Side Post: Communications on the trail…

As I sit in a burning hot carpark at my motel in Mojave, waiting for the sun to drop a little so that I can rejoin the trail this evening, I figured I should write one quick post about the next few weeks.


I’m sure that many folks are interested in more trail posts, but the sad fact of the matter is that today I will start the PCT at mile 566 and (from a social networking standpoint), will fall off the face of the planet for almost two weeks as I hike through to mile 788, and the exit for Kearsarge Pass. In that time I will be using some technologies to see me through, and I thought it worthwhile to do a quick post on the trail-tech that keeps me rolling, as well as provide a link to let people follow where I am during this temporary absense.

Critical Tech on Peteys PCT
1. iPhone 6S with LifeProof Battery Case

A smartphone is a valuable tool. Couple it to a rugged case and auxiliary battery to ensure dust, rain or no juice doesn’t leave you high and try, and you have a virtual Swiss Army knife at your fingertips. The basic functions of GPS, cached maps, PCT Map apps and messaging allow for obvious uses, with features like the built-in lamp and calculator helping with the practicalities of life. Cell coverage has been excellent in Southern California, it is about to become a major luxury however, and the PCT app by Guthooks which is able to use the GPS in airplane mode is an extremely efficient way to sip at battery and still know where you are at all times.

My current location in Mojave, it even tells you how far off the trail you are.

Secondary for me is the Halfmile app which locates the PCT from your current location, useful if you lose the trail on your way back from an intimate backcountry bathroom experience.

Halfmile is a little simpler but useful in its own right. This is how it represents the same location in Mojave, CA

Beyond these apps, I use WordPress to write posts and the app can cache them until I can post them later. The app performs most functions that you need but tends to be a little buggy (I wouldn’t recommend caching all of ones memoires offline using it) and it does have a little addiction to the juice – one post has been eating 25% of my battery when connected to wifi.

2. DeLorme InReach SE

This is a must-have. The device is a locator beacon which doubles as an emergency SOS. My panic button so to speak. I purchased the device and now pay a monthly fee for the service which uses the Iridium Satellite network and not cell coverage, theoretically allowing for coverage anywhere. In the event of pulling the SOS button, a coordination center collates information about location and works with local search and rescue to define the response. The device allows two way communications, I can send and receive text messages at a low cost which assists in the event of an emergency. There are limitations such as in deep canyons or heavily tree covered areas where coverage may be impacted temporarily, but thus far my only issue with the unit has been its 4-5 day maximum battery duration whilst in location-ping mode ie where the unit is pushing location pings to DeLorme so it can be tracked on a web based map link. This is being used by my hit team of support crew (thanks Pat, Siobhan and Mark) back on the east coast. Already when it ran out of battery once, I received a quick text from them to enquire of any issues, this led to me purchasing my next and most important piece of kit – a solar charger.

In case anyone wishes to see the tracker map, the following is my personal link.

(Please avoid using the message function though (for some baffling reason DeLorme only allow you to turn on messaging to all, or turn it off to all). I need to leave it on as a result for family/support use. Hopefully following the slow moving dot won’t make you judge my slow pace!

Peteygoes Map Tracker


3. Suntactics 5 Solar Panel

Not a cheap piece of gear however the build quality is top notch and after disappointing results with other crappy solar panels I decided to wait until I was on the PCT to get feedback on which was best – this received a resounding response with some recording 2.5-3hr iPhone full recharges during a sunny day. I grabbed one on my time off and I already love it. No more sparing use of the Iphone only to find I get to town with 70% and no more nervously watching my GPS locator worried that it may run out of battery and quit before I get to the next charge. It’s a nice little device and I’ll review further when I have more field experience.


4. Black Diamond revolt Rechargeable Head Lamp

Given the amount of night hiking, the savings on batteries through this device have been considerable. It also allows you to use it simply as a battery recharge unit as it uses consumer battery’s rather than a proprietary lithium battery. Nice device and worth the slight weight premium.

5 thoughts on “Side Post: Communications on the trail…

  1. Holy shit you do all of this writing on your PHONE? That’s insane, I wa full sure you had some kind of ultra net book, or at leat a tablet with you. Jesus, fair play dude. I’d be putting up ten word entries, or just writing everything down in a notebook, and then typing it all out like once a month.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve made a few other less pleasant sacrifices to get my base weight down to 15lb’s! (Including tent, sleeping bag, clothes, backpack and all physical items but not consumables).

      Like

  2. Maybe you will have to break down and become a ham operator with a micro-radio. You might get a kick out of the book about the AT –the author, Dennis R. Blanchard did just that. _Three Hundred Zeros: Lessons of the Heart on the Appalachian Trail_. Haha, like you don’t already have enough on your plate as it is.
    Looking forward to hearing from you whenever possible.
    All the best.

    Like

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