Now that the smart phones are becoming really good, you can shed some serious weight from your back pack. The mobile phone now packs a GPS, Compass and good hiking/trail apps. You can download maps, nature books/guides. You name it. In this blog we talk about that but also about all the other smaller things we take with us on a trail. Like an umbrella?
Phone, Camera & Gadgets
So instead of carrying a heavy photo camera with lenses, a separate GPS (like Garmin), books etc., you now only need 1 device. Which is lite too. We only take a regular camera with lenses on a field trip or a weekend / photo hike. On long distance hikes, were weight really matters, we only take our smartphone and a GoPro. In our case an Iphone 6 - 64gig and a Hero 3+ black edition.
Battery live actually sucks with a smartphone. And we found out that an Iphone 6 is like a little princess that needs constant feeding. In the outdoors, with gps on, even in airplane mode, the battery is drained within a day, maybe a day and a half. So when there is enough sun (summer, desert regions), we carry a solar panel from Suntactics. The S-Charger 5. A really good lightweight and sturdy panel. It also charges the GoPro video camera and the e-reader, headlamp and steripen (water treatment)..
When the weather is bad or we go to a region where we might not get that much sun (forests, winter, rainy places), we use a battery pack / recharger from the brand GoalZero. It’s named Flip 10. We charge it at ressuply stops along the way.
Photo and Video.
The Iphone is only for photo's. For all our video we use a GoPro in 50 fps on 1080p.
We don’t carry books anymore. Just dead weight. We download regular (story) books to the Sony e-reader. Sometimes we do not even take the e-reader with us. We found out that on long hikes, we hike from sunrise to sunset. Eat and fall asleep... We hardly ever use it so it becomes dead weight. We have tried to read books from the phone, but for us that didn't feel like easy reading. A lot of the other books we normaly use on a trip, like field guides (looking up plants, fungi, tracks, trees, geology etc.), are often available as apps on the smartphone. The offline versions (needed when you have no reception) can be big when you download them the first time. That is one of the reasons why we have a phone with more storage capacity.
On Hikes, when we are on a trail, we only use the smartphone for that. There are many good apps around whith which you can download offline mapps. They have all the waypoints, tracks and a whole lot more in them. Be sure that you buy apps that have the option to store tracks, maps and images offline on your phone . Those apps are also really cheap compared to a regular gps With a regular GPS, paying for the off line use of detailed maps can be really expensive. We DO use a Garmin e-track gps from time to time when we go off the beaten track. But only use it as a last resort. When we are away from a track in some wilderness, we always rely on a physical map and compass.
A whole lot of maps can be downloaded (sometimes for free) in pdf form. So you can store them on your smartphone. There are also great apps around that will do the same plus give you gps tracks etc. (see section GPS). When available, we always download the digital versions of the maps. But only use them as a last resort or to use the zoom function of the phone to get closer to details.
However, we NEVER hike on digital maps alone. We ALWAYS have a physical map and a real compass and are well trained and experianced in using them. Even on regular well maintained and signposted (long distance) trails, we always have those with us.
Here is all the other (small) stuff we always take with us on a hike.
Small lightweight bandana to be used for towel and lots of other stuff
Rain cover for backpack
Luxury item: small piece of light weight foam sleeping mattress to sit on (no wet butt).
Waterproof bag for sleeping bag: 13 liter Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Dry Bag
1 liter Ziplocks: keeps your clothing dry (no dry bag needed, cheap and easy to replace)
Waterproof bag for food: 20 liter Ortlieb ultra-light weight dry bag. This brand is a bit heavier but a lot sturdier than the ultrasil. You can drop them on rocks, walk through shrubs etc. Our food bag hangs on the outside under our backpack. In bear country this bag is strong enough to be pulled into a tree. It's also water tight and odor proof.
Water sterilizer: Steripen Ultra. We like this better than pumps with filters that you have to back flush from time to time. Like the Sawyers. Filters also take away the dirt. We are picky in choosing water sources. If we have no choice and the water is dirty, we pre-filter it through our bandana's. As a backup we have chlorine tablets in the first aid kit.
1 Ursack against rodents or bears. Since these are not really waterproof, we use a separate dry bag around it. If not allowed in a specif area (like a national park), than instead of the Ursack we use a Titanium / Carbon ‘bear proof food container’ from the brand ‘Wild ideas’. The container is called Bearikade: Expedition
1 set (2) ultra-light Sea to Summit 1 meter alloy buckle traps for strapping the food bag with the Ursack or ‘bear proof food container’ under the backpack.
Trekking poles: Fizan Ultralite Compact. These are the most lightweight 3 section poles available on the market. They are made of aluminum and we have already hiked 3500 miles with 1 pair and they are still doing great. The tips need to be replaced after 1000 miles or so. But that is normal with hiking poles. Use as a replacement the ones from Leki or Black Diamond, they last much longer. The poles are also a lot cheaper compared to Gossamer, Leki, Black diamond etc. Just 65 euros. The best value to price ratio.
15 meter Dyneema 6 mm rope. For hanging food bag on a branch, etc. when we are in bear country.
1 Silva map compass
2 ultra-light LED headlamps from the brand Black Diamond.
1 personal locator beacon (ACR ResQlink PLB). We use this rather than a Spot or an Inreach. It's a small, strong and powerfull device with only 1 option: Alert Search and Rescue. You buy the device and pay a small yearly registration fee. In some countries it's free. You cannot text with it, but when we are in the outdoors, we don't want to. Plus we don't want to pay the monthy fee that you have to do with the Spot and Inreach.
Hiking umbrella’s (Euroschirm). Never leave home without one. In summer time or in desert regions, it shelters us from the heat. It’s like having your own personal cloud. Your core is always walking in the shade so you do not get overheated that easily. You do not need to carry a lot of extra water too because you are sweating less. When it rains, hiking with an umbrella is also a lot more fun. You don’t have all that water dripping over your face and you do not have to hide yourself in your hood all the time. While hiking, it feels like the rain is somewhere else, like looking through a window. So it gives a lot more hiking fun and makes a rainy hiking week not so depressing.
1 small first aid kit with some extra stuff: for blisters (compeed) a real strong pain killer (for emergency only: asked the doctor to subscribe us some), backup chlorine tablets in case the regular water treatment fails.
That’s it for now.
A really long blog this time because of requests from several followers.
See you on the trail!
Greeting from André ‘Morning Star’ and Lian ‘CookieMonster’ de Jel