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  1. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    I couldn't agree more. "Constant WiFi" about says it all. I think there's a direct correlation to higher phone usage and declining backpacking numbers.
    basic idiom of statistics: correlation does not equal causation

  2. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    I doubt smartphone use is the cause of an outlier number in the general trend. If smartphones were causing a decline in hiking, then please explain the success of Guthook.
    please do not try to confuse made up minds with facts

  3. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hikingjim View Post
    I think the current younger generation will not generate as many hikers going forward either; as a teacher, at least up here, I am seeing so many less people engaged in anything that doesn't have constant wifi and phone usage, but this may be my skewed view.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hikingjim View Post
    I only thing long-distance hiking numbers will generally decline over time because more people of all ages, but especially young, are joining the "everything must be quick and connected" MO. Also, youth outdoor programs and general interest in hiking is way down for youth in my area.
    I still concur with Hikingjim's assessment---less backpacking due to the desire for---in his words--- "constant wifi and phone usage."

    It rings true for me where I backpack in the mountains of TN/NC/VA/Georgia---with the overall trend of seeing less backpackers year by year---which I attribute to the modern desire to stay "connected" at all costs.

  4. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    But we didn't have smartphones in the 1980s or 1990s or even into the 2000s---its widespread use (and addiction) is a very recent phenom.
    The "smartphone" made its US market appearance in 1992, though the term smartphone didn't come into common use until the mid-90s. Since portable phones have come into play they are one of the modern boogeymen that are blamed for many social ills from distracted driving to the inability to recall information given the "Google effect" of the collective brain. Considering the success of backpack and related gear manufacturers, it is difficult to say there has been a drop off of backpackers overall.

    There are other factors likely at play, perhaps in concert, that may make it appear backpackers are becoming scarce. Competing recreational opportunities that were not as widespread or available decades ago like biking, ATV/motorized activities, kayaking, climbing, and other activities requiring technical equipment that has recently appeared. The proliferation of "Where to Hike" books all over the US that opens up trail options for a huge number of people that are not part of well traveled trail systems.

    Of course economics plays a part in this. While the economy is "booming" for those who can participate in the Stockmarket, wage growth has not moved much and a lot of people are working 2 - 3 jobs to keep things together. Time passes more quickly than we realize, Gen Xer's and Millennial's who we have seen in solid numbers over the past decades are having children and are into career paths that reduce the amount of time spent in recreational pursuit, especially with respect to long distance trails.

    Myself, I don't believe there has been much of a decline in the backpacking community. The ATC provides information showing nearly twice the numbers of backpackers on the AT compared with the previous decade. Now I don't discount competing interests perhaps reducing the total time people may backpack during a given year, but the digital environment that seems to have the woes of humankind laid at its feet has proved its value as a hiking/backpacking resource. As 4EB points out, Guthooks success demonstrates a robust community exists. Using the internet as a resource is much easier today than 35 years ago to find new trails in new places to pursue, luring people to various corners of the US which will can create the illusion the backpacking community is thinning out. I suggest the opposite may be true.

  5. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Traveler View Post

    Myself, I don't believe there has been much of a decline in the backpacking community. The ATC provides information showing nearly twice the numbers of backpackers on the AT compared with the previous decade. Now I don't discount competing interests perhaps reducing the total time people may backpack during a given year, but the digital environment that seems to have the woes of humankind laid at its feet has proved its value as a hiking/backpacking resource. As 4EB points out, Guthooks success demonstrates a robust community exists. Using the internet as a resource is much easier today than 35 years ago to find new trails in new places to pursue, luring people to various corners of the US which will can create the illusion the backpacking community is thinning out. I suggest the opposite may be true.
    Well said, and I agree. I don't have hard numbers to back this up, but I'm fairly certain the BP community keeps growing at least out west, though thankfully, it's damn big out here, one can still get completely lost if one avoids the popular trails.

    But every time I do hike a popular trail, it seems more and more "crowded", which is a relative term, because nowhere out here have I seen crowds like on the AT.

    It's fun to talk about, and it is curious, but the little dip we see in the 2019 AT numbers means nothing. Could just be a statistical glitch, though I still think the WITW and Wild craze had a lot to do with the numbers increases in recent years, and the subsequent gradual fading thereof.

    And speaking of internet usage, Caltopo, for example, is absolutely amazing to peruse and find new places to hike. I'm addicted to Caltopo. And no matter how obscure some trails are, someone out there has probably hiked it and posted a GPX track to load into Caltopo and check out.

    Despite the "crowds" here and there, we live in a Golden Era for backpacking.

