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Old 06-18-2013, 10:32 PM   #1
apestate
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Best reader for backpacking?

Hello. Just found this forum while reading which e-ink readers work the best with external keyboards.

I'm wondering, still, which e-ink readers perform the best with an external keyboard, and which are the best suited to long term exposure to the elements encountered in a backpack, bicycle pannier pack, ran hot and cold and in accumulative wet weather.

I have used a Nook Color in the past, rooted, with Cyanogenmod OS and loads of fun apps. It was incredibly useful. However, I regularly spend months at a time bombing around forests and mountains and beaches. I need something that can serve as a writing and data entry tool as well as storing a sizable library.

Are e-ink devices up to the task? What device would you recommend for combination with an external keyboard and heavy use in the back country?
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Old 06-18-2013, 11:52 PM   #2
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Seems like a lot to ask from a dedicated reader. E-ink tablets haven't been ubiquitous. The 13" that Sony is working on might be something to look at. Might be a bit large, though.
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Old 06-19-2013, 12:19 AM   #3
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I would go with some sort of tablet, like an iPad, Samsung Note 10.1, etc.
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Old 06-19-2013, 12:24 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by apestate View Post
Are e-ink devices up to the task? What device would you recommend for combination with an external keyboard and heavy use in the back country?
You need the Earl:

Quote:
Android 4.1 • Flexible 6" E-ink screen (1024x768) • Sunlight viewable with lunar lantern mode • Glove friendly IR touchscreen • Waterproof shell • Kickstand • Solar charging • i.MX 6 DualLite 1GHz Cortex A9 • 1GB ram • 16GB memory + microSD • Wifi b/g/n • BT 4.0 • ANT+ • NFC • FRS/GMRS/MURS • GPS + GLONASS • Accelerometer • Gyroscope • Magnetometer • Temperature • Barometer • Humidity • Anemometer • AM/FM/SW/LW • IR blaster • 20+ hour battery • 3.5mm TRRS headphone/microphone jack • 20" usb lanyard • 303 grams (10.8 oz) • 183mm x 121mm x 15mm (7.2" x 4.75" x 0.6")
It's designed for outdoor use and pre-orders are still available for $299. See this thread.
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Old 06-19-2013, 12:39 AM   #5
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Welcome to the board.

Sorry I can't help you out; exercise to me is walking to the car.
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Old 06-19-2013, 12:40 AM   #6
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Wow. Earl is precisely what I have wished for a long time now. Thanks for that link! Incredible.

I'm not interested in fancy apps so much, but simply keyboard text entry and display of text books for entertainment. That's all I really need on this trip.

Is it possible to take a kindle, nook simple, or any other common e-ink reader and attach an external keyboard? ( I have seen some instructions online, wondering if any of it actually WORKS ).

Also, what are the real climate limitations of a kindle or nook simple? I had a Nook Color that didn't like the cold, the screen input would scramble at around +40f. Battery life is also a huge issue, I don't want a solar panel, I'll be on the road and can charge things off AC.

Any ideas, examples, warnings?
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Old 06-19-2013, 10:38 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by apestate View Post
Wow. Earl is precisely what I have wished for a long time now. Thanks for that link! Incredible.

I'm not interested in fancy apps so much, but simply keyboard text entry and display of text books for entertainment. That's all I really need on this trip.

Is it possible to take a kindle, nook simple, or any other common e-ink reader and attach an external keyboard? ( I have seen some instructions online, wondering if any of it actually WORKS ).

Also, what are the real climate limitations of a kindle or nook simple? I had a Nook Color that didn't like the cold, the screen input would scramble at around +40f. Battery life is also a huge issue, I don't want a solar panel, I'll be on the road and can charge things off AC.

Any ideas, examples, warnings?
You are standing/sitting, reading in a 40f environment?


Dropping near 40f puts a serious crimp in current battery charge (no damage, just charge loss). IMHO never leave your Laptop/reader in a location with wide temperature extremes (eg Vehicles) other than briefly.

Rapid changes of environment after Cold/heat soaking is an enemy of electronics.

I keep my e-ink reader inside my jacket when transitioning via the outdoors from home to work on really cold days. (Who works on really HOT days )
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Old 06-19-2013, 11:08 AM   #8
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Moved to the "Which one should I buy?" forum.
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Old 06-19-2013, 11:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tubemonkey View Post
You need the Earl:



It's designed for outdoor use and pre-orders are still available for $299. See this thread.
Why is Earl still on preorder when it's met it's goal and then some?
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Old 06-19-2013, 12:09 PM   #10
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Why is Earl still on preorder when it's met it's goal and then some?
Beats me - but now it's $50 more than it was during the initial fundraising.
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Old 06-19-2013, 01:04 PM   #11
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Why is Earl still on preorder when it's met it's goal and then some?
Because they haven't begun the initial run of fabrication yet. Until they have the final numbers for their first batch and begin actual fabrication, they are considering all orders to be preorders.

