Backpacking with a Kindle

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Over the last couple of years I have made great efforts to lighten my pack weight, and for good reason. When I first started backpacking a few years ago my pack weight started right at 60 lbs, and for a September hike at that! But hey, I was green as green could be. None of my friends were backpackers and there is nothing around the area where I live that has anything to do with backpacking. So, I did like many do, picked up items that I thought were necessary, threw them into a huge 90 liter backpack, and then set off down the trail…

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed our very first hike, although, it also made me wonder if it would be more enjoyable if I had a lighter backpack… So, over time I became active on a few backpacking forums, as well as started doing more research to find ways to lighten my pack, which I have since accomplished. I am now averaging around a 9 – 11 lb base weight in (Southeast) cold conditions, and anywhere from 6-8 lbs in cooler and warmer weather. However, I have managed to push my pack weight down to a mere 3.9 lbs on a previous hike last year! (Of course, these are base pack weights, meaning the weights before I add in food, water or fuel.)

So, now my pack is lighter, and in the process of getting there I have experimented with a somewhat wide range of gear in order to get my pack weight down, while remaining comfortable, and more importantly safe. (Although, this does not mean I am done “experimenting” with new gear.) However, now I have been toying with adding a “luxury” item back into my pack on particular trips. I mean let’s face it, my pack weight is light enough now, so by adding in a half a pound or so of “luxury” still won’t hurt me, so why not if the trip allows it? And as the title of this post hints at, the luxury item I have been adding back in is a Kindle.

I enjoy reading books, but have decided not to carry them on backpacking trips because some books can easily weigh up to a full pound! So, this past Christmas I hinted at wanting a Kindle so that I could then carry my books on the trail, but at a lighter weight. And wouldn’t you know it… my wife got me a Kindle!

Now, I didn’t ask for the newest, most fully featured, bell’s & whistle’s version of the Kindle either, instead, I asked for the most basic one, and for a few reasons. Number one, it is lighter (6 oz) than any of the other Kindles (or other “eReader’s for that matter). Number two, I did not want a touch screen so that I could still operate my Kindle with gloves on if need be. And number three, well, in case I break it… I will admit though, the one thing that I do wish this Kindle had is a back light. When using my plain-Jane Kindle at night, I still have to rely on my headlamp to light the “book” up.

So now I’m able to bring as many books on the trail as I want, and all at one, low weight! However, the Kindle can also be a useful tool while on the trail considering I have been able to download the Appalachian Trail Companion Guide, as well as some elevation profile maps as PDF files to my Kindle. I will admit though, pulling a Kindle out during the middle of a thunder-storm and trying to find information about the trail is less than ideal, however, it is an option (given appropriate cover is made to shelter the Kindle from the rain).

As far as carrying the Kindle on the trail, I just used a quart sized Ziploc bag to slip it into to protect it from moisture. This has worked well, however, I have only carried it on one trip so far (which just so happens to be the one trip that my camera got soaked on…) I have also been thinking about picking up some of the small, moisture absorbing silica packs just to drop one in the bag with the Kindle, just in case some moisture does sneak in. Of course, once I seal the Ziploc at home, as long as I don’t open it on the trail, moisture should not be an issue so much then either.

So, I’ve got to admit, I’m pretty excited about being able to take my Kindle with me on the trail. I typically take a while to fall asleep once laying down at night, so the Kindle gives me something to do, and sometimes helps to put me to sleep. Of course though, the Kindle will only make it on some trips, mainly the ones where we are doing short miles each day and weight is not so much a concern. But for my trips in which I plan to hike longer periods of time, and when weight will be more of an issue, it will simply stay at home. Either way, at only 6 oz, I am still comfortable adding it back into my (ultra)light pack.

