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GPS and other electronic devices – essential outdoor equipment

By on 31. October 2016

Garmin 64s – GPS device

Garmin 64s is something like an electronic outdoor brother. I still use paper maps as well, but only as “overview maps”. I use GPS maps in terrain. Garmin 64s is quite a big device, but it is excellent. It has high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver and 3-axis electronic compass with barometric altimeter. It is waterproof, temperature proof and almost unbreakable. There is only one thing to improve – the screen. After first year the screen was full of thin scratches so I have started to use screen protective foil on it. Sometimes, if you need some special function,  it takes a while to find it in the menu. But generally it is the best choice to buy. Alternative (cheaper) device I would buy is a Garmin eTrex 30x – may be in my next life.

Globalstar Spot – satellite messenger

Globalstar Spot is a very useful device especially if you travel alone. It communicates with the Globalstar satellites and sends your position (and movement) to the special map site. You can send a private link to your family and friends and they can watch your outdoor steps. There is a messaging button and an emergency button in this device as well. It also cooperates with rescue services. You can use several Globalstar services, but all of them are commercial. I use an older version of this device. A new version is available now (2016) – SPOT Gen3. If you think about it, find out the maps’ coverage first. In Himalayas (Nepal) and Patagonia it does not work properly, there is bad coverage. But for example it is good in Europe, Island, Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan).

Satellite phone – Iridium operator

Satellite phone is an expensive outdoor hobby. But there are areas with a very bad mobile signal or no signal at all. Usually you can rent a satellite phone, but you have to pay twice – for the rent of the phone and the credit (very expensive credit). There are 4 satellite operators: Iridium, Inmarsat, Thuraya and Globalstar (Phones and the Spot). Iridium is the most expensive but with the really global coverage – it means that you can call from anywhere and it can safe your life. I have bought a very old second-hand version of the Iridium phone Motorola 9505 so I hope it will serve me well in the future traveling. If you would like to rent it from me, lets make a deal :).

Cell phone – Lenovo VIBE P1

Cell phone is a good thing… yes, everybody owns cell phone today. But if you want to use it in the mountains, you should choose a phone with a good range of specification:

  1. High capacity battery – sometimes there is a long path to the electric plug.
  2. GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS and gyro-magnetic compass – if you want to use it for navigation, these parameters are essential.
  3. Two SIM slots – one slot for your home operator, second slot for local operator.
  4. SD card – good as a memory bank (you can save pictures from your camera).
  5. Frequencies – check frequencies of mobile device. More frequencies – better connectivity.
  6. USB slot – universal slot for charging and you can join some OTG device es well.
  7. Protective screen – invest 10 USD and buy additional Gorilla glass protective screen.
  8. Cheap device – you will probably to destroy it somewhere, or somebody will steal it so do not buy an expensive device.

I change cell phone every two years because I usually destroy them. Quite good choice was Lenovo P70 (but gyro-magnetic compass was missing). Right now (2016) I am using Lenovo VIBE P1 – extremely cheap, but good enough.

Powerbank – ADATA

If you carry all these devices, you will definitely need a power-bank. Choose a high-capacity power-bank (10 000 mAh and more), and 2 different voltage outputs. I use ADATA PV110 Power Bank. Good capacity, but it is really heavy.

Camera – Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1

I am definitelly not a good photographer. During my team building events I usually use Nikon D5000, but for my traveling it is too big and too heavy. I prefer small automatic camera with good lenses. I usually keep it in my backpack belt pocket so that I can use it whenever and wherever without taking off my backpack. I like Panasonic Lumix cameras with Leica lenses. I used to use Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30 but it was destroyed during a downpour. Now I work with Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1 and I am satisfied. Unfortunately these cameras are not designed for difficult conditions (rain, snow, falls) so I suppose I will destroy my current camera soon. I tried to work with some Chinese GoPro alternative two years ago, but it was not comfortable to use for me. So I keep using my classical camera device.

Watch – Suunto Core

You will definitely need a watch in the mountains – it is essential for your planning of effort as well as for keeping track of time throughout the day. It is good to have a watch with several time zones, altimeter and other functions. I was thinking about a GPS watch as well, especially Garmin Fenix is really popular. But I need a watch with a good battery (GPS extremely exhaust your battery capacity) and for GPS operations I use my Garmin 64s. So I chose the Suunto Core watch, the cheapest one. Not bad, but I am sure that there could be cheaper options somewhere.

Why so many devices?

Yes there are a lot of them – all-together they are really heavy and expensive. It is not necessary to use all of them during your trek. It depends on if you travel alone or with a group (you can share devices) and on the type of location (overcrowded path vs. abandoned lost mountains). Sometimes a paper map and a compass are enough.

Czech version of this post.

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