  6. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    ...But every time I do hike a popular trail, it seems more and more "crowded", which is a relative term, because nowhere out here have I seen crowds like on the AT...
    I think the most crowded areas of the AT are obviously the southern end of the AT in thru-hiker season and almost anywhere in The Whites on a nice summer weekend. There are other spots like McAfee Knob, Dragons Tooth, etc that get a lot of traffic as well. But in terms of sheer crowds on the AT (which includes day-hikers) I've never seen more hikers in one place at one time than on the Franconia Loop. I passed hundreds - many, many hundreds - all within a couple of miles of trail just between Falling Waters and The Bridle Path one day. But, even though I had to share the space, it was still a nice hike.
    ...Despite the "crowds" here and there, we live in a Golden Era for backpacking.
    Yeah, I agree. And I don't see technology as having ruined backpacking/hiking, rather, it's made it more accessible to more people. That we might be a bit selfish about sharing a space that belongs to everyone is more a reflection on us, not those other hikers. One of toughest things about hiking the AT years ago was the logistics and lack of information. We've gone from using the local club's guides to the original rather limited "Data Book" to multiple choices of trail guides showing where to resupply, eat, shower, shuttle, stay, etc. Guthook and smartphones are just the evolution of that hard copy. The trail often wasn't blazed well either. Finding the trail at road crossings and intersections was a challenge many times. The corridor wasn't protected and parts were on private land. Road walks were common. And then there's the revolution in tech that changed gear. What started with some Aluminum and Nylon has evolved into gear that's lighter weight than we could dream about only a few decades ago. Yeah, things are different, but they're just fine.

  7. #47
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    You can get an internet connection almost everywhere on the AT now, at least with Verizon. Hikers get wifi access every 2-3 days when they're in town. Access to the internet is not a factor. You guys are really reaching for ways to crap on young people. As a % of the population, far more people are thru-hiking major trails now than in previous decades. This notion that phones are causing people to hike less is complete nonsense. The exact opposite has happened.

    As for the OP's question, I doubt there's a reason. Sometimes trends change without a cause.
    Last edited by JoshMcR; 01-11-2020 at 14:32.

  8. #48

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    The number of people trying to do a thru hike might be down from it's peak, but hiking in general is still very popular. You really have to go out of your way to find a quiet spot in the Whites these days.

    I suspect section hiking has picked up in popularity too. A 2 to 4 week trip is a lot easier to pull off then a 4-6 month hike.


    As for cell phones, posting a picture from a scenic vista on social media has become a popular thing to do. So is GPS tracking your hike. Take a look at the All trails web site. I meet people all the time who say they found the trail we happen to be on via All trails and using their phone for the map.


    I blame that trend for the increase in numbers on White Mountain trails. Finding a parking spot at even remote trail heads is not a given any more.
    Last edited by Slo-go'en; 01-11-2020 at 14:25.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  9. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    The number of people trying to do a thru hike might be down from it's peak, but hiking in general is still very popular. You really have to go out of your way to find a quiet spot in the Whites these days.
    I suspect section hiking has picked up in popularity too. A 2 to 4 week trip is a lot easier to pull off then a 4-6 month hike.
    As for cell phones, posting a picture from a scenic vista on social media has become a popular thing to do. So is GPS tracking your hike. Take a look at the All trails web site. I meet people all the time who say they found the trail we happen to be on via All trails and using their phone for the map.
    I blame that trend for the increase in numbers on White Mountain trails. Finding a parking spot at even remote trail heads is not a given any more.
    This is true. People have access to find the best trail, best views, very easily, and to get there affordably.
    My dad hiked a lot in the 60s and 70s. He grew up on the west coast, and when he moved east and started the long trail at the Canadian border, he gave up after a few days with the complaint that there are "no vistas", "too much trees", compared to where he was used to in California and Colorado. If he had all the information at his fingertips that we do now, he probably would have headed to Mansfield, then to the whites, etc, and skip sections that weren't what he was looking for.

  10. #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    ...we live in a Golden Era for backpacking.

    ..........

  11. #51

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    or there hasnt been a very popular hiking book out lately................such as "Wild" or "A Walk In The Woods"
    True,but there's a proliferation of hiking vids for every trail on Earth available on YouTube.So here's my take on the current decline-Age Demograpics.

    If the Baby Boomer generation birth dates range from 1946-1964 as I have read,then if we choose 1955 as the birth year of the Average Boomer,that Boomer would be 65 years old now.This hits close to home for me as as I turn 68 this year and I hardly know or can find anyone my age interested in hiking or still fit and healthy enough to do it if they were so inclined.Most of the people I hike with or see out there anywhere are younger then I am.

    Meanwhile,if the average Boomer's kids are in the Generation Y group of 1977-1995,they just might be busy raising children and maintaining a two income family to meet financial demands.So maybe they don't have time to think about it right now but at some point they may and if their children do then maybe we could anticipate a sharp increase in participation at some point in the future as these people come of age.

