A Trek in the Grand Tetons
High-Tech Hiker Outdoor TechFor this special feature, MSN Tech & Gadgets put nine pieces of equipment to the test on a 45-mile trek through the Grand Tetons.
With conditions in the Wyoming backcountry ranging from hail and lightning at high elevation to 90-degree sunshine on a canyon floor, here’s the gear that proved both tech-savvy and trail-tough.
-- by Rich Maloof
(with special thanks to trail brothers William Breslin, John Donato and Douglas Edlin)
Olympus Stylus 1030SW digital camera
Waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, crushproof — if only we could say the same for our own bodies. Instead, those are the claims of the Stylus 1030SW, and Olympus challenged us to push the camera’s limits.
Thankfully, we didn’t find ourselves in the 14-degree temperatures or 33 feet of water the 1030SW is advertised to withstand. But the camera was splashed by cold water, knocked around on rock scrambles, and sloshed in the mud of a soaked campsite — and never stopped shooting 10.1 megapixel photos. On a single charge, its new battery also endured six days of repeated power switching, picture reviewing, and even movie-shooting.
The camera garnered many oo’s and ahh’s when it captured the vastness of a canyon in a panoramic composite, and we found a full complement of additional features accessible via bright, easily navigable menus. (The image back on slide 1, incidentally, was taken with the 1030SW.)
K2 Focus Control Plus headlamp
Anyone who has fumbled with a flashlight while setting up camp or rummaging through a backpack knows the value of a good headlamp. You want both hands free and a bright light on the ground, even if strapping a light to your noggin does make you feel something like a coal miner.
Essential Gear’s K2 Focus Control shines an extremely bright 85 lumens of white LED light, the type renowned for luminescence and battery preservation. Holding down the power button on K2’s pivoting head activates smaller blue, green, or red bulbs — great for ambient light and further reducing the draw on the headlamp’s three AA’s, which are housed in a back-of-the-head battery pack. There’s also a rear-facing strip of red light on the pack so you can be seen from behind as you flee the woods at night.
Bushnell Excursion EX Binoculars
What’s that moving behind the pines ahead — a bull moose? A bison? A b-b-bear? With a pair of 8 x 42 mm binoculars from Bushnell’s Excursion EX line, we were able to suss out the threat from a safe distance. OK, so it was just a bird, but with these binoculars we were able to scope it with outstanding brightness and clarity.
These hi-res EX glasses boast an impressive 330-foot field of view, are waterproof, and in our experience never fogged in any weather. They’re quite lightweight at 1.5 lbs; and though that’s still more than some long-distance hikers want strung around their neck, one simply can’t appreciate nature’s distant gems through a pair of opera glasses. We found these Bushnells worth their weight in gold for zooming in on bald eagles and for spotting our narrow trail clear across a snow-strewn basin.
Oregon Scientific ATC3K Action Camera
These days, you don’t talk about a great outdoor adventure — you post it on YouTube. So strap an ATC3K to your arm — or to your helmet, hang glider, handlebars, or wet suit — and start shooting footage from the extreme athlete’s POV. This “all terrain camera” is waterproof to 10 feet and designed to take a pounding on land or sea.
The ATC3K is about half the length of a hot dog bun, and at half a pound (with batteries) doesn’t weigh much more. With an optional 4GB SD card, you can shoot up to 120 minutes of hands-free, full-color video in 640 x 480 VGA at 30 frames per second. Oregon Scientific includes all the mounts and straps you could need, and even throws in a mini tripod if you want to use the ATC3K as a webcam. To share footage, simply upload via USB or play back directly to your TV. Voilà, you’re an instant action hero.