When I started planning this walk I had no idea about complicated all the stuff on gear is. There is a whole universe of innovators out there creating things to meet needs I didn’t even know I had and I think I’m just skimming the surface. One thing I did know was that carrying loads of stuff is not good news and on the treks I’ve done already I learnt how to travel light. What I didn’t know was that cutting things down is almost a “movement”, generates a huge amount of discussion and drives innovation and design for products most walkers and hikers, relying on shops in the high street, will not be aware of. There are lots of really interesting things to get my teeth into, not just the footwear, but for every item there are light weight choices to be made. Good fun.
The thing which is giving me most grief is all the electronics stuff. I’m going on a long walk, I want to plan it, find my way, record it and ideally communicate as much of it as possible as I do it. I’ve got a number of problems. Firstly some of this stuff is expensive and I don’t like spending money. Secondly it’s complicated particularly the GPS stuff, not just the products but the maps (particularly as I’m planning to travel across six countries). Thirdly I haven’t used some of this stuff before, particularly GPS, and so don’t really know what I’m talking about. Fourthly it could end being heavy particularly if I can’t come up with some solution to keep all this stuff powered up. The electronics stuff is not such good fun.
There is a debate going on out there as to whether the smart phone is the whizzo bang device I talked about in my second bag packing blog – well it could be but it all depends on how precious you are about particular requirements and how willing you are to make do. At the moment, and I’m still working this out (requirements pushing me – meanness holding me back) but it looks like I need lots of devices – acknowledging this is progress of a kind and it looks like I might even have an answer to the recharging dilemma multiple devices present.
Device 1 - GPS
The thing I’m struggling with is the paper maps. Asked the question of Lighthiker and he rightly points out that walking the E4 is not bush whacking – most of it is along high profile and well marked national trails. If I had paper maps than I could use these in conjunction with the GPS on an IPhone for any navigation.
On the other hand if I had a high spec GPS wouldn’t this allow me to do all the route planning in advance and generate the paper maps. Starting with paper maps rather than digital maps you don’t get the same route planning functionality and if you could plot your route and print it via the GPS route planning software aren’t you getting the best of both worlds?
I’m looking at the different GPS devices and the SatMap Active 10 Active 10 looks particularly good. Although it’s the heaviest of all completing devices its new European service is impressive especially what looks like a partnership with the German and Austrian Alpine Associations (Austrian mapping is proving a nightmare – more of that in my next blog). I’m also trying to understand the offer from Compe-GPS which also appears to have a European mapping service and supports both a standalone product and an Iphone product.
Device 2 - Netbook
The debate on this is whether I go for an iPad or not. Against it is expense, the lack of a keyboard and the fact that the OS system at the moment is not multi-tasking. In favour is its weight and exploding functionality. Had a go with my sister’s iPad and was very impressed and I think the on-screen key board will be fine and by the time I’m ready go it might have the same multi-tasking software Apple use on the latest iPhone.
Device 3 - Camera
I want to take half decent camera. At the moment I have a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 which is getting a bit old and bashed but is still far better than any phone based camera I have come across - it has a zoom lens for one thing. I might treat myself to the latest version, the Panasonic Lumix TZ10 ;which use GPS to geotag photographs – very handy.
Device 4 - Phone
I’m ashamed to say but I have never bought a phone - I have always had one through work. I now need to get one and it’s a bit of an intellectual challenge (seems to be a bit of a theme developing). The key consideration is what am I going to use it for in particular the extent to which I use it for GPS. If I go with a an iPad, than the iPhone probably makes sense in which case I wouldn’t need to take an iPod for music.
Device 5 - GPS Locator
I am interested something like the Spot personal tracker. It could be interesting for people to see if I’m still moving, tracking progress, and indeed has some safety benefits.
So I’m definitely in the nightmare world of lots of different devices all with different power stores and different recharging requirements. Thanks to Chris and Matt Aloise, who left a comment on the blog, I now have a better understanding of both the issues and opportunities associated with the world of power generation, storage and recharging (particularly the fact that some products have an internal recharging capability and some don’t). They also introduced me to a range of products from Me2Solar which I think could provide the solutions.
I think I have two key requirements - firstly to get rid of as many of the specialist recharging devices as possible and secondly to provide some power resiliance for the critical devices. In reality I only have one critical device and that’s the GPS - it’s also - compared to the others - energy hungry. What the Me2Solar range of products does is provide an intermediary store for energy - a larger battery - which can then be used to charge all the other devices (the Arigo); a universal power charger where devices don’t have an internal recharging capability (Pixo C2 plus); and a means of generating power through a light portable solar panel (the Aurora Pro 25).
So progress of a kind although the decision of the key piece of electronic kit, the GPS, is still to be made. What I think I will do is get myself a iPhone and start to understand how far that will take me and, at the same time, get a better understanding of what I can achieve through the Satmap and Comp-GPS mapping services.