I love having a smart phone. It’s a GPS, compass, emergency flashlight, holds maps and trail data. I can listen to podcast, music, audio books. On my Iphone, I had Wikipedia offline. You can store books on it. To me, its worth its weight. If I need some gear, I can sit on a mountain top and order it sent to the next town. I can keep abreast of fire closures and trail info.
Besides the water report in Southern California, I hike the PCT paperless now.
The GPS works even without cell service. You can turn the sim off so it isn’t spending battery life searching for service. I hiked the Camino in Spain and though I used the maps and the GPS through GAIA GPS app, I never turned on the sim once. Sometimes the GPS is not as accurate as a real GPS but it’s so much easier to load with your tracks and way-points.
In southern California, on the Pacific Crest Trail, I carry a Suntatics solar panel and a small Jackery 6,000 mAh auxiliary battery. The solar panel weighs 8.2 ounces (233grams) and the auxiliary battery weighs 5.5 ounces(155grams) There is plenty of sunshine and I’m usually laying in the shade when its hot, so I have plenty of time to charge my auxiliary battery with the solar panel while I sleep. You need to be careful that your phone or auxiliary battery stays in the shade though. Sometimes I would make shade for what ever I was charging with my umbrella. The towns are close together in So CAL and I just want to get in and out of them quickly and not wait for my phone to charge. It’s freeing to have your own source of power.
It would work great in Arizona and New Mexico too, but as I move north the sun becomes a less and less reliable energy source. I then send my solar panel home and up my auxiliary battery storage.
For the Oregon Coast Trail, this year, I used one huge battery. The Anker 16,000 mAh. It weighs 10.9 ounces (310 grams).
I also understand why people hike without a phone. It can and most probably will distract from the experience. There is a place on the PCT , off trail a little bit, with the most amazing sunset and views of many mountains in the distance. I’ve camped there before and felt thrilled for such beauty. Last time through, I climbed up there just as the sun was setting and laid out my pad and sleeping bag. I glanced at my phone, saw there was service and when I glanced up again the sun was gone and it was dark. I hope now that I have high speed internet at my cabin, the internet won’t seem like such a treat that I give up enjoying a sunset on a mountain top for it again.
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