Technology on the River – Striking a Balance

Facing 3+ months on the river, the question of technology is one I wrestled with early and often. How ‘connected’ should I be on the river? What kind of technology would I need to bring and for what purposes? Would my choices in what technology to bring be an impediment to disconnecting and achieving a meaningful and spiritual experience on the river? How do I balance the urge to disconnect with the absolute necessity of assuring the ones I love I am surviving on a daily basis? If I do bring technology, how can I leverage my experience to share lessons and bring attention to experiences and issues on the river?

As you can see, it is a lot to consider. Some of my predecessors who’ve undertaken this journey will insist on absolute disconnection in order to have the richest and most worthwhile experience. Travel as Lewis and Clark did over 200 years ago, with a map or two here and there, but that’s about it. It’s a tempting prospect, but there are other considerations:

  • I am travelling solo. I need to be able to keep in touch with loved ones, and to be able to call for emergency assistance under certain circumstances. This is non-negotiable to my parents and wife.
  • I am late Gen X, early Gen Y who grew up with the internet and cell phones.
  • I work for a technology company.
  • I love having some good music to listen to break up what will likely be 8 to 10 hours on the river each day.
  • I value the ability to share my journey with others. The journey is for myself, sure. But another major objective of my trip is to share my experience on┬áthe river and educate others on river related issues.

With these in mind, here is the technology I plan to bring on the trip:

  • Garmin InReach Explorer+ with a monthly data plan. With this device, I’ll be able to send and receive texts, plot my progress/plan my route on a map, look up weather forecasts, transmit my location via map to anyone on the internet, single-button SOS call to emergency services, all with satellite connection, no cell phone signal needed. I am also able to connect this device to my cell phone via Bluetooth, to do most of these capabilities on my much easier to use…
  • Samsung Galaxy S10. From what I have learned, cell phone coverage on the upper Missouri is pretty non-existent. However, I will still be able to use this phone to track navigation and trip progress on downloaded/offline google maps, send and receive text messages via connection to the Garmin InReach, take photos/videos, play music, and type out trip details and reflections for this blog to post when connectivity allows. Substantial element proof pouch to keep the phone and nature separated.
  • Travel/folding keyboard – bluetooth connectivity to my phone. Will make typing out blog posts much easier than using the phone’s keyboard.
  • GoPro Hero 6 Black, along with extra batteries and charger, several types of mounts for the camera. Bluetooth connectivity to my phone for uploading, managing and editing photos and videos.
  • Bluetooth waterproof portable speaker – nothing fancy, just something that will play music, survive a downpour or a dump, and that I won’t mind when it inevitably suffers a heroic death on the river.
  • Solar charger: BigBlue 5w 28v – to mount on the deck of the kayak and charge my batteries throughout the sunny days.
  • Power bank/battery: Anker PowerCore 20100 – definitely one, possible a second, still deciding.
  • I am on the fence about bringing a portable/waterproof AM/FM radio with weather bands – if I have room for this.
  • USB cables to charge the above devices.

Other than the Garmin, the GoPro and to an extent the speaker, nature does not mix well with the other devices. So I will have to have a pretty reliable system of drybags/boxes, pouches to keep things dry and relatively clean.

I am certain I will fine tune my technology setup as the trip progresses. I may find some of these items just aren’t worth the extra weight or space and may choose to discard or send back home, or I may need to supplement these items with some additional things that I can’t foresee right now. For better or worse, within a few clicks, I can order almost anything in the world off my phone and have it delivered to a location a couple days ahead of me on the river. Such is the world we live in; Lewis and Clark’s smirks of disapproval notwithstanding.

mf

The Gear List

What to bring. A massive challenge is to pack the most basic essentials to survive on the river for 3+ months and still make it all fit in a kayak. This is an ever-evolving list, but here is where it stands 83 days out from the start of the trip:

paddling
boat
seat
rudder kit
paddle
back up paddle
PFD
portage cart
straps/bungees
foam blocks
bilge pump
bail sponge + cup
spray skirt
hatch cover
camping
tent
pillow
sleep pad
sleeping bag
sleeping bag liner
tent footpring/tarp
camp chair
hammock
dry bags/gear bags
deck bag
small dry bag
medium dry bag
large dry bag
cell phone case
backpack/stuff sack
food prep
camp stove
gas
lighter
matches
utensils
ziplocs
dishes
cup/mug
foil
olive oil?
salt/pepper/spices
food
TBD
hydration
5 gal tank
soft canteens
nalgene
life straw/bottle
collapsible bucket
clothing/footwear
Hoka sandal
flip flops
communication
cell phone
garmin inreach explorer+
camera/tech
waterproof camera
bluetooth speaker
rechargeable battery brick
13w solar panel
power cords
ipod?
tablet?
bluetooth keyboard
miscellaneous
PFD knife
leatherman
hunting knife
hatchet?
shovel
para cord
elastic para cord
rope
head light
flashlight
batteries
gorilla tape
epoxy/patch kit
fire starter
binoculars
sunglasses
needle/thread?
fishing gear, hooks, bait
whistle
hygiene
toothbrush/paste
first aid kit
multi-vitamins
towel
rag
soap
anti-bacterial
wet wipes (BD)
snus
solid waste bags
floss
A&D cream
tinactin
sunblock
bug spray
laundry detergent
moleskin/KT tape
essential oils/deep blue
books/maps
L&C journal
personal journal
pens/pencil
The Complete Paddler

mf