In the past the most electronics you would carry might be a camera. Today that has been totally upended and you have numerous options, and some would say necessities. Personally, I want to bring my phone as I will have service in most places on the AT and hope to share a lot of trip with Leslie via phone calls and sent pictures. I also want to use a couple applications on my phone to make my trip a bit simpler, such at Guthooks’ AT application the Appalachian Trail Weather application. From time to time, I would like to be able to listen to music, or perhaps a book on tape, as well as being able to read books via the Kindle application. I would like to be able to take pictures and video. I also want the ability to do voice recorder and then do voice to text translations. This will make blog posts much simpler than typing on the phone’s keyboard. Finally, I will need a way to power all of this stuff. In thinking about all of this, I think I have decided on the following:
Phone: Currently using an LG G4, but I will be upgrading before my trip. I need a phone with a great battery and maybe a battery that I can swap out with a new one if needed. I should also have the ability to minimize (shut down or delete) most applications to extend the battery life. I will use this for phone calls, texts, voice to text translation, specific AT applications and internet posting. Weight unknown as I don’t know what phone I will choose, but it will be somewhat minimal in terms of the weight to utility ratio. At the moment thinking about the Apple iPhone 7 Plus or the LG v20. I know I cannot swap out the battery on the iPhone, but I think that might be the only limitation to that model. Need to make sure I can do the voice to text relatively simply on either phone, but suspect that is simply an application that I need to find.
Camera/Video: I have a GoPro Hero 4 Silver video camera currently and need to learn more about how to use it. It might be the only camera I take, however, it is so small it is somewhat difficult to use to take pictures. I do have a clip to wear it on my chest to take some video of the trip. It may become a dedicated video recorder for the trip. I need to check into microphones so that I can add some running commentary to the video. Weight 5.2 ounces with housing.
If I decide to take a standalone camera to take pictures, and I am 75% certain I will, I am looking at this Sony camera and extra lens. Weight with extra lens 1 pound, 10 ounces. https://www.amazon.com/Sony-16-50mm-Mirrorless-Digital-Camera/dp/B00QWRBZUE/ Mentally I am having a hard time justifying the extra camera and weight, and yet this is a once in a lifetime trip, so maybe I should just get over it. An alternative would be to downgrade the camera to one of the point and click Panasonic models. I could get away with about half the weight, but do give up some picture quality.
MP3 Player: I think I will take a standalone MP3 player so I don’t need to run my phone for this purpose. There are concerns of damage via weather or a fall or something else, so the more I can protect my phone, the better I think it will be. So I bought this MP3 player for music and books on tape. Weight with case less than 2 ounces and it is very small and will hold a 32 gig microSD card, bringing total capacity to 40 gigs of space. That is a lot of music. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00VXMY262/
Portable Power: I was considering a solar panel, however, the AT is known as the green tunnel, meaning I will be hiking through trees and forest a lot of the time, limiting the usefulness of a solar charger. Further, since I will be going through so many towns, recharging won’t be an issue too often. Given that, it makes a lot more sense to carry a portable charger rather than a solar panel. I was looking at the Anker offerings and ended up purchasing this model which should provide plenty of power for all my devices. Weight 13.4 ounces. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01K6TA748/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Safety: Finally, I will likely carry a DeLorme Inreach SE satellite communicator. The benefit of this device is that I can track and share my trip in such a manner that it will show up on a map on my website. This will provide peace of mind to not only my wife, but my Mom. Hi Mom! 🙂 Weight 7 ounces. https://www.amazon.com/Delorme-AG-009871-201-DeLorme-inReach-SE/dp/B00BX7TJ2O/
Electronics have become somewhat pervasive in our lives and it is very difficult to get away from them even in the wilderness. I know in scouts this was always an issue (standard old school scout policy was no electronics on outings), and in the end I have changed my thinking to embrace electronics and what they can do for us.
However, I have three caveats for electronics. The first caveat is to not become reliant on them. This is a very real problem, such as using the GPS aspects of electronics for navigation. If you do not know how to use a map and compass or other navigational techniques, correctly, and instead rely on electronics, eventually you are going to find yourself in a potentially life threatening situation when the electronics fail you. My second caveat, which really applies to all gear that goes into the backpack, is weight. Specifically, it is the weight to utility ratio and that ratio can be set a bit different for each person. The ultra-light backpacker whose main focus is weight, is going to have a different weight to utility ratio than I will have, because as part of the utility aspects of a piece of gear I strongly consider comfort (both physical and mental). My final caveat relates more to the leave no trace aspects of backpacking and relates to everyone else and the wildlife that I will meet on the trail. If I am using electronics such as music, books on tape or a video of some type, I should be using headphones to negate the impact that my personal use of these items might have on others.
Mentally I can justify each item above, and equally as quickly I could make an argument to take nothing but a camera of some nature and possibly a cell phone for emergency use. This is a very personal choice, and for me the deciding factor is the items above will make aspects of the trip more comfortable for me personally, and as such will increase the chance of completion.