‘Let’s do a 25-mile hike in the Scottish Highlands and stay overnight in a shepherd’s hut. It’ll be great!’ This was the ‘fun’ suggestion of my best friend.
For context, I had never hiked. She has a geography degree. But she also gets lost between our local pub and the school where we train martial arts. These two buildings are less than 25ft apart.
It’s a good job tech was on hand to save the day and prevent us from becoming a missing persons statistic…
The Garmin eTrex 32
Mobile phone mapping is reliable for urban areas. But you need a back-up in more remote areas and you’ve forgotten to download your maps. Or not taken a paper map and a compass and learned to use them.
The Garmin eTrex 32 is a handheld unit, about the size of a packet of tissues, which comes pre-loaded with TopoActive Europe maps. Powered by two AA batteries, it provides up to 25 hours of continuous use.
You can plot and upload your own routes as GPX files, so you can check whether you’re on track. You can also programme in specific landmarks (or waypoints) into the journey that reassuringly ping when you pass them. Connecting to GPS and GLONASS satellites, you can discover where you are in the most far-off places.
Controlled by a mini joystick and side buttons, this device took a bit of time to get used to. And the 2.2in screen doesn’t provide the biggest of views. That is the trade-off for such pocket portability. It was amazingly reliable in keeping us on track and, once we became familiar with its other functions, it was the tech find of the trip.
The Nokia XR20
If your route’s less remote, a mobile will do the trick. But you obviously want to take something that can survive being dropped on a rock or in a stream.
The Nokia XR20 is tough enough to handle knocks and stylish enough to take on a night out, like dating an MMA fighter who understands fashion. Its polymer composite casing meets MIL-STD-810H military standards, which means it’s built for more extreme environments.
It can be submerged in 1.5m of water for an hour and can survive a drop of 1.8m. The screen is made from Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, which is well hard.
It delivers on power, too. Its 4,630 mAH battery survived two days of regular use without a recharge. Alongside its robust build and long battery life, another selling point of the XR20 (pictured above) is its 6.67in screen that makes map reading much easier than on smaller handsets.
While costlier phones may boast faster display refresh rates and fancier cameras, the XR20 is reliable and robust. It’s also 5G-enabled and comes in at less than £350.
Not only that, it survived a soaking when I fell into a mountain stream with it in my pocket. It’s fair to say that the phone returned in better shape than I did.
Polar Grit X Pro
If the idea of handheld mapping devices is not for you, the Polar Grit X Pro is a rugged beast of a watch containing all manner of training and health tracking data, plus navigational capabilities.
A 1.2in Sapphire Glass, scratch-resistant touch screen sits in a bezel with compass points. Stainless steel housing has five buttons around the edges and users operate the device via a combination of these buttons and the touch screen.
Also boasting military-grade durability, it’s water resistant up to 100m and has a seven-day battery life that translates as 40 hours of continuous use in GPS tracking mode.
Planning routes is a bit fiddly as these need to be plotted in an allied app, in this case Komoot, then saved as a GPX file. There’s a charge for Komoot maps, too. Your route is uploaded to the Polar Flow app, then uploaded to the watch.
Once done, it’s a matter of starting your trek and following the turn-by-turn directions on the watch screen. It also has a feature to guide you back to your starting point if, like us, you hit a mountain river you can’t cross and you need to retrace your steps. It’s a SatNav on your wrist and very good.
Fenix 7 Solar Edition
The Fenix 7 Solar Edition is a pricier offering, but you get more tech bang for your buck. It includes the usual advanced heart rate and activity tracking you’d expect on a high-end wearable from Garmin, and the allied apps (Garmin Connect, Garmin Explore) present data concisely. Watch operation is via five button and the touch screen.
Its military-grade toughness is tested for thermal, shock and water resistance, and the 18-day battery life can be stretched to 22 days thanks to solar charging built into its Power Glass touch screen. I made 21 days without it needing a recharge and was regularly using its tracking metrics.
Its GPS mapping offering impresses. The watch comes with pre-paid TopoActive Maps that you download via a wi-fi connection, your computer and the watch’s inbuilt map manager function. Download pre-planned routes as GPX files, and the GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellites kick in when you’re out of mobile signal range. It’s a comprehensive offering with easy-to-use allied apps. But there is a price to pay for that.
You can’t go yomping through the breathtaking Highlands without taking pictures to make your friends on Instagram jealous. The GoPro Hero10 can not only take 23MP photos but also shoot 4K or 5.3K video. It can also capture action using time-lapse and slow-motion functions, and features stabilisation technology for filming on the move.
All this is packed into something smaller than a medium-sized Post-it note and thinner than a Mars bar. It takes up less space than three protein bars in my rucksack!
I packed 47 of the latter. My hiking partner said this was excessive. She didn’t say that when the weather meant our trip was aborted after five miles and she was hungry on the way back. Everyone’s a critic.
Anker 325 Power Bank
If you’re taking tech on a long hiking trip, you need to pack a back-up power source.
The Anker 325 Power Bank is slim enough for a rucksack and light enough to carry long distances.
Users get up to five full mobile phone charges out of its 20,000mAh battery.
Quechua Solar Panel 50W
If you’re returning to a camp site and spending daylight hours there, the Quechua Solar Panel 50W is a pretty good option. In carrying mode, it has the footprint of an A3 piece of paper.
Once folded out to twice its size and propped up to face the sun, it charges whatever needs power.
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