Technology in the Field

Let’s face it.  There are 2 kinds of outdoors people.  Those who use tools as tools as intended (to gain the benefits of those tools), and those who poo poo on others for not using the “Right” tools, or for using tools they don’t know how to use themselves.    I’m not a fan of tent camping for example, I love to camp, and I throw up a simple tarp to keep the rain off if needed, but that’s not for everyone.  I might rib a friend for using a tent, but it’s all in fun.  Tents are fine and they do keep the bugs off.  So to each his own and if you prefer a tent or an RV or whatever, more power to you. I’m happy you’re out there enjoying yourself.  Whatever gets you out there in the woods is a good thing!

Technology is one of those things that bring out the butthurt in some people.  Personally, I see technology as simply another tool.  If you have it, great, if not, no big deal.  Just like any piece of gear or kit, if it fails, can you get by without it?  (Snap the blade off your knife batoning wood with it and you’ll get the picture).  If the answer is yes, then you’re fine.  If the answer is no, then you may need to work on the skill sets a bit more.

In this day and age, there are tools (GPS for example) that can replace or supplement an older piece of kit.  Sometimes this is good, GPS is a great tool for tracking your hikes, marking locations, finding out exactly how far your hike has taken you, planning the next leg of your hike, etc, etc.   Yes, this can be accomplished with a map and a compass (albeit quite a bit more slowly), and if you can use both you are better off yet.  But just as a compass can be lost or damaged, so can a GPS or the batteries can go dead.   Same with a phones or radio. It’s much harder to call for help using a hatchet than with a phone.  Particularly if you are injured.

Technology can be incredibly useful in the field.  No matter how much I learn, I don’t know and can’t know everything, or even a fraction of whats available  (if someone believes they do then don’t follow them into the woods, they may just get you killed)!  Having resources available at my disposal to supplement my skills and knowledge can be invaluable.   A simple cell phone can contain, encyclopedias of data, pictures, videos etc that you could not possibly memorize in a lifetime.    I love having the ability to look something up I don’t know (A new plant for example) while I’m out in the woods, rather than have to take pictures and wait till I’m back at home to research it.  Also, I hate dragging several books with me to research plants or birds etc in the field, so much weight, and there is no difference between the info on the phone vs the info in a book.  One is just far more convenient to transport than the paper variety.

So just as any tool in your kit, learn to use it and learn to use it effectively!   Don’t turn a tool into a crutch.  Just because you have that much information at your fingertips does not mean you should not be learning it.  I like to try new things, but the best way to learn is to do, so I may download something to the phone, take it in the woods and learn by doing.  Best way to keep the skill in my head.   Then if I ever need to refresh or go back and review the info, it’s still there.  And if I don’t ever need to go back to look at it, its only bits, don’t weight a thing.

This brings us to the #1 enemy of technology in the field.  Power.   Without power, technology becomes extra weight.  I tend to take storage batteries with me in the field.  These are high density, low weight/size to power ratio devices that can recharge my phone or GPS several times over.  In fact my two current power supplies can power my phone, my GPS, my Tablet and my camera for about 5 days of typical use or 3 days of heavy use.  I don’t want to carry much more weight, so rather than carry additional heavy battery packs, I have added solar charging to my kit.  I use the solar charger to recharge the 2 battery packs as I alternate them.  One is with me to keep my gear hot, while the other charges.  Then I swap them the next day.    I have enough power to hold out for a couple of days with no sun between the two units which is never a problem.

The solar charger I ended up with is the Goal Zero Nomad 13.  I choose this panel because it fit several criteria.  It produced a high enough voltage to charge my high voltage  IPAD or other tablets, as well as my Duracell Jump starter for my vehicle.    It also has multiple connection points to include a 12v socket so I can use a multi-car charger to charge several low voltage devices like phones and my AA/AAA rechargeable batteries for flashlights and GPS.    I am immensely impressed with the Nomad 13.  It folds down to roughly the size of an inch thick piece of 8 ½ x 11 paper.  It weighs very little and can strap on the outside of a backpack as you hike to charge devices as you go and you won’t notice it at all.      The performance is out of this world.  Even if it’s overcast and barely any light is making it through (Even with total thin cloud cover), it produces enough voltage to charge my low voltage devices like my phone.  I’ve managed to get power at times I figured there was not enough sunlight at all.   In full sunlight, it will fully charge my phone in 2 hours.  The folding design makes it easy to place where it can get an optimal amount of sunlight without you having to move it every 30 minutes.    I highly recommend the Goal Zero Nomad 13.   I’ve used the little 6 inch folding chargers and for a device this size and weight, it hands down blows them away.

Charger in action on a scouts phone.

Charger in action on a scouts phone.

So get out there, enjoy your outdoor experience, and if you need a little boost to keep your gear going, look into solar.  You really can’t go wrong with this.

About Docwatmo

Just an average guy reviewing equipment for the average guy (or gal). View all posts by Docwatmo

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