The Outside Blog

Skiing and Snowboarding : Camping

Encuentro Guadalupe Antiresort Cabins

Just an hour and a half south of San Diego, twenty single-story cabins dot the rugged hillside in the wine region of Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico.

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The architects aimed to respect the landscape as much as possible, so each 65-square-foot cabin sits over the craggy terrain on steel legs. Corten steel covers the walls and roofs of the buildings, making them blend into the hillside. The cabins have private wooden terraces with their own clay chimineas to warm you up on chilly nights.

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Inside, the cabins have minimal—but luxurious—bedrooms and baths with either a black or white interior. Well-placed windows offer stunning views. 

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Super Charged

What if your outdoor tech could charge in just 30 seconds? That’s the question we've started asking after an announcement last week about a new battery charger. 

The technology uses bio-organic peptide molecules to speed up power output, according to a video from the Israeli start-up StoreDot. Harnessing that chemical reaction could revolutionize everything from electric cars and bikes to GPS devices. 

The idea isn't as far-fetched as it might sound. Rob Enderle, the principal analyst at Enderle Group and an expert on battery tech, verified the claims about fast charging and said it will likely debut sometime in 2016. One of the biggest challenges is reducing the size of the charging unit, he says. The prototype charger is about the size of two or three smartphones stacked together.  

“This has to push a lot of current over a short period, which would typically require a very large charger to keep the heat down to acceptable levels,” says Enderle. What could work instead, he says, is a simple charging pod located at a park, gas station, or rest area. You’d walk up to a wall-mounted unit and charge up faster than you could buy a Gatorade.

“Recharging needs to become easier and more convenient,” says Walker Ford, the senior electrical engineer at Goal Zero. “This is a low-hanging fruit for improved experience with small devices. Currently you have to remember your cable, then find a USB port, then look at the USB port to determine the correct orientation.”

Super-charging abilities will likely mean more technology in the backcountry. And while much of this is still theoretical, here are a few potential scenarios where fast-charging tech might overlap with the outdoor world.  

GPS Devices

Never get lost again. That’s the promise of quick charging for GPS handhelds like the Garmin eTrex. As Enderle noted, the fast-charging battery packs might be too large to fit in your backpack, but once the technology evolves, you’ll be able to charge up in seconds from anywhere around the world with a portable battery.

Fitness Trackers

We live in a society where the quantified self is becoming commonplace. Our phones can track how many steps we take using a free app. But one problem with most fitness trackers and smartphones is that we constantly have to recharge them, which takes time and can feel like tech babysitting. With fast charging, fitness gadgets could become even more pervasive.

Electric Bikes

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, e-bikes are here to stay in one form or another. And fast charging could help power the electric-bike revolution. Say you’re riding in Yellowstone where you can pull into a smartbike station, charge up within a few seconds, and then continue on your route. The concept works in more places than just national parks. “Cities could set up charging stations for bikes much like Tesla Superchargers,” says Enderle.

Rugged Tablets

If fast charging worked for laptops and tablets—especially those made for rugged outdoor use—we might see more of the tech in the backcountry. One of the limiting factors in working in a remote area (apart from the lack of WiFi) is that it takes an hour or more to fully recharge a laptop, and back-up batteries are heavy. If a laptop or tablet could fully recharge in 10 minutes, we might be more likely to use one to plot a route at a campsite. We'll let you decide whether’s that a good thing or a bad thing. 

Wearable Tech

The wearable tech industry faces a serious predicament. Gadgets like the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch only last about a day before needing to recharge. If fast-charging becomes a reality, we might be more likely to strap on one of these gadgets. “This would be perfect for small wearable devices that you could charge while taking your morning shower,” says Enderle. 

Fishing and Hunting

Maybe you’ve been stuck in the middle of a field with a battery-charged gadget, then realized it was running low on juice. Having a back-up battery helps, but the long charge time can be frustrating. If you could recharge your fish finder in less than 10 seconds, you’d spend more time fishing and less time worrying about the tech.  

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Grooming Essentials for Backpacking and Camping

One of the best parts of trekking into the wilderness is leaving behind the detritus of civilized life—shaving kit, comb, dental floss, deodorant. But let’s face it: the great outdoors is a grimy, buggy, skin-scorching, sweat-inducing place, and a small quiver of personal-care items can make the difference between enjoying the sunset and sticking your sunburned head in a lake. From combating blisters to mosquitoes to body funk, these goods have got you covered. Minimalist long-haulers, take note: everything here weighs less than five ounces.

