Can AI see the future? Don’t laugh — that’s far from the most ridiculous question asked of artificial intelligence this year. The emerging tech has already dominated the news cycle in 2023, heralding either our salvation or another possibility for a dystopian catastrophe — depending on who you ask.
Here at GearJunkie, we take a more measured (some might say “relaxed”) view of things. We’ve got no beef with people using AI to write pickup lines, create rap lyrics, or reimagine every pop culture franchise as a Wes Anderson film. While AI-powered image generators have resulted in a thorny conversation about intellectual property rights, especially among visual artists, the technology will only expand its influence in the coming years.
For our part, we decided to test the Midjourney image creator with our own instinctive preference: imagining the camping gear of the future! This straightforward tool requires only a brief prompt to generate original images. To create the featured image above, we wrote: “A campsite in Yosemite National Park in 2050: campsite in the foreground has electric bicycle and futuristic tent.”
If nothing else, the experiment makes one thing clear: the more things change, the more they look like spaceships.
Drone for Hiking
Editor in Chief: Adam Ruggiero
Our fearless leader Adam Ruggiero wondered what a drone for hiking might look like through the eyes of Midjourney. So we asked it to create an image based on this prompt:
“Futuristic camping gear: An autonomous ‘hiking-partner’ drone that helps alert to hazards ahead, carries bear spray, has an SOS system, carries snacks and gear, and can remove human waste.”
No doubt many campers will feel building rage at the mere idea of using a drone while enjoying nature. That being said, drones are already becoming a powerful tool among search-and-rescue groups, so this isn’t that far-fetched (though hopefully, it’s also silent).
Staff Writer: Andrew Marshall
GJ writer and ultralight hiker Andrew Marshall didn’t make a prediction: He really just wants a super-light hammock he can use for gentle sleep during his outdoor adventures.
So, we asked Midjourney to create images for “a hammock that can set up easily when camping in the desert. It has a portable, strong, light frame that can fold up and fit into a backpack.”
Midjourney neglected to mention whether the above design would be any lighter than the 5-pound Hennessy 4Season Expedition Zip that took our top spot for the best year-round hammock of 2023.
Portable Wet Bar
Editor: Sam Anderson
Apparently, when you use the word “futuristic,” AI still views that word through the lens of “Blade Runner” (much like the rest of us).
Here’s the gear wish as described by GJ editor Sam Anderson: “A fully functioning wet bar that folds down to the size of a Bluetooth speaker, like origami. It has water hookups, a sink, and an ice maker included. There’s also mood lighting, and a few stools.”
Clearly, this idea was far too imaginative for the likes of Midjourney. While it’s unlikely we’ll see anything like this at a normal campsite, our guess is that something like it already exists at Everest Base Camp.
Auto-Rickshaws of the Future
Staff Writer: Andrew McLemore
What do you get when you ask an AI to create an image of an “electric motorcycle with the comforts of a camper van?”
Evidently, you get various versions of the auto-rickshaw, the three-wheeled vehicle that transports millions of people every day in India and various other countries. While some of the above options look spiffy, they still don’t compete with this hot-pink convertible — one of the many souped-up auto-rickshaws already in existence.
Smart Camping Stove
When I asked ChatGPT to give me five ideas for camping gear that might exist in 2050, the tech showed its limitations: everything it offered pretty much exists already.
Its suggestions included solar-powered gear, self-inflating air mattresses with adjustable comfort levels, smart navigation and safety systems, and lightweight, ultradurable materials. The last one, however — “intelligent camping cookware” — sounded interesting.
Per ChatGPT: “Imagine a portable stove or cookware set that can automatically adjust temperature, monitor cooking times, and provide personalized recipe suggestions based on available ingredients. This intelligent camping cookware would simplify meal preparation while maximizing efficiency and reducing waste.”
What do you get when you plug that into Midjourney? You get the hilarious images above, some of which seem to take inspiration from the Easy-Bake Oven.
Predicting the Future
While humankind doesn’t have a great track record of predicting the future, there are some notable exceptions. Gene Roddenberry used “Star Trek” to envision technology that eventually came to fruition. In the outdoor gear world, Yvon Chouinard pioneered new tools for vertical exploration that have become the standard for modern climbing.
Now that artificial intelligence has finally arrived in the hands of consumers, it has the potential to help imagine — and maybe even create — the tools of tomorrow. Camping, like everything else, is facing big issues, including a warming planet and a growing population. It’s easy to shrug off technology as the answer. But then again, it’s hard to imagine modern American camping without the invention of the automobile.
Can AI help us overcome those obstacles by pairing human vision with robot efficiency? Only time will tell.