The Off ButtonTHE OFF BUTTON ON MY PHONE

There’s nothing quite like changing your voicemail greeting: Sorry, I’ll be paddling out of cellphone range for the next week. Unavailable. Then you hold down the button and watch the digital world go dark. Unplugged.

I love that feeling. So why is everyone making it so hard to leave my phone behind? First it was waterproof cases, then in-phone cameras good enough to replace the real thing. Next came waterproof VHF handsets like Cobra’s Marine HH500 that link via Bluetooth to your smartphone, so you can make voice-activated calls even when your phone is stowed. No service? Just pair a two-way satellite device like DeLorme’s inReach Explorer to your smartphone and you’ll be sending and receiving texts, even updating your Facebook/Twitter feeds, from anywhere. And, to my dismay, one of the coolest new products unveiled at the annual Outdoor Retailer show was an app. An app! Well, an app connected to a pocket-sized antenna using long-range radio waves to text and share location with other goTenna wielding paddling partners in range (a maximum of 50 miles depending largely on topography and elevation; more like 3-5 miles from the seat of your boat). No need for channels or cell coverage or satellite service plans, though, which helps your dispersed crew find the same camp at the end of the day, or, in any grid-crashed zombie apocalypse scenario. Just hope your phone battery doesn’t die. — Dave Shively

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