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Is new technology the future of hiking?

Technology, both physical and digital has increasingly become part of the hiking experience. This technology includes everything from navigation apps to Gore-Tex and is changing the ways in which people tackle their big adventures. Some traditionalists say these evolutions in gear and software are ultimately taking away from the hiking experience, but I have another take that I think has much bigger implications for the future of hiking.


alltrails.com
AllTrails in use

What had changed from the early days?


Long gone is the days of canvas hiking packs, today we have a range of ultralight materials available to us which make hiking much easier and accessible to people of all abilities. Almost every item imaginable has become lighter through the use of new fabrics, aluminium metals and innovative designs, but in addition to this, today we have many items that early hikers could of only dreamed of.


Macpac 1975 vs Osprey today
MacPac 1975 vs Osprey today

I mean who in their right mind would have thought they could get an ultralight folding chair which weighed only 500g… insane. But this has not been the only change in the hiking world. Navigators of many years ago would have been in awe of the easily accessible information on hand with apps like AllTrails, including their elevation stats, 3D maps and highlighted landmarks. This digital technology revolution has changed the way we hike forever, with millions finding obscure walks that were all but forgotten.


Is the future of hiking in tech?


It seems ridiculous to say that hiking, an activity all about getting outdoors and disconnecting, has its future in the technology being built today. But when I look deeper, I can’t help but feel that this is the case. Technology has unlocked a new world for almost every industry around the world, allowed billions to connect to each other and changed the ways in which our world functions.


Hiking, although not immediately obvious, can benefit greatly from these same evolutions and this is why I believe this is the case:


For me, when I go hiking with friends, I am able to connect with them on a deeper level beyond any day to day interaction. It is a moment where you must overcome challenges, not alone, but together and that builds stronger bonds than anywhere else. For me, organising these adventures takes time, something I invest in as I know from experience what happens when I don’t plan properly. But even a detailed plan doesn’t need to take as long as it does.


Most of the time, the writing and planning isn’t the hard part of the planning, its ensuring I haven’t missed any major area I should have planned for, or knowing if the map I’m using is correct. These are things that technology could fix (and partially has) with programs that assist you to plan and hike with confidence. If something can help me do the thing a love, I believe we should embrace it and not reject it. Even if hiking can be considered easier than it was in the past, I don’t believe this technology revolution (both digital and physical) detracts from the sense of challenge or adventure because these changes aren't inherently bad – they’re just different.


I’ve grown up in a time of huge technological revolution and believe the benefits far outweigh the downsides. I’ve been an active user of platforms such as AllTrails and admired the way they’ve tried to make the outdoors accessible to everyone, but I still believe there has been one critical area which has been overlooked.


Where the future is going (and why I want to build it!)


A map is not a plan and this is something many around me have struggled to understand. I don’t blame them as planning can be really hard, with info being inaccessible and not knowing what they should be planning for. Although AllTrails has solved the problem of connecting hikers from around the globe and providing accurate map data, they’ve unknowingly created another problem – a generation of walkers who don’t know how to plan.


This is what I want to fix. I’m building the future I believe in through myPack, an all-in-one planning, packing and prepping platform which combines all the things you used to have in spreadsheets, docs and in Lighterpack.


Screenshot from myPack early Beta (Yet to be released)

Planning doesn’t have to be hard, you just need to know what you need to include. For experienced hikers, it also allows you plan in one place – inviting all your friends to plan with you in the one ‘trip’. I think hikers deserve to be able to get outdoors with ease and in a safe way; and I’m willing to back in this hunch with my own investment.


Who knows if this is what people will really want, but for one thing, I know that it is something which would make my life easier and maybe that in itself is enough to give this idea a shot.



Written by Josh Welch