079: Electronics on the Trail

Show Notes: Episode 079

Today on the First 40 Miles, many of us go hiking and backpacking so we can unplug, but what if you can’t? When it comes to electronics—we’re literally surrounded. Then on today’s Top 5 List, you’ll learn to look for the signs that mean it’s time to get outside. Then, on the SUMMIT Gear Review, a pillow that will perfectly cradle your cranium. On today’s Backpack Hack of the Week, what three words are the best response when you hear an SOS call? And, we’ll wrap up the show with a little trail wisdom from our good friend Woody Hesselbarth.


  • Many of us go out into nature to “get away from it all”
  • Another term we use is “unplug”
  • Yet we are increasingly surrounded by electronics
  • What other electronics have you seen on the trail?
  • The one that is a must is your flashlight
  • goTenna: an off grid way to communicate using your phone
  • Steripen: An electronic water purification thing
  • Tents with lights built in, like Big Agnes mtnGLO
  • ThermaCell Rechargeable Heated Insoles—they even have a remote control, they can be recharged using a battery pack or a solar charger (some can even be turned on with the Bluetooth on your phone)
  • Should we completely unplug? What electronics belong on the trail?
  • Is the technology we’re using distracting from or enhancing our outdoor experience?

Top 5 Signs it’s Time to Get Outside

That sloggy feeling

  • If your weekly recharge includes Red Bull and YouTube, it’s time to get outside
  • How do you know if you’re “outside deprived?”
  • Too much cloudy brain, not enough clouds and rain
  • Too much computer screens, not enough mountain streams
  • Too much Netflix, not enough dirt and sticks
  • Nature has such an incredible effect on creativity, productivity, human relationships and personal growth

It’s a season change!

  • A season change means new life!
  • There is no “backpacking season”
  • However, typically around the end of May/beginning of June, you’ll see the snow melt and mud dry up at some of the places you’ve been researching

It hasn’t been too long since your last trip

  • Getting outside before you feel that cooped up feeling is like doing preventive maintenance on your car. If you can smell oil burning, there’s a good chance your engine is in rough shape.

You have a place you’ve been dying to see/go/experience

  • If you don’t have a place that you can’t wait to get out to, then here’s your homework:
  • Go to Google, and type in “hiking trails near me”
  • Google knows where you live (it also knows that you had ice cream for breakfast) so it can tell you where the local hikes are. It’s a starting point!

Time opens up (or you dump your responsibilities)

  • This is the rarest event of all—especially if you have children
  • When we were first dating, there were a couple of times where the Seattle sky cleared up, the sun came out and we were like “Let’s ditch everything and get outside”
  • Actually a really hard thing for boring, responsible people to do. To just call in to work or to ditch school, but you won’t regret it.
  • As we’ve gotten older, we can’t just take off without a fair bit of planning, but we have gotten out with the family and have taken advantage of some perfect days.

SUMMIT Gear Review™: Klymit Pillow X


  • 30D Polyester Top / 75D Polyester Bottom
  • Not flocked, so it does feel cold when you lay your face on it—and depending on the time of year, you may love this or not!
  • This is a lightweight pillow


  • The Pillow X has a self-centering design, so your head stays in the center of the pillow. There’s a big X.
  • All camping pillows work best with a hooded sleeping bag—it keeps them from slipping!
  • If you’ve ever tried to use a pillow while backpacking, you know, they slide around and you spend much of the night trying to get your pillow back, so being able to nestle it in the hood of your sleeping bag is pretty convenient.
  • It can be inflated with 2-3 breaths.
  • Even though it’s not flocked, it’s a very quiet pillow.


  • Weighs roughly 2 ounces
  • Inflated size: 15x11x4
  • Packs down to 5″ x 2.5″ x 1″


  • Comes with a stuff sack.
  • Clean outside with mild detergent and warm water, then air dry completely before putting away.


  • $30
  • Limited lifetime warranty


  • It’s great for back sleepers.
  • I’m a side sleeper, so when my head went to the middle of the pillow, the sides of the pillow were in my face. I discovered that side sleepers can still use the pillow, but it works best if you sleep on the edge of the pillow, not the middle.
  • As all camping pillows, this slides around, there are a few things you can try:
    1. While at home, just inflate the pillow, and put some Seam Grip around the parts of the pillow that touch the surface (so not on the very edges) Let it dry completely! That will help a little.
    2. Zip up your fleece and put it on your sleeping pad (with the zipper in the back), then slide your pillow inside
    3. Or, there’s the Monkey Pillowcase for pillows to keep them from slipping, and to make them soft against your face: https://www.etsy.com/shop/HikeBikeDale?ref=l2-shopheader-name
  • The Monkey Pillow: WEIGHS around 1.8 oz and measures L (19) x W (13) inches

Backpack Hack of the Week™: SOS Return Call

Say you’re out in the woods and you hear the classic SOS distress signal

  • SOS return call…3 short three long three short whistle blows
  • Best response to SOS is: “Are you ok?”
  • Might not be a great idea to run blindly into the woods in search of them
  • Cowlitz County SAR helped with this week’s Backpack Hack of the Week

Trail Wisdom

“The ultimate compliment paid to a trail crew is to say, ‘It doesn’t look like you had to do much work to get through here.’ Avoid the Bulldozer Bob look. Make your trail ‘just happen.’”

-Woody Hesselbarth