Shameless Plug:

For those of you that do have Kindles, I would like to let you know that I have recently added my blog to the Kindle Store list. So, if you would like, you can subscribe to my blog for $0.99/month by simply typing in “Stick’s Blog” in the search bar on the Amazon site, or by going HERE (also, note that the first 14 days are free, so feel free to give it a try). The subscription will work on even the simplest of Kindles such as mine (see the video above for an example). Each time I make an entry on my blog, that entry will automatically be zipped away and updated right on your Kindle (assuming it is connected to the web). As well, once the entry is loaded onto your Kindle, an internet connection is not required to read the entry.

Thanks for reading everyone!

~Stick~

Disclaimer: If you do sub to my blog via the Kindle Store site, I will be eligible to make a few cents off of the subscription.

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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8 Responses to Backpacking with a Kindle

  1. I ended up going with the Paperwhite. It was worth the extra weight since I hover around a 9# 3s load and a 5.5# summer load. I love having the built in light and the extra battery life. I also found out on my last cold trip that I can operate my kindle through my TQ (8D inner/ M90 outer). That certainly makes it easier than using gloves. Now I’m just trying to decide which storage option will be best for viewing maps and trail guides in the rain…

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    • Stick says:

      Jeremy,

      I hear ya, at these lighter weights, I think it is acceptable to add back in a luxury such as the Kindle on occasion. I was really going between the Paperwhite and the one that I have, but what got me was the lighter weight and the fact that it was less expensive. As far as the battery life, I think that a spec’d 4 weeks is plenty long enough for any of the trips that I go on, so that wasn’t so much an issue, but that is impressive that the spec’d battery life on the paperwhite is double that time! And that is good to know that it can still be operated through a quilt, that is promising!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

      ~Stick~

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  2. I have the Kindle White and it is really awesome for going hiking with. The build-in LED lights make a huge difference and does not require me burning through my headlamp batteries.

    Loading up a Kindle with topo maps of where you will be hiking is an awesome thing too!

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    • Stick says:

      John,

      Yeah, the backlight is the only thing I am missing on this one, but I didn’t want the PaperWhite so I am fine without it. I can turn my Zebralight down to low low, which is 0.4 lumens. This is perfect for reading, and doesn’t even affect the battery… but of course it is not as convenient either… oh well… the choices we have to make huh… 🙂

      ~Stick~

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  3. JT says:

    Stick,

    Good post! I will be curious to hear more once you have used it on more trips in wide range of weather.
    I took my basic Kindle on a 5 day trip to Cold Mountain in The Shinning Rock Wilderness a couple of weeks ago. It worked well for 3 days and then the batteries were spent. Most likely due to the bitter cold weather on the mountain. I kept the Kindle stored in a Loksak, which did a great job of keeping out mositure. I slept with it in my bag at night and tried to keep it as warm as possible during the day.
    It was nice to have something to read while stuck in my tent due to the cold rain and snow.

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    • Stick says:

      JT,

      Yeah, I am looking forward to seeing how it does in cold weather. The one trip I took it on we only saw temps in the low 50’s, but we had lots of rain and fog… I kept it sealed in the Ziploc the whole time, never unzipping the bag and it did fine.

      As far as the battery though, I am pretty confident in it I think. Since receiving it in on Christmas morning, I have charged it twice. Once when I got it, and then again right before that trip, just to top it off. I am still going off of that same charge and it still has half a battery left. And it has been on, but in sleep mode for the last week and a half, with the wifi on…

      Anyway, time will tell…

      ~Stick~

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    • JT says:

      Stick,

      I agree with you about the life of the battery being pretty amazing that is why I was surprised that it went dead. Like I said I think it had to be due to the cold weather, which was in the teens.

      John does make a great point about burning through headlamp batteries on extended trips. Maybe a little Photon light with a clip would work.

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    • Stick says:

      JT,

      Yeah, the cold does have a way at eating up the life in electronics… Maybe my next trip will have some cold weather…

      As far as using a photon light, I think that this would be way too much light for that, unless I hung it inside the tent. Or maybe the Petzyl e+LITE, it is quite dim and has a clip built into it… I may actually see if that would work… Until then though, I will just stick with the low low setting on my Zebralight…

      ~Stick~

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