Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Virtually Hiking

Make mine to go.

Time to bring backpacking into the digital era.

Sure, once upon a time there was Pocketmail. Nice enough for its day, but a lot like sending a postcard to Aunt Millie. If the batteries hadn't died. And you could find a phone booth.

Fussy. Technically Limited. Uncertain results.

Well, we're beyond that now.

We've had cell phones for a good while, and there's no surprise anymore about all phones having cameras. Even art school grads from Texas can hit the PCT, leave one pocket free for an iProduct, and carry along the equivalent of a film studio in less than 120 grams.

A wedding photographer took his phone to Italy, along with a $1.99 app. With only that he published a travel book.

OK, that's where we are. Where do we go?

Good you asked.

You've heard of, the world's biggest online seller of everything hiker-related? Sure you have.

Everyone has by now.

Well, they've shipped you replacement sole lugs and bags of trail nibbles for quite a while, undercutting just about everyone and revolutionizing the business via easy clicks and free shipping. We've all got rooms full of their stuff and can't imagine how life on the trail could be better.

Well, once again they're way ahead of us. has just introduced the Treadle. It's a sort of tablet computer, but way beyond the iPhone or iPad, let alone the long-defunct Pocketmail. And at $199.99, it's pretty cheap.

Amazing, really. It's like Star-Trek's holodeck with a replicator attachment built in.

Here's how it goes.

After buying a Treadle device from, just use your credit or debit card to pay for any section of any hiking trail you fancy. This is automagically downloaded to your device, and after that you can use it anywhere, anytime it's convenient for you.

While waiting for a bus. During your lunch break. Mowing the lawn. Walking down a long corridor to another stupid meeting. In that garbage-strewn park next to the tracks, the only place you had available for walking. Until now.

It's your call, and it's cheap.

Pull down the goggles, punch "play", and in an instant you're stomping through the La Garita Wilderness between Lake City and Salida, with or without the commentary on landmarks and history. You get a full-color 3-D experience and even hear the crunch of your boots as you pass through fragrant forests.

Time to stop for the night? Easy.

Just sit down and enjoy one of's tasty full Sens-O-Ramen freeze-dried meals ($1.99 each, 12-second download), then pop into your choice of shelters for a good night's sleep.

Myself, I prefer the ultralight single-wall Shires model from TorporTent. You know - the one with the round Hobbit-windows. (Also $1.99) But you can get just about anything from's vast catalog. And with any decent signal at all, the download is almost instantaneous.

Be up with the sun the next morning, have a hot shower, and hop instantly from the Continental Divide Trail to your favorite section of the Appalachian Trail, then somewhere else again. Like over to Maggie's Riffle. (One of my favorite places.)

It's easy, quick, and way cheaper than buying real equipment you have to store and maintain. No rude and tedious airline travel. No actual bugs unless you add the Li'l Nippers Pak. (True, only $0.99, but most of us pass on that one.)

Keep your credit card up to date, stay within the Terms of Service, and you should be OK. Though a few customers have reported seeing their Treadles wiped and their accounts closed without warning.

If you're lucky, and this does happen to you (probably not, but just sayin'), you're home in your living room, and fully dressed at the time.

Unlike Aksel Bjorklund, who found himself no longer in the woods but suddenly surrounded by traffic, in his underwear, vacantly gazing at the sky and making chewing motions with his (now empty) mouth.

Mr Bjorklund, who insists he did nothing other than to stop for lunch at a particularly fetching overlook along the Te Araroa Trail, suddenly had his account yanked by, which replied to his query only with:

...We have found your account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies.

Please know that any attempt to open a new account will meet with the same action...

Mr Bjorklund did know a famous blogger who publicized the incident, and shortly thereafter, due to a high level of viral negativity, the account was suddenly re-established, again without explanation or notice.

But a bit later neighbors saw Mr Bjorklund removed from his home by what appeared to be police, and he hasn't been seen since.

On the other hand, most of us will never have any problem at all with one of's Treadles, our downloaded apps, or SWAT teams.

Accidentally get a bowl of rabid mice instead of beef stew? Just delete them. What could be more convenient?

That's what we really like. Convenience.

For $199.99, it's a deal.


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