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Backpacking with Smartphones?

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Re: Backpacking with Smartphones?

Postby mattherrington » Thu Mar 01, 2012 9:49 pm

Not missed
Yeah, I know I'm going to dunk it..
but still, very valid concerns. That being said, a.) must be my young hands or things being built better but the only thing I've dropped to inoperable in last 10 years tech or otherwise has been pint glasses and b.) you can really mitigate that risk with the phone to the toughness/waterproof level of most GPS units with a waterproof impact resistant case (of which there's a ton) and a lanyard.

So then it falls to the solar performance. I have the first Solio that won the CES show product of the year a few years ago and it's solid and has been wet a few times. Clouds and trees w that one, big problem. This particular new charger though doesn't need 8 consecutive hours of sun nor does it need to be connected to the device while it's charging.
Not a lot of 8 hr days to just let the phone sit and charge.
It can get juice 30 mins or an hour at a time and you can pre-charge it at the house. I'd just be banking on the fact that in the time it takes the phone to discharge 3 times it can get at least 4 hours of sun between fishing, lunching, etc. If the back of my neck is any indicator in most years that's no problem. I should probably just wear the damn charger there.

Seems like the biggest risk is whether or not the sun shines, how good the maps are, and if it performs as advertised. I'd also be concerned about operating temp as most batteries performance degrades as they cool. This one just won Men's Journal product of the year but IMHO that doesn't necessarily mean that it's worth a squat. REI and Amazon reviews both put it at 4/5 stars which is pretty consistent w my last one. I can't plan w/o paper topos anyways so I'd have 'em.

What else?



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Backpacking with Smartphones?

Postby ScoobyMike » Fri Mar 02, 2012 7:25 am

I take my IPhone along as a backup GPS. I have MotionX GPS & preloaded Topo maps. I've never had to rely on the phone GPS but I do use it sometimes on day hikes and I like the way it performs.
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Re: Backpacking with Smartphones?

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Mar 02, 2012 9:30 am

I take maps. I will always take maps and a compass.

Perhaps the fact that I am search and rescue has a lot to do with it, but I have very little confidence that electronics will ever be a solution - they are at best an add on, a toy, a tool, but always optional and never a guarantee.

No matter what you take or how much experience or positive result you have with any device, you should be leaving detailed trip plans with someone who WILL check on you and WILL call for help if you are missing past your provided return time/day.

{/ public service announcement}

I only say this because there have been and will continue to be searches because people think they can rely entirely on electronics, and that's just not smart. It would not be good for someone to come across this thread and think that their phone is all they need - I've talked to people who think a GPS replaces a map, and it just doesn't.
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Backpacking with Smartphones?

Postby ScoobyMike » Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:43 am

Agreed, I always have printed maps as well. GPS fall short in the broad view and planning phase, although my planning includes establishing key waypionts. I take a lot of comfort in the pinpoint accuracy (position, distance covered and elevation) of modern GPS systems.
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Re: Backpacking with Smartphones?

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:34 am

BTW, I am a geek - have two GPS units, a smartphone, two laptops and a desktop, and map software on all the computers. I do use the phone for backpacking but it's all in planning - I have the Caltrans app to look at road conditions and traffic, a Gram Weenie app to put in all the gear items and set up lists for each trip and to monitor pack weights, a weatherbug app with alerts set for all my usual destinations to let me know when there is a storm or wind watch up to the minute.

And, the Kindle app and an ebook app, loaded with Secor, Roper's High Route, John Muir's (free now) writings, and other books for reading away the hours under a tarp in the rain.... Get bored with books and I have cribbage, hearts, spades and a few other game apps. Or I can take pictures of the inside of my tent, I guess. Record myself snoring... write a novel in Quickoffice...

The phone is either on airplane mode or completely turned off while hiking.
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Re: Backpacking with Smartphones?

Postby mattherrington » Fri Mar 02, 2012 2:01 pm

Get bored with books and I have cribbage, hearts, spades and a few other game apps. Or I can take pictures of the inside of my tent, I guess. Record myself snoring... write a novel in Quickoffice...

Thank you AlmostThere, too funny.