They bumped the price up after they met their crowdfunding deadline. (Preorders are still available, but only at 15% discount instead of 30%. I'm glad I got in at the original discount )

Last edited by AlbertaCowboy; 06-19-2013 at 01:07 PM.
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Old 06-19-2013, 02:14 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by apestate View Post
I'm wondering, still, which e-ink readers perform the best with an external keyboard, and which are the best suited to long term exposure to the elements encountered in a backpack, bicycle pannier pack, ran hot and cold and in accumulative wet weather.

Are e-ink devices up to the task? What device would you recommend for combination with an external keyboard and heavy use in the back country?
Probably does not meet all your needs, but I have taken my Kindles on a couple of wilderness river expeditions in Alaska's Brooks Range and also on a backpacking trip this May.

On the river trips, I spent a total of 13 days off-grid with my Kindle 3. The device withstood temperatures from the 20s to 80s F, including snow and sand/dust storms. It was packed in a SeaLine bag inside a dry bag that got pretty wet from Class III rapids. I positioned the device in the center of the large dry bag, padded by fleece clothing. The bag got thrown around a bit when I had to portage and also loading and unloading the small float and wheel planes that took me to and from the river. Battery lasted fine, of course, with no need for artificial light (above Arctic Circle in June) and obviously no wi-fi or 3G coverage so the radio wasn't on.

On the backpacking trip, I took my K4 because it's lighter and at 108# myself, every ounce really counts, especially here in AK where you need warm clothing and sleeping bags year 'round.

I recognized that on the river trips in particular, there was a risk that I would lose the device if my kayak flipped in a rapid, or a bear munched on the dry bag or tent with the Kindle inside. That's one of the reasons I keep my library on my PC (Calibre), not on my Kindles. But it was great to have many books to choose from while my two other trip companions were tearing their paperbacks in half to share after we got "weathered-in" (i.e. our plane couldn't come get us) due to a snowstorm on our intended take-out day. Not much to do while holed up in a tent for a couple of days other than sleep and read!

Good luck and have fun.
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Old 06-20-2013, 08:00 PM   #13
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Lutraa that is great news about the kindle device! Thank you.

It's hard to believe manufacturer's specs when they are written with use-inside-civilization in mind. Little details emerge after accumulative moisture, condensation, and temperature swings are introduced.

I think that, for my upcoming trek, I will have to settle for a motorola droid xt from republic wireless. Text entry will be obnoxious, but it's better than taking pictures of notebook pages and uploading that to a blog!

Incidentally I found some more possibilities about using a keyboard in the back country:

nook simple touch in USB host mode - battery penalty of usb keyboard unknown
OLPC (one laptop per child) from ebay...

and this: http://www.8bit-micro.com/images/alphasmart3000.jpg

NEO, NEO2, Alphasmart portable word processor, weighs 2 lbs but are cheap on ebay.
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Old 06-20-2013, 09:02 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Lutraa that is great news about the kindle device! Thank you.

It's hard to believe manufacturer's specs when they are written with use-inside-civilization in mind. Little details emerge after accumulative moisture, condensation, and temperature swings are introduced.

I think that, for my upcoming trek, I will have to settle for a motorola droid xt from republic wireless. Text entry will be obnoxious, but it's better than taking pictures of notebook pages and uploading that to a blog!

Incidentally I found some more possibilities about using a keyboard in the back country:

nook simple touch in USB host mode - battery penalty of usb keyboard unknown
OLPC (one laptop per child) from ebay...

and this: http://www.8bit-micro.com/images/alphasmart3000.jpg

NEO, NEO2, Alphasmart portable word processor, weighs 2 lbs but are cheap on ebay.
The best combination of eInk and keyboard that won't make you pack too many batteries is going to be the K3. But the keyboard will be REALLY slow.

If you're open to a 2-lb word processor (with what? a 4-line screen that makes reading look like a real chore?), you might also want to check out an eMate 300. Definitely lighter than 2 lb. They're incredibly rugged, the screen is great for reading, and the keyboard is almost full-size. Should be under $20 on eBay. The only challenge is going to be swapping out the ancient battery pack. You can use AA's. I wanted mine to stay compatible with the built-in charging stystem, so I use NiMH. If you want to pack higher energy density in there, you can probably fit some expendable lithium camera batteries that will last a week.



P.S. for my Nexus 7, I use a Bluetooth keyboard that snaps right onto the screen when it's not being used, and would protect it in a backpack.


The keyboard's probably good for 30-40 hours on a charge, but good luck getting more than 6 out of the Nexus. You'll have to get a BioLite stove to charge it.

Last edited by curtw; 06-20-2013 at 09:58 PM.
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