I became a cyborg backpacker, and it greatly changed my hiking experience

I became a cyborg backpacker, and it greatly changed my hiking experience ...

For many traditionalists, the ultimate idea of bringing our electronic gadgetry into the wilderness is anathema. However, although, I myself may enjoy the simplicity of the unfiltered outdoors experience, there is still so much fun and enjoyment to be found in the cutting edge of technology.

I embarked on a backpacking trip armed with a Galaxy S22 Ultra, multiple cameras, the Spot X satellite messenger, and more. With enough gizmos in my pack to make James Bond jealous, I went down the trail and documented what happened.

The silicon heart of hiking

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, a fully loaded camera array with ultra-wide, wide, telephoto, and super-telephoto lenses, is among the features that make it particularly attractive in outdoor situations. Especially if you are planning to use it for navigation, the advantages of a high-end smartphone in the United Kingdom.

Laying the groundwork

Before going on a big adventure, it is important to plan your route well ahead of time. Most of America''s backcountry areas are located on land managed by federal agencies, so the top two applications for finding your destination and reserving required permits are the National Park Service app and the Recreation.gov app.

On the road

Despite the extensive oldlogging roads I had to navigate, Google Maps worked excellently, though after driving about 12 miles of washboard gravel with sneaky potholes, im not sure my dusty, beaten-up, old Subaru Forester will ever be the same again. We arrived a bit late due to slow traffic and the poor condition of the road. I recommend adding 20% to whatever Google estimates the travel time to be.


For this adventure, I packed my enormous, chunky Nikon Z9 with the Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S lens, the Insta360 One RS 1-inch 360 version, and the GoPro Hero 10 Black Creator Edition. While it doesn''t have a lot of elevation, it is capable of handling even my hefty Z9.

The GoPro Hero 10 Black Creator Edition was the camera I used for vlogging during the trip. Grace to the media mod microphone, it can capture decent sound, and the LED light on the top helps to clear dark shadows when vlogging in high-contrast environments. The Volta battery grip had enough charge to record several days worth of videos, including several long timelapses.

The Z9 offers exceptional high-resolution images, ideal for landscape work. Its 4K 120 frames per second (fps) video capture capability, combined with high performance in the body image stabilization system (IBIS), allows me to get smooth, cinematic highlights on the go. I used the 24-70 f/4 lens with the Z9 because it is a great general-purpose optic that collapses into a compact form factor and is also relatively lightweight.

The Z6 is a fantastic low-light camera, and since I bought the Z9, it almost exclusively allows for nighttime shooting, as well as as as a backup to my Z9 in case something goes wrong.

The Insta360 One RS 1 inch 360 edition is also a great astrophotography camera, thanks to its amazing Starlapse function. It''s also fantastic for recording while youre trekking and creating VR videos of your trip. It offers the best image quality and lowlight performance of any 360 camera currently available.

Photography planning

While PhotoPills was a great all-in-one solution, it managed to accomplish everything I needed from such an app and more. One of the most popular apps available on iOS and Android is the ability to show the sun, moon, stars, and other important information that can affect light and composition at any location. The augmented reality feature is also able to identify the location of meteor showers and the Milky Way, as well as the motion of the stars.

PhotoPills offers a variety of tools to measure field, exposure, and time-lapse parameters, as well as tutorials in both written and video formats. It''s an excellent companion for any photographer.

Batteries and power

When we have the opportunity to plug in every evening for a leisurely recharge, it''s easy to forget how much juice our devices require. Once the convenient source of electricity is far behind you on the other side of a mountain range, you quickly realize that your gadgets consume electricity at an alarming rate, and if youre planning a multiday journey, you need to pack additional batteries.

When you camp in the sun, a good method to save time is to get a backup battery with a built-in solar panel and set it out in the sun. This way, you may use them on the spot rather than haul them up the trail on your back.

When the majority of my devices require USB-C, make a big monkey wrench to throw in my intentions. The remainder of the trip was spent rationing battery life in my cameras and phone, which proved to be a significant limitation.

Navigating the backcountry

While Google Maps is fantastic for navigating the highways and byways of America, it provides information on hiking trails that aren''t reliable for journey discovery in the wilderness. Once you proceed off the trail, a more robust alternative is required. I tried a variety of applications to get the most out of the field.

