My Phone Is My Favorite Backcountry Gear

My favorite backcountry gear (it's not what you think)

Guess what, I took my iPhone camping, and it’s my favorite piece of backcountry gear.

Chances are, you’ve had either an iPhone or some type of android phone, for the last many years. I’d even wager that you may be reading this blog on your cellphone. I’m sure this will come as no surprise to you but, we have become entirely reliant on these little devices. What favorite backcountry gear do you take with you? Here’s a handy list of things that come with you every time you decide to take your smartphone out hiking with you. Not that you should ditch your hiking shoes or down puffy...not just yet. 

Move over hiking boots, down jacket, and water filter! I've got a new piece of favorite backcountry gear and it's my darn iPhone!

Camera

How many photos live on your phone? If you’re anything like me it is getting to a pretty ridiculous place. I have over 18,000 photos and 2,000 videos. These photos range from ridiculous tent bound selfies to photo of where the heck I parked my car. Smartphone cameras have gotten so good that you don’t even see many folks lugging around a traditional set up. Heck, there are a handful of photos that we use on the our website that were taken with a cellphone.

Communications

Whether I’ve got service and I can keep up with my wife and friends or I’m in the backcountry with my Garmin InReach device, I constantly am using my phone to communicate with the outside world while I’m in the backcountry. The combo of the Garmin InReach Mini and my iPhone absolutely helps make my iPhone my favorite backcountry gear. Protip. Many people ask, does the Garmin InReach Mini work without cellphone service? The answer is yes! It pairs with your smartphone and uses the Garmin’s satellite connection to send messages. This is one piece of backcountry safety equipment you want to have.

Navigation

Whether you’re using GAIAGPS Google Maps, Alltrails, or even the slick built in compass of your iPhone, most of us are relying on our smartphones to aid in backcountry navigation. While organizations like Leave No Trace still encourage use of paper maps and a compass, there is just a small percentage of folks who even know how to read those things anymore. Most of us turn to that trusted device in our pocket and most of the time, it works like a charm.

Not all trails are created equal. There's a good chance you won't ever see such nice single track laid out before you. Smartphones make a great backcountry navigation tool.

Fitness Tracking

If you’re an avid hiker there’s a good chance that you like to log all your miles. Well, say hello the App Store. Many folks use Strava to log and record their activities, but there are loads of different options out there. GAIAGPS can also record your mileage as well as navigate at the same time. While it doesn’t offer the same type of fitness statistics as Strava, it does a much better job at navigating.

Weather

Paying attention to the weather is something that every outdoor enthusiast needs to get the hang of. Fortunately for us, there are loads of highly accurate weather apps. Unless you can read the clouds, and I’m willing to bet you can’t, having a weather app installed on your phone is going to pay dividends. Always know before you go and prepare for the elements!

Don't get caught out in stormy weather by surprise. Your favorite backcountry equipment is your phone! Use it wisely.

Flashlight

I sure hope you never have to use your flashlight on your phone in an emergency situation, but hey, at least it’s there if you need it! I’ve used this handy feature several times to just locate something I may have dropped on the trail or to shine a light inside my pack if I’m having a hard time finding something. This is much preferred to digging through your pack to find your headlamp. 

Wow, that’s a pretty impressive list of backcountry tools that all live on your smartphone. Now you can see the value in having something akin to a tactical phone case. When you’re out in nature you probably don’t even realize that your phone has helped you to become a woods ninja, stealthily traversing the wilderness with a high degree of accuracy, and sneaking up on some precious deer to steal a photo of them.

One last tip! All smartphones today use a lithium ion battery and these batteries can die easily in cold weather. That's why we invented our West Slope Case. This cellphone pouch protects your iPhone or Android device from failing in cold and hot weather and extends the life of your lithium ion battery. I love to use it with my Anker Battery Pack as well so I can always be sure I've got plenty of charge left in my devices while I'm adventuring. 

So what do you think? Phones have no doubt become a staple in our backcountry gear collection and I think it’s time that we admit it and embrace it.

While we're talking about our favorite backcountry gear, let me give you a few of my personal favorites!

1. Tent - I've always been partial to Big Agnes tents. Not only are they another great Colorado brand but their tents are tried and true and I've had well over one hundred nights in this ultralight two person tent. Though a little worse for the wear over the years it's still going strong!

2. Shoes - The Salomon X Ultra 4 Goretex has been an incredible shoe for me. I've used this to haul 75 pounds of gear deep into the backcountry and they've also worked just as well on a simple day hike. They're stiff, truly waterproof, and have amazing grip over all varied terrain. I'd highly recommend this shoe and it has become my go to trail shoe!

3. Sleeping Pad - Ok, this ultralight sleeping pad has quite the long name. The Sea To Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Sleeping Pad, is by far the most comfortable sleeping pad I've ever used. I'm a side sleeper and this inflatable sleeping pad is just over four inches thick! It has some serious comfort. Not only that, the inflation bag is designed right into the stuff sack and it works like a charm. Like....it actually works, instead of the marketing just telling you it does.

4. Jacket - The Arctery'x Atom SL Hoody is an amazing piece. There is just enough insulation in the core to keep you toasty and the rest of the piece is uninsulated. I love this jacket for high intensity work in the frigid winter months or as my outer layer on spring, summer, and fall mornings. I have found this hoody has replaced a few different fleeces in my closet including the Patagonia R1. Buy once, cry once. You will not be disappointed in this jacket. 

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