The Kindle 3: The Perfect Bike Touring Gadget?

If you’re going to buy just one gadget to take on a bike tour, make it the Kindle eBook reader.

We know that’s a bold statement but after buying a Kindle 3 and playing with it for a couple months, we’re convinced that this is one of the best things a book-loving bike tourist could carry.

The Bike Touring Survival Guide on a Kindle

The Kindle. Small enough to fit inside your handlebar bag. Powerful enough to hold 1000s of books.

We’ve surprised even ourselves with our love for the Kindle because we never thought we’d enjoy reading books on a screen instead of paper, but the Kindle is truly an enjoyable reading experience.

Here’s what we love about it so much:

  • Light and compact. At just 240g, it weighs less than most paperbacks.
  • Great battery life. It lasts up to 1 month with the wi-fi turned off.
  • Holds up to 3,500 books. This is great for bike tours where you may not have easy or cheap access to physical books.
  • Easy on the eyes. The display really doesn’t tire your eyes out. It feels like reading a book on paper.
  • Many classic books are in the public domain and available for free. Check sites like Project Gutenberg and Amazon’s free book store.
  • You can borrow books via services like BookLending and Lendle. Soon, you’ll also be able to borrow Kindle books from U.S. libraries.
  • Displays PDFs. This seems like the ideal way to carry and access repair manuals for things like stoves and water filters.
  • Can be good for reading maps. Just save them as a PDF to your Kindle, or use eReaderMap for Google Maps on the Kindle.
  • Possible to access the internet. The browser is still a bit primitive but certainly functional for basic tasks.
  • The buttons are big and easy to use. They’re large enough that you can use the Kindle even with ‘fat fingers’ in a cold tent at night.

camping with the kindle

Camping with the Kindle: small, light and a good battery life.

We’re not the only ones who are in love with the Kindle 3.  Dave is cycling around the world, and has been using a Kindle for over a year now. When we asked for his thoughts, he wrote us two long emails full of praise for the Kindle.

It has been the lifesaver of my trip. Travelling alone, it helps me wind down from a long day of cycle touring, proceeding to get me lost in my imagination keeping me up for hours on end. When suffering from random bouts of insomnia, I have just the perfect selection of books to help me get to sleep.

There are two versions of the Kindle – the Kindle 3 that can connect to any wireless internet signal, and the Kindle 3G that can also connect to the 3G network.

Dave has a Kindle with 3G. He says the ability to get online anywhere there is a 3G signal, using the Kindle’s built-in web browser, has been incredibly helpful on his bike tour.

While the browser can’t handle resource-hungry websites containing audio, video and animations, it is perfectly adequate for sending emails, checking weather, and interacting on social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook, or arranging to be hosted via WarmShowers or Couchsurfing. I recently cycled through for 9 days without phone access, in Newfoundland, Canada. The Kindle consistently provided me with full reception and service, useful to keep me in touch with the outside world. Similarly, when cycling through barren areas normally only occupied by bugs, bear and bison heading up to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, the Kindle was able to pluck a signal out of air at various points throughout the 1,800km journey.

Nothing is perfect. If we have to quibble about the Kindle, here’s what we don’t like:

  • The screen seems a bit fragile. You’ll need to protect it, either with a cover or by wrapping the Kindle in soft clothes or fabric and packing it carefully in your panniers.
  • Some books aren’t available on the Kindle. Others need to be converted from the ePub format before you can read them (this can be done using Calibre or any number of other free converters). Here’s more on converting books to Kindle format.
  • The black and white screen is sometimes a bit dull. Occasionally, you really want to see the colour in photos and maps. There are rumours that a colour Kindle could be coming out in 2011 but this is pure speculation.

Overall, however, we love the Kindle, and we can’t remember the last time we found a gadget that was more suitable for bike touring. We know there are other alternatives for reading books on tour such as iPads and smartphones but when it comes to readability and battery life, we think the Kindle comes out on top.

If you want to buy a Kindle, this carousel links you directly to the Kindle and some bike touring books for Kindle on Amazon.

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