Aug 14, 2020 at 9:54 am #3670739John “Jay” MennaBPL Member
I am reviewing smart phone options for the trail. I do not intend to use it as a telephone. In fact it’ll probably be in airplane mode 99.9% of the time. I am looking for a phone that does:
- Is uber light.
- Runs Gaia or similar GPS map
- Connect to the in reach mini
- Has a decent, but not museum quality, camera for stills and video
- Has good battery life (Can carry a large charge and doesn’t suck on power)
- Is ruggedize so I don’t have to baby the thing.
It appears that the iPhone XR is the sweet spot right now in iPhones. It’s a bit heavy, and it is a bit breakable.
There’s got to be something in the android word that is specifically engineered for back country rugged.
Suggestions?Aug 14, 2020 at 10:01 am #3670740GumboBPL Member
@redgumLocale: Aussie in exile in the PNW
The new Pixel 4a has me excited — small, light, polycarbonate back instead of glass, and terrific camera software. Cheap, too.Aug 14, 2020 at 1:25 pm #3670769Brad WBPL Member
I would get the 2020 SE over the XR. Also, forget about ruggedized phones. Get an Otterbox Defender case, pull the plastic protector off and get a tempered glass screen protector.Aug 14, 2020 at 1:39 pm #3670771Philip TschersichBPL Member
@philip-akLocale: Kodiak Alaska
I’ve been using an XR for 2 years now and it works great. I get 3 days of battery life, it handles Gaia beautifully, and it’s waterproof. I put it in an Encased clear case and use the holster that I modified on my shoulder strap (I pulled the belt clip off and used a dremel to slice some slots in the case and use Duraflex Slik Clips to attach the holster to the daisy chain). With a glass protective screen cover it has served me well and survived plenty of trips. The AirDrop feature of iOS is super handy when you meet someone on the trail and want to exchange tracks and there is no cell coverage.Aug 14, 2020 at 6:31 pm #3670798Adrian GriffinBPL Member
Try a first-generation iPhone SE. I just got one used on eBay for $90. At 4 oz., it’s lighter than any of Apple’s later phones. Runs GaiaGPS like a charm and takes way better photos than my old 5s.
The only issue is that cases with a lanyard loop that fit this phone are hard to find. The Spider Case is about the only one I could find. I ended up cutting out the cover for the camera lens, because it shaded the lens and darkened the corners of my photos. The Zizo Bolt case is worthless. Lots of faux-rugged bumps, but no protection for the ports on the bottom. And its holster broke on me.Aug 15, 2020 at 7:24 am #3670834Tipi WalterBPL Member
For me personally I think a backpacking smartphone needs to have an easily removable battery along with a spare (spare batts are usually cheap)—so in this way when you’re on a long trip like 18-21 days you can physically remove the battery when not in use thereby absolutely solving the trickle drainage so common with these devices.
I can get at least 24 days on a cellphone with two batteries. In this way you have power when you need it in an emergency when you need to use your phone as a sort of “rescue device” like a cheap PLB. Or not so cheap alternative.Aug 15, 2020 at 8:47 am #3670840
tote up the weight of the device and charger and then ask yourself if it’s worth it. Just like every other piece of equipment.Aug 15, 2020 at 2:51 pm #3670877David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Tipi: It is frustrating that cell phones don’t have removable batteries like power tools and cameras do. They used to, back in the 1990s. And I guess rock phones still do? Do any smart phones?
Edited to answer my own question: Yes, Samsung has at least one smart phone with a removable battery.
Certainly for cameras, it’s lighter to carry 1 or 2 additional charged batteries than a battery bank and cables. And if your camera has been out for a while, you can find compatible replacement batteries on eBay for $1.57 each with free shipping.Aug 15, 2020 at 3:12 pm #3670879John S.BPL Member
Lots of android phones have removable batteries.Aug 15, 2020 at 5:06 pm #3670896Michael SirofchuckBPL Member
@mr_squishyLocale: Great Wet North
I bought an unlocked iPhone 6s with Wifi on eBay and put it in a Lifelok case strictly for navigation. It takes great photos and I use Gaia, AllTrails, amd ReLive on it. Generally good for one day of hiking. I carry an Anker powerbank to recharge it. Works well for me.Aug 16, 2020 at 6:54 am #3670948Erica RBPL Member
I have intended to take a smartphone with me for the camera a couple times, but always left it in the car at the last minute. It’s the weight of the thing – almost half a pound without an extra battery.
I did carry a small 3.5 oz Sony camera for awhile, but it isn’t working anymore, and I am reluctant to get another.
https://www.productchart.com/smartphones/sets/3 shows phones with removable batteries. Some are less than 5 oz.Aug 16, 2020 at 8:44 am #3670956
Erika, how did the Sony camera compare to your smart phone in terms of photos?Aug 16, 2020 at 9:28 am #3670970idesterBPL Member
@doug-iLocale: The Cascades
I’ve never had a hard case on my phone, and have never had an issue with it when backpacking. Of course, I also don’t have adventures like Philip and others. I currently use an iPhone 11 Pro and only have the apple ‘leather’ case on it. On previous iPhones I’d put a Mophie battery case on it for backpacking, no screen protector, and it worked quite well and gave me enough charge for a 3-5 day trip. Unfortunately the battery case for the 11’s gets horrible reviews, so I haven’t bothered picking one up.
But I also carry a separate camera instead of using the phone — the phone is for either Gaia or Earthmate (I use both, depending on the area), sending messages via my inReach and for listening to music at night to help me fall asleep (I’ve had insomnia issues for years, and listening to some Ludovico Einaudi or Josh Kramer helps quite a bit in getting to sleep, I do it at home too). On established trails (most of my backpacking) the phone easily lasts 3-5 days without needing a charge, even leaving it on all day, when used sparingly.Aug 16, 2020 at 12:05 pm #3671000Erica RBPL Member
The Sony had a zoom lens. Makes a big difference. If you want, I’ll send a (large) PM of a photo.Aug 16, 2020 at 12:11 pm #3671001idesterBPL Member
@doug-iLocale: The Cascades
Can you send photos in PM? I didn’t think you could but would like to be wrong.Aug 16, 2020 at 12:23 pm #3671003
Thanks Erika; no need. yes,a zoom is great. When I was carrying camera gear I found a polarizing filter indispensable. I’d prefer a dedicated light camera to the one on an iphone I think.
So a map and a 4 ounce camera versus a phone, battery and charge bank. less fiddling around and concerns for the device.Aug 17, 2020 at 1:39 pm #3671177Brad WBPL Member
Battery bank and a couple of light cables can charge all your devices. An extra device specific battery cannot.
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