Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Review: Does the iPhone 14 Plus live up to its outdoorsy reputation?

Great photos and new safety features are solid travel additions

A person putting an iPhone into their pocket

The iPhone 14 dropped several months ago, and having had a chance to give it a thorough test run, I aim to answer once and for all: Is it worth the upgrade?

I’m particularly interested in the viability of its alleged usefulness for outdoor enthusiasts. Apple has pushed the idea that the latest iPhone is well-suited for travel and adventure thanks to a few specific features, especially when paired with the Apple Watch Ultra. So I’ve spent a couple of weeks playing around with an iPhone 14 Plus to determine whether it lives up to its reputation as a phone for travelers and outdoor enthusiasts.

iPhone 14 Plus.

What is the iPhone 14 Plus?

With the iPhone 13, Apple realized that no one wanted the Mini, so it was stricken from the line in favor of a phone that swung the other direction: The larger Plus, which has a 6.7-inch screen vs. the standard 14’s 6.1 inches. While that makes it a fairly large phone, it’s still extremely lightweight at just 7.16 ounces.

The biggest thing many reviewers questioned upon the 14’s initial release was whether it offers a dramatic evolution from the previous generation. While Apple didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel with the 14, the newest model does boast a number of notable changes. The camera has been noticeably upgraded, the ceramic shield has been bolstered for improved durability, it’s got the longest-lasting battery of any iPhone ever, and it has a duo of new safety features (more on that below). It also has a new yellow color option that’s pretty snazzy.

iPhone 14 Plus.

iPhone 14 Plus for travel and outdoor adventure

So now we get to the core of what we’re here to address: The 14’s reputation as a travel and outdoor-friendly phone.

Three elements I’ve already mentioned absolutely lend themselves to travel. The improved durability is great no matter what, but it can be especially helpful when traveling or engaging in physical activity. The improved battery in the 14 Plus — which, for example, can stream video for up to 26 hours or play music for up to 100 hours — has obvious value. What traveler hasn’t found themselves wandering around some unfamiliar city trying to find their hotel as the battery blinks in the red?

The camera in particular warrants a special callout. It takes outright gorgeous photos thanks to Apple’s new Smart HDR 4 camera engine, faster aperture, and improved autofocus. Cinematic Mode allows you to rack focus between objects to adjust the depth of field, while Action Mode dramatically improves video stabilization while in motion. For the first time, you can also bulk edit batches of photos, which allows you to apply filters en masse.

Clearly, these improved photo/video capabilities offer value to travelers. These days, pretty much every traveler is also an amateur travel photographer.

The iPhone 14 also leverages eSIMs, which makes it easy to switch to local carriers when you arrive in a new destination.

Now we arrive at two new features that Apple iPhones have never offered: Emergency SOS via satellite and crash detection.

These are fairly self-explanatory. While SOS itself is nothing new, the ability to place SOS calls via satellite — meaning virtually anywhere — can be lifesaving for outdoor adventure folk who frequently find themselves in the remote wilderness. Crash detection can be similarly lifesaving in a range of circumstances, but particularly for cyclists. If you’re a frequent backcountry hiker or skier, road cyclist, or MTB trail hound, these features are definitely worth your consideration.

iPhone 14 Plus.

Final conclusion

So, should the iPhone 14 Plus be included in your travel gear?

I think that in terms of its general use as a phone and camera, it’s worth the upgrade. The camera is fantastic, and the display is expansive and vibrant. It’s visibly an improvement over my 13.

That big, beautiful display might actually detract points from its outdoorsiness, though. It’s a very wide phone, which is great for editing photos, watching videos, and writing emails, but it’s not the most efficient phone I’ve ever packed in a bag.

In terms of pure outdoors and/or travel features, it’s more of a toss-up. For it to truly be the supreme outdoor phone, it would require a flint and striker for starting fires, or a bear mace app, or perhaps a base-jumping parachute. As is, the satellite SOS and crash detection are reasonably useful as long as you’re often in the backcountry or you’re a cyclist. That longer battery life is also nice in any case, but particularly in travel/outdoor situations where charging opportunities are few and far between.

