their Good Book into the wilds. I have no problem with these life style choices. But I take exception to both, however, when the gadgets take precedence over interacting with those present, or when someone turns an outing into a captive audience opportunity to pitch their particular religion. Thus the point of my whole thread is not if tech is good or bad, but that there are tech heads that obsess over their toys, and detracted from the social experience of camping with friends. It seemed to me the device that was the subject of this thread is the very sort of gadget targeted to attract tech junkies. And I prefer this tech version of a pet rock not be present in most of my outdoor activities. JMO
Ed

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