Continuing on from our earlier blog post regarding the benefits of bringing your phone hiking, here are nine more items you can leave out of your backpack thanks to smartphones and their apps overcoming numerous scenarios.
Back in the Army we used to bring printouts of the upcoming weather forecasts and would have to wait for daily radio reports containing pertinent information such as moon phase and overnight cloud cover (important for older night-vision technology which required at least some moonlight to actually be effective.) Thankfully these days we can once more be grateful for our smartphones and their mobile data connections for providing us with any and all information relating to the weather as we progress on our hikes. Whether it’s inclement weather such as heavy fog or sudden storms, or you simply want to know the temperature the next day, your phone will make your hiking holiday both more comfortable and safer.
Certain coastal hikes incorporate long walks along beautiful stretches of sandy beach, as well as scenic detours down onto rock pools and across craggy seaside outcrops. With great Instagram photo spots like the Mermaid’s Cave along the Antrim Glens and Causeway Coastal route in Northern Ireland, it’s important to keep abreast of tidal patterns and moon phases to ensure you can safely gain access to such breathtaking locations. As such, seaside hikers previously found it necessary to bring along even more paperwork, this time in the form of printed or filled-in tidal charts for their chosen stretch of coastline. Nowadays this information can be checked on the fly as you head off along the track, or saved beforehand and referred to later when you might happen to be offline.
I once dreamed of working as a travel photographer for Lonely Planet. Then their “Lonely Planet Images” collection was purchased by Getty Images. Then, completely by surprise only a few years later, I was contacted by Getty Images and asked to become a contributor. However, by this time the guidebook industry was unfortunately already starting to falter. To their credit, such publishers of the traditional paperback booklets have made many attempts to keep up with the times, selling PDF versions of their books and individual chapters. Nonetheless, many industries are no doubt doomed to a fate of facing permanent structural shifts to their business. With the advent of modern phone technology, the humble guidebook is sadly disappearing from the repertoire of globetrotters and backpackers. I’m a nostalgic at heart, but even I do all of my research beforehand and keep relevant info stored in my phone to refer to on the go. The positive here though is that it saves both space and a kilo or two of weight, in particular for more lengthy trips spanning multiple countries and multiple specific hiking routes.
As seen with guidebooks, foreign language phrasebooks are likewise being replaced by technology. Not only can you now store all of the information you need in your phone, but you can also avail of online translation programmes as well. Again, call me traditional but I still like to work with pen and paper and feel that I should at least attempt to remember some key expressions while in foreign lands – and pronounce them in a comprehensible manner too! There’s just something about typing your desired phrase into Google and holding your phone up to someone that comes across as slightly rude. But perhaps this will become the new norm, especially now that your respondent can speak directly back into the device and have the Internet spit out a fairly accurate reply to your query.
Yes, I have actually seen people using calculators when travelling, believe it or not! Although most travellers don’t physically bring one in their bag, when checking on the balance fee remaining for hotels and trying to convert currencies, they often ask for or wish they had a calculator at hand. Well, once again your smartphone has you covered here too. If you cannot figure out how many US Dollars your B&B in Ireland is costing, or how many British Pounds you are getting for your leftover Euros, fear not, for you can check the current exchange rate online and use your phone’s calculator. And thankfully these days almost all of Europe is on the one currency. I feel like another country adopts the Euro every couple of years as well, because each time I revisit a European country they’ve scrapped their old currency and joined the rest of the club. Except for England of course, but we all know about that at the moment in more ways than one!
International Phone Cards
Gone are the days of purchasing and using international calling cards while travelling overseas. In most places your phone picks up a mobile data signal more than adequate for using various apps to call your family and friends back home. And you don’t need to hunt down the now elusive public phone box and key in a million digits to make that connection with your loved ones.
Perhaps this is an extreme example, with only the most adventurous hikers ever requiring a satellite phone, but even places like Everest Base Camp have a half-decent mobile phone signal these days. While ten years ago you needed an obnoxiously large device with a special connection method and antenna in order to make calls from remote mountain tops and hidden valleys, these too can now be left out of your backpack. Again – a quick disclaimer to ignore my advice if you’re heading into the treacherous Yarlung Tsangpo canyon in Tibet, or anywhere else similarly remote.
EPIRBs and PLBs
Another one for your more extreme hikers out there is the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, more commonly known by the acronym EPIRB. Slightly different to a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), both devices are proven life savers for those in very remote areas who need to send a distress signal to rescue services. However, for the somewhat less intense outdoor enthusiast who still enjoys a good distance between themselves and civilisation, the role of EPIRBS and PLBS can be fulfilled by your phone’s GPS system instead. Again, just a disclaimer here that if in doubt, and especially for those of you heading deep into the wilderness, you should still avail of one of the locator beacon devices.
Printouts of Bookings
Our final paper-saver helping the environment and your pack weight involves cutting down on printed bookings. Not only are more and more airlines accepting digital tickets only now, but many other places such as your accommodation, national parks and so on merely need to see the confirmation file or email from your phone. Thanks to smartphones and the Internet that’s another few reams of paper you can forego on your next hiking holiday in Europe.
Apart from guidebooks and phrasebook, I’d have to say a lot of these items were far less obvious than those appearing in the first part of this post. Things like your phone’s camera, GPS, clock and flashlight are fairly straightforward examples. Fewer people, however, may immediately answer the question of “what does my smartphone replace while hiking?” with answers of “tide and weather charts as well as calculators.” As I said last time, this list will no doubt continue to grow well into the future. How many more out of the box examples can you think of, and what else would you be willing to leave behind on your next multi-day hiking excursion?