I’ve always carried a camera and a GPS, but this year I decided to carry a more sophisticated suite of gadgets on my hike. I carried three items: a Sony RX100 III, a Fitbit, and an iPhone 6+. To keep them all charged I carried the Grape Solar GS-GoCharger-10 Monocrystalline Folding Panel with USB Port and the orange and black battery that they sell with it. Everything worked like a charm.
The small Sony point-and-shoot was light, versatile, took good photos, and saved them in a RAW file format. It wasn’t as good as the Nikon D800 I carried the last time, but it was about seven pounds lighter. (The camera and case were under a pound.) One of the best reasons for carrying a light camera is that you can hang the case from your sternum strap, making it instantly available when something neat happens.
My Fitbit weighs practically nothing and did a super job of counting my steps. It was also surprisingly accurate as a measure of distance traveled and elevation gained. More to come on that in a future blog post.
I don’t think I’ll ever hike again without my iPhone 6+. The app I used most often was Gaia. This mapping and navigation software was fabulous. I downloaded the necessary maps and entered my route PRIOR to departing on the trail, which meant that I could keep the phone on “airplane” mode while walking. To check my location was simply a matter of turning on the phone and opening the app. Once open, and even in airplane mode, it automatically displayed my position right on the map. During the first seventy miles of the hike, while I was on terrain that was a little unfamiliar, I made it a habit to always check Gaia about three or four minutes after each trail intersection. On two occasions I was glad I did: I had carelessly walked in the wrong direction.
The iPhone was also great as an alternate camera, an e-reader in my tent in the evening, and an alarm clock. Oh, and it also worked as a phone when I had signal, which was infrequently.
My charging regimen was too easy: two hours of direct sun exposure (during lunch and at breaks) was all that was needed to recharge the small battery I carried. With a full battery I could re-charge my iPhone and camera on alternate nights. There WERE a couple eccentricities that I had to figure out on my own.
1. The battery would NOT charge my Fitbit. I have no idea why, but the battery would simply “turn off” a few seconds after inserting the Fitbit cord. Perhaps the small device drew too little power to keep it on? I was able to find a work-around: about ten minutes charging from the panel itself kept the Fitbit fully charged.
2. The battery would not charge my iPhone unless the phone was ON when I plugged it in. (You didn’t have to keep the phone on, you just had to have it on initially.) Otherwise, if the phone was off, the battery would do the same thing as it did with the Fitbit: charge for about ten seconds and then stop. It took me a couple of days to figure this out. Moral of the story: make sure you know how these things work BEFORE you head out on the trail.
There are those who eschew electronics on the trail, and I encourage them to go as Spartan as they like. Hike-your-own-hike, and all that. For me, my three gadgets were well worth the extra weight (my base weight was about 26 pounds) and trouble.
Good hiking, Ray