Humans have lost much of our relationships with nature as we’ve evolved over generations. Our fast-paced lives often lack the special bond with natural life that allowed us to reach where we are today as a species. Still, some of us continue to feel the instinctual yearning to return to the forests, fields, and beaches. There, we rekindle our relationship with the outdoors and refind a part of ourselves that we often forget that we’ve lost.
Outdoor enthusiasts will frequently try to reduce the technology they take into nature, and with good reason. In most cases, you’re there to remove yourself from the stresses of a technologically advanced world. Even in these cases, bringing a phone or a portable Bluetooth speaker with you on outdoor adventures is not uncommon. After all, music is universally used to relax and unwind.
Taking speakers with you on your outdoor adventures is especially rewarding when you’re grouped with friends and partaking in shared memories that can last you a lifetime. But there are some important considerations when listening to music in nature.
In this article, we’ll help guide you through some ethical considerations of playing music outdoors, particularly in the wild, so that you can strike a balance between thoughtful behavior and enjoyment.
Familiarize Yourself With The Rules
These aren’t the types of rules that are made to be broken. Instead, they are a vital regulation ensuring wildlife’s safety and neighbors’ experience. Regulations may prevent music use, require you to retain a respectable volume level, or only permit music during certain hours.
If you’re booking a private camping site or regulated area, these rules may differ from those applicable to the broader area. Make sure you understand both the campsite rules and the park rules. Keep reading to understand more of the potential regulations and limits that may be imposed in national parks and similar wilderness areas.
Consider Your Impact On Local Wildlife
When taking a reasonable and mature approach, it’s easy to see that our behavior in the wilderness can negatively impact the local wildlife. Playing music loudly is almost certain to disturb and potentially stress local wildlife. This doesn’t mean that music played in every outdoor area is at risk of harming wildlife, and this is primarily related to camping or trekking through the remote wilderness where there is otherwise limited influence from humans on the animals’ lives. Thankfully, there are ways to minimize this impact:
- Use moderate volume levels when out in the wild
- When using loud volume, limit it to short periods
- Avoid playing loud music in areas with rare and protected species
- Avoid playing loud music during migration and breeding periods
It may seem like a lot to consider, but by giving thought to these topics, you not only help preserve local wildlife but ensure that you don’t find yourself on the receiving end of a fine. Common sense can go a long way in ensuring an enjoyable environment where you can still have fun in the great outdoors without harming the natural residents.
A fascinating caveat to this discussion is that it’s not so much the music that negatively impacts the animals but the type of music and how loud it’s played. A study published in 2021 mapped the response of various animals to various sounds, ranging from natural ambient sounds to classical and even heavy metal music. The study showed that there were even positive effects to some of these audio stimuli.
Be Respectful of Nearby Campers or Hikers
Always show consideration to those around you, particularly in shared camping areas where others also want to escape the city’s noise. Spend a little time trying to understand the types of people camping around you, as in many cases; they may be the individuals needing this guide. Communicating with them and asking if they mind music being played can go a long way in establishing a conflict-free experience.
The same considerations should be given to hikers during day trips. It is typically considered polite to turn down the volume of your music in nature if others are passing by. And if you don’t happen to see them until it’s too late, a quick apology can ease the tension.
Ultimately, not considering your surroundings and neighbors can lead to formal complaints and a rapid degradation in the quality of your trip.
Take Note Of The Time
Playing music is typically better during the day, especially if you want to crank up the volume. At night, both animals and people tend to be easier to disturb. While you usually won’t have to turn off the music entirely, lowering the volume level as the night progresses is wise.
Many national parks and private camping areas will have specific ordinances when you can play music. Before arriving, check to see what limits are set for your area.
Limit The Lighting
For many, camping can already pose challenges to their ability to fall asleep. It’s a good idea to turn off your LED effects as it gets later into the night if you’re near other campers. Many modern Bluetooth speakers have powerful LED lights that are great when used indoors or at home but can become a nuisance to those looking to sleep while pulsating flashes of light beam through their opaque camp materials.
Speaker Directionality Makes a Difference
Specific speaker designs encourage a wide sound dispersion, ideal for group listening and party environments. Still, they can also become a burden when used on a campsite or out in the wild, as you cannot control where the sound is going. Even with a narrower dispersion, it helps to take note of your speaker placement and the direction in which the speaker drivers are pointing. By ensuring that the audio is directed toward the listener, you can reduce the noise that nearby campers and local wildlife may experience.
Monitor Your Volume Levels
Volume can be like speed, where, over time, you become desensitized to the volume you’re at. Slowly increasing the volume levels over a longer period can cause you to lose track of just how loud the music is. Take occasional breaks and walk a short distance from the speaker to gauge how loud it is in your surroundings. What sounds like a subtle beat after a while could be much louder than you anticipated. Don’t feel stressed by the need to check your volume constantly, but now and again, try and change your position to the speaker so you can get an idea of how it sounds to others.
Permits & Permissions
Requiring permits or specific permission to play music isn’t something most casual campers and outdoor lovers should be concerned about. These are usually only required for organized outdoor events such as concerts. Still, it’s worth double-checking the regulations of your intended outdoor area to ensure that you don’t require some form of permit to play music in nature.
In the end, this guide is intended as a suggestion. How you listen to music is your responsibility. Still, I hope this article has provided insight into some of the less often considered aspects of outdoor music listening. It’s possible to make the most of your time in nature while still being respectful to both those around you and the wildlife whose territory you are in.