It wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t have fancy smartphones. I’ve talked about them before and will keep on talking about them because let’s face it, we’re all digital delinquents these days—we’re all addicted to our phones.
It is nice to put them away for a while, but I’m always on the lookout for a different way to use or protect my phone when I’m outdoors. With so many apps and other services, it’s easy to see why they’re valuable.
Keep it safe
So right off the bat, you need a good case for your expensive phone if you’re going to be a digital outdoorsperson. I’ve used, abused, and beat up many of them on the market and have kept coming back to products offered by LifeProof.
Earlier this year, the folks at LifeProof jumped in with the fine folks at Realtree and released a line of camouflaged cases for the iPhone. I got my grubby hands on the Realtree MAX-5 iPhone 4/4s case and let me tell you, it is styling and profiling!
The case I use is tested to withstand some serious impacts. I have, ahem, evaluated that “feature” thoroughly, and can say that when your phone’s in the LifeProof iPhone 4 case, it’s pretty safe. It’s also waterproof to a depth of 6.5 feet. They use a screw-out button for the earbud port and a gasket-covered flap for the charging port. Unlike some other phone cases, you can still hear everything and everyone can hear you when you talk. The best part is that the case doesn’t add much girth to the phone and it’ll still slip into your pocket with ease.
Some of the secrets to the LifeProof case are in the liner. The phone is protected from impacts by way of an elastomer lining that circles the inner case around your phone. This is the same material used to make some kinds of shock absorbers. The frame itself is made of polycarbonate, which adds to the impact resistance of the case.
The base case retails for around $80 and comes in a variety of colors. The camo models go for just a little more. There are a ton of cool accessories, too. I have a foam life jacket that snaps on the outside of the case and makes it float, in case the phone decides to go for a swim.
The only downfall I found is that you really need to keep an eye on the gasket for the charging port. If that falls out, you’re toast if the phone gets wet or really dusty.
Keep it charged
If you’ve got a smartphone, chances are you’ve noticed that the batteries don’t seem to last long. If you’re camping, hiking, hunting, or fishing (or society collapses), you’re going to need a way to keep your phone and other electronic devices charged.
Luckily there are a few really cool gizmos out there that do just that by way of the big, yellow, glowing thing in the sky. One of the coolest I’ve used is from Bushnell. Their PowerSync SolarWrap 400 has an onboard battery that will charge from direct sunlight, moonlight, or even the old fashioned way—-plugging into a wall outlet.
The SolarWrap 400 will charge from a wall outlet in four hours. Spread out the solar panel and use the sun, and it only takes 3.5 hours! It’ll charge anything that connects via a standard USB port.
When camping with my family, sometimes it’s hard to get the kids to settle down and go to bed. For this reason, we load a few cartoons onto an iPad and take it with us. This past summer, we were in camp for a week with no electric hookups and after a few rainy days, the kids’ moods were as sour as the jug of milk that got left out of the cooler for three days. The only thing that saved us was having the iPad and the SolarWrap 400 that kept it going. Think if you were deep in the backcountry and your cell battery went dead. Wouldn’t you want to be able to recharge it in case you fell, or bagged a huge buck and need to brag to friends? That alone makes it worth the cost.
We got tunes!
With summer right around the corner, we’re all going to spend a lot of time outside, especially after the winter we just had. Sometimes we just want to hear the wind blow through the trees and the birds chirp. Other times, well, we want to hear some music.
I got my hands on a product that impressed me greatly. ECOXGEAR’s ECOXTERRA speaker system for outdoor enthusiasts is the answer to the question, how can I use my iPod, phone, and so on to listen to music and keep everything safe at the same time? Waterproof, shockproof, and just-about-everything-proof, the ECOXTERRA speaker features a sealed area to hold your device. The compartment is completely watertight and protects your valuable iPod from shocks. It connects via your phone’s earbud port and works with most common smartphones and similar items.
The ECOXTERRA works with eight AA batteries, or via an AC adapter. It claims to have a 25-hour battery life. The whole thing is just over 14 inches wide and can go just about anywhere. It floats, too, so you can take it swimming or out on the boat fishing and not have to worry about ruining it or your phone. I used it steelhead fishing this spring. I wanted to listen to the Red Wings game, so I connected with my phone, plugged it into the ECOXTERRA and listened to the game while I was chasing steelies. It was pretty cool.
I don’t always have my eyes glued to my phone, checking email, etc. I really like to enjoy the outdoors for what it is. But there are times when the two worlds need to mix, and when those times arise, I like the fact that I can be protected, connected, fully charged, and entertained. So yes, at times I am a digital delinquent. I like to think of myself as a modern outdoorsman, but whatever.
Images by Derrek Sigler