It is three years since I did a dedicated post on the electronic gear I carry on backpacking trips, so here is the 2023 update. Do note that this selection is peculiar to me. I am a UK lightweight backpacker who still enjoys a bit of luxury. As always, there is also a little experimentation underway at present, so at least one item will be dropped later in the year.
I keep the majority of my electronics in an 11g zippered rectangular pouch from Wild Sky Gear. This is made of Liteskin XPAC, a 70D polyester with a non-woven resin face. This has good resistance to abrasion so is more suited to the angular edges of pins on a power adapter, power banks and cables than DCF or cheap-n-cheerful Ziplocs. While this pouch has a good deal of water resistance, I still keep it inside another waterproof bag inside the pack.
This is a 187g Samsung Galaxy S20+. I used to have this encapsulated in an Olixar protective case (two together totalling 227g) but changed to a 46g Quad Lock case. This can be used with the 20g Quad Lock tripod mount that has a standard 1/4″ tripod thread, and can be attached to a small tripod. I had continued to use the glass protective cover from my previous Olixar case but having smashed three on consecutive backpacking trips I couldn’t afford to continue with these so just use a flexible film on the screen now. It is a good phone and takes a decent picture. My days of carrying a dedicated digital compact camera on trail seem to be well and truly over.
A powerbank will almost always be accompanying me on trail. This is one of two Nitecore products- either the 151g Nitecore NB10000 Gen 2 (10k mAh), or 326g Nitecore NB20000 (20k mAh). I reviewed four of the Nitecore powerbank products in 2021 with a follow up review of the NB1000 Gen 2 in 2022. The second generation NB10000 saw few changes of real note but sufficient that I upgraded to it from the first iteration. Dimensions between generations are almost unchanged with weight increasing by just a gram for the 10k Gen 2. These powerbanks do have quite pointy corners but are simply the lightest and probably best options there are for lightweight backpacking.
I am likely to also purchase and change to the Nitecore Carbo 20000 mAh power bank during 2023, for when I want the greater capacity as there are a few features on this that appeal to me, not least that it is smaller and weighs less than 300g.
As you can see, the weight of two NB10000 Gen 2 powerbanks (302g) is less than a single 326g NB20000. However it comes down to usable energy from a powerbank and proportionally, it is possible to draw more from a 20k source than two 10k powerbanks individually. Also, it is only necessary to set up the one powerbank to charge rather than return to swap over once one is full. Conversely, I have occasionally been quite nervous about leaving a powerbank unattended whilst charging and should the one go ‘missing’, then another would still be in reserve.
UK power sockets require one of the largest pokiest and most awkwardly shaped plugs/power adapters worldwide. Despite being a solid, folding and efficient accessory, I am usually not carrying my 63g Samsung made USB-C 25W Super Fast Charge Power Adapter. Instead, I opt for the slightly smaller, slightly lighter 48g Anker USB-C 20W Power Port III Nano, model A2633. This has an input of 100-240v/0.6A and output of 5v/3A or 9v/2.22A (19.98W). While this may not be as high a rate as the Samsung plug, it has been adequate so far.
I switch around my cables quite often as they seem to be under steady improvement by the manufacturers. As mentioned later, I carry a spare cable so no longer include the toughest armoured cable I can find. I still take a decent cable with protective sheath however. This is a 26g Anker USB-C to USB-C 1000mm braided cable, 60W, USB 2.0, 48Gbps data transfer. A longer cable would be more useful in many recharging situations but the weight increases quite a bit, this metre long cable is my compromise.
I have had my charge lead get damp when on trail. My Samsung S20+ phone picks up on this and will not then charge, giving a ‘disconnect immediately‘ instruction instead. I am then a bit stuck, unable to charge a phone despite having bags of power in my powerbank. A second charge lead, albeit small, is a useful addition in such parlous situations, not only for damp, loss or damage of a primary lead, but can also permit a powerbank to be left charging in one location while the phone is also plugged in and on charge while being used elsewhere.
My second charge lead is simply a lightweight shortie lead. This is a 6.6g mytysun USB-C to USB-C 110mm flat cable. 100W Quick Charge, USB 3.1 Gen 2, 10Gbps data transfer, 4K@60Hz Video Output, Thunderbolt 3 Compatible.
Update: The 6.6g shortie cable was swapped out for a 2.7g USB-C male to USB-C male fast-charge connector, capable of 40Gbps data transfer and 8K@60Hz audio and video transmission.
I often find myself travelling to and from the start and end of a trail by train. UK trains will normally have either a standard UK three-pin plug provision or a USB-A connector for charging phones and laptops. USB-A are also found as charge outlets in cafes and some accommodation such as hostels. Therefore it sometimes pays for me to have a USB-A connector. I used to carry a 120mm shortie 7.6g USB-A/USB-C charge lead but now simply include a tiny 3.3g USB 2.0 male to USB-C female adapter made by Abrity.
If the phone gets damp in it’s charge port, I am in bother. It happened a couple of times in 2022 and I was unable to charge the phone until things had dried out. This can be circumvented by carrying a wireless charger as the S20+ phone can be charged in this manner and I have considered carrying a small wireless charge plate with me ‘just in case’. However none of them are that thin, or that light. Weigh your little desk charger and you will see what I mean. Ideally, I want something less than five grams. The powerbanks, including Samsung’s own, that have a wireless charge plate in their side seem to all be pretty hopeless for lightweight backpacking. I am sure it is possible to buy the bare-bones circuitry and fashion something paper thin that would probably weigh no more than a handful of grams, but such know-how is beyond my ken.
