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June 29, 2010

Camping for Everyone: Technology Enthusiasts and Smartphone Owners

Filed under: Camping — Tags: — Simos @ 12:05 am
An indispensable camping tool? It could be!

An indispensable camping tool?
Photo by: Yasin Öztürk (Stock Exchange)

Greetings from AllCampgrounds!

You know, while writing for this blog I’ve made my fair share of jokes about the free wireless internet trend at camp grounds everywhere you look – but this time, I’m going to “flip the script” and talk about how you can use your smartphone to enhance your camping experience.

No fooling; while I still don’t think it’s quite as fun to bring a laptop on a camping trip, I recently became the owner of a fancy mobile phone that seems like it can do just about anything.

And since free WiFi is the norm in so many natural spaces nowadays, including RV parks and campgrounds, KOA sites, and even state parks, your super phone can help you do some great things even out in the wilderness.

Your Modern Cell Phone as Camping “Multitool”

Now, let me preface my remarks by saying this isn’t an endorsement of one phone over another; any phone with “apps” will serve for the advice here. This is AllCampgrounds, not AllCellphones, so I’ll stay neutral on the spirited debate over which platform or similar application is better. Instead, I’d like to give you a few starting points; things to look for next time you pull up your smartphone’s “market” feature and hunt for cool new things to download. Plenty of apps are useful for campers, particularly in the backcountry.

Mapping and GPS tools: Many next-gen smartphones come with built-in GPS, mapping, and navigational features. You can use these to get around in the backcountry a little more reliably than the ol’ “moss on a tree” method, and go a bit further from civilization with fewer worries. If that doesn’t appeal to you, some phones can even approximate a compass, or even help you plot a course by the stars.

Weather and trail conditions: Weather can turn on a dime, and sudden changes in conditions can lead to rockslides, snow-ins, and floods that might make trails and remote roads impassable. Even if you don’t plan on doing anything more strenuous than some tasty outdoor grilling, checking the weather before making plans for the day can save a lot of time. In a public park? You can keep in contact with the ranger station website for the latest up-to-date news, animal sightings, and trail info.

Getting in touch with nature: Not so long ago when we talked about bird watching, I emphasized how important it is to have a good field guide to birds so you can identify your finds. A printed guide is always useful, but if your signal is strong, you can substitute a smartphone app – though I wouldn’t trust today’s smartphone cameras to take really good nature shots (that’s just me). Taking this a little further, you can find out about trees, plants, animals and natural habitats when you see them.

Trip planning and budgeting: Discount camping clubs are growing, especially when it comes to RV camping parks. Some of these clubs have already developed their own smartphone apps. These programs can not only help you get from point A to point B conveniently, they can also tell you where to find discount camping at every stop along the way. Not all RV camp grounds are cost-effective, so this is a great way to stretch your dollar further while still enjoying everything the RV life has to offer.

Keeping Your Smartphone Alive and Well on the Trail

Naturally, you’ll have to make a few allowances for your trusty companion when you’re out in nature. A weatherproof case or belt holster is a good start. Also be sure to bring at least one backup battery, and if you expect harsh weather or backcountry conditions, be sure the batteries are packed dry and tight to avoid damage. Last, but not least, always have a “plan B”: your signal can cut out at any time, even using an external signal booster. A smartphone is a great tool, like any tool you might bring to the wild – but there’s no substitute for knowledge and experience when the unexpected happens!

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