For certain outdoorsy types, cellphones have no place in the outdoors. For the more open-minded camper however, a smartphone can be something of a digital swiss army knife, with dozens of potential uses that can help to enhance outdoor excursions. Aside from the laundry list of great iPhone apps that are available, there’s loads of awesome hardware that can make your phone a useful companion out in the wilderness. For all you nature lovers out there who believe electronics do have a place in the outdoors, we’ve compiled a list of outdoor gear with you and your iPhone in mind.
Many of us go camping or backpacking to get away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, and while losing all connection to the outside world can often be a welcome escape, the ability to get help in an emergency is always important. The SpotConnect satellite communicator connects via Bluetooth to your phone, and enables you to connect with a global satellite network from virtually anywhere on the planet. Once connected, you can send out SOS messages, update your friends and family on your whereabouts with Twitter or Facebook, or use the device to enhance your phone’s GPS capabilities.
Can’t remember how to finish off that taut-line hitch? Well that handy knot tying app you downloaded before the trip would be quite handy if your phone hadn’t died three hours ago. Your phone isn’t much more than a shiny paperweight once it loses power, so having a way to keep it charged while you’re in the backcountry is essential. One of the coolest ways you can do this is with the Biolite Stove. The stove uses a unique ignition system to burn twigs and bits of wood — eliminating the need for gas canisters or other fuel. The coolest part is that it has a thermoelectric converter which takes all of the waste heat generated by the stove and transforms it into usable electricity. In addition to your phone, it can charge any USB powered device, so iPhone users aren’t the only people who can use it.
Another neat way to power your devices is the PowerPot. It’s a cooking pot with a thermoelectric generator built into the bottom, which allows you to charge your phone — or any USB device for that matter — while boiling water. The best part is that it’s waterproof, fire-resistant, and relatively portable, weighing in at just over 12 ounces. It might not be as light as other cooking gear out there, but not every pot can keep your mosquito repeller app running all night.
Another option for powering your electronics is harvesting energy from the sun with a solar panel. As most people generally go camping and backpacking in fair weather anyway, this is generally a solid choice. There are a wide range of solar panels available in a variety of different shapes and sizes, but the SolarRoll is definitely one of the best. Not only does the roll offer a higher power output that most other solar generators, its flexible design and minimalist construction make it highly portable and lightweight. It also has six eyeholes on its outside edges, which means it can be lashed to the back of a backpack, or tied to a tree for maximum sun absorption.
Any worthwhile camping trip will land you somewhere with beautiful scenery, and while your iPhone does have a built in camera, the 5 megapixels won’t do justice to that shot of the sun setting over Crater Lake. But if you’d rather not lug your bulky DSLR around with you, a lens attachment like the Olloclip will beef up your phone’s camera to make it perform more like a point-and-shoot. With a wide angle, macro, and fisheye lens all in one, this accessory gives you a wider range of options when shooting landscapes, portraits, or that closeup of a cicada crawling on your buddy’s face while he sleeps.
The serene sounds of nature can be a soothing change of pace from our noisy everyday lives, but if you’d rather not listen to crickets all night, or you’re out in the woods just so you can blast your tunes without irritating the neighbors, then you’ll need a decent pair of speakers. And unless you’re going backpacking, you’ll also need a cooler to keep your food chilly. Well what if cooler and speakers could be one and the same? Igloo to the rescue. Now you can bump your tunes and chill your beers all in one convenient location.
Also, while we’re on the topic of beer, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a way to open the microbrews you packed in the cooler. If you haven’t yet learned how to open a beer with just about any object, then it’s probably a good idea to keep a bottle opener handy when you venture out into the wild. Opena’s slick little case will ensure that you wont have to worry about forgetting the opener on your next trip.
And finally, its important to remember that the great outdoors isn’t the ideal habitat for your iPhone. A naked phone doesn’t do very well against the elements, and if you’re planning a serious adventure, you’ll probably need something a bit more heavy-duty than a bottle opener case to protect your phone. This waterproof, dirt proof, and shock-absorbent case from LifeProof will ensure that your precious MP3 player, video screen, mosquito repeller, GPS unit, survival guide, compass, flashlight, and phone will live to see another day. There are tons of these types of cases available, but this one ranks among the best.
Prefer to keep your iPhone indoors? Check out some of our favorite oddball accessories that are better suited for indoor use.