There’s an App for That

Notes on how technology makes our hikes possible

It’s hard for us to imagine how we would make it through a hike without the technologies we use when both preparing and actually hiking the trail. I was recently mentioning to someone that we were planning out our next hike and was asked, what’s to plan, just go… But the fact is, we do spend a considerable amount of time planning out each hike. And we use a lot of technology when we do so.

Perhaps the most valuable planning aid is the internet. There are vast resources that help guide novices like us. And of course there is plenty of technical data available for the pros. Maps of the trails are critical. We found a great resource, Half-Mile’s Pacific Crest Trail Map, that lists amazing details of the trail. It’s published in sections, can be downloaded for free in PDF form and can be a stand-along answer to all map needs for the PCT. It lists landmarks, on- and off-trail campsites, sources of water and warnings of all sorts. The Half-Mile maps are indispensable when we plan our hikes.

Half-Mile also integrates nicely with our phones. The app called PCTHYOH (we found our free copy in the Apple App Store) gives full access to each of the maps Half-Mile publishes and further integrates with the on-board GPS in the phone.

Speaking of phones, it is not amazing that a little device like a smartphone can do all the things it does? Besides the obvious chores it does for us, we also ask it to wake us up at a specific time, it can store all our contacts and other information, and make all that available at incredible speed and convenience. We have several apps on our phones that help us on the trail. If necessary, we can find ourselves on the trail using Apple’s Maps App through its GPS capabilities. There is something comforting out there, looking at my phone and knowing that I am that pinpoint on that map going in the right direction and on the right path. Another excellent map app is PCT SoCal which dials into the PCT specifically, and gives details on the few things that Half-Mile omits. What did they do 25 years ago?

All this technology takes a bit of power so we recently purchased a solar powered re-charger set that works reasonably well. It takes about five hours of constant solar exposure to recharge and it more or less doubles the length of time we have power for our devices. Of course, that is for each device, one charge for one device. We rotate hoping to keep both phones online.

More obvious advantages we have gained from technology are less gizmos but more invention, in a way. Synthetic underwear that repels moisture, special cushioned socks and sophisticated design in hiking boots, shock-absorbing hiking poles, and our CamelBak water-toting and drinking system, and the backpacks that have been designed to carry them in fitted compartments, all make hiking today much easier than it must have been just a few years ago.

With these technologies, we do without some of the things most would consider absolutely necessary. We do not carry a compass, for instance. We also do not carry a watch. No big folded-up maps. We have been keeping pedometer-readings but don’t need a pedometer. We have an app for that. It even gives us calories-burn information, like we need that!

We both look forward to our next hike, likely a trek north of Warner Springs. That is our furthest point north on the trail. The bit left for us to complete going south is just getting too hot to do this time of year. In fact, just today, a news report came out that a young woman hiker died of heat exposure while hiking. She was hiking in San Diego County on a trail east of the PCT further into the desert. This news brings a certain re-awakening that our hikes carry risks. Not that we needed a reminder.



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