Since the Kindle arrived in the UK, it seems more and more people are taking them backpacking with them… after all, it’s generally lighter than a paperback book, reads as easily, and you can have several books stored on the device, so you can choose from several books to read. It’s pretty much a guaranteed win for those with a Kindle, really!
Up until this week, my Kindle went with me for every single backpacking trip, for all of the reasons mentioned above. Now, though, it has become all kinds of obsolete.
On Thursday, a brand new Google Nexus 7 arrived on my doorstep, and it became immediately apparent that it would be more useful in the outdoors than the Kindle.
Why?, I hear you ask!
Well, it all comes down to the colour screen and the apps.
With it’s 7″ screen and small form factor, it’s not overly large. The photo below shows it next to my Kindle 3… not a massive difference, really!
On my scales, including its Aquapac waterproof case, it weighs in at 394g. OK, it’s not exactly ultralight, but when compared to the Kindle, at 283g, it’s not too bad.
Now down to the real beauty of the device… believe it or not, as a naturalist (no, not naturist… I’m not the naked rambler! 😉 ), I’ve been looking for something like this for years… something that I can use for colour books.
Basically, the idea occurred to me when the Kindle was released in the UK, that a colour version would be able to store all of my field guides, so that I could have ID guides for absolutely everything in one portable device. Colour e-ink was just going to be too expensive, so a tablet seems like the sensible choice. I got myself an iPad, but it was just too heavy, too big and just too clumsy… then Google announced the Nexus 7. A portable, lightweight tablet, that wasn’t gonna break the bank. I knew straight away, this was the one for me!
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect. First of all, a lot of the good field guides are not available in eBook format, and after speaking to British Wildlife Publishing on Thursday, sadly, may not be. They advise that the costs and licensing implications makes eBook versions of their guides impractical. It’s a bit of a shame, as most of my favorite field guides are made by them.
There are ebooks out there, though, which are of use. When I got the Nexus 7, it came with £15 worth of Play Store credit, which I immediately put to good use, by downloading the following ebooks:
Collins Gem Birds
Collins Gem Insects
Collins Gem Trees
This gives me a reasonable selection of content, so that I should be able to identify most of the common species I might see when out backpacking.
They’ll do until I can go through the laborious process of scanning some of my own field guides in, and then creating PDF versions of them.
That’s not all, though!
As it’s a tablet, rather than an eBook reader, for all those nights you’re stuck in the tent, bored out your skull, while it chucks it down outside… there’s games, movies and music, too!
What more could you possibly want???
Did I hear you say mapping?
Oh yeah, that’s right… we’ve got us a fully fledged Android tablet here, with a GPS chip set, so all those mapping apps with offline viewing… yeah, we’re talking to you Viewranger and Memory-Map, work a treat, too!
And let’s not forget the old WordPress and Blogger apps, allowing you to write a local draft of your blog while out and about (to then upload when home and add photos to – as I’m doing right now!)
OK, there’s always some… perfection hasn’t quite been created yet…
It’s Wi-Fi only, so even if you’ve got the best signal in the world, there’s no WiFi hotspots at the top of a Munro! (Unless there’s one accessible from The Cairnwell or Carn Aosda, but since those are the least exciting hills in the whole world, we’ll safely write that off!). Admittedly, if you’ve got a mobile which is capable of creating a portable hotspot, that negates the issue entirely.
It’s got an advertised battery life in the region of 8-10 hours of video, 10-12 hours of book reading, so, assuming 2 hours use a day while backpacking, you’re talking about 4 days use. I’ve not really had a chance to confirm how long it lasts, in the two days I’ve had it…
It only comes in 8Gb or 16Gb format, with no option for expandable memory. It does limit, to a certain extent, the amount you can put on it. The maps for Memory Map are 2Gb in themselves! (For full GB OS Landranger maps)
I do think this has the potential to be one of the most useful tools for backpackers and naturalists. Sure, it has its limitations, but considering what it can do, I think it’s fair to overlook those. It’s certainly not something I’ll be leaving behind when I’m out backpacking!
I will point out that if you don’t live in the UK, there may be other options available to you in the same sort of price range, such as the Kindle Fire or the Nook Tablet. Also, if you’re willing to pay more, there’s the Samsung Galaxy 7.7, and if you believe rumors, Apple are planning on jumping on the small form factor tablet bandwagon with some sort of mini iPad… at this moment in time, though, the Nexus 7 has easily the best performance for its price range.