REI Micro Shower Kit ($16.50)

It’s hard to beat a plastic bag for packing toiletries into the backcountry, but REI does with its slim, one-quart Micro Shower Kit. The tough nylon is far more durable than a Ziploc, a water-resistant liner contains wet items and spills—and it weighs just three ounces. Plus, the handsome honey and red exterior means you’ll never have to fumble around for your toothbrush after dark. $16.50, rei.com

Sawyer Premium Sunblock with Insect Repellant ($2.99)

Unless you’re headed to the heart of mosquito country or the blistering high desert, Sawyer’s Premium Sunblock with Insect Repellant packs a space-saving one-two punch. It wards off bugs for eight hours with IR-3535—a repellent that, unlike DEET, won’t damage synthetic clothing or gear and doesn’t need to be washed off at the end of the day. It’s also a safer bet for slathering on children and those with sensitive skin. Add waterproof SPF 30, aloe, and vitamin E, and skin has everything it needs to take on the trail. From $2.99, cabelas.com

After Bite Xtra ($3.99)

Even the most careful camper can get bit—or, worse, stung. After Bite’s Xtra formula takes care of both. Baking soda and ammonia neutralize itching and venom from mosquitoes, ants, bees, and wasps while tea tree oil provides soothing relief. Trekking to the beach? It also works on jellyfish welts (just be sure to rinse thoroughly with seawater or vinegar first to remove any tentacles). $3.99, drugstore.com

Badger Balm Organic Sore Muscle Rub ($5.99)

Hiking and sleeping under the stars can take a toll on bodies accustomed to pavement and mattresses. Badger Balm Organic Sore Muscle Rub increases circulation with cayenne extract and ginger essential oil, dispelling lactic acid while warming and relieving sore spots. It’s especially good on tired feet, where olive oil and beeswax help keep skin strong to face the next day’s jaunt. Just don’t use it on broken skin or sensitive spots unless you want to literally feel the burn. From 5.99, badgerbalm.com

New-Skin Liquid Spray Bandage ($5.99)

Minor cuts, scrapes, and blisters are bound to happen in the backcountry. Save the first-aid kit for emergencies and use New-Skin Liquid Spray Bandage instead. This gentle (read: barely stings) antiseptic kills germs, then dries down to a thin, flexible, waterproof-breathable polymer film that protects and seals broken skin. And unlike regular Band-Aids, it won’t get soggy or grimy or fall off and litter the trail. Deeper cut or epic blister? New-Skin’s original Liquid Bandage paints on where you need it. $5.99, drugstore.com

Gold Bond Baby Powder ($5.50)

Savvy hikers have long used baby powder to prevent blisters: dust a little on before hitting the trail, and it absorbs moisture while giving skin just enough slip to reduce rubbing. A less well-known application: the ultimate fast-and-light shower substitute. Gold Bond’s Baby Powder also contains kaolin clay, so it’s excellent at soaking up oil and sweat and loosening trail grit. Just liberally sprinkle onto grimy limbs, wait a couple minutes while the powder gets to work, then brush off. Bonus: it also mops up greasy scalps on multi-day treks. $5.50, cvs.com

Yes to Cucumbers On-the-Go Facial Wipes ($2.99)

Sometimes there’s just no substitute for a moist towelette after hiking through tall, itch-inducing grass or for getting hands really clean before dinner around the campfire. We’ve tried many, and Yes to Cucumbers On-the-Go Facial Wipes are the best. Scrubby, compostable fabric sloughs off a day’s worth of trail, glycerin and aloe restore skin’s natural protective barriers, and green tea and cucumber calm irritation. If you’ve only got room for one little luxury, pick this one. $2.99 for ten, yestocarrots.com

PackTowl Personal Towel ($9.95)

Whether you’re planning a dip in the water or a quick rinse from your water bottle, PackTowl’s Personal Towel has you covered. It’s not as plush as terry cloth, but the tough, antibacterial-treated poly-nylon fabric absorbs four times as much water and dries in a fraction of the time. We like it in size large: 16-by-36 inches, it’s big enough for a full dry down but packs to the size of a couple Clif bars and weighs a reasonable four ounces. Or, for waterside lounging, the beach-towel-size 36-by-59 XXL provides ample space to spread out but none of the soggy bulk. From $9.95, backcountry.com

Lush Karma Komba Solid Shampoo Bar ($15.90)

If your camping trip includes the luxury of running water, make the most of it with Lush’s Karma Komba solid shampoo bar. Not only is this little biodegradable puck compact, lightweight (two ounces), and spill-proof, it’s loaded with great-smelling and insect-deterring natural oils—citronella, geranium, lemongrass, patchouli, and pine. The nubby texture makes it great for scrubbing bodies, too, no washcloth required. Your fellow campers will thank you. $15.90 with travel tin, lush.com

Cocoon Silk Mummy Liner ($59.95)

Prefer to forego bathing altogether on long, ultralight missions? No problem—except where your sleeping bag or bivy sack is concerned. Contain your funk with Cocoon’s Silk Mummy Liner. Made from 100 percent—you guessed it—silk, this liner unobtrusively slips into most mummy bags, then slips back out so you can wash away a trip’s worth of sweat, grease, sunscreen, and repellent. If that’s still not a good enough reason to pack the extra 4.7 ounces, consider that it also boosts bag warmth by nearly ten degrees. From $59.95, backcountry.com

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