Between Facebook groups, apps, and websites (like this one), everything you need to know about your next adventure is at your fingertips. But while having some pre-trip beta is a good thing, is it possible that the massive amount of information on the Internet has killed the exploratory feeling of recreating outside, lulled us into dangerous groupthink when tackling serious objectives, and made us more willing to pare down our packs?

The Latest Conditions

Seemingly not a day went by this winter without someone inquiring on social media or in a group chat about ski conditions at a particular backcountry spot. Although it’s great that people are crowdsourcing local conditions and submitting detailed personal observations via the Mount Washington Avalanche Center, using the Internet as a shortcut for finding your next powder stash can come at a cost. For example, on a macro level, the broadcasting of spectacular pow conditions on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter is undoubtedly contributing to overcrowding: Too many people skiing the same limited terrain isn’t fun (or sustainable) and it diminishes the sense of adventure that users are seeking in the backcountry in the first place.

Meanwhile, on a more individual level, relying solely on Internet-sourced information inhibits the development of our own personal mountain sense. With conditions changing day to day, hour to hour, and minute to minute, that chute you saw somebody skiing on Instagram a few days ago might be in a very different condition by the time you’re about to drop in. Moreover, there’s no replacement for a personal understanding of how weather patterns and micro-features influence conditions on the terrain where you recreate. So, while Internet information is great for helping you dial in your route planning, don’t forget to use your head too.

On-Demand Directions

Today’s phones are powerful tools, and navigation-focused apps like Gaia, Trailforks, and AllTrails have supercharged them for outdoor adventure. On more than one occasion, having a location pinpointed on the map has led to a big sigh of relief—especially when getting turned around in big, high-consequence terrain like the Whites, Greens, or Adirondacks is an invitation for trouble.

But how fun is a mountain bike ride or hike when you’re pausing at every single trail junction to pull out your phone to determine your precise location? Sometimes it’s fun to give the screen a break and just let it flow. The most memorable days often involve exploring a mystery trail—like the one in your local trail system that’s not on the map—only to discover excellent new-to-you terrain.

Better Beta

The over-reliance on Internet beta extends to rock climbers, too. When racking up, it’s great (and safe) to know what you’re in for. For example, that trad route with a beginner-friendly 5.5 grade in the guide book or route app isn’t all that great for new climbers if it’s X-rated. It’s also great to know about any hazards on the route—like a beehive or a missing bolt—which is information usually available in online comments.

However, you don’t have to be a staunch traditionalist to wonder if having move-for-move beta or a detailed map of what gear to place and where is unsporting. Yet much of this info is available on the Internet. Even worse is watching YouTube to suss out the crux beta of a sport climb or boulder problem rather than getting on the rock and figuring it out for yourself.


The precise, location-specific weather forecasts available on the Internet are awesome. They let us know the general weather parameters to expect and help us dial in our kits for today’s hike or this weekend’s backpacking trip.

But don’t let the forecasted beautiful conditions lull you into leaving critical gear—like your raincoat and puffy—at home. Forecasters aren’t perfect and the weather in the Northeast’s mountains is fickle, even on the nicest days. Likewise, accidents do happen and it’s always a good idea to have some gear in reserve in case you end up spending much more time outside than you originally expected.


Is there a way that over-reliance on the Internet has impacted your outdoor recreation? Tell us in the comments.