To Kindle or not…that is the question

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  • #1290502
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    The cheapest kindle is about six ounces. How do they hold up on the trail? I'd hate it if it broke and I was left with nothing to read; the whole point is to have more access to better books. I don't want the internet; just a reader; except, could you use a kindle to send an emergency sos? (Obviously I haven't done much research).

    Emil Gazda


    Locale: Southeast

    The older Kindle Keyboards have free 3G access so as long as you can get a signal you can send email.

    Ben F


    Kindle. No question. But they are breakable. I've broken one, but it took forgetting it was in my bag and chucking my pack across a river and hitting a rock (that also dented a titanium pot). It broke because of my idiocy. And no, don't depend on the internet.

    Michael Levine


    Locale: Long Beach

    Requires 3g to be useful for SOS, also the touch version (the one you were quoting, having 3g) doesn't work outside wikipedia and amazon. The kindle keyboard 3g however will work with email or whatever, but yeah it requires 3g connectivity.

    At 8oz or whatever, go kindle imho. I was going to bring a 250 page paperback that weighed more than my kindle keyboard 3g. I was going to leave my guidebook at home, missing out on some experience in favor of going light…. but now I don't have to. I'm bringing multiple books, as I'll surely finish the first, and guidebooks, and whatever else I want, all for that 8oz.

    I can't speak for their durability, as I've just recently bought a 3g keyboard, but man, I'm looking forward to summer miles with it. Just don't sit on or throw your bag, and wrap it up in your sleeping bag/quilt.

    Stephen Barber
    BPL Member


    Locale: SoCal

    I've carried my Kindle with no problems. The usual caveats apply: Don't use it to swat a fly on a rock, don't toss it in the fire or use it as a windscreen for the stove, don't use it as a paddle for your packraft, etc.

    To save the battery, turn it off completely at night, don't just put it to sleep. Hold the power switch in until the screen turns completely blank. You should have no trouble with a week long trip or even longer, depending on how much you read.

    I tried once connecting with the 3G, but was not able to get a signal.

    Richard Gless
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    I've carried a Kindle for up to a week with no issues. I made a thin bubble wrap envelope as a lightweight case to protect it. I don't throw it around or abuse it. The Kindle, especially the newer ones, are lighter than most of the paperbacks I'd take anyway and you can have multiple books, quidebooks, etc., available.

    Eric Brigman


    Locale: Central Florida

    word is that they may be coming out with a touch kindle with built in light, in july. I'm thinking of waiting for that one, but not sure about the battery life or extra weight

    Doug Smith
    BPL Member


    Locale: Central CA

    I've never considered owning an E-reader, since I really enjoy turning the pages and holding real books. But for backpacking or camping, I can definitely see the allure. The majority of battery life I use from my flashlights and headlamps is to read a book at night. If I had an illuminated e-reader I'd save flashlight battery life, carry something lighter than books, and be able to read at night.

    In briefly checking out options, I'm interested in the Barnes and Noble Nook with Glowlight. It's not an LCD screen, it's the E-ink, so easy to read even in sunlight, and yet it has a lighting option built in. And best of all, it's still only 7 ounces.

    The Ipads, Kindle Fire, etc. have no appeal to me since I have no interest in going online, watching movies, or anything else similar when I'm backpacking or camping.

    Rick Dreher
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northernish California

    After dragging my feet on whether to take it, I finally relented and was very happy to have it (especially on a couple layover days). FWIW the e-ink display is far more readable than the Fire's backlit color screen and of course, uses no power whatever when not scrolling.

    Mine's a 3G model and the browser is almost worthless in a city, nevermind in the sticks, so I wouldn't count on it for communications.

    However, there's a much more compelling upside, which is adding maps, first aid information, trail guides, various owner's manuals, astronomical charts, etc. As long as you're carrying it you might as well pack it with resources. And yes, it's easily read via headlamp, including red ones to preserve night vision.



    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member


    I'll take paper, please.

