The Ubiquitious Internet, Part 2

Car camping is down 28% since 1998. Backpacking down 33% in the same period. How to stimulate interest in these activities?

Some campground operators think they have found a solution: offer wireless Internet connections at the campground.

I’m a big fan of Internet connectivity when I travel, and perhaps global wireless Internet coverage is inevitable, but for now, I have mixed emotions about this. On the one hand, Internet connectivity when I camp could be a real plus. It would provide a good way to get real-time weather reports and trail/road conditions, a non-trivial consideration. It would also allow me to get more information about attractions, such as history, trail maps, etc. I definitely have informational needs when I’m camping, and easy access to the Internet could solve many of those.

On the other hand, one of my great joys in camping is being unconnected. I don’t own a cellphone and I can’t use my laptop when I camp, so I am truly unplugged. In June, I camped 3 nights in Death Valley, 2 of them at a campground at 8,000 feet in the Panamint Mountains. What a great way to decompress and reflect!

If I had an Internet connection, the temptation could very well have proven irresistable. Instead of doing information detox, I would have been perpetuating information overload. There’s a value to wild spaces, and wireless Internet coverage perhaps changes the nature of these spaces in modest but significant ways.

In any case, the advent of electricity and wireless Internet connectivity ultimately will portend the end of car camping for me. Currently, if I go to remote enough areas, I can still find car camping that isn’t like camping in downtown Manhattan. However, I think those days are progressively ending; it will become harder and harder to find a remote enough area. Eventually, I think I’ll have to give up car camping and go backpacking to find truly peaceful areas. The double bonus is that I don’t have any intention of lugging my heavy laptop in my backpack!