Guess what, 5 years later I am on another generation of backcountry tech devices. Back then, I was carrying a Spot Connect satellite communicator, a Samsung Galaxy III smart phone and a Garmin Oregon 400 handheld GPS. I still carry the same 3 functions, but now it’s a new Garmin InReach Mini, a Galaxy 7, and an Oregon 600. And, no surprise, they are better. The GPS and smartphone were replaced as they died or aged. The new Garmin satellite communicator just out performed the competition.
Garmin InReach Mini
The InReach Mini gives me two way SMS communication, which is the new standard for backcountry satellite devices. Emergency notification with location (“calling in the cavalry”) was the first popular backcountry satellite application and still remains an important, if hopefully infrequently used, function. Now having been on the receiving end of one of these contacts, I can say that it is useful, but still leaves lots of room for confusion. Being able to confirm and detail the nature of the emergency and have two way communication with responders makes life better and safer for all concerned. Expanding that two way capability to ordinary messaging offers a new level of utility. Both current SPOT and Garmin InReach devices do this. For higher annual subscription costs, you can also add connection to social media and location tracking. But I am quite happy with a basic level plan. Compared to the SPOT X communicator, the InReach Mini is a hands down winner and when my annual SPOT contract was up, I switched. Continue reading →
Mt. Rainier is now wearing a new coat of snow and the high country is making the transition to winter. Days are short, the rain is arriving and it is time to look ahead to ski season. This is a good time to reflect on this year’s outings. What worked well? What didn’t?
Comfort light delivered for me this season. Good, light weight equipment continues to open opportunities. My wife and I are backpacking again, without me as the mule. I am able to do grab and go trips to support climbs requiring a base camp. Bake a load of Logan bread. Take a quick shopping trip and I am off. With less gear, packing is quicker. In the past even overnight trips seemed to have packing drama. Continue reading →
Well, maybe not that fast. But once you have slashed the weight of your multi-day gear, you can carry less for day trips as well. With both Washington’s Cascades and Olympics in day trip range, I have many wilderness outings available. But it is wilderness and in a day you can get just as far away from trail head as you might on a short backpack. The 10 Essentials still apply.
Last summer one of the authors of a new epub “Guide to 100 peaks at Mount Rainer National Park (not including the big one)”introduced me the wonderful world of all the other places in the park. While some of these 100 peaks are well known favorites, many don’t get visited often. The guide takes you to parts of the park that lie in between the popular entrances. Some of the peaks are hikes. A few are technical climbs, but most are what get called “alpine scrambles”, like Barrier Peak shown in the photo. The route may be a boot track or simply cross country. Early season, there may be snow, and sometimes rock scrambling happens. A 3,000 ft. elevation gain is typical, so lightweight gear is good. I have gotten seriously hooked on these peaks. Barrier was number 41 for me.
Backcountry electronics might seem like a contradiction. After all, don’t we go to the woods to get away from all that stuff? Still the power and productivity electronics provide us today can be persuasive.
In the backcountry, I supplement my navigation with GPS and I use satellite connection for emergency and routine location reporting. Continue reading →