    Then again,maybe now that people are tuning in to YT and following other's thru hikes and weekend adventures they may be living vicariously and not all that interested in ever doing a thru hike.Some of us,self included,who like to make a few trips to the trail per year have no interest in a many month day in and day out trudge.Everybody winds up hiking their own hike and what is great for one might not be so great for others.
    Last edited by Five Tango; 01-12-2020 at 08:39.

  12. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by Five Tango View Post
    I turn 68 this year and I hardly know or can find anyone my age interested in hiking or still fit and healthy enough to do it
    over 55 backpackers is a busy facebook group - you do not show your location, but if you are in a metropolitan area search hiking meetup groups - or form your own

  13. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Five Tango View Post
    I turn 68 this year and I hardly know or can find anyone my age interested in hiking or still fit and healthy enough to do it
    over 55 backpackers is a busy facebook group - you do not show your location, but if you are in a metropolitan area search hiking meetup groups - or form your own
    Yep. 73 here. I do my training religiously, building up my miles,my climbing, my pack weight -- then -- hernia surgery. Several months off, have to start all over. Build back up -- took a fall -- now a bunch of tears in the shoulder. Seems like everytime I get close enough to the confidence I need to get back on the trail, some medical malady or other that wouldn't have got me in my younger years jumps up to bite me in the butt!

  14. #54

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traveler View Post
    ..Myself, I don't believe there has been much of a decline in the backpacking community.
    The ATC stats Josh linked to only detail thru hikers. Did everyone look at what was linked to before posting? Seems not. The AT hiking community includes more than professing thru hikers. We shouldn't overgeneralize "the hiking community." Isn't there already too much emphasis on thru hiking the AT. Perhaps, nationally and the AT hiking community more inclusively hiking numbers are up but it's harder to impossible to amass accurate stats when one includes day and section hikers. As Mags has said more people are doing done in a day affairs. So, the perspectives here on interpreting hiking numbers being on the decrease are highly skewed and biased.

    People, you're contributing to the very thing that some of you've complained about - too much emphasis on thru hiking the AT, negative affects of the NOBO bubble, catering to thru hikers over other AT hikers, AT thru- hiker "I'm a God" 'Holding court" mentalities.

  15. #55
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    Default Thru Hiker Numbers down for 2019?

    DW...you got a good point, but this particular thread is about thru-hikers. That's the title of the thread.

  16. #56

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    I still concur with Hikingjim's assessment---less backpacking due to the desire for---in his words--- "constant wifi and phone usage."
    It rings true for me where I backpack in the mountains of TN/NC/VA/Georgia---with the overall trend of seeing less backpackers year by year---which I attribute to the modern desire to stay "connected" at all costs.
    I third this. It's obvious when 300 + are atop Mt Marcy, a place that can only be reached via hiking or...maybe helicopter or quad, on a gorgeous Oct day, with hawks flying around and flocks of waterfowl and fall color when 200+ are limiting their disconnected focus to a 3x5 screen attempting to get connected(what a disconnected to Nature joke) like a scene from The Walking Dead with connectivity Zombies bumping into each other and the non Zombie 100. Some rudely walked through where I was attempting to eat lunch off to the side stepping on my food never acknowledging what they had did ....because they probably weren't aware what they did or didn't care because they were utterly self absorbed. They walked right through the circle of some asking the young female Docent about Nature and High Peaks questions knocking down two people and Zombie staggering off almost ensuing in fist fights. That is not to say tech is bad but the way electronic tech does change human behavior has the potential to and does disrupt others in a self absorbed very limited focus negative manner.

    Society does not come down on the affects of electronic addiction as strongly as some other substance and behavioral addictions because it fits economically into the basic fabric of most societies. It's more disconnection from Nature, and in some respects disconnection to each other, in support of a stronger connection to the flow of money. This will only increase resulting in less Nature. It's resulting in changes to the AT too. We see the opposing connections at work in societies and how dramatic "the economy" can and is prioritized over a connection with Nature. U.S. and European culture are great influencers of global culture.

  17. #57

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    Quote Originally Posted by jefals View Post
    DW...you got a good point, but this particular thread is about thru-hikers. That's the title of the thread.
    Fine. Then lets be consistent in what we call the backpacking community by specifically saying the 'AT thru hiking community' so we don't lose that focus.

  18. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    basic idiom of statistics: correlation does not equal causation
    It's an axiom, not an idiom. Since we're being pedantic. Plus, he specifically said correlation.

  19. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paleolith54 View Post
    It's an axiom, not an idiom. Since we're being pedantic. Plus, he specifically said correlation.
    and implied that phone usage lead to less backpacking - obviously (or should be) my point is the emotional statements, backed up by poorly used statistics, are lacking anything resembling facts

  20. #60

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paleolith54 View Post
    It's an axiom, not an idiom. Since we're being pedantic. Plus, he specifically said correlation.
    Regardless, this is still ^^.

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