Backpacking Electronics and Gadgets | Average Hiker
Subject of Debate
Backpacking with Electronics and Gadgets in the Back Country and Wilderness is often a topic of debate among hikers. Don't we backpack to get away from the “noise of society” I'm often asked. Isn't it difficult to charge and keep electronics dry? Aren't they a hassle?
All of these are valid questions.
I try and keep electronics to a minimum, but each thing I carry has a purpose. One day I can hike as a Cyborg, and having everything “built-in!” No tent, bag – just constant hiking.
I'll review what I carry and the reasons for carrying them. In some cases I would probably not carry them, but they provide those at home some peace of mind, although recently home base has begun harassing me while I hike.
In some instances electronics make the “logistics” of hiking easier – motel reservations, pizza orders from roads, shuttles to town (although I mostly hitch hike), weather forecasts, etc.
Finally, I also really enjoy keeping a blog. I'm getting older now, and remembering those days on the trail is getting tougher. Going to back to a narrative with pictures always makes me smile on the lags between trails.
The Backpacking Electronics and Gadgets I Use
Below is a list of electronics I carry. I don't always carry them all at the same time, and it varies depending on the hike.
A good example is a solar charger. I carried it on the Pacific Crest Trail, and when I climbed Kilimanjaro, because there was plenty of sunshine. I ended up sending it home on the Continental Divide Trail, and would not use it on the Appalachian Trail, or other east coast trails, due to all of the foliage and the limited time above treeline – that whole “Long Green Tunnel” thing.
- Anker 20,000 mAh – Battery
- Iphone – Phone
- Garmin InReach – Satellite Communicator
- Power Traveller – Solar Charger
- Sony RX100 – Camera
Why I Backpack with the Electronics I Carry
Anker 20,000 mAh
This battery is heavy @ 16 ounces, and I hesitated on the purchase. A pound is a lot of weight to add to my pack, but I've not looked back since making the purchase!
Not constantly worrying about trying to conserve power, and “searching” for outlets is a relief. I was beginning to feel like I was hiking the trail half the time, and looking for power the other half. I like things easy.
The battery takes about 6 hours to fully charge, so thankfully I only have to do that about every 10-15 days depending on usage. I'm usually in town overnight in that time frame, so it's not a big deal.
I use it to charge my phone, and InReach Satellite communicator if needed.
My only TIP is that if it is really cold, I sleep with the Anker battery and phone. It helps conserve the battery, and I don't notice them in the bag or under the quilt.
There are very few places I don't have a signal at some point each day, so I send my blog and photos to my family. I also use the phone to google town information and make reservations. Having the phone makes it easy to stay in touch, and plan logistically.
As for making calls, I don't use the “phone” unless I'm in town. If there is some reason I need to communicate with home or work, I will typically text or email.
The Iphone does not have the best battery life, so when hiking I put it on “Airplane Mode” in settings, so I can continue taking pictures. On the occasions I don't have it on Airplane Mode, I set the battery on “Low Power Mode,” also in settings. This helps conserve the charge. If I do these things, I can usually go a couple of days without needing to charge the phone.
I've had my Iphone a little over two years, and while I still use my camera on section hikes, it is mostly the Iphone that I use on long distance hikes. It takes great pictures, and the application I use to compress them on the phone makes it very easy to insert them in my blog.
I blog via WordPress, which is the platform for my website averagehiker.com. WordPress also has an application for the phone which makes it easy to maintain the blog remotely.
The mini is really MINI, as you can see in my picture above. On my scale it weighs 3.7 ounces, although it's marketed at 3.5 ounces. I've no doubt my scale has a “margin of error.” The mini is no hassle to carry at all, if you don't count the fact that I ALWAYS forget to turn it off at night. If you turn it if off consistently, and track less frequently (I track once an hour), the charge will last between most town stops.
At some point I'll post a review of the Garmin InReach Mini, but until I do check out this good review. This review does a nice job of summarizing the key features without going on and on for 15 pages, which would be easy to do with this device.
The Garmin InReach provides peace of mind for my family, and allows them to track my progress (harass me). I set it to track every hour, and the application has some great maps, so viewers can follow along. It also allows me to text via my phone, which is a nice feature. The only disadvantage is the monitoring of my mileage. I frequently get either “Good Pace,” or “Pick it Up!” messages at night when I stop.
I bought a small ULA shoulder pouch that attaches to the strap of my pack. The pouch holds my Iphone and the InReach, and allows the InReach to get a sufficient satellite signal. The devices are in easy reach, for quick pictures, and the pouch is waterproof.
I've tried a lot of different solar chargers over the years, and the Power Traveller was the last one I used. When I wrapped up my Kilimanjaro Climb, I gave it to my guide. He needed it more than me.
This was the best of all the chargers I've used. It weighed 18 ounces and was easy to attach to my pack while I hiked. I also liked that it charged when it was cloudy, and it fully charged my phone at the end of each day.
If I were to use a solar charger again, I would probably get this dependable charger. Since I have a larger battery pack though, I probably won't use another solar charger anytime in the near future unless I plan on being back country for a long period of time. I've ALWAYS wanted to live off the grid!
This little camera takes awesome pictures, but it is expensive. The camera is also a little fragile so I don't take it on long distance hikes. I love to have it with me on day and section hikes! The weight is nice, at only 9 ounces, and it uses batteries, which I like. Batteries last a long time, and one small back up battery is usually all I have to carry.
Other than being a little too fragile, I have to be careful with moisture. I can absolutely NOT use it in wet conditions, and even heavy condensation will cause issues. Because of this I don't use it in very cold weather, and when hiking overnight I make sure it is sealed up well at night.
How I Store My Backpacking Electronics & Gadgets
The method I use to carry and store my backpacking electronics and gadgets is very sophisticated, as you can see above. The Ziploc bag, much like duct tape and dental floss, is a critical piece of my gear. I've used it to store my electronics when backpacking for about 30 years, and I have yet to have any moisture issues, or find a better storage sack.
Final Thoughts on Backpacking Electronics and Gadgets
I carry less electronics than some and more than others. My battery is a little on the heavier side, but I like the freedom it provides. For me, not having to constantly search for outlets is worth the extra ounces. If I want to stay out on the trail longer, without worrying about power, this is also possible. Sometimes I also like to pass through towns, resupply, and keep moving. This charger gives me that choice.