Originally published February 1, 2010.
Ah, cell phones. Twenty years ago they were only for the very wealthy — and the very strong…did you see the size of those things? Now, however, they are tiny, multi-functional lifelines that most of us couldn’t imagine living without. They are also the solo female traveler’s best friend.
Back when I took my road trip, I had a cell phone. It was a cute little silver flip phone from Motorola, not the top of the line, but certainly sleek enough for the day. That phone came in very handy while I was out on my own. One day, when I was headed back east on Rte 40 in New Mexico, I blew out a rear tire. I avoided the speeding 18-wheelers, pulled over to the side of the road, and pulled out my phone, praying I would have a bar or two. I did! I called AAA, they showed up and changed my tire, and I was on my way once again. I was never so thankful to have the phone, because it was a nearly 10 mile walk to the next exit.
This brings us to Rule Number 8 (8! Can you believe it?)
Don’t Forget Your Cell Phone.
When out on your own, having a (working, charged) phone with you decreases the risks you face. It’s a lifeline to the rest of the world. This is true even while hiking and camping. Remember my friends A and B? One of them let his phone lose the charge and the other didn’t bother bringing hers, and so they found themselves out in the woods in the dark, sort of lost, with no mode of communication available. (Sorry to keep referring to that story, guys, but it’s such a great real life example!)
Now, this rule comes with one big caveat: Just because you bring your phone doesn’t mean you should neglect your other precautions.
Unfortunately, this is a common way of dealing with technology — we become so dependent on it that we lose the ability to function without it. I rely heavily on my car’s GPS and so it takes me longer to learn how to get places without it. I rely on my phone to find people now…we’ll pick a time to meet and a general place and then call each other to triangulate once there, which means that, if the phone dies or you leave it behind, you might be out of luck. It’s always a good idea to have a back-up (often luddite) solution if your techno-tastic precautions fail.
The truth is, there isn’t always great cell reception in the wilderness. You’re less likely to have reception the farther out you go, and this means the phone could end up being useless as a rescue device. Does that mean you shouldn’t bother bringing it? No, because that’s not always the case, and if you’re hiking closer to city limits on day hikes, you’re more likely to be able to get some service — and, if you do need help, you can more easily describe your problem than by just sending up a flare.
Besides, if you have a phone that’s the size of the one Zack is using in the photo above, you’ll get an extra workout as well.
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© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.