Summit County Gear Guide: Bring music to the backcountry with JBL |

Summit County Gear Guide: Bring music to the backcountry with JBL

Is recorded music in the backcountry a sin?

Some readers of this column revolted last winter when I proclaimed a portable Bluetooth speaker as one of my favorite products of the year, their comments in the vein of “turn off that infernal racket!” when you’re in the outdoors.

Mea culpa: I often bring an iPhone into the outback, and sometimes when the moment seems right I swipe it on and click into my music. A quiet Arcade Fire song, or maybe some Neil Young if I’m feeling nostalgic, can enhance, not detract from, the natural wonders all around.

Thus was the case last month on a camping trip to the north woods of Wisconsin. My iPhone was the source, but the music came out of a cylindrical white and blue unit made by electronics giant JBL.

The brand’s Charge Speaker offers a compact music machine that pumps amazing sound. It’s a lightweight and portable product that syncs with any Bluetooth-enabled device.

Five-watt speakers and a bass port make enough noise to fill a campsite with music. Keep it down if tented neighbors are nearby. And please no AC/DC out there, for the love of Pete!

Back to the review … the speaker costs $149.95, which is pricey. But for that amount you get a quality product that is easy to operate and rugged enough for the outdoors and that puts out great audio for up to 12 hours before it needs a charge.

Plug it into a laptop or wall outlet when the songs stop. A lithium-ion battery pack is built in, so there’s no need for disposable double-A’s.

Bonus: The stored power in the speaker unit can be used to recharge a separate device. The Charge has a connection for the siphoning off of its power reserve to revive a phone or gadget that’s gone dead.

Look to this JBL model or other similar Bluetooth speakers if you want some music to come with you outdoors. Just beware of the naysayers, and keep the volume down when other people are close. The great outdoors is a sanctuary, no doubt. But sometimes, I believe, a choir can only enrich the rite.

Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of Connect with Regenold at or on Twitter via @TheGearJunkie.

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