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Gear: …Or Lack Thereof

NOT Wearing Wearable Tech

Don’t get us wrong. Running without music—after decades of pacing out our steps to the beat of our favorite tunes— is almost impossible, just as training for the next race without the mountain of data recorded by your favorite smart electronic monitoring device would be practically impossible. We fully understand that the latest gadgets tell us if we need to get more sleep, eat more protein, or drink more water. They document every pedal and breaststroke to help us understand what we’re doing wrong, and what we can do to improve our performance. They’re HAL from 2001–only without the creeping sentience.

And yet…it all becomes a bit much. We don’t begrudge tracking your progress as you prime for that next marathon or filming your latest single-track exploit or an attempt at a first ascent. We love adventure porn as much as the rest of the known world.

But we also love heading out into the great beyond, and just listening to the world of the backcountry. No music, no silent streams of data flooding between your smart watch, smart phone, and your heart rate monitor. No imagined digital whirl of a camera capturing every second of every stride. Just the ambient soundtrack of nature: the crunch of leaves underfoot, the birdsongs, the wind through the fluttering leaves, even a distant sound of a jet plane or a chainsaw–which is just loud enough to punctuate how natural the other noises are, without disturbing its atmosphere.

Others may disagree—as the legion of YouTube action videos demonstrate, this is a GoPro world. Even author Walter Kern recently wrote an eloquent essay about how much he loves fireside Tweeting, how watching movies in nature enhances the experience.

But maybe such impulses shouldn’t always be automatic. Maybe on your next foray into the backcountry, be it a day hike or a multi-day trek, bike ride, or swim, you power down the apps, pull out the ear buds, and turn off the camera for a few hours. What you hear may surprise you. And you won’t have to sift through hours of point-of-view footage to find that part where the copperhead slithered across the trail.

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