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Outdoor Project | 07.11.2019

If you like to read a book outside or bring one along on your trips to the backcountry, you aren't alone. While reading print books is still the preferred way for most Americans to read (according to an annual survey by Pew Research Center), hauling a book along on your outdoor adventures is not always the most practical or feasible option. E-readers, phones, and tablets are increasingly the go-to choice. Depending on the number of days you spend in the backcountry, an e-reader is the only option to offer a full library on the fly without having to stress about battery life, water damage, and weight. Some thru-hikers even resort to tearing out the parts they have already read to cut the weight as they go.

If a digital device is your choice, getting a true e-reader is the best option if you regularly go on overnight trips. The battery life on phones and tablets is too short to get much more than a few minutes of reading in, or you will need to resort to bringing an extra portable battery charger to keep your device powered. The weight and cost of the charger is going to be close to the e-reader itself.

Picking the best e-reader for outdoor reading is about minimizing weight, maximizing battery life, and making sure your e-reader is protected against the elements. Here are a few of our favorite e-readers, all of which are waterproof.

Kindle Oasis - $249.99 - BUY NOW

The Oasis is the best Kindle model for the outdoors. It's a bit pricier than the other readers on this list, but with the price comes a lightweight (6.6 oz) 7-inch display that is waterproof and has the best battery life in its class (up to 6 weeks of reading time at 30 minutes per day). The 25 front light LEDs allow for adjustable warm light, and the device even has free cellular connectivity so you can download books to your library on the fly. With the standard 8GB of space, it can store over 35 Audible audio books. There is also a 32GB model. The newest Oasis release date is on July 24, 2019. It costs $249.99 (for the 8GB model) or can be paid for in five monthly payments of $50. Amazon also sells last generation and refurbished models at a lower price.


Kobo Aura H20 - $173.49 - BUY NOW

Kobo has emerged as the top e-reader competitor to Kindle. The Aura H20 is the waterproof version of the Kobo that comes at a better price point than the Oasis. However, that difference in price also means an added 0.7 ounces (the Aura H20 weighs 7.3 oz) and a lower 265 ppi resolution. The screen is also ever so slightly smaller than the Oasis. Other than these differences, the Kobo and Oasis have the same features. The differences between the two devices will be barely noticeable unless you are an ultralight thru-hiker who counts ounces and loves to read. The biggest downside of the Kobo is that its interface and ecosystem is still not as robust as Amazon's Kindle, which integrates nicely with the Amazon store and connects seamlessly with Audible.

If you are interested in Audible but not sure how you will like audiobooks, Amazon is offering a 30-day free trial with two free downloads, after which Audible is $14.95/month. One benefit of Audible on a Kindle is you can listen to your book while you're moving and pick back up with reading where you left off when you are in camp or taking a break from the trail.


Kindle Paperwhite - $129.99 - BUY NOW

The biggest gripe about the prior generations of the Kindle Paperwhite was that the device was not waterproof. Amazon, however, just released their newest version, and now you can get the lightest e-reader in its class (6 oz) and not have to stress about water damage. The major difference between the Paperwhite and Oasis is the options and quality of lighting, but the screen still boasts 300 ppi resolution, and like the Oasis it comes with free cellular connectivity and offers the same option of a 5-month payment plan, but for half the price ($26/month). There is also an option to get a 32 GB storage model. 


NOOK Glowlight Plus - $79.98 - BUY NOW

Barnes & Noble's e-reader, the NOOK, comes at the best price point on this list for a waterproof device. The screen size is smaller than the Kindle and Kobo devices, and it weighs a little bit more as well (11 oz), but the resolution matches the Oasis, at a much lower cost. The NOOK runs on the Android operating system, integrates with Barnes & Noble's e-book store, and also offers the option to read PDFs, something that you can't do on the Kindle and Kobo platforms. One of the biggest complaints about the product is that it feels slippery and is easy to drop, a consideration you won't want to discount based on your outdoor activity of choice.


Prefer to stick to with your print books?

There is a reason why so many people prefer to read print books. The tactile feeling of the pages and ease of not worrying about device charging has a certain allure, especially in the backcountry where many of us go to disconnect from our digitally-dominated lives. If you are one of the many people who just don't like to read e-books, then find your paperback of choice and considering bringing along a waterproof dry bag like the Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack to make sure your book stays dry and clean even if it starts to rain.


After destroying a Nook on a rafting trip down the Colorado, I have quit taking an e-reader. Instead I downloaded the Nook App on my Android cell phone and read my books that way. Even have a copy of R.J. Sector's book, The High Sierras, Peaks, Passes and Trails that I reference often.
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