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Electronics on the AT

Hi, folks

I'm new to the list, so this subject may have been discussed ad infinitum
in previous weeks, but I would value your input on the subject anyway.

As many of you know, I see most of the northbound thru-hikers each year at
the Center here in Hot Springs. This year was the first year that
electronics have been a major part of the discussion among these hikers,
and it certainly won't be the last.

Some hikers were highly offended at the mere presence of such devices
(laptops, cellular phones, beepers, etc.) and wished them banned from the
woods. Others were enthralled by the new possibilities that they offer.
Most were somewhere in between.

I've heard stories of cellular phones waking people at 11:30 at night in a
shelter so that someone could call in a stock transaction. I've also heard
stories of how these devices were used effectively in emergencies. Like
everything, there seems to be both positive and negative benefits. Same
seems to go for laptops, video cameras, and the other gizmos.

As Handbook author, it's not my place to tell people what to bring or not
to bring on their hikes. I'm very much a "hike your own hike" person.
However, a few guidelines (suggested guidelines) might be in order to
ensure that everyone is able to get from the woods what they seek from the
woods. In a sense, a suggested woods netiquette type of thing.

I would greatly value your comments on what such suggested guidelines  
be, if at all, and your thoughts in general about the positive and
negative effects electronics can have on the AT hiking experience. This
seems like the perfect group to ask, since most of you are seasoned AT
hikers and fairly computer literate (present company excepted, but I'm
learning fast and enjoying it).

Thanks for you consideration of this subject and your comments. Have a
good Labor Day weekend. Hope you're out hiking somewhere.