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Monday, June 4, 2012

New tech vs. old tech

At the end of my review of the iPad 3 I talked about how the editors of Backpacker Magazine claimed that you should leave charts, compass and GPS  at home and just bring your tablet. I railed against this for various reasons - I'll let you reread the post if you wish, so I don't have to rehash it. But this past weekend I had an experience I feel is worth reporting.

As we were unloading kayaks at the put in, a friend mentioned that it would be sunny all day. I said something to the effect of, 'you're kidding right? We are surrounded by bands of rain from a tropical storm!' He responded that the storm had already hit Florida and had broken up. I reached into my car and pulled out my iPhone. I opened an app called MyRadar and showed my friend satellite imagery of where we were paddling. It looked clear. I zoomed out slightly to reveal that we were in fact surrounded by broken bands of heavy rain. The imagery we were looking at was less than ten minutes old. I put my phone in a waterproof pelican case, and put it in a dry bag. The dry bag found its way into the cockpit of my kayak.

I thought about this as I paddled. I recalled that there was a spot on the inside passage where we couldn't get a weather report on the VHF. We were surrounded by tall rocky cliffs on three sides and all I could get was static. On a whim, I opened a dry bag and retrieved my iPhone. I turned it on, and surprisingly I had enough signal strength to send a text message - I couldn't get web or voice - to my wife 4000 miles away. She texted me the weather report for where we were located.

As I continued to paddle I thought about how much I have relied on VHF and weather radios. I used to plug a weather radio into my car stereo on the way to paddle so I could listen to the weather report. Now I bring up satellite data. I find myself wishing for near live satellite data on expeditions! But at the same time part of me prefers the old fashioned way. I won't be giving up my compass anytime soon, that is for sure. My watch has a digital compass and I have used it all of one time. That time was in lower Manhattan after getting out of the subway and not knowing which way I was facing. However on the same watch there is a barometer that I use every time I paddle for very localized weather information. So I guess I am picking and choosing my data.

I stand by what I said in the previous post, the technology will have to be purpose built for the environment, but will we get to that point sooner than later? I am starting to think that it will be sooner.
Are there apps you use on your phone for kayaking?

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