(Backpacker Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) [OFF-GRID MESSENGER]
Luddites, surrender: Remote no longer has to mean out of touch, as this burger-size unit emphatically proves. The satellite-powered hotspot pairs with any Wi-Fi-equipped device, enabling you to send and receive 160-character text messages and textonly emails. Just connect to the device's secure network and open your browser to activate the service. Send a message via the global coverage of the Iridium satellite network (testers found it reliable even in the shadows of the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park). Bonus: no annual fees. The monthly service package saves money for occasional users, as you deploy the device only when you want it. $400, plus a one-time $35 activation fee and $30/100-message monthly package; 9.2 oz. (with four lithium AA batteries); textanywhere.ca
Bushnell SolarWrap 250
The solar panel paradox: More surface area equals more juice, but also takes up more pack space. That's why we love this sub-shaped Tollable model, made with a flexible film rather than rigid panels. The light-yet-rugged case holds an ultra-thin, 17-inch solar panel wrapped around an enclosed 5- rechargeable lithium ion battery. Colorado testers recharged the power pack in six to seven hours under direct sunlight (faster than most similarly sized units we've tried), which then was able to refill an 80-percent depleted smartphone in less than an hour. Caveat: While this unit charges USB devices faster than others we've tested, it takes a while to fill (even from a wall it takes four hours). $155; 9.2 oz.; bushnell.com
Whether you're a weekend warrior or a seasoned trail rat, one thing is constant: The better shape you're in, the more-and farther-you can hike. And the more you know about your daily fitness, the more you can improve it. Enter the Fitbit Force. The amped-up digital pedometer features an onboard altimeter and shows miles traveled, calories burned, steps taken, and stairs climbed. Coolest feature: It collects data while you sleep, analyzes it, syncs it wirelessly to your computer or smartphone, and provides you with easy-to-read graphs and charts that can help you understand (and improve) your sleep patterns-and thus energy. Testers logged six days without needing to recharge the unit. $130; 1.2 oz.; fitbit.com
No matter what type of shooter you arc, there's a new camera that's right for you.
A 16.1MP sensor captures video in full HD, and the 3-inch, rotating viewfinder serves as a touchscreen menu and shutter control. On ski and climbing trips our photographer loved the fast, motorized zoom and a slider on the lens for easy framing. Intuitive controls make manual mode easy to learn and use. $700; 1A oz.; sony.com
Built for adventure, this unit is waterproof to A9 feet, with a sealed zoom ring and a protective lens gasket. The 14MP sensor and image stabilizer can capture 15 frames per second in burst image mode. Bonuses: a flipup flash and onboard nav features like GPS, compass, altimeter, and depth meter. $800; lib. 3 oz.; nikonusa.com
Olympus TG-2 iHS
This latest iteration of last year's Editors' Choice-winning, ruggedized point-andshootis now even better: It's waterproof to 50 feet (10 more than before) and the improved focus range let our testers switch easily between far-off peaks and butterfly wings without having to fumble with mode changes. $380; 8.1 oz.; getolympus.com
[POV CAMERA ACCESSORY]
Pro tip: Get unsurpassed POV shots with this carbon-fiber arm, which attaches to a GoPro (or similar minicam) and slips into your backpack. Our crew carried it during a weeklong hiking adventure in Jordan, where they were able to capture steadicam-like action shots and highangle group shots. Best part? It's hinged, and can be set so the pole doesn't have a cameo in all your pics. $140; 1 lb. 11 oz.; vuvantage.com
GOPRO HER03+ BLACK EDITION
Innovating on a category-defining product can be tough, but the Hero3+ increases image quality to 12MP and enhances shooting modes while reducing weight and size. Bonus: wideangle video and improved low-light performance. Read reviews of all the award-winning products starting on page 15. $400 (as tested); 4-H oz. (in waterproof housing); gtrpro.eom
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
With its waterproof, dustproof shell and a shatter-resistant Coming Gorilla Glass 2 screen, this smartphone is tailored for the adventure life. We dropped, dunked, and tossed it around for three months; the screen didn't scratch and it still zips along on Samsung's fast Android operating system. Testers grooved on the crisp, 5-inch display that offers ample screen real estate for Samsung's Multi-Window setting, which lets you view two apps simultaneously, like Google MyTracks and Google Plus Photos, as one tester frequently did for selecting pics to geotag. The 8MP, rear-facing camera is merely average, but the onboard software mimics a DSLR with a range of shooting modes (like Night and Aqua). Testers love the ir Gesture Mode*, especially in cold weather. Battery life is competitive (12 hours running GPS), but a full recharge takes five hours. $200 (with contract); 5.4 oz.; samsung.com
Dell Venue 7
We've been toting and testing a variety of mini tablets for the better part of a year (see below), and this bare-bones Android unit has the best screen and battery life for the price. The 7-inch HD display features a crisp, 1,280 x 800 pixel resolution-great for running map applicationsplus an SD slot allows for expandable memory (up to 32GB) on top of the internal 16GB. Testers praised the svelte design (4.7 by 7.6 by .4 inches), which allows for comfortable, one-handed use while snapping photos, and the rubberized backing, which adds durability. "I carried it caseless on a ton of Colorado dayhikes and packed it on several long-haul road trips," a tester says. "It still looks new, and even survived a few face-down drops." The Venue has an impressive 10 to 12 hours of battery life (running a GPS app without Wi-Fi), with a six-hour recharge time from dead. $150; 11.1 oz.; dell.com
Power Practical Lithium 4400 Battery Bank
Wish you could just put a wall socket in your pocket? This little charger gets you pretty dam close. When none of our skimpy battery packs could recharge a |uice-hungry GPS device to more than a third full in the Jordanian backcountry, the Lithium 4400 came through, filling the device from zero to full in about 6 hours-while using the GPS. Four white LED indicator lights let you know how much power you have left (and they double as a flashlight). It got plenty of use on trail and in town. "I took to carrying the Lithium 4400 in my purse all the time," reports a Colorado tester. "It's so small I hardly noticed it, but it saved the day many times." She reports getting two to three iPhone 5 charges out of a full battery (the unit takes up to four hours to load up). Bonus: It comes with a 3-in-l cable that'll fit almost any device (but BYO iPhone 5 cable). $60; 4.2 oz.; thepowerpot.com
Boom Movement Swimmer
Like packing music to share? You'll love this affordable Bluetooth speaker, which delivers A innovative design, quality sound, waterproofing, and long battery life (around a week) for just $60. Testers loved the bendable, 6.2-inch tail-use it to make a stand or secure the tennisball-size speaker to just about anything. "First thing I do when I set up camp is fasten the loop to a thin tree limb," says one Colorado tester. Says another "I tether it to my bike's top tube and jam tunes on long rides.1' The IPX7 rating means it can handle nearly 30 minutes of submersion. And sound is good: "While some lower end frequencies wash out, it handles a range, from subdued acoustic music to dense electronic anangements," says our audiophile. $60; 12.8 oz.; boommovement.com
ON THE WEB
Read more mini tablet and app reviews at backpacker.com/tralltablet.
*mAh Milliampere-houi: a unit of electrical charge; higher number means more juice.
*Air Gesture Mode lets you hover your finger over the screen to control it with gloves on.
(c) 2014 Active Interest Media
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