How Tech Has Changed Hiking

Before Jean Taggart left home to conquer the 800-mile Arizona Trail last year, she made a detailed spreadsheet to organize her resupply provisions. To update friends and family on her progress, she bought a Garmin inReach Mini, which is a GPS and satellite messenger. She poured over hiker blogs and absorbed detailed information about each section of the trail on the Arizona Trail Association’s website—which also connected her with “trail angels” who could help her cache water on exceptionally dry sections of the route.

Taggart watched hikers’ YouTube vlogs that detailed nearly every step of the experience, helping her to visualize the unfamiliar trail. And she bought the Guthook Guides’ Arizona Trail app, which loaded her smart phone with detailed trail information, accessible even when she didn’t have cell coverage. She downloaded numerous podcasts and e-books to keep herself entertained during lonely stretches of trail. And she bought a high-powered Anker battery pack to keep her phone juiced up for the days-long stretches between trail towns.

If Taggart—an accomplished Seattle-based hiker who completed the Arizona Trail in November 2018—had undertaken the trail 10 or even five years ago, her experience would have been quite different. When she and her now-husband, Jared Kofron, logged 1,100 miles of northbound hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014, for example, they used a few trail apps in combination with paper maps. Atlas company Guthook, which came out with its first trail app (for the PCT) in 2012, was still relatively new then. Trail vlogs were less common, and Garmin hadn’t yet released the inReach Mini, a much smaller and lighter version of its previous GPS-enabled trackers. Rewind even further, and hikers taking to any number of long-distance trails hiked without any digital assistance whatsoever.

There’s no doubt that technology has changed the way we hike, as it has all aspects of modern living.

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