Gear review by Cecil Morella (AMCI)
Equipment Adviser, PinoyMountaineer.com
Thanks to the wonders of miniaturisation, it is now possible to carry your own stereo system in places where there is no electricity: the mountains included. A few years ago this would have meant an iPod, not 20 years ago a discman, and maybe a boombox before that. Apple’s new-generation iPod shuffle (about 20 grams including the white headphones) makes even its own precursors in the brand an anachronism — the lighter-shaped latest edition now comes even smaller and lighter than a key or a flash drive; packs about 1,000 songs, or 50 hours’ worth (the four-gigabyte version), more than enough for a two-day climb; and batteries are not required. You charge them through the USB port in your computer. With an item this small, weight ceases to become the main consideration. Your main concern is to make sure it does not get lost on the trail, or even inside among the other contents of your water-proofed backpack and stuff sacks. My advice is to get a brighter colour than my black one. You can attach the metal clip on your shirt pocket, like a pen, or even use it as a hairpin, if you have long hair. This is because the volume and song selection controls have been transferred from the body to a node on the earphone wire.
I can’t discern any difference in quality compared to the bigger, classical iPod or the Nano. The earbuds stay in place while walking, or even running, in rough, uneven terrain. The buds can tolerate some sweating: these devices are, after all, primarily designed for running, though I have yet to test them in the rain, which is always an 80 percent probability in Philippine mountains. The buds will easily shut out all external sounds of the forest, except maybe were you standing next to a chainsaw at work. It is perfect for the often tedious commutes to the trailheads of many of this country’s peaks — shutting out the roar of plane or bus engines for instance, or even a seatmate who tries to engage you in unsolicited small talk.
In short, everything comes as advertised.
But to climb with? I don’t know. Some of my friends actually use older models on the trail regularly. Perhaps I am a bore, or maybe they lack the intellectual curiosity to get to know their environment more.Of course on paper would it not be a thrill to climb to the Discovery television sound track “Wonders Never Cease”? Or even, to the older set, “Born to be Wild?”
From the perspective of climb safety, I do not recommend it. It’s a bit like multi-tasking, which I do badly. It would be fairly easy to get lost in your own world created by a wall of sound and walk off a cliff, or slip underwater while crossing a river, with “Drown”, say, playing. With the music on it would be impossible to hear the rumble of a falling rock, a snapping branch, or trekking companions warning of other hazards like a slippery patch, nettles, thorny palms, or a sudden fork on the trail. Visual cues can only go so far as trails by nature are single-track, and walking at night it becomes even more important to keep your ears peeled for possible danger.