Gadget reviews

Best hiking tech for your trips and camping adventures this autumn and winter

From a rugged smartwatch with 10 days of battery life to a compact drone that shoots stunning aerial footage in 4K resolution to a compact speaker, here’s all you need for those trips into the wild

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 September, 2018, 9:16am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 September, 2018, 7:27pm

The hiking and camping season is upon us. We look at some nifty tech gadgets that are just right for exploring the wilderness.

Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 lantern

If you plan to camp overnight, the Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 lantern is a battery-powered lantern that lets you ditch the propane gas cylinders. Powered by an internal lithium ion battery, it is charged from an integrated USB cable for as much as 48 hours of light on a “low” setting.

A built-in hand-crank power generator (on the top of the lamp) means you will never be left in the dark; every minute of cranking gets you about 10 minutes of light. The Lighthouse 400 has a light intensity of 400 lumens; switching both LEDs to “high” gives bright, 360-degree coverage. You will need to toggle to just one LED (180 degrees coverage) set on low to achieve 48 hours of light.

Collapsible legs that fold out create a built-in stand for better light dispersion around your campsite. The Lighthouse 400 also comes with a USB port to charge your smartphone, though its lack of support for fast charging means you’ll probably be better off with a dedicated battery pack.

Price: US$69.95

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus is an rugged outdoor smartwatch designed for going off the grid with its 10 days of battery life. A sapphire glass display and bezel with tough diamond-like carbon (DLC) titanium finish means you do not have to worry about scratches and nicks. With a water resistance rating of 10 ATM, being caught in heavy rain or even a dip into the lake isn’t a problem for the Fenix 5 Plus.

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What makes it ideal for your hiking trips is its transflective display, which leverages sunlight for almost unbelievable readability in the day, while a handy backlight lets you use it at night. The on-board GPS hardware and mapping functionality with coloured topographical maps minimise the chances of you getting lost; it also supports multi-network satellite reception, including Russia’s Glonass (Global Navigation Satellite System) and the EU’s Galileo satellite network.

If you need some music but are wary of taking your fragile phone from the bag, the watch’s on-board music player can store up to 500 songs for wireless playback. Data can be synced via the free Garmin Connect smartphone app, and you can review information such as average resting heart rate and steps taken over the past seven days directly from the watch itself.

Price: US$898

GoPro Hero6 video camera

The GoPro Hero6 is an action camera that lets you capture outdoor videos of your trips in full 4K glory. The Hero6’s upgraded processor is capable of shooting 4K video footage at 60 frames per second (fps) for high-definition slow-motion shots.

It particularly shines at video stabilising, which has been noticeably improved over earlier generations of the company’s action cameras. There is also support for the newer H. 265 video-compression format, which uses less storage space without compromising quality.

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Other aspects of the tried-and-tested series remain unchanged; the Hero6 is waterproof at up to 10 metres without the need for an external housing. It also offers the same buttons, microSD storage and USB-C charging port as predecessors, while a 2-inch colour touch screen on the back lets you see what you are recording. If this is your first GoPro, you’ll probably want to get an accessory such as a hand grip for comfortable recording.

Price: HK$3,300

Parrot Anafi drone

The Parrot Anafi is a compact drone that promises stunning aerial footage in 4K on your next hiking trip. The device is a lightweight and folds down to fit into the pill-shaped carrying case that is bundled with it. The Anafi’s diminutive frame belies its ability to capture stellar 4K footage, and its ability to remain in the air for an impressive 25 minutes at a time.

The Parrot Anafi is powered by a removable 2,700mAh lithium-polymer battery. You can purchase more batteries for extended usage, or simply take advantage of the battery’s support for USB-C Power Delivery to recharge it using a battery pack such as the LifePowr A3.

The nose-mounted camera is connected to a 3-axis gimbal for 180 degrees of vertical movement, making straight-down shots possible. While the Anafi promises to be easy to fly, its lack of collision avoidance means that you will want to be careful about flying it too close to trees.

In Hong Kong, be sure you check the Civil Aviation Department website to see where drones – or what the government refers to as “unmanned aircraft systems” – can (or cannot) be flown.

Price: US$699

Beoplay P2 speaker

Around the thickness and weight of two smartphones stacked together, the compact Beoplay P2 is a splash- and dust-resistant Bluetooth speaker that travellers can easily carry around.

The P2 offers crisp music playback and excellent bass to match and is surprisingly loud for its size, with no distortion even when you max the volume.

The slim device does away with physical controls, except for the hidden power button located at the back. A “smart” mechanism lets you shake or double tap the speaker to initiate controls such as pausing the music or skipping tracks. You can change the defaults via the Beoplay app, though the configurable options are somewhat limited, and the volume can only be adjusted from your smartphone.

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When off the trail, the P2 speaker is ideal to bring along for your workout, or perhaps when doing some yoga. Alternatively, it can be used as a speakerphone, or for voice activation – Apple Siri and Google Now are supported. Charged by USB-C, the P2 offers up to 10 hours of playback time, though the exact battery life will depend on how loud you blast the music.

Price: HK$1,398

LifePowr A3 battery

The LifePowr A3 USB-C PD is a versatile battery pack from Belgium-based start-up Lifepowr. Protected by a rigid aluminium housing, the A3’s 27,000mAh of lithium-ion cells will simultaneously recharge all your electronic peripherals and gadgets through its assortment of USB-C and USB-A ports, the former with Power Delivery support. In addition, a built-in AC socket also lets you run mains-powered devices of up to 120 watts as well.

The Lifepowr team says the A3 has one of the fastest charging speeds for USB-C devices and will itself recharge to 90 per cent in as little as two hours from a wall socket. We liked the fact that it can directly charge newer laptops such as the MacBook Pro at full speed, while support for Quick Charge 3.0 will quickly juice up your Android smartphone.

Devices start charging automatically once plugged in, though you will need to double tap on the power button to power up its AC socket. A pass-through charging mode lets the A3 double up as a UPS when at home.

If you are away for an extended period, you may want to consider getting Lifepowr’s portable SUN20C solar panel to recharge the A3. This can take up to five hours in the day, though you can daisy-chain multiple panels to speed things up.

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The A3 packs 99Wh (watt hours) of power – information that is clearly etched on its casing so you can go through customs without having it confiscated.

Price: US$255