Camping and exploring the outdoors have come a long way over the past few decades. Some of you may have childhood memories of putting up the tent using a complicated array of heavy metal poles that could quickly send any adult spiraling into madness.

If you look back in history to the Scott expedition to the South Pole, their feats are even more admirable when you consider their less-than-sophisticated equipment; think fur coats, paper maps and wooden skis.

Technology has enabled us to innovate equipment that is lightweight, durable and weather resistant – traversing the environment has become a whole lot easier thanks to the likes of GPS, freeze-dried food and carbon-fiber.

As technology continues to evolve quicker than ever, what will exploring the outdoors look like in the future? Our POET Coordinator Gemma shares her insights from the 2017 NZRA Outdoors Forum:

What might outdoor recreation might look like in 2030 and are we ready?

A first couple of presentations at the 2017 NZRA Outdoors Forum looked at technology and really got me thinking – and squirming in my seat a little too. I apologise for any misrepresentations but here’s my read on what they said.

Vaughn Davis spoke about the challenge of keeping outdoor recreation relevant to our increasingly tech savvy and obsessed society. He gave examples from the 20th century where technological advances were there – sometimes seen as hare-brained and bizarre and cumbersome (e.g. the first digital camera) – but ignored by those who developed them because they couldn’t see the future. We know that Kodak didn’t capitalise on their invention! So probably good ideas for the future are there now so when we look for ways to keep outdoor recreation alive in 2030 and beyond, look at what ideas are out there now, embrace and use Technology in the outdoors to better the experience – don’t fight it. Aren’t we better with ‘bacon and eggs’ rather than bacon or eggs?

Billy Michels as part of his presentation, used a little imagination to tell us a story to describe what could be some technology rich realities in outdoor recreation in 2030 and beyond. His little story went something like this

You’re on a walk in bush area on conservation land. You’re wearing your smart raincoat which is ready to respond to one of the icy showers forecast by waterproofing itself on contact with water and/or puffing up when the temperature drops below a certain level. Your disabled friend is walking with you in their exoskeleton. To add to your experience DOC has sensors along the track at points of interest that respond to your personal data stored in the cloud and send you commentary on your phone or ear bud on flora/fauna and local history depending on your interest in those topics. Or you could upgrade to augmented reality glasses and experience what the bush would have been like 200 years ago. If you want conversation, the DOC drones (of the flying or walking kind) that fly/walk alongside you can give you the commentary or if you want a greater feeling of independence  it stays 200m behind you ready to come to your assistance should you need it. Your medical condition information chip embedded in your arm sends you (and the cloud) constant info on your physiological changes so that when you trip over your own feet and break your leg, your medical chip informs the tracking drone you need assistance and it alerts emergency services that an evacuation is required. The walking drone runs up and picks you up takes you to the closest evacuation zone where an automated vehicle picks you up and takes you to hospital where robots do a diagnosis based on your data and administer treatment accordingly.

Trouble is it’s not Billy’s imagination, all this stuff is possible, it’s here right now.

How do we respond to the technological possibilities in a way that keeps outdoor recreation one of the things that betters our lives in 2030?

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