Gear Review – Technology

Technology Brand/Type Photo
Solar panel sCharger-5 USB Solar Charger  solar panel
Review: This was one of my best pieces of gear. My iPhone NEVER ran out of battery because I had my solar panel. It’s the best one I saw on trail for a few reasons. It’s incredibly light, it charges remarkably quick, it continues to work when you walk through shade, and it’s incredibly durable. I left my first one on my pack in the rain once which caused it to break, but the guys sent me a new one immediately. In Oregon when you’re more in the trees, it’s better to use an external battery pack to charge during the day rather than having your iPhone plugged in directly (this is because your iPhone will light up every time you go through shade, and will actually lose charge because there just isn’t enough sunlight). It charged my external battery enough in Oregon to keep my phone going, but because it was so rainy in Washington, I ended up sending it home. I could have also used my solar panel to charge my bigger camera and Steripen, but I never needed to. It simply has a USB port which most devices charge with these days. Score: 10/10
Mobile phone iPhone 4S 32gb  iPhone 4S
Review: Most people carry a phone on the trail. I understand why people don’t, and if I didn’t want to blog I may have chosen not to, but it was SO useful! I used my phone for photos, videos, navigation and blogging. You do not need phone signal to use the apps as they run off GPS. You just need to take your phone off airplane mode. Keeping it on airplane mode at all other times will save battery power. I only wished I had a phone with more storage because of all the videos and photos I was taking. I started the trip with a new phone, empty of photos, and needed to download all photos and videos from before Mammoth Lakes, CA, to make enough space for the remaining pics and videos in OR and WA. Score: 9/10
Phone charger iPhone 4S charger  iPhone charger
Review: I broke a few charging cables along the way and always carried a spare one with me. The apple cords are much stronger than the imitations. Score: 8/10
SIM card AT&T pay as you go  AT&T SIM
Review: AT&T seemed to have more signal than Verizon in Southern California, but as we went north, Verizon seemed to have the better coverage. I couldn’t buy a Verizon SIM because you needed a special Verizon iPhone and I wanted to use the phone I already owned. I had to put down a $500 deposit for the SIM card because I’m not a US citizen which I won’t get back until I cancel the service (they can only post out a cheque to a US address so be aware of this!) I was on an $85 a month plan which included unlimited calls and text and 1GB of data. I often went over my data limit which cost me an extra $15 a month. So it got very expensive indeed! I couldn’t set up an auto pay because I didn’t have a US credit card so I used to just call and pay over the phone when I got to a town. I had to register a Social Insurance Number when I bought the SIM and even though I didn’t have a US one I was able to register my Canadian one. I think you could probably give any number if you don’t have one as they just use the last four digits to verify who you are when you call to pay. The girl who set everything up for me was great but it was a long confusing process. Score: 7/10
External batteries X5 mobile ultra  external battery
Review: I used two different types of external batteries, the Powerpod until it got wet and stopped working, then the X5 mobile ultra. The X5 was awesome. I think it held about 2-3 full iPhone charges. It took a LONG time to charge up even when plugged into a wall, but it charged well enough with my solar panel to keep my phone charged during the entire trip. Score: 9/10
iPhone case Cellairis rapture full moon case  phone case
Review: This was a good robust cast but I would try and get a waterproof case next time. I also used a screen protector over the screen which I had to change once in Ashland because the first one was so scratched. Score: 7/10
Camera Olympus TG-2 (Tough)  Olympus camera
Review: This camera takes incredible photos and is waterproof to 15m. I really like it but unless you want to blow up your pictures professionally I think the iPhone takes amazing photos too. All of my photos on the blog were taken on the iPhone (except for the original ones I posted on my photo gallery page). I only used this camera in CA and gave it up in OR and WA to reduce weight. I’m glad I did because I would have to double up on using my good camera and iPhone when I saw a great photo opportunity and this was a little time consuming. If you are planning to make a special book or large prints of your pictures then maybe consider a good camera, otherwise the iPhone or another smart phone could be good enough. I soon discovered EVERYONES photos look amazing. It’s hard to take a bad picture when the nature is so beautiful. Score: 8/10
Mini Tripod Unknown brand  mini tripod
Review: I sent this home at the Kick Off. I only ever held my iPhone to take videos (except the one where I’m cleaning out my tent and where I’m making a cheese and spam tortilla!) Score: n/a
E-Reader Kobo  Kobo Ereader
Review: It took me a while to send this home but I never used it. I never had any time to read. But as I’ve said before, if I didn’t blog I probably would take a book or an e-reader again. Score: n/a
Personal Locator Device SPOT 2 Satellite  SPOT
Review: Well we all saw how well the SPOT device works in bad weather, but having said that it was generally very good at getting messages out. Having used the SOS function I would definitely recommend carrying something like this, especially if you are hiking on your own. Next time I would take the version where you can type custom messages. I didn’t carry SPOT through OR (because I was really trying to reduce weight and felt like I’d already used my ‘get out of jail free card’ in CA), but I never would have travelled through WA without it. Score: 7/10
Watch Polar  Polar watch
Review: I always wear a watch and would have hated not wearing one. I judged my distance on how long I had hiked for once I figured out my approximate hiking speed. You get much better at judging this as time goes on. I just had a waterproof plastic watch that I could scratch and not worry about. I had considered getting a really good watch that had GPS, altimeter, you name it, but other than being incredibly expensive, it would have been unnecessary as Halfmile and Guthook’s apps always tell you where you are and at what elevation. Score: 9/10
Navigation app Halfmile’s PCT app  Halfmile app
Review: Halfmile’s app in incredible, and it’s free! I seriously recommend taking a smart phone and using this app. It tells you what mile you’re at, your distance to the next water source, campsite, road, trail intersection, etc, north and south bound. Not ALL water sources or camp sites are listed and you should ensure you have an updated water report for Southern California. You don’t need phone signal to use this app, just make sure your phone is OFF airplane mode so the GPS will work. I relied solely on this app and Guthook’s for navigation and I never had a problem. Halfmile’s app will let you know if you’re not on the correct trail. Thank you Halfmile!! Score: 10/10
Navigation app Guthook’s PCT app (SoCal, Sierras, Norcal, OR & WA)  Guthook's app
Review: Guthook’s app is awesome for its map feature which shows you with a blue GPS dot like Google Maps where you are on the trail and which way you’re facing. It also has a good elevation chart which also has a GPS dot showing you where you’re at. I don’t think Guthook’s has as many water sources and campsites listed as Halfmile, but it was good having both because they often had different ones listed (which did get a little confusing at times). It was easier to check your mileage on Halfmile’s app but Guthook’s was awesome if you were at a trail intersection and didn’t know which way to go, or if you had strayed off trail just slightly. You need to buy this app and pay around $5 each for SoCal, Sierras, NorCal, OR and WA. The app still has a few bugs so ensure you download the updates as they become available. Score: 7/10
Phone app PCTHYOH  PCTHYOH
Review: This app was awesome because you could save all of Halfmile’s maps as PDF versions and cache all of the important websites (weather etc) and documents for the trail like the water, fire and snow reports on your phone. You need good wifi to download all of the information BEFORE you hit the trail (give yourself a few days to do this). You can then access the maps and water report etc offline and just update these as you move through towns and get connection. You can also use it for journaling which I didn’t do. Have a play around with it before you go and use what you need. Score: 9/10

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