Okay. Hear me out. I understand that an E-Reader probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think camping gear. But, trust me, adding a Kindle to my kit has been one of the biggest game changers as far as pack weight, pack space and general trip enjoyment goes. Here’s why:
I read. A lot. I can’t fall asleep at night without reading for 20 minutes to half an hour, and when I’m out on trip that time doubles. On top of that, it’s my go-to activity for an afternoon in the hammock or when I’m killing some time before dinner. If I’ve got a (very infrequent) rest day, odds are I’ll spend half the day paddling around whatever lake I’m on and the other half reading. This means that in the course of a four or five day trip I can usually get through at least one book, if not two. Before I had my Kindle I would usually have a couple of books in my personal regardless of the trip length because I didn’t want to run the risk that I’d run out of reading material. And, while it’s not like I’m lugging War and Peace along with me, it turns out that when you’ve got multiple books in your pack they start to eat space quickly.
I picked up my Kindle in 2018. Back then, the Kindle Paperwhite was $99.00. These days it runs closer to $149.00. I’d say that it’s probably still worth the cost, but the 50% jump over five years is a bit tough to stomach. That said, if you don’t mind the initial outlay, it’s going to be worthwhile in the long run.
My kindle is about the same general size and shape as a closed mass market paperback. Maybe a bit wider and squatter, but close enough. It is, however, nowhere near as thick as a paperback. In fact, it’s less than 10 mm thick. Right here is my favourite thing about the Kindle. I’ve got as many books as I want at my disposal (the Kindle can hold literally thousands of books) for much less pack space than a paperback. It’s not particularly heavy either. The newest version weighs in at about 7 ounces. So, for less space than a single regular book would take up, and what’s basically a rounding error amount of weight, all my reading material is taken care of. Not bad.
I was a tough convert to e-readers. I love the feeling of holding a book in my hands, and you don’t get the same satisfaction of turning pages by tapping the side of your Kindle’s screen (which is how you advance to the next page). I still read real books about half the time at home, and I don’t think I’ll ever go completely electronic (although 20 years ago I probably would have told you I’d never stop adding to my DVD collection either). That said, the e-reader experience is a decent one. Despite the fact that you are in fact staring at a screen, it doesn’t feel like you’re staring at a screen. If I try to read on my phone or on a tablet I end up with a headache. That doesn’t happen with the Kindle. This is because Kindles use e-ink instead of the usual LCD display. And that’s about as far as my understanding of it goes. This is a camping blog, not a technology one. All I know is that my eyes don’t hurt after reading my Kindle, regardless of how long I’m looking at it.
The display is customizable to a degree. You can change the font to make the words bigger or smaller, and you can change the brightness to adjust for lighting conditions at any time of day. This is handy for both before bed reading in the tent and for afternoon sessions in the sun. The Paperwhite uses an LED light that distributes light to the front of the screen, making for a much brighter display without any glare.
Move over Energizer, you’ve been outlasted. (uh, the battery life on these things isn’t infinite, but it sure seems that way. I charge mine about once a month. I’ve had it on five and six day trips and still had over 50% battery left by the end).
Maybe in a post about a book reader I should talk a bit about how you access books? Basically, the Kindle is direct wired into your Amazon account (and, by extension, your wallet). Kindle books are cheaper than physical books, which means you make back your original cost over time. From your reader you log into the Kindle Store (the Kindle doesn’t have its own internet hookup but it does connect to any WIFI) and as easy as that you’ve got pretty much every book ever written at your fingertips. If you’re feeling adventurous you can get pretty good deals on self-published authors posting directly through Amazon. More well known and popular authors/books are also discounted compared to the physical copy, but only by a buck or two.
If you’re bringing a piece of electronic equipment on a canoe trip, you want it to be durable, right? Well, the Kindle seems to fit that bill as well. It’s handled the occasional drops and bumps pretty well and my understanding is that newer models are waterproof. That said, I’m pretty careful with mine when I’m out on trip. It travels in a Pelican case along with a couple of other things I wouldn’t want to break and that’s worked pretty well.
That’s about all I’ve got for the Kindle. As much as this has probably read like an ad for Amazon, it’s not. I’m not affiliated with them or getting compensated in any way for this review (but, hey, Amazon, I can be bought). I expect any e-reader would provide the same benefits as far as canoe tripping is concerned, I just happen to have a Kindle. For me, the space and weight savings as compared to regular books, and the fact that I can bring as many books with me on trip as I want, make an e-reader an indispensable part of my gear. Your mileage might vary, but if you like to read, and you don’t like carrying extra weight, an e-reader is worth looking into.
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