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Gear Reviews

Top 2019 Tech Gifts for Backpacking and Hiking

Your loved ones will actually want to bring this technology into the backcountry.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

We get it: The idea of having too much tech in the backcountry makes a lot of people cringe. After all, we go out there to get off our phones, wean our eyes off screens and literally unplug. But what if we told you there were a handful of battery-operated items that could actually enhance your time on the trail? Whether your loved one is a beginning car camper or a seasoned thru-hiking vet, these are the tech gifts your favorite hiker or backpacker will want to make their off-the-grid experience even better.

Garmin fēnix 6X Pro Solar Smartwatch

Garmin fenix 6 Solar Pro watch with a black band sits on a white background. The watchface has a graph showing solar intensity.
Get up to 21 days of battery life in smartwatch mode with an additional 3 days when solar charging — and 15 hours in GPS mode with an additional hour when solar charging.

It’s a lot easier to avoid getting lost when the map is strapped to your wrist. The fēnix 6X Pro Solar puts full topographic maps and GPS navigation capabilities literally within an arm’s reach. Plus, real-time elevation tracking, blood oxygen monitoring, and a ton more are easily-accessible mid-hike. Its 1.4” Power Glass™ lens uses sunlight to extend battery life for off-grid adventures.

BioLite SolarPanel 5+ Charger

Never wonder if you’re hitting the sun right. An integrated sundial (and kick stand on the back of the panel) helps make sure you’re pointed right where you need to be to rake in power from the 5-watt panel to fill the 2200 mAh battery. Fully charged, the BioLite SolarPanel 5+ Charger will juice up phones, tables, and other electronics with ease.

Goal Zero Light-a-Life USB LED Set

Camp lights are critical—why not make them fun too? Shed a little light on your camp kitchen or the inside of your tent with the four 110-lumen LEDs on each strand, and spice up the vibe with colored and white shades for each light. The strand plugs into a power pack via USB, can be linked together into an even longer chain, and features a high and low mode to make them last all night long.

Nomad Carabiner Lightning Cable

This perfect stocking-stuffer pulls double duty as a convenient carabiner and an iPhone charging cable, saving room in your pack and keeping you from damaging or losing the longer dedicated cable. Use it to clip your solar panel to your backpack on the hike in, then pull it off and use it to plug in your phone at camp.

inReach Mini Two-way Satellite Messenger from Garmin

Garmin inReach Mini on a white background
The internal, rechargeable lithium battery provides up to 90 hours of battery life in 10-minute tracking mode.

No product is as valuable as your loved one’s safety, which is why the inReach Mini is every concerned friend’s favorite gift to give and every backpacker’s favorite gift to get. The two-way satellite communicator lets off-grid adventurers send and receive text messages and location updates, get weather reports, and communicate with rescuers if anything were to go wrong (subscription required). Pairing the inReach with the fēnix 6 smartwatch lets you see incoming messages at a glance, as well as send preset messages and more right from your wrist. You don’t have to worry about being within range of a cell tower or encountering spotty coverage.

Peakfinder App

If you spend any time in the mountains, the Peakfinder App is critical. The augmented reality app lets you hold your phone up to the horizon and identify the mountains you can see from that spot. Look at the horizon on-screen using a sketch-like black and white outline of the peaks, or overlay the peaks on your camera to make picking them out easy. Plus, the app works completely offline and even lets you choose a different peak or spot to preview the view before you even get there. 

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