In the end, it’s a solid upgrade option. Will it add much to your travel or outdoor experience? Maybe. The photos and video will be better, the battery will last longer, and it just might save your neck in a pinch. So the benefits are there.

Nick Hilden
Nick Hilden is a lifestyle and culture writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Afar…
We’ve tested ’em all: These are the best portable solar generators of 2023
Our expert recommends the best solar generators of 2023
Jackery 3000 Pro.

The time was when consumer-grade solar gear wasn’t all that practical, but over the past few years the tech has developed rapidly, becoming not only highly useful but increasingly affordable. Today, solar generators and portable power stations are go-to mobile juice solutions for van-lifers and campers, temporary off-grid worksites, travel photographers and drone operators, and at-home backup power for when the lights go out.

I’ve spent years testing solar-powered generators, and over the past six months, I’ve looked at the latest releases from both top, established brands and lesser-known newcomers. When I’ve come to learn is that while solar generators don’t vary dramatically in regards to the core concept, different models from different brands tend to be tailor-fit to different intentions. To that end, here are the best solar generator options for a variety of purposes.
Best overall: Jackery 3000 Pro
Pictured at the top of this article, Jackery has been a top name in the solar generator field for a while now, and with their latest release – the 3000 Pro – they do pretty much everything right. It manages to deliver both outstanding capacity (3,024 Wh) and outstanding portability. At just shy of 64 pounds, it’s not exactly light, but the wheels and retractable handle make it effortless to cart around, while its integrated handles and perfectly boxed shape make it easy to lift and store (or fit into a van build). It charges fast (2.4 hours via wall outlet or 3-4 hours via ideal solar conditions), has solid wattage output (3,000 W), and is sturdily built. While it’s arguably a bit overkill for the average users, anyone who wants lots of capacity will love the 3000 Pro.

Read more
This inflatable hot tub is under $400 at Amazon right now
A group of people sit in a SaluSpa hot tub.

Now is the perfect time to check out the best inflatable hot tub deals with $159 off the Bestway Miami SaluSpa 2 to 4 person inflatable hot tub at Amazon. Normally priced at $530, it's down to $371 for a limited time only. If you're keen to enjoy the outdoors even more than usual, this is a great way to gain a hot tub as and when you want it. Check out all we know about it below or hit the buy button to get straight to purchasing it.

Why you should buy the Bestway Miami SaluSpa
Promising the ultimate spa experience, the Bestway Miami SaluSpa offers up to 120 bubble jets that are keen to help soak sore muscles any time you need a treat. It's possible to operate from inside the hot tub thanks to a digital control panel that means you can change the water temperature up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, along with the flow of the jets, all without ever leaving the comfort of the tub. It even has a power-saving timer so you can automate the temperature up to 72 hours in advance so it's ready when you want it to be.

Read more
Here’s what you should be doing with your old outdoor gear
These schemes will give your outdoor gear a new lease of life, and they give you something back too
Young man hiking through the mountains.

Your outdoor gear gets put through a lot. No matter how well designed and manufactured, even top-end outdoor gear eventually reaches the end of its life, even with proper care and storage. Sure, there are steps you can take to keep your gear alive beyond this — many companies now offer repair programs, even for other brands, or you can always wear your gear for shorter adventures or pottering about at home — but eventually, it's time to say goodbye. But just because your gear has outlived your needs doesn't mean that it had to end up in the landfill.

Recycling outdoor gear can be challenging, with many garments requiring all kinds of chemicals to make them water-repellent and durable. This reason alone gives us a responsibility as outdoorsmen to do all we can not to get pulled into outdoor-fast-fashion, but to buy gear we need from quality companies who make reliable products. It also gives us a responsibility to properly dispose of our used outdoor gear when the time comes. Fortunately, there are more and more programs to step in and deal with your gear, either by repairing it and giving it a new home or finding appropriate ways to recycle it, and these are some of the best around.

Read more