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Books on the trail
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Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
Books on the trail on 05/08/2012 15:40:18 MDT Print View

Hi all,

I was wondering if anyone has found a solid light alternative to bringing a book that works for them. I've done audiobooks but just don't find them particularly compelling compared to the act of reading. I'm particularly interested in this for longer trips of the 14-21 day variety.

Do people bring books for these trips? Is the consensus to go kindle? Touch 3g looks pretty legit. iPad?

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Books on the trail on 05/08/2012 17:02:24 MDT Print View

While more than half an hour at a time of reading on a computer screen makes my eyes blur, I know lots of folk who read on smart phones and other such gadgets. My son-in-law is one of those; he has everything from the Bible to bird identification books on his smart phone.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: Books on the trail on 05/08/2012 17:06:55 MDT Print View

Smartphones seem like the way to go for me; if you only use them for reading and use in airplane mode, they last a good amount of time (or at least mine does) and can hold a lot of books, are lighter (I think), and they can be multi-use.

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Kindle on 05/08/2012 17:16:03 MDT Print View

Love mine.

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Books on the trail on 05/08/2012 17:16:18 MDT Print View

For 14-21 day trips, the newest, cheapest Kindle ($79) would be tough to beat since you could do the entire trip on one charge. And since it's relatively cheap, if something catastrophic happened to it on the trail, replacing it wouldn't be too onerous. Just put it in a quart-sized Ziploc and wrap it in your quilt or something.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
re: Kindle on 05/08/2012 17:18:14 MDT Print View

Another Kindle fan! It's my favorite luxury item!

Jack Elliott
(JackElliott) - F

Locale: Bend, Oregon, USA
I Have a Kindle, Prefer Paper on 05/08/2012 17:36:56 MDT Print View

I have a Kindle, liked it a lot at first, but after a while I found that reading from the ebook is less involving than reading off paper. Don't know why. To me, the most words per gram come from Penguin Classics, the ones with the orange and black spines. They use very thin paper, a small typeface, and close leading. All this means a high ink/paper ratio, thus a lot of reading for the weight.

Samuel Kau
(Skau) - M

Locale: Southern California
E-ink may not be the best on 05/09/2012 14:36:30 MDT Print View

I also have a kindle and want to bring it backpacking but i have heard somewhere that the e-ink technology could freeze and ruin your kindle if the temperatures drop. Haven't had personal experience with it but it has deterred me from bringing mine. Also, i like to read before bed and I would than have to turn on my headlamp which I wouldn't want to to save battery life.


Locale: Pacific Northwet
Re: E-ink may not be the best on 05/09/2012 14:47:49 MDT Print View

I have both a kindle and the kindle app for my iphone. Either will probably work for you but for 14-21 day trips the kindle would be the only option due to battery life unless you have some kind of solar charger, or are recharging your phone every couple of days.

Marc Shea
(FlytePacker) - F

Locale: Cascades
Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight on 05/09/2012 15:12:14 MDT Print View

One thing of note is that most of the e-reader do not have backlighting. Therefore, if you want to read at night you will have to have a light source. The Nook simple touch comes in at under 7oz and lasts 1 month using the glowlight feature based upon a half-hour of reading each day. 2 months if the glowlight is off. Just something to consider as opposed to taking extra batteries for a separate reading light. Also the Nook has expandable memory.

I do not have one myself, but I do have a Nook Color and I have been quite pleased with it.

The other thing that I was wondering was whether or not anyone has downloaded maps to an e-reader. Since the Nook purports to support JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, I was thinking that you could create maps in one of those file formats for use on the trail. You could have a guidebook, and maps on the same device.

John Almond
(FLRider) - F

Locale: The Southeast
Smartphone on 05/10/2012 06:07:55 MDT Print View

For me, I find that my Android-capable phone works pretty well as an e-reader. If I have it turned off during the day with the battery removed, and only turn it on at night for an hour or so with it in Airplane mode and the screen brightness turned all the way down, I'll get five to six days' charge out of the battery.

Which, here in the sweltering Southeast, is about the longest I'll have to go between resupply stops. Stopping in town, I'll usually take an hour or two for food and probably coffee at a local place. Which, if I bring the charger, means that I'll have pretty close to a full charge when I leave. Phone & charger together weigh ~217 g/7.7 oz (analog scale, so that's an estimate good to about 0.1 oz either way).

On my bike tours, I'll add an emergency backup battery charger (storage battery; gets me about 50% of full power), since I use the phone as my bike computer/road map. That weighs an additional 67 g/2.3 oz. It's rechargable from the same charger as my phone, and I usually stay at an established campground for about one night in three. Also, I usually stop for lunch at a restaurant with wall sockets.

Stores pretty much as many books as I want, either in .epub format or .pdf format.