I had chimed in because I'm really device free. I'm pre-GPS Army topo trained and tested (then it was PLGR/SLGR - ah the 4 lb. Slugger) so historically I've just followed the primary tenets of land nav. i.e. situational awareness. Have your map, know where you're at, know where you're going, know what you're capable of, watch the weather, know and be able to identify major and minor terrain features, intersection, resection, understand magnetic declination, and don't put yourself in any comprimising positions.

I've been trying to make the jump but just as I bought my first deeply discounted GPS last year I realized quickly that it was the new full retail value model (not what I got) that allowed custom loaded maps. Harrison Maps are my standard and really where I've been trying to get to is a device where I can easily see an icon on a digital copy of a Harrison map. I took the GPS back. Even with the newer one GPSMAP 62 series I could "load" it and line it up but that would of course require a then-unavailable didital copy of a harrison map. USGS 7.5 are readily available but often I don't like them and I'd have to string a bunch of them together.

I can't plan w/o a real map so liklihood of not having one on the trail is almost none. However, of all the places in the world to go soft copy late Summer in the Sierras is probably it. It's pretty dry, it's long but relatively narrow so there are lots of bail outs, it's pretty populated in August, etc.

I just don't know if we're quite at the point of "my phone is as reliable, as useable, and as indestructible as my GPS". I think we're really close though and there are certainly those who go with just a GPS. Even after we get there though it takes a while for adoption to take place. I had a Thomas Guide in my trunk until 2005 and they unoficially went out of business in '99 when they sold to RandMcNally.
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Re: Backpacking with Smartphones?

Postby sparky » Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:32 pm

I have peaks passes trails on my phone, and the high route. They both have come in handy. I dont use gps of any sort, just paper maps/compass.

I recently replaced my phone, and now it wont let me download ushs maps, even though it can do pdfs just fine. Did they change the format?? Those have come in handy as well as I can load up maps for offline use, and consult them if need be.

Well, honestly, i get along just fine off trail with tom harrison maps. I did download the app for droid but i havnt messed with it yet.

Like almost there said, i think its wise to see it as a sort of toy. Rely on paper maps, but the phone can provide backup maps.
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Re: Backpacking with Smartphones?

Postby ScoobyMike » Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:30 pm

mschnaidt wrote:I experimented with a solar charger on a couple of overnighters and discovered they are pretty much useless.

Ayuh, that's cuz they;re designed to be used during the daytime :D :partyman:
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Re: Backpacking with Smartphones?

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Mar 04, 2012 5:26 pm

mattherrington wrote:
I just don't know if we're quite at the point of "my phone is as reliable, as useable, and as indestructible as my GPS". I think we're really close though and there are certainly those who go with just a GPS. Even after we get there though it takes a while for adoption to take place. I had a Thomas Guide in my trunk until 2005 and they unoficially went out of business in '99 when they sold to RandMcNally.


I have a Garmin 60csx on ongoing loan from SAR and a Magellan eXplorist - 9 times out of 10 I take the Garmin, and it merely captures data for me. I know that I did 15.8 miles in 6 hours 36 minutes moving time with a cumulative gain of 3,951 yesterday and this morning, and the track bears it out. The Magellan is one of those touch screen, camera, video and sound recorder, geocaching, blah blah and the kitchen sink models. I have to change the batteries in the Magellan every 8-10 hours. Pecking through the menus to turn all the features off is pointless and trying to use the unit on suspend to save batteries works great but doesn't capture the data I get from the Garmin, which is going on three and a half days of use with the same pair of AA batteries.

I use the GPS with a map. If we did not do this in every single SAR training or search, there would still be SAR team members stumbling around the woods - last month's winter training my team were dazed and confused until we pulled out the MAP. And we are all trained in navigation skills, and with the GPS!

My smartphone's battery life is worse than the Magellan. Ain't gonna enter the navigational picture unless someone beats me up and takes my map and the Garmin.
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Re: Backpacking with Smartphones?

Postby mschnaidt » Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:14 am

I only say this because there have been and will continue to be searches because people think they can rely entirely on electronics, and that's just not smart. It would not be good for someone to come across this thread and think that their phone is all they need - I've talked to people who think a GPS replaces a map, and it just doesn't.[/quote]

I agree 100%. I always have a Harrison map and a compass with me. Electronics in general and especially a smartphone are delicate and should not be your sole navigation aid.
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