Liz Dodd is a British journalist and adventurer who is attempting to cycle around the world. We equipped her with our Cat S60 smartphone to help her on her journey and have been following her progress eagerly. She views her Cat smartphone as her most important piece of kit. Below follows her story and her review of the Cat S60 in her own words.
by Liz Dodd:
There are always some raised eyebrows when I’m asked what my favourite piece of kit is and reply that it’s my smartphone. People assume that means I’m locked into Instagram or can’t stop checking Facebook. But what I go on to explain is that my phone – the Cat S60 – isn’t just a phone, it’s a survival tool.
I’m currently halfway through an attempt to cycle around the world. I’ve ridden from London through Europe to Azerbaijan, then crossed the Caspian Sea on a cargo ship to Central Asia, where I cycled on through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and up through the Pamir Mountains to China. I’ve just completed a loop of south-east Asia – taking in some of the most remote jungles of Laos and Cambodia, as well as Thailand and Vietnam – and I’m about to head to the USA to ride the length of America.
It’s essential for me to have a phone that works well in extreme conditions.
I crossed the Pamir Highway, one of the world’s most dangerous and remote roads, by bicycle in winter, and by the time I reached Kyrgyzstan it was -20C at night in my tent. I relied on the FLIR thermal camera on the S60 to check the temperature in my tent every night and to gauge whether or not I needed to sleep with my water bottles in my sleeping bag to stop my water supply from freezing.
At one point another cyclist I was riding with was crippled by altitude sickness – the Pamir Highway climbs to a high point of 4,666m – and had to give up, so I became reliant on the altitude gauge within the Hike app to make sure I wasn’t ascending too quickly myself. I also use my phone to navigate, using open source maps.
Thankfully the S60’s touchscreen works when you’re wearing gloves
At one point, during a painfully cold descent before dawn, I had to wear two pairs of gloves and a pair of socks to stop the windchill paralysing my hands so much I couldn’t operate the brakes. My fingers barely worked: but the touchscreen still did.
The screen also works when it’s wet, which is useful when you’re trying to zoom in on shelter in the middle of a snowstorm or a South East Asian monsoon. Nothing is more reassuring after you’ve dunked your phone than for the Speaker Dry program to ask if you’d like it to undo the damage. And Speaker Dry isn’t the only app I find myself having to use regularly: I use a spirit level app to check my saddle tilt and a measuring app to check everything from inner tube width to spoke length when I’m making repairs.
I’m a travel journalist, and I write regularly from the road for national and international newspapers. It’s hugely important for me to be able to stay connected, and the S60’s dual sim capacity is great for this.
I keep my English sim in one slot and a local sim in the other. The dual sim capacity also means I’ve got a reliable cell connection if I ever need to use the SOS button, which I’ve programmed to send an alert with my GPS location to friends and family in the UK. The phone is also my only way of producing media: because it’s drop proof, I’ve got no qualms about using it to film or take photos when I’m riding, however bad the terrain. And yes – it’s also good for Facebook and Instagram.
It feels like the Cat S60 is built for an expedition like mine. Maps and tools are easy to install on most phones; but the Cat S60 has them all in an indestructible, long-lived package that works on the top of a mountain in winter, or the middle of a desert, or kayaking out on the South China Sea.
In one remote mountain stretch – when I was cycling mostly uphill, so not generating enough power to charge my battery using the hub dynamo on my bicycle – I made the phone last for 3 days. Sure, I couldn’t risk playing Tomb Raider in the tent as I usually liked to, but I knew I could check my map, or the weather, or call for help if I needed it.
And that’s why I’m proud to say that my smartphone is my most important piece of kit.
Because from the moment I cycled away from my home in London with it playing the first track on my “cycling around the world playlist” to the summit selfie I took on the Pamir Highway, to the baking hot minutes in tropical Cambodia when I had to measure the length of a replacement spoke at a remote land crossing into Laos, it’s never let me down. We’ve both taken our fair share of knocks; searing hot desert days and freezing cold mountain nights; and I know that it can match me for endurance.