Much too often, we are asked if there is cellular signal while in the backcountry, whether on a Grand Canyon backpacking tour, Yosemite hiking trip or in the Superstition Wilderness. And this isn’t from our younger guests that have never lived life without cell phones, tablets, Facebook, Instagram, and the like. This is from the generation that lived a few decades before the brick phone. Remember, there was a time not too long ago that you could only get a call from a phone attached to a wall and there was no instant messaging. Believe it or not, we all survived an era that was practically medievel. And, if you were a teenager during that time, you probably were thankful that your parents couldn’t be involved in your every move. We were also less stressed, had better mental health and had what we used to call “me” time. People were venturing out in the backcountry without phones, emergency communicators, etc. and they lived to tell the story.
People always ask the same question, “what number can I provide my family as an emergency contact while I am in the backcountry?” Uh, 911? While a lot of our guests are first-time backpackers and we love showing the green horns how enjoyable temporary primitive living can be, one thing people have a hard time understanding is that backcountry procedures are very different from frontcountry, mainly that you are no longer a phone call, text, tweet or poke away from instant communication. There are no cell phone towers in the wilderness, folks – and yes, Yosemite and Grand Canyon, while popular and busy, are the wilderness. Yes, you may get some spotty covereage depending upon your phone carrier, but it is best to never assume you will have means of communication – not to mention a way to charge these devices.
But this doesn’t mean there are not some means to communicate with the civilized world in the case of an emergency. There are several satellite communication devices that allow you to communicate with the civilized world. But until you get one, disconnnect and enjoy the wilderness, nature and the quality time you are spending with friends, family and loved ones – unplugged.