As both an Eagle Scout and a hopeless technology fanatic, I have a certain appreciation for utilizing tech to generate free time, and then using that free time to get as far away from tech as possible. I’m a firm believer that time outside of the office (and away from other humans) is vital on a number of levels. For one, it resets your mind and enables it to truly wander. Some of my brightest ideas, for example, have come six miles into a grueling hike with sweat pouring from my brow.
That said, I’m also a believer in practicing restraint, and I’ve found that bringing technology along for camping excursions can greatly enhance the experience, if used properly. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at what gadgetry is great enough to warrant inclusion in your next adventure.
Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Solar Panel
If you’re carrying gadgets, you need a way to power them. In the wilderness, no power source is more easily accessible than the sun. The Nomad 7 Plus is rugged, water resistant and will charge your phone, camera, tablet, headlamp and other small devices via USB. It’s compact (when folded, about the size of a paperback book) and when unfolded, it can be propped up on a built-in kickstand or tied to your backpack for charging on the go. An LED indicator lets you know how much sun it’s getting, so finding the optimal angle is nearly effortless.
Goal Zero Venture 30 Recharger
Portable batteries are another line of defense against dead electronics. Plug your device into one of the Ventura 30’s two USB ports and, depending on the device, you’ll have full power in an hour or two, plus enough juice left over for several more charges (about five charges for most handheld devices). When the Ventura 30’s battery runs dry, simply plug it into the Nomad 7 solar panel (above), give it about nine hours of sun, and it’ll spring back to life.
Garmin Montana 680t GPS Navigator
Google Maps can only take you so far. Total navigational mastery calls for a more powerful GPS device like the Garmin Montana 680t. It comes pre-loaded with more than 100,000 topographical maps of US wildernesses and a one-year subscription to an advanced satellite imagery service called BirdsEye, which makes it easy to find things like concealed trailheads and unmarked campsite clearings. Once you’re off the trail, mount the Montana on your car, boat or ATV for continued navigation.
Garmin Fenix 3 HR Watch
If you escape to the outdoors to be active, consider the Garmin Fenix 3 HR. It has standard smartwatch features like text and email notifications, but its GPS tracking and fitness metrics are what make it truly stand out. It measures the height, length and pace of runners’ strides, and how long feet make contact with the ground versus how long they remain in the air; it monitors heartbeat through the wrist; and, through complex algorithms, it determines oxygen levels. Switch it into GPS mode to set start and finish points for your run, or just start running — it’ll keep track of where you go, and then guide you back when it’s time to go home.
SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Portable UV Purifier
Even the clearest, most isolated streams can harbor microscopic evils. But dip the SteriPEN into a large-mouth water bottle, press a button, stir it around for about 90 seconds, and more than 99.9 percent of microorganisms will be zapped to oblivion. It won’t filter out larger chunks of matter like sand or silt, however, so if the water looks dirty, be sure to filter out the big stuff first.
iPhone 6s Plus
Not only is the iPhone 6s Plus equipped with the most outstanding camera on any smartphone to date, it also packs a larger-than-average battery and a screen large enough to get some work done in a pinch. We suggest downloading a few great hiking apps and protecting your phone with a rugged, waterproof case (like the Lifeproof FRE) before heading out.
Lifeproof FRE iPhone 6s Plus Case
Out in the wild, our phones can take a beating. Lifeproof’s FRE Case protects your iPhone from sand, dirt, snow and icy wind, can be submerged in water for up to an hour, and can withstand a six-foot drop. It’s like an all-weather hiking boot for your phone.
Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot
“Use it, don’t abuse it,” applies here. While it may be tempting to fully rejoin the world of the connected while you’re on the trail, I’d recommend having a hotspot in tow for trail enhancement only. For example, reaching a peak where you’ve enough signal to load up the latest local forecast is useful in planning for upcoming weather, and it’s never a bad idea to send the occasional message or email to friends back home informing them of your safety and present whereabouts. If you’re packing a hotspot, make sure it’s from Verizon. VZW has the best coverage in the most remote places. It won’t always snag a signal, but it’ll find service where the other carriers flat out won’t.
Spot Gen 3 Satellite Messenger
For those venturing deep into the wilderness and far from the grid, consider a Spot beacon. It’s elegant and compact, and it enables you to send a distress signal (or a call for help in non-life-threatening scenarios) with a single tap. You can also set it up to track your trip and send back periodic updates to family back home, giving another set of eyes the ability to see if you’re on course or you’ve stopped moving.
Using a special radio frequency, Beartooth connects to other Beartooth users in places where not even the tiniest flicker of cell reception can be found — ideal for groups of campers who need to stay in touch when splitting up. Send voice messages, compose texts, access offline topographic maps, even monitor the location of all your buddies. It’s a souped-up walkie-talkie for the smartphone generation.
BioLite Wood Burning CampStove
Unless you’re aiming to survive solely on filtered stream water and Kind bars, you might want to carry a way to cook and boil water. And if you’re taking a stove, it might as well recharge your phone. BioLite‘s 3-pound CampStove is a compact cooker that utilizes small twigs to generate heat, and while it’s cooking your dinner, it also converts that heat into energy for USB charging.
BigAgnes Copper Spur UL mtnGLO Tent
Step into the Copper Spur mtnGLO, press a button, and a long strip of LED lights will illuminate everything in the tent. The lights are stitched into the tent’s seams, so you won’t have to worry about putting them up or taking them down. Set the lights high to find a missing headlamp, or turn them down halfway for some late-night sharing of the camp whiskey.
Additional contribution by Michael Finn.