Desert island tech: What you need when you're off the grid

Some of us like to go off the grid periodically to get away from things, while others find themselves forced off the grid as a result of flooding, fire, or some other misfortune. No matter what the reason, I find having the right gear with you can make all the difference.

Some of us like to go off the grid periodically to get away from things, while others find themselves forced off the grid as a result of flooding, fire, or some other misfortune. No matter what the reason, I find having the right tech can help stay in touch with the world at your own terms when things are going well, and allow you to summon help and remain in touch with family members during emergencies.

Here is a selection of tried and tested kit that can either make your stay in the outdoors more pleasant, or help you stay alive should things take a turn for the nasty. Much of this kit I've had the opportunity to test as a photographer who takes a lot of expensive - and very fragile - gear into the outdoors. I'll be honest with you, a lot of the gear I tested was just junk, and an awful lot more just couldn't put up with days of hard work and abuse.

What's left - what's listed here - is the best of the best. The stuff that has gone with me on multiple outings, and come back ready to do another day's work.

Here are a few other random tips relating to electronics and travel.

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  • Make sure all your devices are backed up regularly.
  • Label everything. In the comfort of your own home you might feel confident that you'll be able to remember what cable or connector goes with each device, but once you get out into the field - and throw in some wind and rain for good measure - and I guarantee you that things will get a little blurry and you'll be hating life. Label everything with waterproof tape, and mark connectors and cables with waterproof paint (or, if on a budget, nail polish works a treat).
  • Pack everything well. I use Peli Storm Cases and Ortlieb dry bags, and I like to add zip ties to make sure that my cases and bags don't pop open at inopportune moments. Zip ties aren't an option for air travel (unless you want them cut) so then I use TSA-approved locks. However, if my gear needs to travel further I like to add zip ties to secure my luggage when it's moving between the airport and destination.
  • Familiarize yourself with everything before you leave home. Make sure that it all works, and you know how to work it.
  • Try not to douse your gear in sunblock or insect repellent. Insect repellent - especially the stuff that contains DEET - is particularly nasty and can melt plastics. While DEET continues to be the best defense against ticks and mosquitoes, the CDC does recommend alternatives that are good against mosquitoes alone (I find picaridin-based products to be good against flying annoyances).

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