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Sierra Magazine
Last Words

Is it appropriate to carry radios and cell phones in the wilderness?

I know that many outdoorsfolk would think it gauche, but I carried a cell phone on my last two backpacking trips, and it had a good deal to do with my feeling comfortable enough to be out for more than a dayhike. I called my child at night and felt that I could summon help in a true emergency. Worked for me, and bothered no one else.

Leslie Sussan
Washington, D.C.

Would we consider playing rock music or accepting cell calls while in church, mosque, or synagogue? Like a house of worship, wilderness is that special place where we can be at peace with the universe and at one with God. Let's leave our pagers, TVs, cell phones, and boom boxes at home.

Roger J. Wendell
Aurora, Colorado

I always take my shortwave radio when camping. I can hear great stations from around the world when I'm away from the electrical interference in the city and have a few hundred feet available to string out my antenna wire.

Randy Ruger
North Hollywood, California

Is there such a thing as wilderness if you are still in contact with the rest of the world? I think that some people are missing the true experience.

Peter Kappen
Defiance, Ohio

Is it appropriate? Only the elitist naturalists would ever ask this question! Safety--warnings on weather and calling for help in case of accidents--is always appropriate except to elitists!

Marvin Lewis
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

There are those who will argue that they are necessary and will amble off to the beautiful places on this planet with device in hand. They have forgotten that a fundamental reason we seek out wilderness is to reconnect with nature and the wondrous parts of ourselves that these devices have so brusquely cut us off from.

Sheryl Howe
Boise, Idaho

Is it appropriate to carry an extruded aluminum hiking staff with a plastic handle and a rubber tip? Is it appropriate to carry any products with contents developed by DuPont? Should you wear shoes? Obviously, people take the tools they need to accomplish their purpose in going into the wilderness. The trick is to minimize the impact before going as well as while there. A better question might be: is it appropriate for the modern human, with products from corporations of questionable ethics, to go into the wilderness at all?

Don Myers
Hewitt, New Jersey

Cell phones and radios do not affect rivers, soil, trees, squirrels, and moose any more than any conversation between two humans in the wilderness. Yelling for your dog or cursing out your mountain bike invade a much larger space. Unless conversations between people in the wild are regulated, then conversations in which one person is outside of the wilderness should not be. But please be discreet. Whether using your phone or thinking of calling to a friend across the lake, minimize your presence.

Kirk L. Nichols
Salt Lake City, Utah

Last summer a dear friend's heart failed while he was camping. His group had no cell phone to call for immediate help. One hour and fifteen minutes later, a Med Evac helicopter arrived. Even though CPR was performed, he died. Take the technology with you, but use it only for emergencies.

Deirdre Devine
San Francisco, California

If I saw someone carrying a cell phone in the wilderness I'd say, Go home! Take a vacation in some flashy resort. You're not suited for the wilderness.

Cindy Marzolf
San Diego, California

Compared to the all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile, the radio and cell phone are harmless toys that can save lives. There is plenty of room for abuse, but I believe the vast majority of people are "out there" to blend in, not to disrupt.

Joyce Long
Sayville, New York

Be self-reliant. Leave your radio, cell phone, and camera at home. The pictures in your head don't disappear.

Wally Juchert
St. Helena, California


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