Three Points of the Compass does little night hiking and has moved away from headlamps for the majority of the year, preferring the utility of a small hand-held light, fitted with a reversible pocket clip so that it can also be clipped onto the brim of a hat if required.
RovyVon Aurora A5R USB-C ‘glow-in-the-dark’ Keychain Flashlight, third generation. This has a 330mAh lithium polymer rechargeable battery fitted and is charged via a USB-C port. My version has 6500 kelvin SST-20 front LED fitted, delivering 0.5, 25, 200 and 650 lumen. In the side of the body it also has 10 and 50 lumen white LED’s and 25 lumen red or flashing red LED. While the light itself weighs 17.5g, I also have a magnetic tail base, non-magnetic pocket clip and small split ring attached. This brings the weight up to 21g.
The ‘glow-in-the-dark’ luminous body is an appreciated aspect. I hang mine from the pack during the day where it is charged by natural light, and it is then moved to the zipper pull in my shelter at night. From there I can see it to remove it and use, or leave, hanging and switch on a side LED, or simply easily locate the zipper in the dark should I need to exit during the night. A faint green glow will persist for many hours and usually does me for the night. If I want to, I can just switch on a side white LED for a few seconds to recharge the GITD body. On a couple of occasions, I have also been thankful of the flashing red light when road walking in misty or low light conditions.
I always have a little 3g USB LED tucked away in the electronics bag for use in the evenings. This has a warm light and plugs straight into the powerbank and provides a low energy draw light in the tent. Mine is adjustable in lumen so I can turn it right down if required. This year, alongside this, I am experimenting and comparing it with a cheaply made 4.8g USB lantern that instead provides a 360° throw of light. This also plugs directly into my powerbank and is also primarily intended for tent use. While neither of these are essential items, I do frequently want some form of light in a shelter of a night time and these work well. Moving into winter, I am very likely to go old-school and carry a UCO candle lantern or some other form of lantern.
Luxuries: Pad inflator and thermometer
For the past few years Three Points of the Compass has become lazy and has often appreciated using a battery powered pad inflator to pump up the inflatable sleeping pad at days end instead of using my lungs or a pump sack, even on shorter trails. Despite not appreciating the additional weight and bulk, I found it sneaking into my pack on a more regular basis and it is now a permanent fixture. First it was the 88g Flextailgear Tiny Pump, since ‘upgraded’ by the maker and now both larger and heavier at over 100g. From that I moved to the remarkable Pad-Pal. In 2022 it was the v4, but for 2023 I am beta-testing a prototype Pad-Pal v5 battery powered pad inflator. This is joining me on trail while I decide what I think of it. Because this relies on my powerbank, this lives alongside it in my electronics pouch. My original, and very expensive, v4 PadPal, weighs just 10.6g, which includes the valve adapter for my Thermarest Winglock sleeping pad. The v5 weighs just 7.6g, including Winglock adapter. More to the point, it is a good deal smaller and more powerful. More on that in a dedicated post.
I am carrying the 21g Oria SensorBlue thermometer on trail this year. This is a device for detecting both temperature and humidity. Yep, yet another luxury! I do like to have an idea on the temperatures both during the day and at night. This can be hung within the vestibule of my shelter and being Bluetooth, can be connected to my phone as and when I wish.
Another luxury I used to include was 20g bluetooth Treblab XR500 sports earbuds, but have found that I simply do not use them frequently enough to justify continuing to carry them. This is a luxury that I am now usually leaving at home. I seldom listen to music or podcasts on trail, usually preferring the sounds around me and my own thoughts
Moving into winter, with longer hours of darkness, there will be few changes to my electronics. I’ll move almost exclusively to the larger Nitecore powerbank and a headlamp with greater capacity and ability will join the set-up. I will still take the RovyVon Aurora keychain light with me. The additional light is my 80g Olight H1R Nova headtorch together with its 14g proprietary charge lead. Olight’s current replacement for this is the Perun 2 Mini. I may buy the upgraded version later this year as it appears to be a few grams lighter together with improved specs, it depends on what deals I can find as it is a fairly expensive purchase.
Note that I do not carry a couple of items that many other backpackers and hikers are. I do not carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). Nor do I carry a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) device. I rely instead on old-school map and compass, backed up by OS Maps and OS Locate (an old but still useful app) on my phone, though these are seldom used. While I have the what3words app loaded, I am not keen on it. Not only is it proprietary but, more importantly, it is not intuitive on the ground. If I am a digit or two out on a six or eight figure grid reference, I am still in the vicinity, that is not the case with what3words which has a couple of worrying issues that could put rescue services many many miles away. Even a single postcode puts you within the vicinity of no more than twenty-five households in an urban area
It can be a little surprising how the weight quickly adds up with these items. My basic electronics pouch and contents weighs 300g, plus another 234g for the phone with its Quad Lock back case. While I may slightly bemoan the weight of this content, it has reduced considerably over the last few years as it has become more closely integrated and lighter alternatives adopted where possible. At least the 534g is down a little on the 621g that I was carrying in 2020. I include below a few images of previous incarnations of the Three Points of the Compass on-trail electronics.
Update: with the change from shortie cable to USB-C connector, the weight snuck down a handful of grams to 296g, 530g with phone and case
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