First, and while this goes without saying, it should be remembered that there are many different styles of and reasons for camping. Many times we’re looking to get deep and high into the backcountry, hoping to challenge ourselves physically, and trying to get far away from people and electric things, especially if they make lots of noise (the people or the electric things). Sometimes we just want to sleep under the stars by a campfire, but also with a group of friends and bottles of wine and really great food. Then there are the moments we fear that we’ll go completely nuts if we can’t just get out of the city, even for a couple days, so help us god, no matter where we end up, but since we’re buried in work, we’ll just have to bring our work with us to the outdoors.
That last one was me recently, so I did something I’ve never even considered before. I camped where I knew I could use the internet.
Not like a wi-fi-enabled campsite, mind you, though I wouldn’t be shocked if that was a thing very soon (maybe it already is?). Instead, I bought a mobile hot spot internet device thingy and made sure to find campsites that had a good enough cell signal so that I could work from the side of a river, a forest-ringed meadow, or by an alpine lakeshore. It worked great. Find a campsite with 4GLTE coverage (admittedly, these are typically roadside, but midweek they’re often near-empty), turn on my little internet brick, and presto, instant connection, turning my truck bed into a mobile office.
Oh boy, I think I might be hooked.
In the mornings, I’d roll out of the back of my truck, fire up a pot of coffee on a propane stove, and, just like I was home, go online to research and write articles (and buy stuff and waste time on social media and geek out on gear). During the middle part of the day, I’d hike a little or fly-fish or drive to a new campsite. In the afternoons and evening, it was back to work. Not really a whole hell of a lot different than my typical work schedule. The only real change was that rather than look wistfully out the window from home or a coffee shop and wish I was looking out at soul-stirring views of snow-capped peaks and a babbling brook, I lifted my head and actually looked right at those snow-capped peaks and babbling brooks. Then I went right back to working, soul sufficiently stirred.
This presented a quandary: I’ve always been a staunch no tech in the backcountry kind of person, completely against the intrusion of the digital world—well, GPS devices are okay—in the great outdoors. My little experiment forced me to transform myself from a poo-pooer of the bluish glow of a computer screen at a campsite to the guy sitting in a camp chair, or swinging in a hammock (difficult, but not impossible) while typing on an iPad.
And while it’s true I couldn’t completely forget the evils of civilization while work-camping, I still felt like I was connecting with the wilderness in ways I simply can’t while at home.
The really crazy part is that I know of spots deep-ish in the northern Sierra backcountry that somehow get crystal-clear 4GLTE cell signals. I could do this work from camp thing even when backpacking in some areas. I promise, however, that if I ever try this, I wouldn’t dream of doing so if I thought a backpacker camped across a meadow or lake from me could possibly see my screen. I’m not a monster.
Am I compromising something by bringing the internet—and work—into the wilderness with me?
Honestly, I’m not sure yet. This is a new experience for me. It may flame out terribly and end with me cleaving my iPad in two with a hatchet and striking off into the bush.
But for now, it’s an intriguing option to bring internet connectivity into the camping equation. It allows those of us with jobs that allow is to work remotely and who have a deep love of the outdoors to connect the two in ways that were impossible just a few years ago.