This article was brought to you by our friends at Aftershokz. Their open-ear headphones let you focus on your favorite playlist or an important phone call while still being able to hear the ambient noise around you. Aftershokz understands that whether you’re working hard, playing hard, or a little of both, every adventure can be made better with the right gear.
Digital nomads, unite! Studies show that some 57.3 million Americans now freelance—that’s a whole 36% of the population. Not only is that population growing, so is the number of people enjoying outdoor recreation. Over 40 million Americans went camping in 2016 according to Statista, and those numbers are on the rise. The National RV Dealers Association found that 13 million more U.S. households planned to camp in 2017 than the year before, and an estimated 1 million new households have started camping since 2014.
So it also seems likely that more and more of us might find our office lives and our outdoor lives overlapping, whether you’re a full-time camper or an occasional weekend warrior. Rather than looking for your nearest coffee shop, what if you were able to knock out your to-do-list from the campground?
We’re all for unplugging and enjoying classic, screen-free pasttimes like stargazing and swapping stories by the campfire. If you gotta get some work done, however, you might as well do it from a pretty little spot by the lake, in the shade of softly chattering aspen trees, or while swinging in your favorite hammock.
There’s just one catch: actually staying connected in the middle of nowhere.
Gear for Outdoorsy Digital Nomads
That’s where these handy outdoor tech gadgets come in.
A Solar Setup
For shorter jaunts, a daypack that can also charge your phone is a great outdoor tech option that’s been Ranger tested. That’s what Renogy’s Solar Backpack does. In full sun, its built-in solar panels can charge your phone or portable battery in about 2.5 hours. It’s also got compartments for your laptop, charging cables, pens, a jacket…you know, all your basic gear.
It’s pretty rugged for something designed to go from office to adventure, so you don’t have to worry about it being tough enough to stand up to all the dust, dirt, and accidental drops that tend to come with bumming around camp. If you need more power, or need a bigger backpack for your trip, they also have a bunch of other solar panels with USB charges built in, portable RV kits, and even solar generator arrays.
Bone Conduction Headphones
The Aftershokz Trekz Air headphones are an outdoor tech must for anyone handling calls or needing background music to help them focus. Whether you’re in the woods or in the city, you can get that good groove from your playlist that helps you get in the zone. In the great outdoors, however, it’s important to keep an ear open for what’s going on around you, not to mention pleasant to hear the birds chirping, the brooks babbling, and the breeze ruffling the leaves in the trees.
The great thing about these headphones specifically for the outdoors is that they’re bone conduction headphones, meaning they don’t sit in your ears and you can still hear the sounds of nature around you. They’re also super light and sturdy, so you don’t have to worry about them breaking in your pack, or weighing you down if you’re trying to keep your camping kit minimal. Open-ear headphones give you the best of both worlds— you can listen to Jethro Tull’s Songs From the Wood and the sounds of the forest.
That might be just the jumpstart your creativity needs, or a break your brain will thank you for when you’re struggling to get that to-do list wrapped up. If you need to field an actual phone call, Aftershokz are up for the job. They feature dual noise canceling microphones that shut out surrounding noise, making your call crystal clear for your listeners back home. The Trekz Air also last for six hours of continuous use, so you don’t have to worry about your communication getting cut short.
A Wi-Fi Hotspot
If you’re within cellphone service and want to turn that sweet juice into Wi-Fi for your laptop or iPad, you’re gonna need a Wi-Fi hotspot. Verizon’s Jetpack AC791L is a great choice for much of the U.S., though keep in mind that if you go deep enough into the back country even Verizon’s coverage isn’t going to reach. For those who are truly serious— into long-term #vanlife, overlanding, or extended backcountry adventures—you can get super serious with the MCD-4800, a twenty five pound network-in-a-box with satellite capabilities. You might want to invest in a beefier solar array from Renogy, however, if you’re going to need the extra juice that hotspots and laptops can require.
A Soft Cooler Backpack
You’re going to want to protect your spendy outdoor tech as best you can. Invest in not just one, but several dry bags. Get a few different sizes so you don’t have to store everything together, and items of similar sizes, shapes, or uses can be stored together. Then invest in a soft cooler backpack like IceMule.
These soft-body coolers are designed like a big back-pack dry bag, and will provide an added layer of protection for your electronics if you head somewhere hot like, say, the desert in summertime or Florida at any time of year. That can help your computer from overheating or your smartphone from getting slow and fussy. Not to mention the peace of mind that comes from keeping sand, dust, and ambient moisture away from delicate ports and plugs.
Plus, on trips where you don’t bring all your work gear, you can use the IceMule for the sort of stuff it was originally designed for— icy beers, kombuchas, and fancy camp cheeses! After all, there’s nothing like wrapping up your work day, setting your laptop aside, and popping a cold one while you breath in all that forest-fresh air while listening to your favorite jams.
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