Hint: It wasn’t so you could take to your iPod into the woods. A reader asks Outside’s Gear Guy:
I like to backpack with my iPod when I am alone in the wilderness. After setting camp it would be ideal to have speakers instead of headphones to enjoy my music. Are there any lightweight, portable speakers good for backpacking?
Sorry, but this is just plain self-involved idiocy. If the only way you can stand to hike and backpack is to having your tunes blaring to keep you company, you should find another hobby. Sure, everybody hikes into the countryside for their own reasons but one thing is universal: the point of getting into the wilds is to experience things you can’t exprience in civilization.
With all our store-bought gear and wisdom gleaned from compelling outdoor blogs, we’re not getting too doggone wild no matter how far we hike in — as long as we plan to hike back. Some stuff in the wilds can be experienced only by hearing it. Like, how you know you’re nearing the top of a ridge because the sound of wind whistling through the trees is getting louder.
I could buy the argument of taking an iPod and earbuds to help you sleep when the sound of tent flaps flapping is keeping you up all night — heck, the new Nano weighs practically nothing. But external speakers? Please. Don’t.
I always take my MP3 player on the drive to the trailhead. There’s so much great new audio content being independently produced these days, and podcasting and the net has made is so much more accessible, that I need to use any available minute to catch-up on all of the stuff I want to hear.
But once I leave the vehicle and get into the wilderness, the sounds that I came to hear aren’t those I brought with me.
Case in point: The weekend before last I went on a desert trip. At night, there were times when the intense silence made the whoosh-whoosh of my blood being pumped through my ears seem loud. After a couple of minute. I started to barely detect the deep and subtle throbbing of a train, tem miles distant. In this midst of this incredibly subtle symphony, an owl screetched hundreds of yards away. The owl’s vocalization really pierced the night in a way that I had previously thought was just poetic license.
You’ll never get that experience with the buds in your ears. And especially not with speakers.
I teach college music by profession. I listen to a lot of music in the car on the way to the trailhead. But I would never use an iPod on the trail. (Confession: I took one with me once… but once I got on the trail I didn’t even think to take it out.)
The outdoor experience is one of all senses and for me the audio sensory experience is as important as the visual: the wide range of wind and breeze sounds, dry fall leaves dropping through branches or crunching underfoot, birds, etc.
I bring an iPod with me on my hikes and I can’t imagine listening to it while I’m hiking. However, I do sometimes like to listen to a few tunes just before dozing off in the tent.
Would you make judgement of someone who brought a harmonica or a small guitar? Music is one of the great aspects of life – just like hiking. I don’t think it’s a crime to mix them.
A guitar or harmonica are at least in keeping with the human-propelled nature of getting yourself into the woods. No batteries are required. But a lot of campers wouldn’t care to hear *them* either.
It’s not about me judging other people, it’s about other people making judgments about how they ought to be experiencing the outdoors. If you’re taking the White Stripes camping, it’s a safe bet Jack will want to bring an instrument along. If you’re creating a multimedia performance art thing that contrasts nature with technology, fine. Just put a thought into it more complex than “it’d be cool to hear some death metal played real loud right here in my campsite.”
One of the joys of the trail is the sound of nature – the birds, the wind blowing through the trees, the patter of rain gently falling against the tent or tarp; the mysteroious sounds of the night.
An iPod. No way !!!
Sometimes I take a small solar powered radio along with me, as I like to listen to a song (if I can get reception)in the morning while I’m breaking camp and cleaning up. (I usually don’t listen any other time, and never on the trail) This gives me a new marching song in my head for the start of the day.
However this radio only works with earbuds, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Listening to music in the morning is my personal preferance, and I wouldn’t feel right sharing it with the world.
I have a small shortwave radio that I take sometimes. It’s good for those multi-day hikes early in the season when I don’t see anyone and I need my human-voice fix. Part of me likes to eat breakfast while listening to BBC and standing on a mountain top pulling in an AM station 300km away. But it does feel like cheating to be in touch with the world I left to go hiking.