Seven gadgets that enhance the outdoors without distracting from it

Reach for these seven tech tools to help make life on the trail easier and more fun.

FROM GPS DEVICES to GoPro cameras, technology is ubiquitous today on any hiking trail. The good news: Savvy hikers embrace gadgets but don’t let them get in the way. Check out these options for gadgets and tech tools that can enhance — not detract from — your time in the outdoors.

Stephen Regenold is the founder of and a professed gadget nerd.

1. Goal Zero Switch 8 Recharger –, $40


A tiny recharger unit, the Switch 8 connects to almost any gadget that is USB compatible. It’s about the size of a pack of Life Savers, but the 8-watt unit offers a vault of power for recharging a phone, GPS device or camera. Charge it up via a wall outlet at home, and then drop the Switch in your backpack as a power reserve on the trail. The pocket-sized device is also compatible with Goal Zero’s Nomad 7 Solar Panel ($80) for charging in the outdoors. Check your local Scout shop for availability or visit

2. SteriPEN Classic 3 Water Purifier –, $70


A tiny glass wand, the Classic 3 model from SteriPEN emits UV light that can treat water. The ultraviolet glow renders bacteria, protozoan cysts and viruses harmless in less than a minute. Caveat: Your lake or river water needs to be clear and free of debris before the device will work.

3. SPOT Trace –, $99 (plus required service plan)


Attach this 2-inch-wide pod to your troop trailer or other troop gear, and you can monitor its movements remotely. The Trace, advertised as a theft-alert tracking unit, syncs with a satellite network to let you know if an object moves. An email or text message is automatically sent if the Trace (and the object to which it is attached) is moved — stolen or otherwise — and you can then track it via GPS coordinates and Google Maps in near real time.

4. Camp Scout! by Boys’ Life App  –, free


A gadget can be as simple as an app on your smartphone. Thousands of apps have been designed for outdoor activities, but Camp Scout!, created by Boys’ Life magazine, helps locate BSA camp properties near you with activities best suited for your unit. Enter your location and preferred activities. Maps, directions, contact information and park descriptions are then offered with a few taps.

5. GoPro HERO –, $130


It’s waterproof, shock-resistant and now more affordable than ever. A new camera model from GoPro, the HERO captures 1080p video — enough resolution for any YouTube video or HD screen. The camera grabs 5-megapixel photos, too, letting a hiker document a trip in motion or stills.

6. DeLorme inReach Explorer –, $380 (plus required service plan)


Forget about pairing your inReach with a separate GPS device for navigation. Now, with the InReach Explorer, DeLorme combines GPS with communication. You can send and receive 160-character text messages or post to social media while in the wilderness or anywhere on Earth. Plus, you can plan routes, navigate, mark waypoints, share your tracks or trigger an interactive SOS if things go wrong.

7. Casio PRG270 Watch –, $180


This rugged watch costs hundreds of dollars less than some comparable outdoors watches but gives time, alarm and the “ABC” readouts you need (altimeter, barometer and compass). Bonus: No batteries are required; the PRG270 runs off sunlight via tiny solar panels in the watch face.

1 Comment

  1. Nice enough list, but I got the Power Add Apollo II charger about a year ago and love it. It’s a little bigger than my iPhone and it has a built in solar charger. I can map our hikes with the GPS on my phone ( a real power hog) and keep charging while I walk. It even has a carabiner so that I can hang it from a belt loop or my pack to charge while I hike. On a typical weekend I keep my phone charged for the weekend and still have a little juice left on the charger itself.

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