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Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.
Jonathan Stull | 05.29.2019

Innovations in rec tech have made the outdoors safer, more interactive, and more enjoyable. The newest innovations in tech for 2019 offer exciting new ways to interact with the experiences that we love—creating more stable, gimbal-less video with GoPro’s new camera, a touchscreen GPS smartwatch capable of 4 GB of map downloads, a pack you don’t need to take off to access, camp lighting you can manipulate with your mobile device, among others. We rounded out some of the newest and best with trusted mainstays that have earned a place in your pack, like the Sony α7 III, long a top-of-the-line mirrorless DSLR for landscape photographers.

In our inaugural tech and gadget gear guide, we tip our cap to the ways of old, of paper maps and compass points, and remind ourselves that with proper use these new devices are tools that make our experience in the outdoors better.

 

GoPro Hero7

GoPro’s flagship line of action cameras got an upgrade late last year as GoPro battles low-cost competition from overseas. Whether or not the company will continue to dominate the action camera market remains to be seen, but the Hero7 Black adds useful new features to the compact, rugged form factor that made GoPro the go-to camera for action and adventure. With image stabilization in 4K, the shakes and jitters of action shots are ironed out. The camera also has live streaming capability when tethered with a mobile device, and hands-free voice control.

$399.99 • GoPro​​​​​​ | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI

 

Sony α7 III

Since its release in 2018, Sony’s most recent update to its alpha series, the α7 III, remains high on the list of go-to cameras for landscape photographers. Several of Outdoor Project’s most active contributors use the camera, which is reason enough for us to recommend it. The camera promises great value at a great price point for an entry-level full-frame camera, including a 24-megapixel sensor with high dynamic range and 4K video for those who want it.

As quickly as tech is released, it’s upgraded, and there are rumors of an α7 IV release in 2020 or 2021. In the meantime, the camera has been released for long enough to find the α7 III in great used condition if the price point is still too high.

$1,999.99 • Sony | Amazon | B&H | Adorama

 

Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30

One of the most important factors in a smart watch is its durability. For all of its flashy functionality, a smart GPS watch is useless if it won’t stay safely on your wrist. The idea that your watch may fall off your wrist during your hike, summit bid, or packraft float—unbeknownst to you—is a horrifying prospect. Casio’s newest Pro Trek model, the WSD-F30, answers with a 810G military-grade toughness and a smaller profile on your wrist, which should satiate concerns about its resilience in the outdoors.

Battery capacity is a close second. Until batteries become more efficient or smartwatches less power hungry, battery life is better measured in hours, not days. Short of a major hardware upgrade, the Pro Trek comes out of the box with smart features that extend its battery life. Extend Mode, which essentially shuts down watch functions except for GPS tracking, boasts a 3-day battery life—a welcomed improvement over other options out there.

In terms of functionality, the Pro Trek outperforms smart watches in its category with several new, key features that make the watch much easier to use. Most important, its touchscreen face incorporates swiping gestures to commonly used tools, which include the standard altimeter, barometer, compass, sunrise, sunset, and tide data, and preloaded, sport-specific apps for trekking, fishing, cycling, paddling, and snow sports. Plus, the watch has enough internal storage (4 GB) to download five full-color maps for offline use while connected to either WiFi or your smartphone. Once they are downloaded, the maps can be used without having to be connected to your phone. With smartphone integration (both Android and iOS), a beautiful OLED interface, and a bevy of mobile tools to expand its use, the Pro Trek WSD-F30 promises a new industry standard that we hope the market will follow.

$549.99 • Casio | Amazon | REI

 

Leica Monovid

Leica’s glass is first class, and the Monovid offers a form factor that will appeal to anyone trying to cut weight or add macro functionality. The Monovid offers 8x magnification, but its macro attachment makes it stand out: Viewers can use the Monovid like a macro lens, enhancing subjects just 10 inches away at the same rate. That bodes well for the curious.

$469.00 • Leica​​​​​​ | Amazon

 

Peak Design Capture

The Capture is like a holster for your six-shooter: It keeps your camera secure on the trail and within close reach for moments when you need your reflexes. For anyone who’s used a camera strap, they’ll appreciate a less cumbersome way to carry a camera. For anyone who’s kept their camera in a pack, they’ll appreciate the ability to get the shot they want while they still can. Now in its third version, the Capture can affix to pack straps and belts. Consider it a photographer’s essential.

