I brought a phone with me on my thru hike, yes a phone, and in the end I was very happy I did. Some say that a phone takes away from your experience, which it can, but if used correctly as a tool, it can enhance your hiking experience, not hinder. I used it to stay in touch with family and friends, check the weather ahead, listen to audio books, read books, get intel on the trail ahead, listen to music, take pictures and video, transfer photos, listen to podcasts and keep a audio journal. Apps helped to enrich my experience on the trail.
OverDrive Media Consule: Do you have a library card? If yes, then you can use this great app to connect to your local libraries digital collection of ebooks & audio books. After you’ve downloaded the app, you enter in your library card number and start searching your libraries collection. You can scroll through hundreds if not thousands of titles to download to your phone in several formats that are available whenever you want. I listened to a total of 19 audio books on my thru hike. It was a great way to use the time I had to learn about things I normally wouldn’t read about or catch up on all the things I wanted to learn about. Starting and stopping your progress was easy and you can borrow the title for 14 days to listen/read your selection. You can also put holds on titles that aren’t currently available and get an email notification when it’s ready for you to download.
Smart Voice Recorder: After hiking 25 miles the last thing I wanted to do was type a diary entry on my phone. I started out using a word program but after losing several entries due to crashes I gave up and downloaded this app. Being able to simply push a button and record my thought and feelings without having to stumble through typing was great. You have so much emotion on the trail that listening to your tone, mood and feelings afterwards brings you back. I also recorded random thoughts and great reminders to do that day, next town stop or just stupid random thoughts. The recordings are crisp, void of any dead noise and easy to transfer from my phone to computer. No more worrying about spelling or my fat fingers messing something up.
Spotify: Music, music, and music!!! I listened to a ton of music on my hike. Everything from Rage Against the Machine, Rolling Stones, Wutang Clan, B.B King, Elvis and everything in between. For only $10 a month for the Premium subscription, you can download as many titles to your phone as it can handle. I enjoyed listening to music before but wasn’t able to listen to a lot of it that was unknown to me. I had the opportunity to listen to bands and artist I never heard of by following the ‘recommendations’ tab and other music by similar artists. I’m now a fan of blue grass, classical and techno. The sound of the birds and trees are great but when you need to get moving nothings better then putting on my headphones and listening to Gogol Bordello’s – Trans-Continental Hustle to get you moving!
iPP Podcast: Podcasts are a great way to keep up with all the things that you love. This app was easy to download and subscribing to podcasts was even easier. All of your subscriptions are easy to track and new episodes are downloaded when you get back into cell reception. You can store them for however long you like or can delete them once you’ve listened to it. The podcasts I listened to most were: Tara Brach (Dharma Talks & Guided Meditations) NPR Fresh Air, This American Life, The Truth, The Moth, TedTalks, Brewing TV and Stuff you should know.
Facebook: I’m not a huge fan of Facebook but was an invaluable tool while on the trail. The CDT thru hikers had a Facebook page, CDT 2013, that helped us keep everyone informed on trail conditions, best/cheap places to eat and sleep and to find out where your friends were. Is the trail rerouted in the Winds? Is the fire still raging out of control in southern Colorado? What’s the best burger joint in Grants? Facebook had it all. Also, eventually you will get lonely on the trail so keeping up with friends and family back home and sharing your experience with them helps make your trip even more special.
P.S ( I had a Android phone but many of the above apps are available on the iPhone as well)
Do you bring electronic devices with you when you hike? Which ones and why?