Winter hiking is awesome hiking. No bugs. So many less people. The views are more open because there are and many leaves, as much scrub brush, and less weeds. You’re less likely to get poison ivy and more likely to get frostbite. But there’s one thing that Summer has that Winter lacks – Long days.
In the summer, you can get up at 7 and hike until 8, provided you don’t boil to death in the heat or pass out from dehydration. In the winter, it’s get up at five an hope to hike until 4:30 before finding a campsite, and hoping you get crap set up before dark. Then what do you do? Is making a fire worth it? Do you really need to burn wood for light and warmth? Sure, it’s nice if there’s a crowd of you, because many hands make light work. Plus, it gives you someone to talk to across the flames. But – if it’s just you, now you have to make the fire, maintain it, watch it, and ultimately put it out, all by yourself. And fires are a lot of work.
Either way, odds are you’ll probably be in bed a lot earlier than normal. On a recent hike, fires were a bad idea. There were already forest fires within 30 miles of us, there was a severe drought, and a burn ban (we thought). So we were freezing and retreated to our tents by 6:30. So what do you do? If you go to sleep at 6:30, odds are by 4am you’re going to be wide awake. Nothing sucks like lounging around cold in the hammock with nothing to do. I try to stay up as long as I can.
That’s where the phone comes in. Serious hikers poo-poo the phone. “Get off the grid!” they’ll tell you. “Disconnect!” they’ll say. “Put away your device and live a little!” they’ll belch. Sure, all well and good during the day when there’s stuff to look at and things to do, but when it’s 7:30 and you’re staring at the roof of the tent, the phone can be a nice diversion.
First: Leave it in airplane mode. Disconnecting is good. What’s the point of driving to the trail, loading up a house on your back, and living like a caveman, if you’re just going to get the campsite and take a selfie, while catching up on bullshit social media stuff.
Sometimes I’ll start by looking at pictures I took during the day. Get rid of the crappy ones and maybe edit the others by cropping and color-correcting. It’s pretty amazing what phones will do with pictures these days.
There’s always games, phones have a crap ton of games available and the ones that aren’t super graphics intense may be a bit easier on your battery and such.
I like watching movies – it’s pretty amazing how long the battery will last when watching a movie on the phone. Depending on the phone and the brightness setting you could watch hours and hours of movies before you need a charge. But how do you get the damn things on there? There are subscription services (apparently NetFlix lets you store movies temporarily now), and if you buy movies, they often come with a “digital copy”.
Let me just say I HATE the way they do digital copy. There are several services the studios use and they all are complicated and suck. Why can’t they just include a disc with an MP4 on it, sized for the phone? Well, I guess because someone would take that 2GB file, upload it to the internet and people wouldn’t buy the disc. So – I had to learn how to do it myself.
AnyDVDHD – a great piece of software sold from overseas somewhere. I think the company is in Russia, but you pay them through China or something. It’s a bit weird, but they had to escape getting sued and such. See – AnyDVD’s ONLY job is to strip the copy protection from your movies. DVDs and Blu-Rays you buy can’t be copied without some help, and that’s where AnyDVD comes in. You put the movie in your PC, and the software sits there, quietly waiting to strip the copy protection. Click “Rip to Hard Disc” and wait. Be warned, a BluRay can have something like 32 Gigabytes of stuff on it. You will need a bit of hard drive space until you can convert it, and maybe an hour or more while it copies stuff. DVD’s go MUCH faster.
Wonderfox – This is my favorite conversion software for DVDs (not blue ray). You tell it where to start, what to output, and what size it should be. I like 720×480 just because it works fine for iphones and the movies come out between 1 and 2 gigabytes. Wonderfox is also great for children’s stuff. You bought a DVD of a dance recital your child was in. Your child’s part was 3 minutes long, in the middle of a 90 minute show? Pick the begin and end spots and hit Run, and you’ll get just the 3 minute part you want, perfect for sharing on Facebook.
Handbrake – Handbrake is great for BluRay movies. It works for DVDs too, and it’s free. I just like the interface with wonderfox better. But, if you’re wanting to do BluRay movies, it’s pretty good. Much like Wonderfox, Handbrake is not as simple as Wonderfox, but it’s not bad. Chose your input movie, your output size, and click run. Wait an hour or two and you have a 2 gigabyte movie. Delete the big version to free up space.
After doing this, you should have digital copies of your movies in MP4 versions, perfect for watching on the trail. Drop them into itunes (or whatever android uses), check your “home movies” folder, and there they are. Sync them to your phone and go hiking.
If you got totally confused with this, give it to a 14 year old. They probably are doing this already. A word of warning – you have to buy this stuff from overseas. Use a credit card you don’t use often, and call your bank. They will likely think it’s a fraud attempt. As soon as you’re done, call them back and keep an eye on your statement. I haven’t had an issue with either AnyDVD OR Wonderfox. There are tons of other things out there that claim to do the same stuff, I can tell you these WORK.
- A word of warning: Making copies of movies you own is a bit sketchy, but probably legal. There are many schools of thought on that, and many differing legal opinions. Making copies of movies you got from Netflix or your friends is definitely not okay.