Score : 4.5 out of 5
(I hesitate to score higher as a range of weather and time away conditions would need to be seen).
I was looking for a solar charger to take to Rum as I wanted to take lots of photos (the camera on my HTC HD desire is pretty good) and also to have the ViewRanger app available if I needed it. The latter reason was less ‘pressing’ as there were enough experienced navigators in the group but I do like an App and Viewranger has been great even for walks round the moors where I live.
So, I did a few scouts of eBay, Amazon and some other sites and settled on the ‘PowerBee Executive Solar Phone Charger’. That’s me, an executive.
There’s no disclaimer needed for this post e.g I wasn’t provided the charger to test, I bought it, just wanting to share a review of a great gadget.
I charged it (wall charger supplied) before I left and that charge gave me enough juice to charge the phone fully back to 100% twice (from about 30% each time). And because we had bright (albeit a bit cold) skies over the weekend on Rum, I could leave it out on a couple of longer rest stops.. and it looked like it was powering back up. No doubt it would work even better in a sunnier country. I can’t say how it would have done after the 4 days if we had had cloudy skies – but for a long weekend up in the Cuillins it worked really well.
Very compact (about the size of my phone, just a bit thicker and it stowed in a little case it came with in the top pocket of my rucksack). A choice of charge jacks for all types of phones.. recommended.
I’ll be using it at the forthcoming Latitude festival I’m off to with Mrs K in July.
I spent friday night within a nest of Orcs and by the time the saturday morning 6.30 alarm call for breakfast came, all those snores, wheezes and coughs meant I’d had a pretty fitful sleep. A hike up Scafell Pike (Or Misty Mountain, as it turned out to be) seemed a really big undertaking. The Orcs in question were Steve, Chris, Jeff and a couple of other guys in the same bunk room as me in Borrowdale Hostel. And I’m not being overly harsh in calling them Orcs, I too was one of those snoring middle aged men adding to the Tolkien-esque vibe Which I’d already started on, when I found out we were staying at the Borrowdale Hostel. If ever there was a Middle Earth sounding venue, it has to be that. (Great place btw, really friendly staff and a great selection of bottled beers – hence all that snoring).
The route we took was from Borrowdale / Seathwaite and actually matched fairly closely the route (below) from Trail magazine which I’d downloaded for my (as always, excellent) Viewranger app. I had it hand for emergency use only as Ali and Steve (hike organisers and all round excellent mountaineers) knew what they were doing. Actually, I did use the app at one point to check we were on the right path for the Corridor Route path. Paper maps and compass are first choice I know but in all that rain and mist the Viewranger App really helped (me , at least).
Actually – we came around Great End for the return leg and didn’t go back down Styhead Gill but Ruddy Gill, then we joined up with Grains Gill near Stockley Bridge. Hence the very swollen waters on the last stretch I guess (more of that later).
Here’s the route and a bit about Scafell Pike from Trail magazines info on the Viewranger website:
We actually did the route the other way round to the map above but it was essentially the same path and started and finished at the same farm in Seathwaite.
The weather also added to the Tolkien vibe – mist, rain, driving (as in, 85 mph in gusts) wind, wind chill of (ish) -2C at the top and after a full day of rain (and on our last 2 hours hiking and descent), swollen waterfalls and raging rivers. Where there had been stepping stones which would look lovely for a summer trek, we had to wade across fast flowing streams up to our ankles. And help each other across on one that was really fast flowing and heading to a big drop down into Ruddy Gill (I think). The views were non existent, I couldn’t focus on an external landscape, so to an extent I focussed on an internal one as I stared down at slippy rock after slippy rock, picking my way across boulder fields (or hopping, if you will). And fancied myself one of Frodo’s band , head down, pushing higher and higher up a dark mountain – more dwarf than elf probably – but still a heroic struggle to the top and to claim my prize which wasn’t a golden ring but a pork pie and a Mars Bar. At that point, that was a far better reward
I’d really like to go back again in better weather to see the views from the top of England’s highest mountain (about 3000 feet I believe). But I also had a great time on this trip, not despite the weather but because of it. Seeing all that fast flowing water and feeling the gale force wind (which did actually nearly knock me flat at one point) was awesome. And I had great company – and fellowship (okay, I’ll stop with the middle earth bit now!).
Here are some photos.. Suitably misty and atmospheric. The rest of the photos from the day are over on my Flickr account here :
So, I’ve decided that before I attempt the national 3 peaks I need to make sure I can find my way up and down them. Obviously paper maps are a must – actually, learning to read one properly is a must also – but I’m a geek so I also want to try out a GPS system. I’ve looked at the dedicated units and they look really cool – the expensive colour screen ones do anyway. Of course, always the way – I really like the full bells and whistles versions of things.
But I noticed a while back (and I think I’ve mentioned here before) an App from viewranger that works on the HTC phone (running Android) that I have.
Its taken me most of this evening to set up an account, suss out how to get credits registered (via my Paypal account, which is nice and easy of course) and have a quick look at what maps you can buy, so I haven’t really got a view on how it all works yet. Although I’ve had a really quick look at the wiki, which is good – and the fledgling / beta community area. What I haven’t done yet is download any maps or get my head around the actual App interface. Which looks feature rich – or in other words a bit (initially) tricky for me to digest in on evening after a mental day at work.
So I’m going to give it a real go this weekend with some small (ish) hills around Saddleworth.
Better to suss the App out there than for the first time in earnest halfway up Scarfell Pike..
I realised two things tho – my phone isn’t waterproof and also the battery life on The HTC Desire HD sucks. Bit better than an iPhone but still it wouldn’t last one mountain trek, let alone the 3 Peaks in 24 hours.
Problem one has been solved by buying this : http://www.aquapac.net/worldstore/land-electronics-phone-pouches-1054-0.html
Which looks good and is going to be better than the sandwich bags (oh yes) I’ve been using as rain protection to date
I now need to find a great solar charger attachment gizmo for Problem 2 and the extended hours out and about.
Review of Viewranger (the App and the extended community / wiki / guides support etc) to follow