Gear Watch: A Rugged, Solar-Powered Tablet Computer Built for the Backcountry

Its name is Earl, an 11-ounce, $299 tablet designed specifically for the challenges and abuses of the outdoors. Here's a quick round-up of Earl's key features:

  • A burly case that fully protects the electronics from dust, mud, and water. You can safely submerge it in 3 feet of water for 30 minutes.
  • Solar panels laminated to the back, which fully charges the tablet in five hours of direct sunlight. (You can also charge it via an included USB adaptor.)
  • Roughly 20 hours of battery life on a full charge.
  • A flexible, glove-compatible touchscreen that uses power-sipping E-ink (black-and-white only, one of Earl's biggest drawbacks)
  • Integrated GPS, barometer, thermometer, anemometer, and hygrometer to identify your location, elevation, barometric pressure, temperature, wind speed, and humidity.
  • A built-in AM/FM/SW/LW radio tuner, plus a small speaker for listening in.
  • An integrated two-way radio featuring a FRS, GMRS, and MURS transceiver.
  • WiFi connectivity and Android operating system that's compatible with Android mobile apps.
  • Preloaded with 100K topo maps for the U.S, Canada, and Mexico (you can upgrade to 24K maps with a $50 microSD card).

  • All useful stuff, clearly designed with outdoor adventurers in mind, though my final judgment on Earl is going to have to wait until I see the E-ink screen in action...

    All that being said, perhaps Earl's most interesting aspect is the fact that its production and development has been entirely crowdfunded. In fact, Earl's campaign to raise $250,000 to get this project off the ground just closed on Sunday, June 9, and successfully raised nearly $500,000.

    You can preorder Earl today—delivery of the first commercially produced Earls is expected in the August/September timeframe.

    "Equipped" is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.  

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