    I hold dear the books I inherited from my father, finding his signature, a date, the occasionally underlined passage that gives me a clue as to what he was thinking back then.
    I own books that still smell like my old bedroom or incense or campfires.
    Call me a romantic.
    There is my copy of Walden I read entirely on the trail, page corners smudged with High Sierra dirt.
    There is the collection of haiku by Basho complete with wine stains on a few pages and a secondhand copy of Allen Ginsberg's Howl with the cover corner (somehow appropriately) chewed off by a dog.
    Life, history, memories, a time and a place. Physicality.
    It's a beautiful thing to now see my son browse through my library and to catch him reading dates and margin notes that, like my father, I've inscribed inscribed in some past life. To pass around dog-eared, worn copies amongst friends (at least 4 people have read my copies of Fight Club and Breakfast of Champions), to check out a poetry anthology from the library and find "YES!!!!" triumphantly scrawled in some strangers hand next to some W.C. Williams prose…

    I'll take paper, please. Sorry, but no self-respecting hopeless romantic hits the power button and scrolls through a backlit touch menu to read Walt Whitman while reclined on a slab of granite.

    Ben F


    FWIW, I think the Nook is actually a better option that the Kindle. I know kindle has become a generic name for e-reader, but the Nook's interface is much much better.

    Link .
    BPL Member


    +1 Craig!

    Ben F


    I guess it just depends on whether you think of books as an end in themselves. I did, until I moved. And then moved again. And then painfully purged my books. And then moved again. And now I'm purging books again in preparation for moving again. A kindle has been liberatory in that I now own less stuff, I have to move less stuff, but I also, thankfully don't get as attached. I get the romantic argument, but in the end, books are a means for conveying information. Some books I have a real attachment to. Most I don't. I somehow convinced myself I was attached to all of my books, that they somehow reflected me, but they don't. At best I read most of my books once and moved on. The ones I'll keep are tattered and worn and won't ever leave me, but that's just a very few now.

    Link .
    BPL Member


    I usually pass on my books to others donate them or go to the library.I live in a 200 square foot apt. with a mattress on the floor and no t.v. and no chairs,1 cup,1 bowl,1 spoon,1 plate, 1 knife and 1 fork.What do you have?It took me less than 1 hour to move all my stuff down the alley(walking)to where I live now.

    Rick Dreher
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northernish California

    Yup, plus I canna recall when it became an either/or proposition. It is true that you can't start a fire with a Kindle; or, perhaps more accurately, an intentional one.



    Here There
    BPL Member


    I love my Kindle Keyboard and I love my real books. I have a few hundred paper books that I will never get rid of (whittled down from a couple thousand) but unfortunately they end up being packed away most of the time due to moves that are all too frequent. Nothing will ever replace their look, smell, and amazing tactile quality, but when I travel paper books can't match the convenience of my kindle. I hope at some point to settle down somewhere and give my paper books a proper home, but even then my kindle will go with me when I'm not able to take more than one or two paper books along.

    As mentioned above, a padded mailer makes a great lightweight case. Just don't take it backpacking if temps are below freezing, since the screen won't function properly.


    Steve C


    Locale: sierra nevada

    I have never used an e-reader, but can see the attraction of having one. I have foregone both books and e-readers in the backcountry in favor of an MP3 player with audiobooks and music. don't actually listen to the music much in the backcountry but do listen to books at night while stargazing from my bag. Saves on battery power, doesn't attract a bunch of creepy crawleez with a light and it is lighter and more importantly for bikepacking much more compact than a book or e-reader. Can't send an SOS with it, but if that was really a concern to me I would invest in a PLB. MUCH more reliable than any other option IMHO.

    John Tunnicliffe


    Locale: Northern California

    I was an enemy of the Kindle corp for several years, but, in the words of John Astin "I am much better now…"

    Look, the e-reader is the future. Put it (an entire library of knowledge / inspiration / entertainment) in a sturdy cover inside a dry bag and you are set for many, many hours of use. I've been carrying mine on every wander this year and have had zero problems with it, technical or otherwise. Zero. And I have never run it out of juice.

