When you're out climbing in Zion National Park or hiking up a Fourteener in the Colorado Rockies, the batteries on your phone, iPod, Nikon camera, and GPS unit all go dead. Portable solar chargers have gotten smaller and cheaper over the past few years, making them an essential item to pack. You just put your batteries in the charger and let the sun do the work, recharging your power supplies, including 2AA batteries and other electronics via a USB port in four hours. I carry the PowerFilm USB+AA Solar Charger, which folds up to 5.5 inches by 3.25 inches and weighs five ounces.
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Where in the world are you? If you don't know, then somebody will know if you're carrying a SPOT II. This lightweight SPOT has fast GPS acquisition, illuminated buttons, and an SOS function that brings rescuers to your exact location. The Check-In function transmits your location and lets your loved ones know that you're safe in the mountains. Requires a $99.99 annual subscription--a low cost for peace of mind.
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Sometimes you need traction on an icy trail and using your crampons is just overkill. Ask Santa for a set of Kahtoola MICROspikes and you'll be set for all your winter treks, whether it's to the supermarket or up an icy trail in the high mountains. The shoe harness is easy to attach to any hiking boot and the stainless-steel chain and spikes bit into ice and snow.
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