The most diehard minimalist and traditionalist backpackers may cry foul, but the truth is, technology is increasingly becoming as accepted as camping tents when it comes to necessary outdoor equipment. Apps for mobile devices are taking the place of field handbooks, allowing campers and hikers to take a full library of outdoor knowledge along with them to help out with any sticky situations
But if your iPad or iPhone screen shatters, it’ll be tough to learn how to secure that bear line you’re rigging. Likewise, a GPS battery that’s fried because of morning dew could seriously affect your navigation plans, while a dead battery in any device won’t do you much good. So if you’re taking digital devices into the woods, be sure you’ve got the right gear and knowledge to protect them.
iPhones and iPads
The iPhone has done amazing things for camping and hiking, and can serve, to some degree at least, as a portable MP3 player, compass, GPS device, survival book, flashlight, and even insect repellent. But Apple most likely didn’t have the great outdoors in mind when designing the sleek device, leaving it vulnerable to breaking from even the slightest impact.
But fear not! With the right case, you can take your iPhone along just about anywhere. LifeProof cases, for example, will protect your phone against water, dirt, electric shock, snow, and whatever else you throw at it while you’re in the wild. These cases are great because, in addition to scratch-resistant and waterproof screen protectors, and a fully enclosed design, they let you perform every function the phone offers, from recording sound and video to making calls.
Similar cases are available for iPads, such as the OtterBox Defender, which keeps your tablet safe from bumps, shocks, drops, and dust that could potentially devastate a naked iPad. Keep in mind, though, that unless the cover specifies that it’s waterproof, it isn’t.
It has become extremely popular to document outdoor adventures with action cameras designed specifically for use in the outdoors. While these are marketed and sold on their durability, make sure you have the correct housing for the activities you’ll be doing. A waterproof case is usually best and often comes with the camera, as is the case with the GoPro Hero3. When the camera isn’t in use, make sure to use a camera lens cover, a housing lens cover, and a battery cover to keep out dust and moisture.
As for larger, professional cameras, you may need to take extra precautions to keep them operating well. The biggest considerations with these devices are temperature changes and humidity levels, both of which can cause condensation to build up if you don’t properly store the products.
Keeping It Dry
If you’re going on a kayak trip, or plan to be mostly in or around water, you’ll want to take extra measures to keep your electronics dry. The best way to protect these items is to secure them in small dry bags. There are many inexpensive bags made specifically for phones and cameras, which are completely waterproof when used correctly. Some are even made with a material designed for cameras to take perfect pictures though, eliminating the need to take your expensive digital camera out of its dry bag.
Never Without Power
One of the biggest hiccups in taking electronics into the wilderness is that you can’t simply plug them in when they need a little power boost. However, there are several options available when it comes to keeping the juice in your device, ranging from lightweight, portable battery packs to ultra-efficient portable solar panels, and even wood-burning stoves that generate electricity. Each of these has its pros and cons though, so be sure to research which is best for you.
Whatever device you take into the wild, be sure it’s up for the challenge. Some products, such as headphones and speakers, can’t necessarily be retrofitted with cases or other protective housing, so choose products designed for the outdoors. The X-1 H20 ear buds for example, are completely waterproof and can take heavy sweating, washing, and even submersion of up to 12 feet. Others are designed to allow ambient noises in as well—perfect for hiking, skiing, or trail running.
There are also portable speakers designed to withstand the bumps, drops, moisture, and dust that go along with outdoor use, so be sure to try these out for music around the fire.
It’s the 21st century, and electronics like iPhones and sports cameras are undoubtedly a part of the camping and hiking experience these days, so make sure you’ve got the gear to keep up with the changing times.