$69.95 • Peak Design | Amazon | Moosejaw | REI

 

Paxis Twin Lakes

Packs have a serious access problem. For photographers on the move, having to stop and unload costs precious moments that might ruin the shot of a lifetime. That describes just about every Outdoor Project contributor, so it makes sense that our community brought Paxis to our attention.

Peak Design solved one problem by developing the Capture clip. Paxis swings around another with the Twin Lakes, its newly redesigned pack that features a swiveling arm. Rather than unload, photographers can swivel part of the pack around the front of their body, providing access without having to take the entire pack off. It takes seconds, and the pack can comfortably carry several lenses for a quick and easy transition. Paired with the Capture, it’s realistic to switch lenses and capture that prize-winning photo in seconds without serious risk.

$325.00 • Paxis

 

 

Manfrotto Befree 2n1 Tripod

Ideal for traveling photographers, the Befree is designed for light and compact carry with an easy conversion between tripod and monopod. Its flexible use promises a light pack weight when you want it and the stability of a tripod when you need it most. Two-in-one tripods are nothing new, and there are much less expensive options on the market, but Manfrotto’s Befree line is highly regarded for its zero-play tripod stability and build quality.

$219.99 • Manfrotto | Amazon

 

Goal Zero Venture 30

With a rugged promise, the Venture 30 is the slimmest portable battery pack offered by Goal Zero that can also withstand the elements. It is built to withstand drops and remains waterproof in wet conditions. But perhaps most attractive is its performance in the cold. Because of its slim profile, the battery pack is easy to keep close—and warm.

$99.95 • Goal Zero | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI

 

Anker PowerCore II 10000

Quickly becoming the industry standard in portable rechargers, Anker offers an option for just about every conceivable scenario. Consider the PowerCore II 10000 for any of your front-country devices. Slim and speedy, the PowerCore II 10000 can recharge most smart phones three times with a footprint no bigger than the palm of your hand.

$35.99 • Anker | Amazon

 

 

MPOWERD Luci Connect

The Luci Connect is the first of its kind to connect to a mobile app. The first “smart light” from MPOWERD can adjust its brightness with the tap of a finger, on average about 10 steps fewer than just getting up to turn the damn thing down, but what we really like is its ability to change colors. Not just one or two colors, either. The Connect can traverse the entire color spectrum on an RGB color wheel, a playful and fun way to liven up any campground or camper van.

$64.95 • Luci | Amazon

 

Black Diamond Storm

Waterproof, dustproof, and rugged, the Storm is our go-to headlamp for any outdoor excursion. While no major update has been released for 2019, its price point offers great value for a 350-lumen headlamp with a visible range up to 80 meters. Adjustable settings include low-power peripheral lighting for close-range tasks that don’t require a long-range beam.

$49.95 • Black Diamond | Amazon | Moosejaw

 

Garmin inReach Mini

With a small form factor, the inReach Mini packs a powerful punch. We’ve recommended the inReach line before, and the Mini is nothing new. Nevertheless, we love it for backpackers trying to keep an open line of communication without adding the pack weight. At 3.5 ounces, it’s half the weight of Garmin’s bigger models and about half the size, too.

$349.99 • Garmin | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry | REI

 

Mobile Apps

Mobile integration is only growing, and a suite of backcountry apps can make your experience on the trail that much more enjoyable—without driving the idle masses to selfies and environmental destruction. PeakVisor​​​​​​ ($6.99, iOS and Android) can identify nearly a million mountain peaks just by pointing a camera, and it works offline for seamless integration outside of cell service. Star Walk 2 ($2.99, iOS and Android) brings the same functionality to the stars, which you can identify and learn about just by pointing the camera. Dark Sky ($3.99, iOS and Android) is one of the most gorgeous weather apps we’ve seen, and it promises hyper-local, down-to-the-minute forecasts that are used by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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Casio Pro Trek

Powered by Wear OS by Google, the Casio PRO TREK WSD-F21 comes equipped with a variety of features ideal for adventure, including GPS, Location Memory, Moment Setter, and more. It is outfitted with a heart rate monitor for pace management during activities from road and trail running, to cycling, climbing and more. Packed with Casio’s Triple Sensor technology, dual-layer LCD and water resistance, PRO TREK Smart is the rugged, stylish and versatile timepiece to enhance any outdoor experience.

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