View Full Version : Smart to bring a smartphone?

12-14-2010, 01:16
I'm thru hiking next year and want to know if other thru hikers have brought smartphones on the trail. What are the pros/cons of bringing a smartphone vs. bringing a camera, cell phone and ipod? Does the battery life last long enough to get you to the next town? Do the cameras work well enough? Thanks!

12-14-2010, 02:11
as far as battery life is concerned you can bring a spare battery for backup.


12-14-2010, 02:17
If your smartphone is an Iphone and your server is AT&T, I'd say it's a waste of weight. IMHO, AT&T was a really bad server to have on the AT, but it's been a couple years since I've hiked that trail, and I can only hope it's better.

This is a bit obvious, but on the AT, you need to be really careful about not getting your electronics wet, because it rains all the time. I knew that, had my phone and ipod in zippies, and STILL found that both of them were destroyed before I made it to NH.

On the brightside, having a smartphone would be a really good idea if folks back at home would like constant updates and/or you're trying to coordinate with other hikers you meet. There are libraries for internet along the trail, but I found there were less than I wanted, and that the libraries weren't open when I needed them. The situation may have improved recently, though.

12-14-2010, 02:19
I would advise bringing a cell phone (doesn't need to be smartphone). But I would take the battery out of the phone unless you are making a call. It will prolong the battery life the best. Even when the phone is off while the battery is in, the phone will draw power and reduce battery life. I would bring at least one extra battery too. The reason I would carry one is the occassional check in while on trail, town use and emergency use. Don't expect to have coverage throughout the trail. Coverage varies for each company.

12-14-2010, 02:23

I would also pack some of these with any electronics you bring inside a waterproof sack. They are cheap, weigh barely anything, and will save you $$$ in the long run.

Mrs Baggins
12-14-2010, 08:34
I have a Motorola Droid from Verizon. While I do like it, it's only "smart" as long as it can get a 3G signal (or 4G if you have one capable of that). Regular cell coverage is always pretty good with Verizon, but 3G coverage can come and go. I've noticed I can have excellent coverage and then see the bars go completely away and stay away for minutes without my having changed locations. And it chews thru battery time very fast. It's bigger and heavier than a regular cell phone, too. If Verizon actually does get the iPhone I'll be switching to that. Still have the 3G problem but at least it's thinner and lighter.

Harrison Bergeron
12-14-2010, 09:52
I'm starting to think that the best option would be a cheapo prepaid Verizon phone (since they have the best coverage and I'm on T-mobile) and a separate e-ink book reader with Wi-Fi that also has a web browser and MP3 player. In town, you could use the book reader's browser to file your log and write home. The only thing you'd be missing is a GPS, and I wonder how much good a smartphone GPS would be on the trail, anyway.

A cheap phone can easily go a week on a charge. Same for an e-ink device like the Kindle. E-ink devices only use power when you turn the page.

The only problem is that the current crop of book readers are all too big. Ebook readers are new enough that people still think you need a gadget the size of a book to read an ebook. Not true. You can actually read faster if the device only shows you a paragraph at a time, and it's only a matter of time before people start figuring that out. I'm hoping that before my hike next May, a pocket-size 3oz bookreader with a touch screen and two-week battery life shows up. Basically, I'm looking for an Android-based Ipod-like gadget with an black-and-white e-ink screen.

Of course, if Verizon's your carrier, the perfect combination would be an E-ink smartphone. A color version of E-ink is going to appear next year, so by 2012 we'll have achieved electronic nirvana -- just in time for the end of the world. But not to worry -- according to the Mayan calendar it's not scheduled until December 21. All the thru-hikers should be home watching the show on their 60" 3D bigscreen TV's by then.

12-14-2010, 10:23
I used a Droid this year, and it had its pluses and minuses. The biggest challenge is battery management. The phone was turned off most of the time. Be sure to turn off automatic updates for all the apps, especially social media apps like Facebook. They will use a lot of power in poor signal situations and lengthen the boot process. The iGo Charge Anywhere charger worked pretty well since it has its own battery. I kept it in a dry bag in an outside pocket for "opportunistic" charging during lunch or snack breaks. Journaling was nice with postholer.com because I could post my updates directly by email. When I needed to get off the trail, it was very handy for scheduling a shuttle and train tickets.

My single biggest complaint is using the phone for pictures. I did not take nearly as many pictures as I would have with a separate camera. Since I kept it powered down, stopping to pull it out and boot it up took way to much time to make it practical.

12-14-2010, 10:37
Wouldnt go buy a smart phone for the trip. I used a simple flip phone (my cheap arse still has a flip phone) It worked good, never died before being able to recharge in towns (except up north - roaming).

Plus flip phones are less prone to weather problems then that high tech crap. Mine has been rained on, frozen, sleet, dropped off rocks and still worked fine after the trip. Senn a few high tech phones go south due to moisture problems. Screens crack if you sit wrong or lay your pack down wrong.

As far as keeping them dry, a zip lock sandwich bag works fine and is easy to get to when needed. Works for camera also.

Cut down your wires on the charger to save room and keep things neater. Also - Carve your name in charger, had mine taken by another hike at a hostel!. I also carved my name and phone number into my camera - saved me from loosing it when I left it somewhere in town once!