Canadian Canoe Routes

Does technology make it more dangerous?
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Author:  Splake [ March 17th, 2016, 10:17 am ]
Post subject:  Does technology make it more dangerous?

Given the ongoing discussion about using smartphones for backcountry navigation, I figured this article was somewhat timely: ... um=xmlfeed

It isn't really a new discussion and while the article does provide some statistics, I would say that it's a bit superficial. Perhaps the best point it makes is that PLBs aren't foolproof - although that is also one of the places where it could provide more depth.

Author:  littleredcanoe [ March 17th, 2016, 10:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Does technology make it more dangerous?

Its very superficial and they certainly put a spin on Gerry Largays death. I am friends with her best friend. Gerry never relied on technology. She had a cell phone to periodically notify her husband of her progress. A long time AT hiker she knew the area well and used a map and compass. The official story is completely suspect. I doubt she died of exposure and getting lost ... om-closed/

I doubt that the Outside team because of their poor choice of a "lost person" vetted anything. Clearly they did not research very deeply.

And for that reason I doubt they know what a PLB is and the various types of other locator devices.. They do know how to bandy about buzzwords.

Depth? Look elsewhere. Just another of mass media not investigating fully and putting an errant spin on something sensational.

I think the article is a real insult to Gerry and her family and I hope they see it and respond to Outside.

Author:  Splake [ March 17th, 2016, 12:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does technology make it more dangerous?

Thanks for added detail LRC.

There was a similar article a few years ago, I think that one focused on the increase in 'false alarms' with the introduction of SPOT devices. One of the weak examples in that article was a solo hiker somewhere on the west coast who was under equipped for the cold weather and sent an SOS. The response team read the map wrong (upside down even?) and was searching on the wrong side of the trail. In that case, the hiker survived the night and recovered when the weather warmed up the next day.

Focusing more on the question of whether technology is increasing risks, do folks feel that they are changing their own behaviour because of technology "comfort factor"?

Author:  littleredcanoe [ March 17th, 2016, 1:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does technology make it more dangerous?

I'm not. The more you are out there the better aware you are that just because you called for help does not mean help can come.

There is a certain degree of new to the outdoors people that think help is instantly available outdoors and a smaller subset of idiots that use the devices inappropriately.

In my area this episode still stands out. Read all the way to the end.. that is the punch line

Author:  Paddle Power [ March 17th, 2016, 1:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does technology make it more dangerous?

The article is titled, Our Reliance on Technology Makes the Backcountry More Dangerous.

I can't figure out how you can spin the follow statement to support the title/article. According to the coroner’s report, released in January, Largay died inside her tent, zipped in her sleeping bag. The official cause of death: inanition—the effects of dehydration and starvation—from prolonged environmental exposure.

In general, I'm not impressed by the article. As another example, it's states personal locator beacons are not fail-safe because it will not save you if you lose it. Nor will a map if you lose it. Maybe I'm missing something.

Does our medical system create a false sense of security in urban areas such that people take greater risks?

I would argue that we are getting more urban and have less non urban skills, which includes reliance on technology but that has been happening for generations.

I'm just happen that people are still get out and going hiking...

Even the closing statement is unclear: ...the best antidote is simply experience and preparation: “If you’re waiting for something bad to happen to then come up with a way to get yourself out of that situation, you’re relying on rational problem-solving, which probably isn’t available to you under extreme stress.”

Author:  rpg51 [ March 17th, 2016, 8:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does technology make it more dangerous?

I have not read the piece so I won't comment on it. However, I have long felt that there is a real danger that devices are being sold to people who do not have the life experience to perceive the dangers associated with wilderness travel and that it is extremely important that people have the skills to function without the devices before they venture out. Having said that, I also believe that in the right hands technology can greatly enhance safety.

Author:  tearknee [ March 17th, 2016, 8:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does technology make it more dangerous?

