In a world of smartphones with built-in GPS chips and cars with included navigation systems, what’s a navigation device manufacturer to do? If you’re as smart as Garmin, you diversify, that’s what.
Sure, Garmin still makes standalone GPS receivers. They even make my favorite iOS navigation app, Navigon. But what’s even more exciting is the way Garmin is reaching out into other areas, bringing its mapping expertise to other cool devices.
Like cameras. Sure, GoPro is getting a lot of the buzz now, but Garmin’s VIRB Elite is versitile, rugged and feature-packed “ruggedized” camera — a fancy way of saying it can take pretty much anything you can dish out on your most extreme outdoor adventure, and play it back to you in stunning 1080p high definition video.
I grew up before such things even needed to be considered, but for most of the years I’ve been a Scout leader, I’ve held the opinion that tech and the Great Outdoors don’t mix. “No Electronics On Campouts” was my mantra, and for good reasons. Back then, tech meant a cellphone and maybe an iPod or Gameboy, none of which were conducive to a good camping trip. They got in the way of enjoying the outdoors, they exacerbated homesickness for the younger boys and kept older Scouts up all night texting with their girlfriends. In short, they just didn’t make for happy campers.
It’s a good time to be a camping geek. There are cool gadgets like UV water purifiers and locater beacons; there are GPS receivers that can help you find the trail (or your car.) And there are scores of smartphone apps to enhance your outdoors experience, from GPS trackers to stargazing apps to knot trying guides and more. If there’s anyone out there still saying that tech has no place on a camping or hiking trip, they’re just not paying attention.
Maybe it’s a function of age, but every time I contemplate a long hike along rough terrain or a lot of elevation, I reexamine my longstanding prejudice against trekking poles. I haven’t been alone in my suspicion that trekking poles are at worst a gimmick and at best an unnecessary weight to bear. But enough people I respect swear by them that I decided it was time to throw my preconceived notions away and take a fresh look. Even the Appalachian Trail Conservancy estimates that 90-95% of AT thru-hikers — notorious for eliminating all unnecessary weight — carry trekking poles.
iPhone owners with GoPro envy may find solace in a new case from Hitcase. The company’s eponymous case quickly seals your iPhone in a rugged, waterproof, shockproof enclosure complete with brackets that connects it to mounts matched to a variety of activities. The HitcasePro adds a removable lens that works as both a wide-angle and macro lens.
With the included and available companion mounts, the Hitcase can be worn on a helmet, chest, bicycle handlebars or — with its “StickR” mount, almost any hard surface like a car hood or dashboard.