Electronics on the trail topics
1) Camera - Although cameras used to be mechanical they aren't any more. Typically they use either one time alkaline or Lithium or rechargeable batteries of various technologies. For the camera that I own, it's 4 AA batteries. I use alkaline, although I could use rechargeable AA's. I probably should do that. So for the trail, I carry 4 extra AA alkaline batteries. Some people use their smartphones. The cameras in those phones used to be vastly inferior to "regular" cameras, but as time has marched on, the quality of the smartphone cameras have improved dramatically. They have matched or exceeded the resolution, but in most cases, still lag the features to some degree. At the same time the dedicated cameras have become better and smaller. I prefer a dedicated camera, but others may not. The downside of using a smart phone is that if your phone quits on you, then there's no backup, whereas if your dedicated camera quits on you, then you can always use your smartphone camera feature as a backup. Some of you are saying, "sure, sure, my phone never runs out of power", well it happened to me, and my camera ran out of juice too, just minutes before the cell phone quit.
2) Communications - It's not uncommon for cell phone coverage to be very poor in most wilderness areas. Service providers see little benefit in providing coverage for bears and mountain lions. However some wilderness areas are close enough to towns or cities to where the mountain is the high spot in the area, so you get some wilderness coverage for free. Anyway, there ARE places where you can't get cell coverage especially in canyons. Ridges and summits often provide some coverage, but for canyons, it's really hit or miss. So, for many people who want reliable communications anywhere, it's worth considering getting an Irridium satellite text phone. There can be a delay of minutes to hours, in getting your message send and the reply received. But for a small cost you can get coverage almost anywhere with rare exceptions, and you can do month to month service fees too! The service providers say that there is absolutely 100% coverage. Although I don't have any information to say that is incorrect, I wonder about slot canyons with really steep walls. In any event, these irridium satphones will get much better coverage than cell phones. Depending on the model, I believe that these are AA batteries, so keeping a couple extra AAs makes sense. You can use your cell phone as a back up. Cell phone is a rechargeable. Bring the cable and either a portable recharger, or a portable solar panel, and remember if you forget the cable, you're out of luck.
3) Lighting - This is really important to the backpacker. In the evening, when you want to do something that requires being able to see, you need light. If you are night hiking, it's critically important for your safety. If you are just reading directions on a stove, or something else, it's important. Some people believe that when bears see a light source, they go the other way. Don't know if that's true. Because of importance of having light when you need it, I also recommend taking a headlamp and a backup either flashlight or headlamp in case of failure of one or the other. My headlamp requires two AAA's and my flashlight requires a single AA. Bring spares.
4) Navigation - GPS of course, with a mechanical magnetic compass as a backup, plus either a paper map and/or a digital map image on your cell phone. If you are using a cell phone GPS receiver, then you need a phone recharger or a solar panel and don't forget the cable. If you have a dedicated GPS unit, it will either take an akaline (bring spares) or it will be rechargeable - don't forget the cable. Also don't forget to map out the waypoints with a GPS fix before the backpacking trip, to help you keep from getting lost.
5) Remote power recharging - for rechargeables, such as cell phones, etc., you can either bring along a phone recharger (just another battery with regulated output), or you can bring along a solar cell and USB cable. This works out pretty well. .
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Last Update: May 4, 2015
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