Off-road and Online with Mobile Apps and Devices

How a San Francisco Bay Area outdoor expert uses new tech on his treks.

By on July 31, 2014

As the owner and Chief Fun Officer of Outdoor Adventures Club, Richard Bothwell has made outdoor recreation his passion for nearly two decades. During 3,000 days of guiding trips around the globe, he has scaled some of the world’s most challenging peaks, including Kilimanjaro, Denali, Elbrus and Aconcagua.  

Since 1996, Bothwell has been teaching explorers and climbers of all levels how to improve their outdoor adventure skills. The basics of what he teaches have stayed the same over time, but his resources and delivery have changed greatly, thanks to advancements in technology.

In the past, outdoor adventurers carried a large satellite phone, heavy cameras, a bulky GPS device and Polaroid pictures of trails and ski runs to use as guides. Now, with feature-packed smartphones complete with navigation tools like VZ Navigator, as well as smart accessories that can enhance a device’s capabilities, Bothwell and others carry lighter backpacks with more tools.

Before heading out on any trip, Bothwell loads up on key apps like BackCountry Navigator, an outdoor navigation tool for off and online topographic maps and aerial imagery, and MotionX-GPS, a GPS app that keeps records of newfound trails and paths for future reference. As a guide, tools like these not only give Bothwell more confidence when leading trips, but also help him keep his group safe.

“I had to call in a helicopter rescue once while on a guide training expedition, when one of the instructors had a trip-ending injury,” said Bothwell. “I was able to use my phone to reach outside help quickly, and my GPS to give the helicopter our exact location. The rescue went smoothly and everything ended well.”

For Bothwell and his students, capturing the moment on expeditions is a huge part of the experience. High-quality action cameras like the GoPro HERO3+ attach to his helmet and act as a third eye as he scales mountains or hits the slopes. He can take the hours of digitally recorded video and photos and create compilations highlighting the most thrilling segments. Check out the GoPro film he compiled from a recent Outdoor Adventure Club helicopter snowboard trip in Alaska.

From seasoned outdoorsmen to adventure novices, mobile devices and accessories add safety and fun to any excursion. Which off-road technology do you find most valuable? Tell us on Twitter at @VerizonNews or @VZWheidi.

Tags: apps, GoPro, outdoors, technology, mobile