Cairn, AllTrails, Avenza, and onX Backcountry are all serviceable, but I decided to use Gaia GPS as it was easy to use. It is the service Id recommend, for anyone interested in learning more about land ownership, while onX would be particularly useful in my volunteer work where I seek out and document ancient legacy lands.

Gaia GPS is a great way to develop custom trips across remote wilderness areas. I especially loved its helpful feature for designing custom routes along established trails.

PeakFinder, an augmented reality app that displays the names of the various mountains around you, is a fun way to identify different peaks and an excellent route-finding tool for situations where visibility is limited. This app is a great tool I recommend, regardless of whether or not youre using a printed or digital map as your primary route-finding technique.

On a backpacking trip, I intentionally left without a paper map. It''s something I''ve never done before, so I was able to see if traveling with a digital map alone is a good idea. While I was sorely ignorant about the fact that simple laminated paper maps were relatively straightforward. While I was never in danger of getting lost, it was also a good situation to have myself in.

Satellite communication

There''s no need to be concerned about the fact that hiking in remote locations poses a significant amount of risk. Several people are unlucky to make a call from the start of nowhere on a traditional cell network, but the dangers are very significant. An iPhone 14 already has a removable one in their pocket, thanks to the addition of a dedicated hardware.

The Spot X Bluetooth, which allows you to hear two-way messages from anywhere, appears to be a bit like a BlackBerry with its QWERTY keyboard, but with a wide range of features. With it, you may receive prewritten messages as well as custom texts, and in an emergency, an SOS button will contact emergency services.

While the Spot X worked as intended, due to my less than thorough review of the manual, I made a few minor errors when it came to sharing and communication features. I assumed that those I messaged would automatically be able to message me back, and that the device was constantly updating my GPS location. However, I later realized that I had not fully enabled two-way messaging prior to my trip, and that I had to activate the keypad to begin recording my progress at set intervals. This resulted in tremendous frustration and worry

Before you hit the trail, you should always read the manual and thoroughly test your equipment.

Plant and animal ID

Android and Apple app stores are filled with fantastic features for every conceivable purpose, except a powerful app with which to identify plants and animals offline. If you are looking for assistance in identifying edible plants, then here''s your chance.

I found iNaturalist the closest I could get a quick and simple digital plant ID, but it was quite spotty in its accuracy. Google Lens, which allows me to accurately identify almost anything (plant, animal, rock, etc.), is incredibly powerful, and it only works with a good internet connection, which is improbable for many remote areas.

Other helpful apps

I highly recommend downloading Survival Manual, a multimedia game with a treasure trove of survival, first aid, and general information for the outdoors. It''s absolutely useful and could be useful in emergency situations. Use it as a field reference and to assist you in preparation for your trip.

Flyover Country is a free app that is aimed at pilots and passengers of aircraft who want to know about what theyre seeing down below. While the geological maps are included, it is also a great tool for finding the ground under your feet when you are going hiking. However, it takes a little effort to develop the interactive map.

Tides Near Me, a wireless internet, will give you an accurate forecast of current and future tides. It is one of the most commonly used apps on my phone.

A quick word on music etiquette

A group camped opposite of me while listening to a small speaker playing rock music. I love rock music, but I even play rock music in the outside world.

When contemplating exploration into natural areas, here''s where I draw the line on tech in the wilderness. No music should be played out loud ever, at any rate, when it comes to weather and the shape of the land. Wild places have a music all their own, composed by wind, water, and a billion living things.

Talk as if you had in a church, and do not limit the endless and endless symphony of nature with the blasphemy of pop melodies played on a Bluetooth speaker. Use earbuds if youre afraid to listen to some songs before you tuck in for the night, though the singing of the crickets and the soughing of an alpine breeze are far more sweet than any music I have yet to hear.

Making tech and the outdoors come together

Gadgets and apps offer huge benefits in the wilderness, but they are subject to human error. I had my devices and applications shipped to the United States without a hitch, but my own mistakes resulted in a number of major flaws. Always carry a paper map, and read your instructions carefully. While youre still able to troubleshoot them, consider doing a testing run of all your devices at home.

Some people will still enjoy seeing the great outdoors without causing any technological harm, but for most individuals, I think the right tools can actually enhance your experience. Just don''t gettoosucked into your computer and forget why you went outside in the first place.

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