I think this article is talking more the dangers of being inexperienced in the backcountry than it is the danger of relying on cellphones, and the fact that the woman had already walked 950 miles and wouldn't try to walk out seems fishy to me, too. I use my iPhone, but never once have thought that it alone would allow me to call for rescue.
This is another reason that I like the InReach. In a non-emergency but uncomfortable situation it's easy to tell someone you may be running late, you have a minor injury, etc.. And get a response. Three pre-determined messages on a Spot device or similar leads me to think someone might have to decide whether something is an emergency or not and choose incorrectly. Being able to relay a detailed message can save SAR from being called, facilitate a rescue, or get advice about a specific situation.
It's not just computer technology that makes people take stupid risks in the wilderness. How many of us have bashed a Royalex down a rapid that would be unrunnable in a cedar strip?

Author:  littleredcanoe [ March 17th, 2016, 8:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does technology make it more dangerous?

Geraldine Largay had hiked almost all of her 66 years. Had more experience than all of put together.
Do not believe the coroners report. There are many many doubts . Official does not equal true.

Yes my friend involved and others do have inside info.

They could have used many far more appropriate references like Carl Skalak.

Author:  tearknee [ March 17th, 2016, 8:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does technology make it more dangerous?

littleredcanoe: exactly. A terrible example. I can't imagine how a woman with her experience and the miles she had already covered that season would simply wander off through the brush and lay down to die when her cellphone stopped working. They're using the wrong person as an example of how technology in the backcountry could be dangerous. Strange angle for them to take considering all of their buyer's guides.

Author:  Neil Fitzpatrick [ March 17th, 2016, 10:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does technology make it more dangerous?

Lack of Preparation Causes death might be a better article. Could be written from a navigation, clothing, equipment or skills point of view.

Personally, I didn't grow up with any "bushcraft" skills. There was a lot of skills and knowledge I was lacking when I got into backcountry travel. I was aware of this and did my best to prepare. Some of that was buying technology, mostly it was tripping with experienced paddlers. I now have an InReach and an actual PLB. I hope I never get to the point where I think I'll be fine without one or the other. And always a map and compass...

Author:  rpg51 [ March 18th, 2016, 4:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Does technology make it more dangerous?

Tear knee- u know I am an inReach fan, BUT - if we go to wild places we take risk and no device, not even the inReach, should be thought of as eliminating the risk. I do agree the tech stuff could save my butt someday. But I go out there with my eyes wide open. I should also say that personally I believe that given a reasonable degree of experience and good judgment, I am probably at greater risk of harm driving to work every day than I am paddling a river in the Yukon. That's my story and I'm stick'in to it!

Author:  Floats n Boats [ March 18th, 2016, 7:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Does technology make it more dangerous?

My two cents. As a pilot i recieve a report from Transport Canada which has accident reports. I read them all the time and wouldn't you know that in most cases the ELT(similar to a PLB) does not work! Eventhough the new ones broadcast on a higher frequency and all they just tend to fail in some cases. These devices have scheduled inspections!! Not to mention are worth a heck of a lot of money. So my message is to all of you, dont rely on that stuff! 4 hours into our trip last season and my brothers gps stopped working. Luckily younger brother was well versed in map and compass orienteering! Invest your money into tech, not your life. BTW an ELT went off once in a hangar for 20 minutes and it was not even reported!

Author:  rpg51 [ March 18th, 2016, 7:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Does technology make it more dangerous?

Interesting. It would be really interesting to see some actual numbers re PLB's and reliability. That I would like to see. I assume that while the ELT's fail a lot they also do actually function as designed on occasion?

But, I agree 100%. These things are really toys in a way. You are taking risks and you have to understand that and prepare for it as best you can. Assume none of the toys will actually work, anticipate possible problems, and have the skills and a plan to avoid problems as much as possible and to deal with problems should they arise.

Also, realistically, there are problems that can arise that there really is little you can do and you are in real serious trouble. Even in civilization there are accidents that happen sometimes and people are killed and there is not one thing any rescue effort could possibly have done to save the person.

Even a topo map and a compass could be described as "tech." Its just old tech and batteries are not required! I am not anti-tech. I see no downside to carrying this tech stuff as long as you keep it in the right perspective. And, one never knows, it might actually save a life. It does happen that PLB and other distress calls do save lives.

