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Technology + Outdoor Recreation =

Friday September 20, 2019

Author Tim Bolton, instructor at Mahoney Park.

If you’ve spent any amount of time outdoors away from “the real world,” you probably know how healthy it is to get away from it all and unwind. On the flip side, when you’re in the middle of a busy city where you have access to virtually everything you can imagine, you know the satisfaction of pursuing very niche interests only you and twelve other people care about.

But what happens when you combine the two?

What happens when you put solitude and connectivity together?

The answer: We’re still trying to find out.

There are five main areas 21st century technologies have influenced how we interact with the outdoors recreationally.

Photographic and film equipment, dive computers and gear, GPS, and the synthetic materials outdoor products are made out of today all allow outdoor enthusiasts and professionals to go further, learn more, and document their experiences in the wilderness faster than ever before.

They are also making amateurs feel like they are more experienced than they really are. If a beginner climber has lighter equipment, he can carry that equipment farther away from help and try to climb a route above his level. But if that same climber has a high-powered GPS and good cell service, he could call for rescue if he gets in trouble.

woman taking a video on a zip line course

There’s also the question of authenticity . If better equipment allows backcountry travelers to roam more freely while expending less energy than their predecessors who had less high-tech gear, are they still really roughing it?

And does it matter that the 21st century outdoor adventurer is living in greater comfort on his backcountry excursions than those who came before him? After all, isn’t it every tech company’s stated goal to make their consumers’ lives easier?

man dressed for mountain climbing

From ziplining and ropes courses to mountain climbing, kayaking and hiking, these are the questions the outdoor industry is asking itself even as it responds to the demands of its customers and clients. Debates will continue to rage on long into the 21st century as outdoor exploration and education become more accessible and more informed. One thing we can agree on is that outdoor exploration and education are worth the trouble.