Outdoor Technology: Hiking Backpacking and Camping
You may not be a fan of outdoor technology. It may be due to a lack of understanding, maybe you think that it’s too complicated, or you may feel that you would just prefer to do it old-style and avoid the use of anything that requires a battery. None the less you don’t need to be a tech geek to get the full benefits using outdoor technology when it comes to backpacking and camping. In fact it can make your trip safer and more comfortable.
Using outdoor technology isn’t a replacement for some of the standard necessities of your outdoor experience. For example, you should still pack topo maps and a compass it the event something should go wrong with your $500 GPS. With good equipment there shouldn’t be an issue but you never know. Some sort of fire starter should also be packed even though your new stove has an electronic ignition. Those too can be prone to failure. Do not expect that your smart phone is going to bail you out of problems. We have seen far too many times that short battery life and lack of cell service has rendered them entirely useless.
When looking towards outdoor technology to assist you in your trips you need to consider a few things about your trip.
- How longs will your trip be?
- If you’re planning a multi-day trip you may need some sort of power back up like a solar charger or external battery storage. Fuel for your stove may also be an issue so what choices do you have other that carrying a week’s worth of fuel.
- Are you going deep into the back country?
- Depending on how deep you plan to travel you may need a GPS or something to provide satellite communication.
- Is there a risk of getting lost? (the answer to this question is almost always, YES.)
- You should always be ready for any unforeseen event that may cause you to get lost. Having a source of light at night, a way to signal for help, or even something that can help you find your way back to the trail, should be a standard essential in the gear you pack.
Outdoor technology has come a long way in the past ten years. We now have devices that can send messages to people back home via satellite, Portable hand held GPS with color contour 3D maps, camp stoves that use wood as fuel and can charge your electrical devices while you cook and portable solar chargers that can attach to your backpack and charge your devices while hiking. There is something for every hiker, camper and backpacker.
GPS and Satellite Communication
Knowing where you are going and where you are is crucial when entering the back country. Maps and a compass are the go to but the wonders of technology have given us the beauty of Global Satellite Positioning (GPS). GPS has been around for many years and the technology has advance to levels unthinkable some 10 years ago. For example the Garmin GPS MAP 66i, it hosts an abundance of features to keep you connected to the world, such as:
- Satellite communication can trigger SOS to GEOS 24/7 response team
- Supports multiple GNSS systems for reliable locating at all times
- Altimeter, barometer, and compass navigation sensors pinpoint you
- Preloaded maps provide detailed views of geography and terrain
- Cellular connectivity can access weather forecasting and geocaching
- Pairs with your mobile device for syncing data and planning trips
- Rechargeable battery can last for 200 hours in expedition mode
Advancements in outdoor technology has also brought us the SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger. This brilliant little device will deliver critical, life-saving support when you’re exploring the far-flung reaches of the globe, adventuring through remote stretches of National Forest, or embarking on nautical expeditions. This device will:
- Send S.O.S. notifies emergency services via GEOS International Emergency Response
- Tracking interval of 2.5, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes (depending on subscription)
- Help/SPOT Assist: lets personal contacts know you need non-emergency help
- Check-In/OK: sends pre-programmed text with GPS coordinates
- Custom message: send custom messages off-the-grid to personal contacts
- Near real-time online tracking for interested parties via GPS waypoints
It is a subscribing based device, meaning you need to pay a monthly fee for the services but it’s well worth the comfort of knowing you have a means of getting help no matter where you travel.
Solar Power and Power Storage
When you think of Green Power you may think of hydroelectric, wind and solar power. All three are fantastic but solar power has now gone portable. Years ago we had these amazing hand held calculators that didn’t need batteries as a result of a small solar panel on the top of the calculator. That same technology has now grown into larger portable and much more powerful panels that can charge your devices while on the trail.
Goal Zero has the Venture 30 Solar Recharging Kit which is ideal for the hiker, backpacker or camper. It’s weatherproof recharger withstands harsh conditions and can take a beating so you never have to be apprehensive about taking it into the field, and it has enough capacity to charge your phone and tablet so you can stay connected even when you’re far from home.
An alternative to packing solar panels is to pack a power storage device. Some of these devices can provide enough power to recharge you cell phone up to 7 time. The Goal Zero Sherpa 100AC Portable Power Bank may be a little too heavy to take on your backpacking trip weighing in at 2 pounds but it’s ideal for camping. The Sherpa packs a whopping 94 watt hours in a compact design. It also has:
- OLED Display provides detailed information
- Two High-Speed Power Delivery Ports for phones
- Wireless Qi enables wireless charging
- 100W AC outlet charges laptops and cameras
- Charges in as little as two hours
The Goal Zero Sherpa is also airline approved so you have less hassle when going through security at the airport.
There are also solar powered lighting systems that can be used in your camper trailer or off the grid cabin. The BIOLITE SOLARHOME 620 brings modern lighting, energy, and entertainment to transform any structure into an off-grid home. It features:
- 6W solar panel connects to 20 Wh Control Box
- 3 overhead lights, one with motion sensor
- Wall-mounted switches control hanging lights
- Control Box plays radio/MP3 & provides charge out
- 18ft daisy-chainable cables for multi-room lighting
BioLite makes a number of incredible devices for backpacking and camping including a wood burning stove that produces electricity called the Campstove 2. This little gem is a wood-powered stove that not only cooks food and boils water using sticks and twigs foraged from the forest floor, but it also turns the heat into usable electricity that powers your smartphone, headlamp, and other portable devices while you cook.
It is amazing what the brilliant minds of science and technology have come up with. So don’t be afraid of Outdoor technology, embrace it and bring more comfort into your outdoor experiences.
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