Friday, October 26, 2012

Gadgets and a Map from

So I was thinking, if I'm gonna be hitting up Shenandoah National Park... I better buy some stuff to get ready. I plan on doing the 101 miles of Appalachian Trail that runs through it, that's about 10 days... knowing me it'll be more like 12.

Some quick thoughts - I'm going there to get away from the cities and cars and general city/suburb stuff. But, I still want to be somewhat connected if need be. Seems like the internet and Social Media is an unavoidable part of our lives. So, in light of that knowledge I've bought myself some stuff to tide me over on my LG Spectrum and my ASUS Transformer Prime tablet. I'm bringing both because well... I'm an idiot. 

We all know that these new Smart Phones suck battery juice faster than the old 440 6 packs from the muscle car era. I know I can't go a day without charging mine if I use it throughout the day. Since I love taking pictures with my smartphone and posting to Facebook I'll definitely be using it plenty on the trail.

About 2 or 3 weeks ago I started looking for a way to get power for my devices. I originally was shopping for solar chargers, bought on Samsonite solar window charger with the thought that I would strap it to my pack and have my phone charging as I was walking. Let me skim right over that piece of garbage... worst thing I ever bought. I tried it out over a weekend by using it exactly as it was intended, by putting it in my window and letting it charge my phone. Long story short, it didn't work at all. The phone didn't even show that it was getting ANY power. I returned it and got a quick refund.

Anker Astro and Astro2 battery packs.
Eventually I just decided to go with external battery packs.There are several different manufacturers offering external batteries, all claiming their product is the best with not much to back up those claims.  I trust amazon reviews, especially the "Amazon Confirmed Purchase" reviews, so when I came across Anker Batteries and saw the praises, it piqued my interest.

I ordered both the Astro(5600 mAh) and Astro 2(8400 mAh) batteries. There was a sale promotion going on so I got both for about $70 instead of $80 +.

Added to that order was a  Trails Illustrated map to Shenandoah National Park by National Geographic. Because when GPS fails or 4G coverage is non existent, I want to be able to know roughly where I am. I already have a compass and know how to properly use it too.

Once I saw that brown box I couldn't wait to dig into it. I checked out the map first because, I was eager to see what I'm getting myself in to.

The map was very detailed, it listed the waterfall areas, height of the waterfalls, the mile marker and  hiking distance from Skyline Drive. A brief look to the legend,  a scan of the southern end of the map and I found what I was looking for - The A.T. I marveled at its winding path through the park and also notice that it was never more than a couple miles from Skyline Drive. Kind of a bummer but, it also makes me feel a little bit more at ease to know if anything ever did happen all I'd have to do is walk a short distance and civilization would be near by.

I then went on to tear into the battery packs. Both were very light which was a big plus considering every oz. is going to count after a few days of hiking.

This particular model (Astro2) comes with a padded pouch(not a cheap looking/feeling one either) and usb adapters. I had it for about a week and pretty much used this exclusively (I only used the phones wall charger a few times) to charge my phone, before writing this review so I think I can give the honest experience and facts.

Here's the good stuff-

1) Easy
- Has a "Power In" and 2 "Power Out", ONE multifunction button, A LED flashlight and led power indicators.
Power input is Micro USB
Power out is Standard USB(use provided adapters)
The LED flashlight is fairly bright, good for lighting immediate area 2-3 ft. in front of you but, not much further.
Led's indicate charge.
2) Durable - It fell out while hiking and tumbled 20 or so feet down a hill then hit a rock. Nothing wrong except a few scratches.
3) Stylish - C'mon it's black and silver... what's not stylish 'bout that?

Here's the not so good stuff-

1) The power indicators only show battery capacity when it's not charging a phone/device. While charging, only the first light blinks :(
2) It does not charge my ASUS Transformer Prime tablet :( the tablet came with a USB charger which can plug into either the wall(with adapter of course) or a computer to charge, transfer data or do both at the same time. So why it won't accept a charge from the Astro2 ? I don't know...
3) The USB adapters provided by Anker were not very durable... the micro USB adapter(from both Items I bought) was very fidgety and if I so much as moved the connection it would stop charging :( I have the USB - Micro USB cord that came with the phone so, no big deal but, it'd still have been nice if their cord worked.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with this item. It charges my phone, is pretty darn durable, and holds a pretty decent amount of charges, I think I used it 4 times to charge my phone from 15% to 100% power before I needed to recharge the Battery Pack itself.

I'm glad I bought these Gadgets, they've both worked pretty well since I've had them and, the map is something I look at almost everyday.

Here are some Links:
Anker Astro
Anker Astro 2
Trails Illustrated map

Happy Hiking!


  1. BEing a grand hiker 10 years ago with the search and rescue, I am amazed every day with all the new and improved ways to stay on track.
    I was thrilled though when you talked about knowing how to use your map and compass. Can't tell you how many times we were out in the field and the GPS was worthless because of location or cloud cover.
    I am having a great time following your plans for the big hike. 100 miles, 10 to 12 days. Yeah for you.

    We will be watching for your next post.

  2. Thank you Vickie,
    It's always good to have skills like knowing how to use a map & compass. Technology is great and definitely makes things easier but, when it fails... one should be prepared.
    Let me give you a second thank you for giving me the next blog post idea too :)
    "How to properly use a Compass"

    Happy Hiking!


Thank you for your comments :)