    Yeah, I still have paper books, hundreds of 'em, bookcases in every room and I love each and every one of 'em and I'll never get rid of 'em. But I can't haul all those books around with me. I currently have more than 50 books on my 3G and it's still no heavier than it was when I bought it. It is obvious to me that paper stands in poor comparison to this kind of functionality.

    As for the "delicate" nature of the device, well, mindfulness matters; I don't soak my down bag or misplace my pack or lose my stove when I'm out in the weeds either. I'm pretty sure I can handle the important stuff.

    'Course a Kindle makes poor tinder, unlike a paperback book, and I expect it makes a toxic smoke too, but I don't burn books anyway. Still, it's not multi-use, or is it? It's not just one book, it's 3,500 books if you want it to be. That's multi-something at least.

    Yes, put me down as a Kindle supporter, big time. Just like everybody else who owns one.


    Doug Wolfe
    BPL Member


    I do most of my trips during shoulder season an I will say that I did have problems with my kindle freezing up at temps from 4°-20°F. But what doesn't freeze up in those temps?
    For the summer go for it! Watch the rain obviously.. My kindle has taken a beaten in my pack and still no problems..

    jacko vanderbijl


    Locale: Shelley Western Australia

    I am all for the Kindle or similar for reading material and guidebooks (if you can get them in PDF etc) and am getting used to one (my wifes). But I will still always carry my main guidebook in paper form and will have that within reach while walking. The Kindle is for leisure and camp.
    I would not normally carry things like wildflower or wildlife guides but will in future because one book or a 1000 the weight doesn't change.


    i stuff mine in a bubble insulated paper mailing envelope roughly the same size as the Kindle and pack in between down items with no damage issues.

    Scott Simcox


    Locale: Nashville

    As long as you don't drop it, there's nothing that can beat an e-reader.
    The 6 oz Kindle 4 should be the lightest option, unless I'm mistaken. With it, you get the pdfs (or specific ereader) maps and a book or two or hundred to take while you're out.
    Other ereader choices, including heavier Kindles, even give you the option of having music with you, too.

    The only argument I can see someone having against this technology is if they feel compelled to romanticize the paper medium. And while that doesn't make any sense to me, I know it matters to some.

    Carl Zimmerman
    BPL Member


    My wife & I like our Kindle. She takes it on the trail regularly. If I'm going solo, I rarely do. We keep it in a padded carrying case. We turn off the Wifi so it doesn't constantly search for a signal (battery drain). Being frugal, we use our local city library to access downloadable books for free. For 14 days, you get to read a book (or books) for free. We've also used to download itineraries and other info on our trip (not just backcountry stuff). Amazon also allows for free downloads of 'classic' books (e.g. Mark Twain, Agatha Christie, etc.).

    Sumi Wada
    BPL Member


    Locale: Ann Arbor

    My first Kindle just died… it was 1-1/2 years old and had been in the Grand Canyon 3 times, Mexico twice, plus half-dozen short backpacking trips. I'd made a simple fleece envelope for it but didn't do much to protect it beyond that. It had small hairline cracks at all four corners of the screen.

    Only issue I ever had was on a hike that got below freezing in the late-afternoon when I was trying to read. Froze up completely. But I used the hard-reset procedure after the hike and it worked just fine again.

    All in all, I think I got my money's worth and wouldn't hesitate to buy it again (and probably will.)

    two pints
    BPL Member


    Locale: Ohio

    I check out library books on my kindle touch. As long as you don't synch your kindle (wirelessly or 3g) your library books will remain on the kindle indefinitely. I tend to just leave the wireless off and transfer books to the kindle from my pc through usb. This keeps the kindle from checking to see if library loans have expired.

    I got the kindle touch thinking that I might use the browser on occasion (over wi-fi), but I have found that it is pretty cumbersome to do much productive with it. It has it's benefits and could be used to check out books from the library and check email and such, but it isn't a great experience.

    The touch also has headphone jack, mp3 player, speakers, and the capability to do text to speech. The touch has a 30 hour battery, compared to the 15 hour battery in the kindle 4. The touch interface is nice, but it is slow. I used the regular kindle 4 for a while and found that I preferred its interface.

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