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Engineering Adventure: The Best Outdoor Hobbies for Techies and Tinkerers

Outdoor adventurers aren’t the only ones who enjoy recreation. Technology users — from software developers to online educators — can also fall in love with the great outdoors.

Technology can provide an extra layer of fun and enjoyment to many outdoor hobbies. There are many different ways to incorporate technology into the outdoor experience, no matter what you’re interested in. Popular technology-infused outdoor activities include flying drones, watching storms, and playing GPS-enabled AR games.

1. Geocaching

Geocaching is a common outdoor activity that appeals to both tech and outdoor enthusiasts. Using GPS coordinates, explorers try to find items that are hidden or buried outdoors. Common geocaching apps include Cachly and GeoCaches. You can also use apps like Geocache Placer to start your own geocaching program.

Make sure you have a GPS-enabled device to search for hidden caches. Most people use their smartphones for navigation. You might also need a specific geocaching app that contains clues on where you can find the treasure.

Many outdoor enthusiasts love geocaching because it introduces them to new places. It encourages adventure off the beaten path and into lesser-traveled places. Tech hobbyists also enjoy geocaching for its reliance on mobile GPS and app technology. The activity combines outdoor adventure and modern technology in a uniquely engaging way.

2. Playing GPS-Based AR Games

GPS is also important for another common outdoor activity: augmented reality (AR) games. AR games, typically found in a mobile app, allow you to interact with virtual items or objectives while navigating the real world. Your phone relies on GPS technology to track your location and show you digital content invisible to the naked eye.

GPS-based AR games often encourage you to explore new places. For example, an AR app might hide a virtual item in a specific physical location. To retrieve that item, you will need to travel to a new location and perform a specific action. Many AR applications also allow you to interact with other players in the real world. Common applications include Pokémon Go and Ingress.

Tech enthusiasts enjoy AR games for the seamless blend of virtual and actual realities. The games represent a major step forward in design, AR rendering, and live mapping. Outdoor lovers often play AR games because they provide incentives for visiting certain landmarks. They might also help you meet new people, particularly when navigating parks, downtown districts, or historical sites.

3. Using Nature Observation Apps

Nature observation technology allows you to see, hear, and interact with your surroundings in new ways. An app might provide more information about a particular plant or animal species you find. It might also allow you to share observations with other nature enthusiasts in the area.

Each nature observation program has its own specialty, depending on the time of wildlife you want information on. For example, iNaturalist provides general context on all sorts of nature observations. Merlin Bird ID offers more specific data on birds and their calls or songs.

Outdoor enthusiasts immerse themselves in nature observation apps to learn even more about the world around them. They can also help guide your hike if you’re looking to find certain species. The same apps give tech enthusiasts a new appreciation for the outdoors. They can also appreciate the use of image recognition algorithms and assistive technology that can sometimes work offline.

4. Flying Drones

Drones are small, unmanned aircraft that provide unique aerial views. Some drones allow you to capture high-resolution video footage. Others might capture still images that might be useful in business.

You’ll need the right supplies before you can fly a drone. Your drone will come with a remote control, which makes it easier to control the aircraft once it’s in the air. Many remote controls send a live video feed to your phone, allowing you to monitor the drone even if you can’t see it. You’ll also need spare batteries, particularly if you want to fly your drone for hours at a time.

It’s also important to study recreational regulations before flying any drone.

Many tech enthusiasts enjoy drones for their cutting-edge technology. Outdoor adventures will use drones to explore new places and see the same nature from a new angle.

5. Enjoying Photography

Drones aren’t the only way to capture nature. Many tech and recreation enthusiasts also participate in nature photography. Whether you’re using a telephoto lens or a disposable camera, outdoor photography allows you to document all of your outdoor adventures.

At the very least, you’ll need a camera and the right lens to photograph the outdoors. Many photographers also use accessories like tripods, filters, and additional lighting to capture the perfect moment. You may also want to use editing software to further enhance pictures.

Outdoor enthusiasts love nature photography because it immortalizes the moment. It can also serve as a way to tell a story or express your creative vision. Tech enthusiasts often participate in outdoor photography because of the technology involved. Between 360-degree cameras, stabilizers, and post-processing programs, it’s easy to get lost in the technology that improves your photos.

6. Smart Gardening

Smart gardening combines technology and traditional farming to create healthy plants. It requires technology like temperature sensors, water quality readers, and smartphone apps. Smart gardening combines the pure joys of gardening with a level of convenience that only technology can offer.

Consider smart irrigation systems, sensors, or lighting that keep conditions optimal for your plants. You might also consider a gardening app like Planta or Leafsnap that provides timely information and reminders.

Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy smart gardening for its upgraded take on age-old farming practices. Tech lovers might participate in smart gardening to learn more about how IoT devices can influence gardening accuracy.

7. Storm Watching

Many outdoor enthusiasts have a particular passion for storm watching. Some watch from a distance, observing the way storms form and play out. Others safely pursue storms, getting close enough to watch storms in person.

It’s important to have the right tools and safety gear for storm-watching. Use tracking apps like AccuWeather and Weather Underground to better understand weather patterns near you. Use waterproof clothing, goggles, and close-toed footwear if you get close enough to the storm to feel its effects.

Make sure you have the right engine type if you’re off-roading to watch storms. For example, a Cummins 4BT engine — popular in off-road vehicles like Jeep Wranglers — improves horsepower and provides low-RPM torque for uneven terrain.

8. Participating in Citizen Science Projects

Citizen science projects allow the public to participate in ongoing research. Many public and federal organizations, including the National Park Service, give community members a role in supporting scientific projects of all sizes.

Many citizen science projects are easy to participate in. They typically require little scientific experience and include any necessary training. Depending on your location, citizen science projects might include wildlife monitoring, climate research, or passive observation.

Technology enthusiasts enjoy participating in citizen science projects for access to new digital tools. You might use new apps, sensors, or other research devices to collect information. Outdoor enthusiasts can achieve an even deeper love for nature through citizen science. These projects also invite local citizens to actively participate in outdoor preservation.

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