Tech for safety
There is no doubt that technology has opened up the wild to more people but whether that means people are safer than without it, that is another question. For some with accessibility constraints, their use of tech in the wild is more nuanced than what many assume.
North Carolina resident Trevor Thomas, ‘The Blind Hiker’, was diagnosed with a rare eye disease at 35 and by 36 was completely blind. Since then, he has solo trekked more than 22,000 miles along some of the most extreme long-trails of the United States.
“Most people believe that I am heavily reliant on technology because I am a blind solo hiker,” says Trevor. “I do use some technology, but not as much as people would think, and not in the way they would imagine. I have a selection of digital cameras so I can document our thru hikes. I have a website and use social media to share our expeditions with the world. I carry two SPOT emergency personal rescue beacons, one for me and the other for my guide dog, Lulu. I would probably use a GPS, but there isn’t one on the market that is accessible for the blind. I use an iPhone for navigation, but not in the way most would assume. There is no app for what I do. I write my own data books for the trails I hike, and save the material to my phone so I can refer to it when needed.”
(Learn more about Trevor's relationship with the trail in the video below.)
Trevor’s relationship with technology in relation to his hiking is also nuanced. Tech wasn’t as ubiquitous when he began to hike as it now is, while its influence on the wider community and their relationship with the outdoors did not exist when he set out on the trail.
“In some ways technology has enabled me to take on some backcountry challenges that I would not have been able to do before, but in others it has become burdensome. I learned to hike without any technology, and have enough experience to know not to rely on it exclusively for my survival in the backcountry. There seem to be an alarming number of unexperienced hikers entering the backcountry who are solely reliant on their technological devices. This concerns me because they are not prepared for what happens when their gadgets fail. No matter what side of the debate someone is on, technology has found its way into the backcountry, and whether we like it or not, it is here to stay. I think we would all be better off if we, as a community, remember to hike our own hikes.”