Top Gear: Our Favorite Gadgets at 19,341 Feet

How do you keep your cell phone alive when you have no electricity for 12 days? What’s the best camera to withstand brutal weather and rugged conditions? What’s the must-have gear to help you survive and thrive in situations from extreme travel to natural disaster?

To answer these questions – and to raise funds for Tanzania’s Mkomazi Rhino Sanctuary – we hiked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro with 14 women from Climb for Conservation, a group of scientists, environmentalists and female leaders who climb mountains around the world for critical conservation causes.
 An epic trek through jungles, moorlands, hail, torrential rain, glacial snow and 19,341 feet
 of elevation, we wanted to see what gadgets were worth their weight and cost in battery life, durability and utility. At the peak of the world, these were the top four performers:

GoPro Hero

A digital action camcorder that’s slightly larger than a packet of Post-its, the GoPro can
be worn, waterlogged and thrashed while still picking up sound and full HD video. Able to shoot crisp stills and burst shots in low and changing light conditions – good for climbers scaling cliff faces and capturing blue monkeys in action – it weighs next to nothing. The only downfall – its battery life could be longer. According to climber Cathy Cooper, a producer for NBC’s World of Adventure Sports, the new Hero 3 “performs as well as a red camera. Red Cameras cost $60,000. The GoPro Hero3? $299.”

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DeLorme InReach 

Recommended to us by the folks at Mountain Rescue Aspen, this two-way satellite communication device lets you stay connected with the world when other communication is impossible. About the size of a smartphone, the DeLorme has a number of interesting features including an SOS button that allows you to reach emergency services – and be certain they received the message – as well as a trek-tracking feature to keep you connected and allow others to track your whereabouts. What we loved most was the ability to pair it with a smartphone to turn it into a satellite that lets you to send text messages to email addresses or cell phones around the world.

Goal Zero Solar Panel

On the climb we used both the Nomad 7 watt and 13.5 watt Solar Panels. The 7 watt model is great value at $99. Both worked on cloudy days to charge video camera batteries and iPhones, then folded up into a duffel bag which attached nicely to the back of a backpack to recharge while hiking. Both models scored big points for portability and utility. We can’t help but love this product even more because the company was built on the foundation of doing good deeds and the principle, “all individuals deserve the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.”

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Nikon Coolpix AW100

Marketed as “born to be extreme.” At $349, a little high for a point-and-shoot, this Nikon really is a performer. Even in torrential rainforest downpour and glacial-freeze at the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro the lens didn’t fog and the lanyard came in handy when climbing. Landscape and portrait shots were crisp and balanced for a camera that only boasts a 5X zoom. The drawback? Bells and whistles like the GPS system and shake-to-select shooting modes didn’t work so well.

To find out more about the rhinos and other critical causes, visit www.climbforconservation.com.

This article originally appeared in MISC Spring 2013, The Gadget Issue.

the author

Leah Hunter

Leah Hunter is AVP insights & innovation at Idea Couture. She is based in San Francisco, United States.

See Leah’s full bio here