Helmet Head

viral sensation: Billy Brown captures worthwhile video on his helmet cam… do you? Photo courtesy of Doug Schnitzspahn

The proliferation of helmet-cam videos on YouTube made us want to ask: Do you have to record absolutely everything you do? TechTrekBlog.com whiz kid Billy Brown does and he thinks it’s awesome. EO editor Doug Schnitzspahn harkens back to a time when we just did stuff and didn’t have to brag online. Our readers were likewise split with 50 percent saying put it to video and 50 percent urging to keep it to yourself.

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In the last six months, I’ve walked on cliff edges, crossed the Colorado River on a packraft, jumped off of 30-foot waterfalls and climbed an ice wall on Spencer Glacier. And all of my thousand-plus Facebook friends came along with me. Between the excellent quality and user-friendliness of POV cameras, my iPhone camera and my Instagram app’s dead-simple publishing, I can post updates from most adventures on Twitter and Facebook with one hand while the other swirls my Steripen.

Fact is, you never know when something amazing/terrible/hilarious is going to happen. I’ve recorded a handhold breaking off during an unprotected traverse along a 200-foot cliff and even caught my kayaking accident (where I was dragged upside down over a rocky riverbed) in the first-person, thanks to my handy helmet cam.

This summer, I managed to post a handful of photos of grizzly bears that were fifteen feet away from where I was sitting. Within minutes, the photo was inundated with comments, “likes” and “Run, you idiot!” posts. More often than not, these photos and videos spark up discussions on where I am, how I got there (and how to get back alive). My readers love keeping tabs on what I’m doing, and I’ve been told repeatedly that seeing travel photos pop up on the computer screen adds a bit of excitement to the average cubicle-dweller’s day.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to spend my trip with my eyes down and thumbs clicking away. If posting images online interrupts what I’m doing or takes me  and my trail mates out of the moment I’ll wait until later to post the photo. The same goes for times when the magic of a pristine sunset or the ecstatic double rainbow (What does it MEAN?) would be tainted be the glow of an LED screen—the phone stays in the pocket.” There are plenty of opportunities for sharing an adventure, so when a moment comes along that seems custom-made just for me, I make it a point to keep it all for myself. And besides a recent lapse in which I took a photo of the speedometer of a car that I was reviewing (while I was driving), I do my best to err on the side of discretion.

Besides those (not so) rare exceptions, I’m content with taking all of my social friends and followers along for the ride. They seem pretty happy with it too.

Billy Brown runs the gear and technology blog TrekTechBlog and is a contributor to Wired and Men’s Journal.

keep it a secret

Look, I think helmet cams are awesome. I mean, without them we would never have been in the driver’s seat for incredible stuff like a longboarder being taken out by deer (bit.ly/PBWbuo), half-naked women hula hooping at Burning Man
(bit.ly/RVItWd) and Billy Brown himself watching a friend almost slip in a no-fall zone in the Grand Canyon (bit.ly/JRomTj). Film production companies like TGR (see page 11) are using high-end helmet cams to better film the action. Getting in on those experiences is exactly why the Internet was invented. And of course, when you go on the type of adventures Billy Brown goes on, your job is to put your audience right there.

Here’s the thing. You are not a TGR skier. You are not even Billy Brown. No one cares about the singletrack you rode last night. Showing it off is as painful as the old family vacation home movies. Have a bit of respect. Keep it to yourself.

One of the most badass things I ever saw on a ski hill was a dude launch an 80-footer at Mount Baker, land in a crater and nonchalantly skate over to the lift line. All of us in line were stunned. He just nodded his snow-caked dreds along to the tunes on his headphones. When some wiseass in line asked, “How was that?” He took his ear buds out for a second, shrugged and replied, “Try it.” He could have cared less about YouTube.

Saving your exploits on YouTube will not make you live in eternal glory. However, if it’s awesome, we will watch it. So make it worthwhile if you post it. Or how about living in your own personal awesome and not having to prove anything to anyone?

Reader Response from the Web

Because in the world of anonymous online comments everyone has a say.

“I take my helmet cam everywhere I go. That way I can share everything I do with people who otherwise can’t.. They get a feel for what it’s like to ski off a cliff or surf in Costa Rica or even just ride singletrack with my dog. What’s wrong with that?”


Doug Schnitzspahn will never get a job offer from GoPro. Maybe not even a free GoPro 3 sample.

Get ready for our next question, dear readers: hot tub etiqutte—classy or crass? Let us know and butt heads at ElevationOutdoors.com

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