Anyway, it's worked pretty well for me so far.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
ditto smartphone on 05/10/2012 10:29:39 MDT Print View

I doubt that you're carrying 14 to 21 days of food, so a relevant question is whether your resupply plans include any device recharge opportunities. For thru-hikers, this is typically so; I carried a solar charger for part of the PCT, but ultimately decided not to bother on long trips after that. I spare battery or two was better, with just always enough chances to recharge when resupplying in towns along the way.

I personally wouldn't consider a kindle; too heavy, and perhaps a bit harder to protect. And the few times I've ever been inclined to read while actually on trail have been at night; eInk isn't the best choice there.

A smartphone is a swiss army knife with a host of weightless blades and attachments (software). If the smaller screen bothers you, try it with a pair of really light reading glasses.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Books on 05/16/2012 17:47:10 MDT Print View

I regularly do 18-20 day trips w/o resupply and of course every trip includes around 6-8 lbs of reading material. Books. The kindle holds absolutely no interest. It's real simple---go to a used book store, find pocketbooks for 50 cents, take four or five, and burn them page by page as you go. This system works well and your pack gets lighter.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
Re: Books on 05/16/2012 23:04:29 MDT Print View

I can't burn books. Talk about a waste.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Books on the trail on 05/17/2012 00:16:59 MDT Print View

I typically use my iPhone. It's powered off most of the time. It gets powered on if I need to double check position via GPS, if I am on a peak and want to send my daughter a text, and mostly for the kindle app. It won't last 21 days if I was reading 1-2 hours each night. So there would need to be a solar recharger, an external battery, our a recharger in a bounce box (if you are doing resupply).

I think an e-ink ereader (I would vote for the kindle touch model) would be a good way to go. It will have the battery life you need. Lighting can be done with a headlamp on low intensity or with built in lighting with some models. I appreciate the preference to paper. It is indeed more engaging… studies have seen 20-30% better retention of material, but the compactness and weight of the e-readers, especially if you are a fast reader has made it worth it to me.


Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Books on 05/17/2012 10:41:55 MDT Print View

Michael Lang---Burning a book on a backpacking trip is oddly fulfilling, like I'm doing humanity a service. It sure helps to make the pack lighter.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Books on 05/17/2012 11:10:12 MDT Print View

"I regularly do 18-20 day trips w/o resupply and of course every trip includes around 6-8 lbs of reading material"

Wow. Just ... wow. Assuming 1-1/2 pounds of food per day (?) then something on the order of 28 pounds of food, and perhaps more. Add 6 - 8 pounds of books and that sums to 35 pounds. Let's say a base weight of 15 pounds (not ultralight but light) and you're at 50 pounds. Then add maybe five pounds for water and likely you carry stove fuel.

Then you probably need a heavier backpack just to carry all of that, so add a couple pounds more. So it seems likely that you're approaching 60 pounds starting out and perhaps higher even than that.

What's the name of the website that we're talking about this on again ... ? :-)

Seriously, my hat's off to anyone who's willing to punish themselves that way today. It certainly gives you a lot more freedom to get out there. On the flip side, I wonder what sort of daily mileage a person can do for the first few days like that.

I'd far rather cache or hitchhike, or even just force the pace and night hike some to attain higher mileage. Perhaps for you it's more a matter of just being out there that long rather than going anywhere specifically with associated logistic issues.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Books? on 05/17/2012 11:29:25 MDT Print View

Brian---The UL conundrum comes from pulling long trips without resupply---it's the hard-to-solve riddle for ULers who have a chance to go long-term w/o cache or resupply. Even Skurka had to hump 55-60 lbs on his recent Alaska loop during a 14 day stretch w/o resupply.

Anyway, it's more like 2 lbs of food a day for me and my food load is generally around 40 lbs at the start of a trip.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Books or ???? on 05/18/2012 03:42:23 MDT Print View

- off track -

60lbs is more than half my body weight. perhaps I can find two people to carry me on my next trip if I tell them stories?


Edited by veganaloha on 05/18/2012 03:43:11 MDT.

James Reilly
(zippymorocco) - M

Locale: Montana
Nook on 10/15/2012 22:52:23 MDT Print View

Some people have suggested the Nook... so a warning: I have a Nook Simple Touch (no backlight, but I use a headlamp) and it works great... EXCEPT on the trail. I'll bring it out fully charged, but after a couple hours on a cool trail (40 degrees F or so) and maybe half an hour of reading, the battery life is down to around 75%. This is OK on an overnighter, but no good for a multi-day hike. (Planning to do the AT next year, and hoping to have my trail guide on e-reader... somehow.) Funny thing is, once I get back in the house where it's warm, the battery life claims to be back up at 97% or so. ???

Not sure if I just have a lemon, or if lots of Nooks behave this way. Any other Nook users or techies know what's typical?