Your Phone, Outside

March 14, 2019
Filed Under: clinic

A closer look at the power sitting in your pocket.

Text neck. Noise pollution. Post-holing while posting. 

We get it. Phones - and their hypnotizing power can suck when you bring them to the outdoors.

At the same time, they're a tool – and one we can use to enhance our time outside, if done respectfully and intentionally. Here are three ways your phone can become a clutch piece of gear (that is, if you can fight the urge to go down the Instagram rabbit hole).

PS. Make it to the end of the article for a special look at how mobile phones transform off-grid life in east Africa (it makes Venmo look like child’s play…)

Preparation & Orientation (Don't Forget to Look Up)

Learn the stars with the SkyView app

Great adventures start with good prep and solid awareness of your surroundings – your phone can help with that:

  • Researching weather forecasts can help you bring the right layers and the right equipment (especially for these winter-to-spring weeks where conditions can differ dramatically at a peak). Mountain Forecast has info on over 11,000 major summits at up to five different elevations and asks the community to provide constant feedback to help with the accuracy of the site.
  • Most smartphones have a built in compass. The feature still works if you put your phone in Airplane Mode (a great way to conserve battery and remain disconnected from digital distraction).
  • Understand your night sky with the SkyView app: point it at the sky and identify planets, constellations, satellites, and more. You can also set notifications for stargazing events.

Observation (Lookin' at You, Citizen Scientist)

Geotag rogue garbage with Litterati

As we all know, smartphones are data collectors – but you can be in charge of that data, what gets collected, and put it to good use:

  • Litter sucks. It can hurt environments, wildlife, and overall biodiversity and, frankly, it’s not what you want to see on your nature walk (or ever, really). Litterati is an app that sources geotagged pictures of litter from the community (that’s you!) and aggregates it to identify problem areas and brands or products that show up with high frequency – all in service to finding more sustainable solutions. Check out their Global Litter Count here. (Special shoutout to our friend @dirtbagdarling for turning us on to this great initiative).
  • Channel your inner David Attenborough with iNaturalist, a joint initiative from the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic. This app encourages you to document your observations in the field (aka your next camping trip) and share your findings with the community for identification, feedback, or just adding another data point to the database. You can join existing projects in your area, or you can even host your own Bioblitz where you challenge people during a set time to find as many species as possible. They have a well-maintained website with constantly updated stats on the community as well as leaderboards for top projects.

Keeping You Outside - Even When You're Not Outside

Stories of the outdoors for when you're stuck indoors

Sometimes it’s not the mountains that are calling – it’s your 9:30 all-hands meeting.

When work or life keeps you from adventures, you can still stay inspired and motivated on your morning commute with some of our favorite podcasts that each, in their own way, pay homage to the outside world:

  • HumaNature from Wyoming Public Media focuses on stories of where humans and nature meet. From sinking boats to heartbreak on a thru-hike, these stories will stay with you.
  • Man, we want to sit around a fire the hosts of Safety Third. This podcast scrubs away the patina of #OutdoorLife and gets really real, really fast. Amazing guests, honest conversations, and comic relief always at the right moment.

So when you think about it, your phone is a tool just like your favorite pocket knife: use it wisely, and it can quickly become a trusted sidekick.

Through our work in East Africa, we’ve watched the power of phones transform what can happen in a given day – from our new DocuSeries, Connecting the Watts, find out how mobile money is now inextricably linked to the future of energy:

Impact Spotlight: The Power of Mobile Phones in East Africa


Fired up About Your Phone? Here’s a Few Ways To Keep It Charged On The Trail:

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