Waterproof document bags and phone screens don’t mix!

Super quick post.

I use a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone as a GPS as it has a nice big screen. To keep it dry I bought an Ortlieb A5 waterproof document bag to keep it in.

Recently the phone became difficult to remove from the bag. The screen stuck to the plastic and, after a few struggles, I gave up keeping it in the case. Afterwards I noticed that the screen was unusually dirty but thought nothing of it, just developed the habit of frequently cleaning the phone with a soft cloth. However, after a few weeks, I took a closer look and noticed something weird.

There are permanent marks on the screen which are only visible when the screen’s dirty. They look like regular greasy patches but after a clean they reappear, identically, as soon as I touch the screen. In sunlight they make the screen very difficult to see.

A google search revealed that smartphone screens (including Samsung’s) have an oleophobic coating that’s lipophobic and hydrophobic. i.e. It repels fingerprints. These coatings can become damaged and it sounds like this is what’s happened to my phone. This kind of damage isn’t covered under warrantee but I’ve managed to save my phone. Cleaning the screen removed the marks and adding a screen protector covered up the damaged areas so they can’t get greasy and reappear. Phew!

Although I can’t be 100% sure that the document case caused the damage it’s the most likely explanation. Ortlieb don’t advertise this case as a phone cover or protector so the product can’t be blamed for what happened. I just want to let people know, probably best not to use these document cases as waterproof phone cases, just in case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Backpacking Gear May 2014

I’ve written this blog post because… everyone else is doing it!

Osprey Exos 46 backpack.

Backpack:

I’m currently using an Osprey Exos 46 to carry my gear. The Exos has been updated this year and I picked up this, older version, in a sale. I actually prefer it as there’s plenty of room for all my gear and the newer version has a capacity of 48 litres rather than 46 and hence is heavier. The large number of outside pockets makes grabbing things on the run nice and easy. I keep my waterproofs, the tent, a drinks bottle, snacks, cash, and first kit all on the outside of my bag so that the gear I don’t use during the day is safely tucked away in a waterproof liner in the main compartment and doesn’t get disturbed.

It’s not the lightest backpack on the market (I have the “S” back size and it weighs just over 1Kg) but it does have a solid frame and is of the build quality you’d expect from a company like Osprey. Besides 1Kg is a very reasonable weight. (You’ll notice this is a running theme with my gear: not the lightest but still, reasonably light.) Osprey don’t make a women’s specific version of the Exos but I’ve found this unisex version very comfortable. Some people criticise Osprey for adding too many features which raise the weight unnecessarily. In the Exos I quite like the gimmicks. You can get a drinks bottle out of the side pocket and stow your trekking poles without stopping.

One thing I’ve noticed to be a particularly British trait is to keep the tent on the outside of the bag. This enables pitching in the rain before opening up your rucksack and packing everything away inside the tent on a rainy morning, minimising gear getting wet and/or dropped in mud. It’s a mystery why Brits in particular would be mindful of this. I keep the tent pegs in an outside pocket, the poles in the side pocket, and the tent itself attached to the bottom of the rucksack.

There’s one waterproof liner in the main compartment, a Exped 40L Folding Ultralite Drybag, and some smaller waterproof bags in the outside pockets.

Wild Country Zephyros 1 tent.

Tent:

*** This tent had a failure! Please read blog post Terra Nova Customer Service ***

I wrote about it in my last blog post and here it is again, the Wild Country Zephyros 1. I’ve done some research and can’t find a better deal on a reasonably light solo 3-season tent. I’d like to replace mine with the updated, lighter version but for now it does the trick. My set-up weighs about 1.5Kg including pegs, poles, and bag. (The new version is approx. 300g lighter.)

I don’t bother with a groundsheet. The tent was so cheap and the floor so tough I don’t worry about putting a hole in it, I can always patch it if I do.

Top Row: Toakes Ultralite Solid Fuel Ti Cook System (stove, mug, windshield (not shown), Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Women’s Mattress. Middle Row: Sawyer Mini Water Filter, Headphones, Titanium Folding Spork, 2 x 12″ Nite Ize Gear Ties, Swiss Army Knife, Petzl e+lite Headtorch. Bottom Row: Decathlon Inflatable Pillow, Platypus 500ml Water bottle.

Stove:

Experts say that there are 3 big items you should focus on to reduce the weight you’re carrying. Firstly the backpack itself, secondly the tent, and thirdly the stove. In this third category I’m doing pretty well. My favourite stove is a titanium solid fuel stove, a titanium mug, and a titanium windshield weighing in total about 100g. (Pictured above top left.) It’s made by Toakes and sold as the “Ultralite Solid Fuel Ti Cook System” and it comes with a titanium folding spork and some little bags to keep everything in. It’s only good when I’m solo backpacking due to the size of the mug/pot but it’s a lovely little set-up.

Mountain Equipment Xero 550 down sleeping bag, occupied.

Sleeping System:

Currently I’m using a Mountain Equipment Xero 550 down sleeping bag which weighs 1.04Kg on my scales. I really could do with a lighter one for the summer. Currently it’s used as a quilt in the warmer weather or paired with an Alpkit bivi bag for sub-zero temperatures.

A Thermarest NeoAir Xlite inflatable mattress (355g) and an inflatable pillow from Decathlon which was stupidly cheap and works really well (81g) finish off my sleep system and altogether they’re extremely comfortable.

