iNatting / nature hikes while injured / handicapped

I’d like to start a conversation about iNatting / nature hikes / field work while injured or handicapped. I’ve seen a few mentions on the forums of people using canes or tripods due to injury, or working with others who have limited mobility/etc. So I know I’m not the only one here dealing with temporary / chronic injury while also being an active iNatter.

edit: I hope it wasn’t unclear, but this isn’t about my personal problems. Im hoping it can be a starting point for talking about what is an often-neglected section of the community. Please share your own stories, and if you don’t have any of your own, remember that acknowledging someone else’s struggle can make as big a difference to them as providing a solution or work-around.
I’m grateful for the kind responses, in the meantime.

I’ve got an injury from my military service. I can’t go into any details, but I came out of the IDF with badly injured elbows, on both sides. I’ve mostly recovered since – though it took about a year of physical and occupational therapy – but I’m still limited in notable ways.
(I also came out of it with PTSD and a moderate anxiety disorder, but in that aspect, iNat only helps. I find going outside and immersing myself in nature to be an excellent supplement to my prescribed medications and therapy).

Lifting heavy objects is easy, since my muscles are as strong as any average twenty-two year old’s should be. That doesn’t help me, because my tendons are the problem. If I’m not paying attention I can easily (re-)injure myself. And I have, incapacitating myself for days at a time because of one mistake.

As a result, my “field kit” cannot contain anything weighing over a kilogram or so. Using a DSLR camera is completely out of the question. Even my Canon Powershot is, for me, a strain to hold at arm’s length for more than a few seconds.

At least, my hands don’t shake. Or at least not any more. I’m grateful for that. I’m sure anyone IDing my insect observations is grateful, too :)

I don’t take field notes, but it would be difficult for me to do so, as one of the specific things that makes my tendons flare up in pain is writing. I’m not sure how I’d get around that one. I use a tablet to take notes in school, and I type (which also hurts, but MUCH less).


For the camera, a good zoom can help for the - holding the camera at arm’s length.

For the field notes a tiny dictaphone?

With plants it’s amazing what one can see and successfully id from back roads and such. Especially if you aren’t the one driving. There’s also lots of interesting ecology in towns and cities that’s probably pretty accessible. I know at least one of inats top observers has mobility issues and still collects tons of high value data.

If you have a smartphone the app is pretty versatile for all non zoom stuff.


The current smartphones have awesome cameras, at least for plants. That’s generally all
I take for a camera. For note taking, I often just make a video with comments and transcribe it later (if someone knows of a trick for voice-to-text from a video’s audio track, that would be even better). That keeps the comments coordinated with the photos.

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As a birdwatcher (or birdphotoshooter) I always take my DSLR camera (with telezoom lense) to the fields.
But this summer I also start to use a smartphone with macrolens. And you know, I’ve almost forget my DSLR. Sometimes, if I don’t notice a really interesting bird (or insect) I didn’t take the camera out of the bag. It’s easy to make several hundreds photos of plants, mushrooms and insects to the phone with good quality. Especially if the phone is able to make manual focus.

Of course, it is almost impossible to make a photo of bird or ***fly, but I think it is fair price for the weight)

Also, did you try to find something for DSLR to move the weight from hands to the chest or shoulder? Something like rifle butt or cameragun?

And yes, I think the dictaphone (or app at the phone) is good choice to make notices.

Good luck!

One thing that’s been very helpful to me: instead of a field bag, I use a vendor apron (example: It doesn’t strain my shoulders, and it’s easier to access my gear.

Ditto on the voice recorder. I know there are apps that transcribe voice to text (Dragon is a top one, but there are others). There is a learning curve, and time spent training the app to your voice. I tried one many years ago & could never get it to work well, but I would hope they’ve been improved since then.


I’m with you on the difficulties of getting out when dealing with a disability! Mine limitations are different - I can walk a max of a quarter mile, with many breaks to sit. I also take a very light field kit. And (the gear that makes getting out possible) I have a cane that folds into a seat, so I can sit down whenever I need to.

I hunt out roads that are adjacent to natural areas. I support the local land conservancy that manages a number of small preserves (with parking lots and trails) near where I live. I am also thankful for the number of mountains within ~3 hours drive with roads to the top. They would never be permitted now, but they allow me to access alpine and sub-alpine habitats.

(OTOH, I am seriously annoyed by preserves with trails that meander through overgrown fields and recently cut woods for a half mile before getting to “the good stuff.”)

Instead of hiking for miles and only being interested in the rare/unusual/‘interesting’ stuff (like I used to), I focus on documenting the range of life that can be found close to the car. It’s amazing what can be found.

I’m also getting interested in the developed/natural interface - what are the first invasive plants? the native plants that hang on the longest? what insects can make a living there? not to mention the plants that survive/thrive in our gravel driveway!

“I spent the summer traveling; I got halfway across my back yard.” (Jean Louis Agassiz)


Back when I still had the leg strength to get in and out, I found that a one-person canoe was wonderful for accessing aquatic vegetation. My 10-foot kevlar canoe only weighs 18 lbs.

I hope this isn’t breaking the policy on advertising … one frustration is always, what do I do with my cane when I’m photographing/looking at something?? Especially when I’m standing on the edge of a patch of poison ivy, and it’s preparing to slide off of whatever I’ve propped it on.

I found a mug holder on Etsy that’s perfect. It attaches to my belt, and I can slide my cane handle into it. There are probably other places that offer it (catering to Renaissance Fair folks/cosplayers), but this is the one I found:
It probably wouldn’t be too hard to make one, either.


Very cool! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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I agree that there is much to be found without necessarily traveling far. And let’s not even get into the world of microscopic life!

My injury has certainly taught me some small degree of patience, despite my chafing and angsting the whole way through.


There’s a trend in some companies (e.g. Olympus from what I remember) that create cameras to make them tiny but with keeping good quality of photos.
If a person is disabled they still can make tons of observations, plants, town birds or insects that are easy to see. All depends on the person and what they’re able and wish to do.

Developing patience/acceptance and working out alternatives is certainly a process! I frequently get frustrated and sweary, even after 20 years. And then I return to the discipline of focusing on what I can do (which is a discipline, and requires practice.)

I also try to advocate for the needs of us folks with disabilities when possible (benches! lots and lots of benches!! allow the use of electric bikes on trails! build wheelchair/electric cart accessible trails!) If I had the energy, that could be a full-time occupation.


A woman who’s come on several bird walks I’ve led has some hip issues, and she carries a collapsible, portable stool with her so she can sit and rest (and bird watch) when we reach a suitable viewing area.


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