The real problem, in my mind, is the way that the marketing people push this stuff and paint it as the be all and end all with the disclaimer in tiny print at the end. For folks like all of us it isn't a big problem. But for neophytes it can be a huge problem. My two cents.

Author:  nessmuk [ March 18th, 2016, 9:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Does technology make it more dangerous?

I am a NY certified SAR crew boss with a trained volunteer team. I get the weekly SAR reports from the NYSDEC Rangers, almost all involving the too popular very highly trafficked High Peaks area of the Adirondacks. Every weekend will see one to several incidents. To their credit the majority of incidents are resolved quickly within a few hours by Rangers, and do not require the trained extra manpower from trained volunteers. Many are initiated with the subject's cell phone call to 911, which is relayed to DEC Dispatch. Rangers are usually on the trail within the hour. Some involve serious injuries, but I'd say most are evenly split between "lower leg injury" and "unable to find trail on the way down from a climb". Very few are initiated by SPOT, fewer still by activating a PLB.

[The Skalak PLB incident was really an oddball. I've paddled to the place where he called from a couple of times and explored the nearby land. Where he called from is at the end of a long broad beaver meadow on a narrow slow moving deep water river (really just a creek there), easy to paddle. A couple of minor beaver dams holding back little water are no real obstacle. If he was unable to canoe out after a freak early snowstorm, there is a hunter's hiking trail that nearly parallels the edge of the beaver meadow, easy to find and follow back to the road where he parked. Even without finding the trail it is not difficult to walk directly out.]

While it is true that cell phone calls to 911 have resulted in DEC Rangers saving lives, from what I read and from talking with Ranger friends, I am convinced that many of the calls are made by inexperienced hikers getting in over their head, including those who suffered an injury. Injuries aside, the attitude is pervasive of "I have a way to bailout if I get into trouble, I'll just call the rangers and get a helicopter". If they don't say it, they think it. It is expected that the phone will always work with unlimited battery life, and that there is cell coverage everywhere (far from true).

More and more people with little to no experience, no equipment or ability to make a fire or shelter, improperly dressed, and with zero navigation skills venture where they don't belong and would never have done so without the false impression that they are safe with the phone. The temptation to call when simply temporarily confused is just too great.

I learned how to navigate and bushwhack in remote areas by doing it, by using map and compass to plan and observe. No cell phones and no GPS back then. I've been mixed-up and confused plenty of times. But by paying attention to my navigation, stopping to think about it, and taking a few minutes of brain power I always found my way without significant problem. Indeed, such incidents are a rush, and discovering my own way out of the situation is incredibly satisfying. Mistakes will be made, but the lessons they provide mean those mistakes are not to be made again. How many of those instant cell phone calls would not have to be made if people prepared better and took the time to use a little brain power? Better that kind of lesson with accumulating the right kind of experience, than to tie up several Rangers keeping them from true emergency duties.

I have a SPOT because it is mandatory equipment for all boats in the Yukon River races. We must have it turned on in track mode, automatically transmitting our location every 10 minutes, and especially where we stop and start for a mandatory 6-hour rest period each "night on the 1000 mile race. Without those transmissions there could be a significant time penalty added to our finish time. The trick is to mount the device horizontally so that it has a clear view of the sky. Done that way, we had very few lost 10 minute transmissions, generally due to blockage from the landscape. In spite of what was stressed by the race director, some paddlers just stuck their SPOT in a pack or oriented it randomly in a pocket. Some teams were given as much as a 9-hour penalty because of it.

In addition to the automatic tracking signal, SPOT also offers a couple of preplanned non-emergency information signals. In our case, for example, one of those signals would tell our pit crew that we are ok but unable to complete the race, please meet us at the next downstream take-out (which might still be a couple of hundred miles away). In 4 races so far, we haven't had to do that (yet).

Author:  rpg51 [ March 18th, 2016, 9:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Does technology make it more dangerous?

Seems like we are all saying the same thing.

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