Viewranger app with OS map and route tracking running on Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Other Bits and Pieces:

Those are the key items but obviously there are lots of other things in my backpack. I mainly use Viewranger maps on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 as a GPS. There’s an mp3 player and headphones to help me sleep if a campsite’s noisy. A spare water carrier (either a 1L or 2L Source collapsable water container), lighter, money, toiletries, etc.

In terms of clothes I take a lightweight Rab waterproof jacket and, if rain is forecast, waterproof trousers. In the summer months I wear a Tiley hat to keep the sun out of my eyes and the rain off my head. In the winter I’ll take a warm hat, gloves, buff, and merino thermal layers. Wet feet on a weekend in Norfolk taught me to always pack a dry pair of socks. Recently I’ve added a cheap pair of cotton shorts to the list to wear inside my tent when my walking trousers are particularly wet and muddy. I also have a Rab insulated down vest that packs down very small and is a real comfort on a chilly evening.

Well there you have it, my kit list. In total it weighs about 6Kg before I add water, food, and fuel for the stove. Definitely not ultra-lightweight but it is on the lighter end of the scale. I’m too fond of my comfort items (mp3 player, tent socks, pillow) to ever get down to ludicrously lightweight so I’m reasonably happy with my reasonably lightweight set-up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wearables

“A terminal, in the shape of a ring, button, bracelet or pen or whatever, was your link with everybody and everything else in the Culture.”

– Iain M. Banks, “A Player of Games” first published in 1988.

I’m certain Mr Banks was spot on with this prediction. The next evolutionary step for ‘mobile phones’ is the tiny wearable (badge, ring, bracelet) that provides your personal connection to the internet, establishes your location, and records health-related data.

Mobile phones have morphed into delicate, pocket-sized computers and it’s not always practical to carry one. Especially if you’re exercising or somewhere that isn’t mobile phone friendly, like the beach.

It makes a lot of sense to separate out the network-connecting part of your phone, the GPS, and the motion tracker and to carry these in one small wearable device. Any gadget that needs an internet connection can just tether to your Wearable. Admittedly it would be useful to also have some basic functionality. So you could send and receive messages for example. Or check the weather or traffic. Or get directions. However I don’t expect you’d want to take photos (looking at you Samsung) or watch television or read a book.

So, if you went for a run, you’d just wear your Wearable. It’s a badge or a bracelet or a belt clip or whatever. You’re still connected to the world, able to receive messages. Streaming music. Still tracking your exercise so you can analyse it later online. You can make your location visible to others, or get directions, or track your route. But there’s no mobile phone bouncing around in your pocket or strapped to your upper-arm.

Later on you watch live streaming TV on your 10 inch tablet – which is tethered to your Wearable. You decide to call your Mum on your 5 inch handset using the network connection provided by your Wearable. You take some photos on your digital SLR camera which automatically upload to Facebook via the Wearable’s internet connection. Neither the tablet, handset, or camera need to have an internet connection themselves.

Smart watches are heading in the right direction but with one major flaw, the network connection’s still in your mobile phone. They still need your phone within bluetooth range for them to have an internet connection.

Whoever makes this Wearable isn’t going to be making money from the software. This thing’ll run on the most basic OS. It doesn’t need to be all-singing and dancing. It’ll be the smallest, best looking bracelet with the best connection and reliability. Hardware and design will be key.

I’m looking at you Apple. The last few iPhones have been iteration not innovation. But then maybe this is already on your radar. Perhaps i-Wearables are already out in the world being tested?

Perhaps I’m way behind the times? Maybe this has already been done? Please comment!

And where does it go from there? Iain M. Banks predicted a future where a planet’s computer would detect that you were falling (location, speed of descent) and would send a drone to catch you before you hit the ground. Of course, only if you’d remembered to wear your terminal.

How to make a Pinterest live wallpaper for your Android device

This is a slightly manual process but free and fun.

First download the Photile Live Wallpaper app by Joko Interactive from the Google Play store to your device. There’s a free and a pro version. (The pro version has more options in settings.) Photile turns any picture you choose into a grid of floating, fading, sliding tiles. Requires Android 2.1 and up.

Now go to your Pinterest app and find the images you want displayed in your Pinterest live wallpaper slideshow. Save these images to your Android device. (On my Samsung Galaxy S3 I do this by pressing the menu button and then selecting “Save to Device”. This saves the image to a folder called “Pins” in my phone’s picture gallery.)

Open up the live wallpaper settings. On my phone running Android version 4.1.2 this is under…

Settings – Display – Wallpaper – Home screen – Live wallpapers

Select Photile and click on Settings.

Select “Picture” and then “Choose Image”. Pick any image from the folder on your phone that contains the Pinterest saved images. On my phone this is under “Gallery” and “Pins”.

Back in the Photile Settings, go to “Picture” and then “Slide Show Options”. Check the box next to “Slide Show (Beta)”. This will add the other pictures you saved in the same folder to the live wallpaper as a slideshow.

Also in Photile’s Settings you can adjust the interval between pictures, the background colour, and adjust things like whether the tiles move or fade or react to being touched etc. Have a play around to find what you like.

When you’re happy with your live wallpaper click “Set Wallpaper” and you’re all done!

Of course this app will work with any images on your device. I just like using my Pinterest pins the best 🙂