For cycling East I wanted to go as light as possible which meant taking just my ‘essential’ electronic items. Sadly in this day and age it meant quite a few bits and pieces.
Below is a list and short review for everything I took. Apologies for the fairly unashamed Amazon usage for the pictures, but I thought it helped illustrate everything clearly and I also make a small commission if you click on stuff 🙂
Garmin E-Trex GPS unit
I love this unit for many reasons. Firstly it is incredibly robust (I have unfortunately dropped it out of a pocket at 20mph many times!), it really is totally weather proof in heavy rain or dust, it is easy to use and has an outstandingly good battery life. The AA batteries it takes were charged up on the solar panel so I never ran out where-ever I was.
I loaded it up with Velo Maps this is a great website for open source bike touring maps, it really does make life very easy in Europe at least!
Many people will consider just taking an I-Phone but I like the simplicity and reliability of a stand alone unit that I can rely on.
The main issues with a smartphone for GPS are;
1.The lack of connectivity to get the most out of the phone, I didn’t buy local sim cards so I would need WIFI and that can be hard to find in some places.
2.Battery life is short and harder to manage thant the simple AA batteries on the Garmin.
3.Smartphones look smart, the Garmin looks ugly, it looks to the untrained eye like a Nokia mobile phone from 1998 and that means no one will mug you for it, the same can’t be said for smartphones!
4. I don’t believe the accuracy or reliability is as impressive, the Garmin uses a wide range of satellites and it sometimes took a while to pick something up but it always did even in the depths of central Asian deserts, places where the smart phones of people I met didn’t work as well.
Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panel (plus USB AA battery charger.)
This solar charger was on its second major tour and it has proved a trusty companion on sunny days. The two panels fit really nicely over the rear panniers and they become a fit and forget item.
In the morning I strapped the panel across the panniers with either a device or the USB battery charger and by the end of the days riding it will have charged whatever I attached. I did have to check the USB hadn’t bounced out during riding though! It struggled to charge the Nexus tablet but was OK with a smartphone or a GoPro and the AA batteries charged in a few hours on sunny days. If the tablet was switched in standby then the charging was at about the same rate as the power usage from the screen coming on and off from the bumpy road! If it was turned off it would put 40% in over the whole day which was fine for typing stuff up in the evenings. If we used intensive power like for WIFI we normally had a plug to charge anyway!
The panel does need direct sunlight, bright overcast days may just about work but only just. Anything in the shade or gloomy will have no chance of charging.
I bought one of these for the my rechargeable AA/AAA batteries:
Asus Google Nexus tablet
Last year I took a cheap tablet into the South American Andes with me and it blew up pretty quickly, maybe from the altitude expanding the screen. Samsung prohibit their tablets being used above 3500m. I also used a cheap smartphone cycle touring to Asia in 2013 and broke and stopped charging quite quickly. This year I went with a respected brand in the Asus Nexus and it paid off. The Nexus has 1gb of ram and just 16gb of memory. It doesn’t have an external micro SD slot which was a bit annoying but, it did mean I used cloud storage which is a far safer option when travelling (near WIFI at least!). I choose a 7 inch screen to compromise size and weight but retain usability. I wrote around 50,000 words for blogs on it so it can’t be too bad!!! The Canon 6D DSLR I used has a fantastic WIFI feature meaning I could seamlessly transfer photos onto the tablet then onto cloud storage in seconds. Sadly only lower res versions not RAW files though.
On this tablet the WIFI pick up was great in Hostels and restaurants. I used an offline Google map app to navigate through most of central Asia, which proved very useful if it wasn’t the most sensible option to rely on!!
Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader
Marion took this as a lighter option to books. I personally would rather pick up a book but often that was hard in English at least. The paperwhite has exceptional battery life of weeks not days and it charged by solar panel, however it very rarely needed charging in fact maybe only once over two months so overall it worked flawlessly, much like a paper book but lighter!
These are a great cheapish option for music, also being tiny and super light and fast to charge via the trusty solar panel USB outlet. These never let me down: they played music well for a long time per charge so not much else to review. Probably worth the extra cost over other MP3 players for their reliability.
I will review all my photography equipment on a separate blog