Backcountry Skiing Electronics make Ski Touring Safer and Easier

Post by blogger | February 10, 2006      

Reminders: 24 Hours of Sunlight skimo race starts tomorrow, elite class will definitely be fun to watch. According to race promoter Mike Marolt, there are now more than 100 registered participants! Should be a scene! We decided to go ahead and enter a team, and I’ll be blogging as frequently as possible. Also, don’t forget the interesting job opportunity we blogged a few days ago.

A few folks have asked what we’re using for backcountry electronics around here. Good blog subject:

Making your pack lighter may seem impossible. You trim a gram there and an ounce here, and progress feels as slow as the morning traffic jam on Aspen’s main street. Fortunately for me, I was carrying a heavy camera (Canon Rebel) — by switching to a lighter one I cut 26 ounces. My new Canon A620 is a bit tougher to use than the Rebel for action shots, but does just as good a job with landscapes and portraits. It’s even got some features that my model of Rebel lacks, such as flash exposure compensation, variable shutter delay, larger flip-out LCD, and more.

My main criteria when shopping for a small “point-and-shoot” was that it used AA batteries, as well as user variable aperture and ISO, a wide range zoom and a fully functional manual mode. The A620 has all that and more, it’s really an amazing little camera. My only gripes are the size of the LCD (bigger would be nice), lack of a point/shoot “sport” mode that optimizes for action, and the difficult to use manual focus. With AA lithium batteries I’m getting amazing battery life, and it seems to work okay in the cold. While you can get lighter and smaller cameras, many lack an optical viewfinder, use proprietary batteries and don’t have a decent manual mode. Hence I’m going a few ounces heavier but getting it all.

Altimeter watch
I gave up on most alti-watches a long time ago; too bulky and hard to use. The last few years a new generation of watches have been cropping up. They’re smaller, less pricy and seem simpler. The Origo shown below is one such unit we’ve been testing. It appears to work fine, though swapping the battery can be a bit tough, and it appears to have limited battery life (hint: use magnifying glass to figure out how the battery clip works). A better choice in altimeter watches might be any of the Highgear models. I’m using a Highgear Axis and am very happy with it. The functions are pretty much the same as the Origo, but the battery lasts way longer.

Cell phone
I recently upgraded my phone, and went for the smallest one I could get that still had an LCD I could see my contact list on. The LG shown below fit the bill, and saved me 3 ounces over my old brick. It also has much better battery life.

Backcountry Skiing Electronics
Choices for backcountry skiing electronics. Canon A620 digital camera, Origo OC-036 altimeter watch, LG C1-500 cell phone


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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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