I wrote the first version of this article years ago. Since then so many other options for communication and internet and entertainment have come about that if you are interested in anything other than Kindle books or Amazon shopping, you would be better off with an iPad or even a Chromebook. I now have a Chromebook, somewhat useful and somewhat hated. I use it on road trips but not on backpacking trips, although I might leave it in the car when I go hiking. Kind of handy. But for reading and writing, on a backpacking trip, I’ve gone back to my dog-eared copy of Moby Dick and a nice empty and small notebook with a ball point pen clipped onto it. If you must find external entertainment when you got to the woods, a Kindle is fine.
Favorite things tend to go traveling with me no matter how much they weigh, and I’ve been packing a copy of Moby Dick by Herman Melville and a comfortably sized journal notebook on nearly every trip since the early 70’s. I did step down from hardcover to softcover, but there hasn’t been another chance for an upgrade until just recently..
I downloaded the free Kindle for PC software and tried the system out, and I’ve been very impressed with the streamlined command system and the many conveniences. I downloaded a few free ebooks to read, and learned that most of the free libraries online like Project Gutenburg now provide downloads formatted for Kindle. I also got a free Kindle app for my Chromebook, which makes a Kindle kind of pointless now.
Will the Kindle Survive the Woods?
Any time you’re taking a good piece of electronics to the woods you do need to think about durability, and the Kindle has a leg up on that since it was built to lug around in briefcases and urban backpacks anyway. You’d need to provide a weatherproof case and store it carefully so it isn’t the first thing you land on if you fall over backwards. Laugh if you will, but I’ve done that on occasion while wearing a backpack and did ruin a good 35mm camera that way. The value of the camera was about double that of a Kindle One, so I can’t say I don’t risk expensive and fragile gear. Most of us do.
Temperature and water are the Kindle’s main enemies. The working temperature range is the normal consumer electronics range of 32 degrees F. to 95 degrees F., common limitations few people pay any attention to. Below 14 degrees and above 113 degrees F the Kindle’s electronics may suffer damage, so it isn’t a good toy for trips through the Rockies in winter or Death Valley in the summer warmth. Keeping it out of water is just plain common sense, and Amazon makes no claims that it will survive rain or an accidental immersion. Remember not to do that. Ziplock bags are great gear-saving devices for wet weather.
Would I take a Kindle to the woods? Hmm. I still kind of prefer the paper version of Moby Dick. I seldom have time to read more than a few pages on a trip but you can pick any page and it is still good. If you like Kindle, yeah, maybe you should take it along.
I have quite a library of Kindle books, most of them free versions, and I guess I’m glad I downloaded them while they were still available because many of them have vanished from the free offerings at Amazon. Amazon is all about making money, so if you see a good free book there, grab it.
Some Good Kindle Links:
Map of Current Free Wireless Coverage Areas for Kindle — beware the Great White areas, where other carriers may charge fees.