Gear that the Modern Explorer Shouldn’t Leave Home Without
Running from the 15th to the 18th century, the Age of Discovery is widely believed to be the golden age of exploration. During that period, some of the greatest explorers of all time – legendary figures such as Ferdinand Magellan and David Livingstone – filled in the blank spots on the map, while surviving some one harrowing adventure after another. They navigated by the sun and stars, and chronicled their exploits in handwritten journals, all while setting off into the great unknown.
The spirit of those great explorers remains alive and well in the 21st century, although their modern counterparts are much better equipped when heading into the field. High tech gear has changed the nature of exploration forever, allowing today’s explorer to venture forth more safely than ever before. In the age of instant communication, global positioning, and social media, here are some great pieces of gear that modern explorers shouldn’t leave home without.
Garmin Oregon 600
Truth be told, many famous explorers made their biggest discoveries when they were completely lost. That’s because they didn’t have modern Global Positioning Systems to help them navigate through jungles, over mountains, and across deserts. Today’s explorers can find location at any time, and get information on how to reach their next destination, quickly and easily, thanks to powerful and accurate GPS devices. Take for example the Garmin Oregon 600 ($400), which comes preloaded with a worldwide base map, plus the ability to add more detailed maps as needed. It features excellent battery life (16 hours), a responsive touchscreen, and an intuitive operating system that makes it easy to use. Of course, a GPS device still won’t teach you how to navigate, and knowing how to use a compass remains important even today. That’s why I recommend carrying a good compass, such as the Brunton OSS 70M ($100), as well.
Thuraya Sat Sleeve
In the past, explorers would set out on their expeditions, and often weren’t heard from again for months at a time. The only way for them to share updates on their progress was to send a letter, which could take weeks to arrive back home. But today, we have satellite phones that allow us to place calls from just about anywhere on the planet. The well equipped explorer can now head off on an adventure with the Thuraya Sat Sleeve ($800), an ingenious piece of equipment that can allow an iPhone or Android device to make satellite calls when in remote regions of the world. It can even send emails, texts, tweets and a variety of other updates. The sleeve comes equipped with an external battery to extend the life of the smartphone, and best of all, when you return to civilization, you can quickly and easily remove the sleeve, and use your phone on normal mobile networks.
Surface Pro 3 Windows Tablet
Many of the great explorers, such as Marco Polo and Vasco da Gama, kept detailed journals of their travels, painstakingly writing about the strange and unusual things they encountered while wandering the globe. The modern explorer often does the same thing, but instead of writing things down on a piece of parchment or a leather-bound book, they generally use a computer. Today’s laptops have become powerful tools for explorers, allowing them to take all kinds of readings in the field, while making detailed notes of their findings along the way. They can also grant them access to the Internet, allowing them to conduct research, update social media, send emails to friends and colleagues, and post dispatches to their blogs – something expedition sponsors tend to love. The new Surface Pro 3 Windows Tablet (starts at $999) is perhaps the perfect device for those needs. It features a 12″ screen, weighs 1.7 pounds, and is just .36 inches thick. It also has built-in handwriting recognition, can run all Windows software, and is durable enough to withstand harsh environments.
Just as sat phones have allowed the modern explorer to make phone calls from nearly any location on the planet, other satellite technology is allowing them to stay connected to the Internet as well. The Iridium Go ($875) works as a wireless hotspot for any device equipped with Wi-Fi, granting it access to the web, social media outlets, email, and just about anything else. Speeds don’t compare to home networks, or even 4G for that matter, but it gets the job done, even deep in the Himalaya or at the North and South Pole. When paired with a tablet or laptop, today’s explorer has a mobile office set-up that allows him or her to function from just about anywhere.
Nikon 1 AW1
One of the problems early explorers had was that they often came home with tall tales of things that they encountered, but no real proof that those things existed. The invention of the camera eventually changed all of that, but camera equipment can still be heavy and bulky, and easily susceptible to damage. Enter the Nikon 1 AW1 ($800), a compact, lightweight, interchangeable-lens system that is designed for adventure. The camera is surprisingly small, has an incredible number of lens to choose from, and take excellent photos. On top of that, it also happens to be waterproof down to 49 feet, freeze proof to 14°F, and shockproof to 6.6 feet. It has built in GPS to geotag the location of photos, and it can even share photos with mobile devices via a Wi-Fi connection. In short, it is just about the perfect camera for explorers, who tend to abuse their gear in the field.
Power Pack and Solar Panel
Of course, all of this high tech equipment does make the life of a modern explorer much simpler, but only if it is all fully charged and operational. A GPS device or sat phone with depleted battery ceases to be useful, and simply becomes dead weight. Thankfully there are methods for keeping all of this gear fully charged while in the field. For instance, the Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Power Pack, ($200), when paired with the Nomad 13 Solar Panel ($160), is a mobile charging station that can keep just about anything fully powered. It features built-in USB and 12v ports, and the addition of a $50 inverter gives it a standard wall outlet as well. The solar cells are lightweight, durable, easily transportable, and surprisingly efficient. Carrying this Goal Zero set-up into the field will allow explorers to keep their high tech gear functional no matter where they go.
Own a piece of gear that you're dying to review? Read our submissions page and let's get it up on the interwebz!