Over on USA Today, the editors recently published an article entitled 10 Smart Gadgets To Bring On Your Next Camping Trip. For the most part, these are 10 smart gadgets you don’t need. When you are getting out in nature, most people just want to detach and disconnect. More smartphone-connected gadgets aren’t what you need for that. And many of these gadgets don’t really save you a whole lot. They just substitute an expensive gadget you can control with your smartphone for something inexpensive that does the same thing without having to make sure your phone is charged to do it. Now before you go thinking this is a “you kids get off my lawn” article, I will say for the record I love gadgets. I take my phone camping. I’ll use the GPS occasionally, and the camera a lot. If there is a gadget that makes a trip easier, doesn’t take up a lot of space or add a lot of weight, then I’m happy to give it a shot. But I just can’t justify using up my phone’s battery with some of these gadgets for what little benefit they have.
So I have provided the original list, along with my recommended substitutions, when one is available. As they did, I have provided links to Amazon for all of the items listed. These are affiliate links so if you make a purchase, I’ll get a small commission. And I hope you get a chuckle out of some of these smart gadgets, like I did.
1 – A Speaker
The first gadget is a speaker that you can clip to your backpack.
It’s the WOWTOU Outdoor Wireless Bluetooth Speaker. If you are out in the woods hiking, you won’t see birds, or deer, or other wildlife if you have music playing making all sorts of noise as you walk. If you are at a noisy public campground, a speaker may be useful, but if you have a backpack to clip this to, that may not be where you are camping. It’s also something else you need to charge.
2 – Hydration
Next up, a water bottle with a lid that connects to your phone to tell you how much you are drinking. It’s the Thermos Hydration Bottle with Connected Smart Lid. Why? If you have a bottle of water, and it starts out full, you can look at it and see how much is gone. Drink when you’re thirsty, and then drink some more. Leave your phone’s bluetooth off so the battery will last longer. Get a nice 32 oz Nalgene water bottle, stay hydrated, and save yourself around $20.
3 – A Lighted Backpack?
I’m really not sure about how useful a backpack with a light would be. If it’s dark, and you’re walking, you need to see where you’re going, not where you’ve been. The TRAKK Armor LED Lighting Backpack has an LED light on it, which will shine behind you if you are walking with the pack on your back. You can change the light’s color with an app on your phone. To be honest, I’m really not sure how that will help out on a camping trip. I’ve done a lot of camping, and never once have I felt that my trip would be better if I could just connect to a light with my phone, and make it change colors.
4 – UV Exposure
At number 4 on the list is a sensor that monitors UV exposure. The MiLi Skinmate Skin Care Portable Digital UV Tester will tell you how much sun you’re in. If the sun is out, you need to protect yourself with a good sun hat and some sun screen.
5 – Portable USB Power
Number 5 is something that will keep your phone charged for you. The BioLite CampStove 2 provides a USB power source for your devices while you cook. That in itself isn’t really a bad idea. The problem is the cost. For this gadget, I guess it depends on how much USB charging you will need to do, and how long you will be away from a steady power source. I’ve used the EasyACC battery to keep my phone charged up for 3-5 days (your mileage may vary). Charge it before you leave, and you will get multiple phone recharges out of it while you are trekking. And since the Biolite also lets you cook, I’m adding the Ohuhu camping stove. Use leaves and small pieces of wood around your campsite to cook your meals.
6 – Let There Be Light
At number 6 is an LED lantern. The Bonai Roome Portable Smart Light is close to having some merit. It’s a small and efficient LED lantern, but it’s also close to $40 and is controlled by a smartphone app via bluetooth. This is using bluetooth for the sake of using bluetooth. How hard is it to turn on a light? I’m not sold on the fact that using an app makes this better.
Instead of this, try one (or more) of these lanterns, lightweight and simple (and less than $10). Open them up and they turn on, close them and they turn off. Simple. Light for your campsite. No app necessary.
7 – More Sound
At number 7 on the original list is another outdoor speaker, the BL Flip 3. Earlier in the list, I made my comments about how useful a speaker is while camping. Again, sitting around camp at a busy campground is one thing, but if you’re out in the woods there is no use for a speaker. I do enjoy zoning out and enjoying some music. A better option for music while camping, in my opinion, is a good pair of earbuds. You don’t need to charge them, they don’t bother anyone else, and they take up a lot less space.
8 – Press the Panic Button
Number 8 is a panic button to let your contacts know you need help. This is the Instinct by Revolar. This connects to your phone via bluetooth and sends texts with your GPS location and your status. If you have cell service, you should be able to call for help if you have trouble. Using your GPS and Bluetooth with this device is just going to drain your phone’s battery faster. So I am not sure if the money you spend on this actually makes you any safer. I’m not going to offer up any alternatives for this. You need to know where you’re travelling and have a plan in case you have trouble. You should have a radio or something if you are beyond cell service, and someone should know where you are and when you will be back.
9 – Smart Bobber for Smart Fishing
Showing up at number 9 on the list is a smart bobber. If you love fishing, the iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder may be something you are interested in. I’m not going to bash this choice. Some people use fish finders, and some people don’t. If you are not fishing from a boat with a fish finder installed, and you want to use one, this is an option. It works with your smartphone to give you information about what’s just below the surface. So I’ll leave this one up to you to decide if it’s worth using your phone’s battery for. Maybe yes, maybe no.
10 – GPS Tracking Utility
Number 10 may or may not relate to camping . The Spy Tec Mini Portable GPS Tracker is a real-time GPS tracker to keep tabs on you or your friends. Neat idea, but based on the reviews, this is a T Mobile device. T Mobile does not have good coverage outside of major metropolitan areas. At least in Upstate NY, once you leave populated areas, you don’t have service. So this won’t work well in many of the place I think you would want it to work for letting someone know where you are on a remote camping trip. I don’t think this is very useful as a camping gadget.
If you are going camping, take the time to get away from the comforts of home, and connect with nature. Because you are away from the familiar surroundings of your home doesn’t mean you need to go without. You just need to learn to do things differently. Turn off your cell, your Bluetooth, and your social media, and enjoy the outdoors.