Backpacking with Amazon’s Kindle

The Kindle 3G with Waterproof Bag

 Overview

The Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G is a lightweight E-Reader linked to the popular online publisher Amazon.com. One may think that an e-reader has no place in the outdoors, yet for my 11 month hike, it was an essential piece of gear. Even for the ultra-light hiker/trekker, the Kindle has a place in the pack. Backpacking with the Kindle is a great idea.

Trail Report

Having a Kindle meant having all of the guidebooks and all of my library at my fingertips. Furthermore, each book was searchable, I could bookmark pages, and take notes as I went along. This technology has allowed hikers/trekkers an unprecedented luxury- reading material. No more are us travelers regaled to one book, a heavy bag, or scrounging hand-me-down paperbacks.

Ease of Use

I find the kindle easier to read than a normal book. You can search, highlight, look up words in the built in dictionary, and take notes. The paging back and forth is quick. There is no back-light, so you need a headlamp if you’re reading in the dark. However, the contrast in full sunlight is better than most physical print. In super-cold weather, the page turning will slow down and sometimes shadows of previous page can be seen. It has to be below freezing to see this effect.

It’s experimental internet browser allows limited (think text-only) internet access and can even be used to check email. I wouldn’t recommend it replacing a smartphone, but it works in a pinch.

Battery Life

The Kindle boasts a long 1-2 month battery life. For most purposes, this means you don’t have to worry about running out of juice. A quick charge and you’re good to go for the foreseeable future.

If you Kindle looks like this, you broke it.

The insane battery life is derived from an inactive display. This means that, much like an Etch-a-Sketch, the Kindle “writes” a page, then doesn’t use much energy after that. Thus, the only time you use battery is when you change pages. The seemingly unlimited battery life is the crowning feature of the kindle. Make sure to turn off wireless to get the most out of your battery, especially in the back-country where continuous searching for signal will take up a lot of juice.

Weight Burden

The Kindle 3G weights in at 8.7oz. That’s less than most books. If you’re going to bring one book, bring a Kindle instead because then you have all your books. If you can get your guidebook on the Kindle, you’re really starting to save weight. The key is getting all of your paper into the Kindle. You can scan and transfer PDF’s to the device for free, so really, anything you want can be put on the Kindle. If you have paper in your pack, it’s worth it to go to the Kindle.

Durability

The Kindle is tough, but it’s not indestructible. The Etch-a-Sketch like screen is very durable, but it can be crushed and cracked. I tried to pack it such that other pieces of gear wouldn’t crack the screen. I started being more careful with the packing after I cracked my first Kindle’s screen. Fortunately, Amazon.com replaced it with no questions asked! I kept my Kindle in a waterproof zip bag. This was the only protection it had. It allowed me to read it in the rain and I could still press the buttons through the plastic. You’ll need some covering if you’re backpacking with it. I recommend a ziplock bag.

Conclusion

Virtually every traveler has at least one book on them. What it comes down to is weight and the Kindle weights less than one book. Yet, the Kindle can hold an entire library. Plus, you’ve got internet access in a pinch, you rarely have to recharge, and if you want a new book, it’s only a few button clicks away. My recommendation- pony up the extra money for the Kindle Keyboard 3G Model. This model is perfect for travel- light, compact and connected. The battery lasts forever and the keyboard is handy. The Kindle Paperwhite 3G is cool too, it’s a little more expensive, but the built in light will save your headlamp at night.