Best Phone for 

Travel and Hiking

The iPhone 12 mini is the best phone for travel and hiking. It has the best combination of size, screen resolution, weight, battery life, video, and photography performance. This is the package of most important features I judge all phones. 

No phone is perfect, but the iPhone 12 mini gets the closest of any phone I’ve ever owned. As for other phones, the iPhone 12’s are the only phones that could meet my needs. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is just way to big and heavy while the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro were good, but not good enough of an overall value. Let’s look at each feature in more detail.

The size of the iPhone 12 mini is ideal. It fits perfectly in all my pockets: pants, shirts, luggage, and backpack. This is the first phone I’ve had in years that fits every place I want it. The chart below shows the percent larger the other iPhone 12’s are compared to the mini. This does mean the screen size is smaller too, although this isn’t as important as in past phones. 

The screen size of the iPhone 12 mini is small, but it has the highest resolution of all the iPhone 12’s. The chart below shows the percentage difference in screen resolution. The percentage difference in screen resolution seems small at first glance, but going from a larger to a smaller screen it’s meaningful with everyday use.

For me the higher resolution screen makes up for the smaller size for shooting video, taking photographs, and trail mapping. I don’t do the design and video and photo editing on the phone as much as I did with past phones. Also, I don’t use my phone for playing games or watching video. This higher screen resolution in a smaller device is a positive tradeoff for less weight, another important feature for traveling and hiking. 

The iPhone 12 mini is the lightest phone I can remember using. When traveling and hiking every gram adds up. If you keep your phone in your shirt or pants pocket like I do, the lightness is wonderful. The chart below shows how much heavier the other iPhone 12’s are compared to the mini. So for this lightness, what is the tradeoff besides screen size? It’s the battery.

The iPhone 12 mini’s battery is small but mighty. The tradeoff of small and lightness in the phone’s battery capacity is not anywhere near as bad as so many people say. My experience has been the mini’s battery is mighty because I always get at least a full day of charge. This is with using the iPhone 12 mini for hours of photography and video recording and playback. On lighter use days it’s not unusual to go as long as 24 hrs without needing a charge. The chart below shows the difference in size of the batteries capacity as a percentage in milliamp Hour (mAh). 

The positive of a smaller battery is charge time. My experience is the mini reaches half charge and full charge 20-50% faster than the other iPhone 12’s. This fast charge time is critical for keeping up with Wi-Fi and cellular demands. 

The video and photography performance of the iPhone 12 mini is incredible. As a content creator I use the iPhone for all my video and photography work. The iPhone 12 Pro/Pro Max have the best camera, but the mini’s is so good the difference is not worth the Pro/Pro Max’s negatives of size, weight, and cost. The biggest difference is the Pro/Pro Max have a telephoto lens and LiDAR. I didn’t use the telephoto very often with past phones and LiDAR is most useful for AR (augmented reality) and night portrait shots, which I don’t have a need for right now. Video and photography gear have a subjective nature for each individual, not just the media output quality, but the look and feel in the hand, and the iPhone 12 mini is a literal gem. 

Pro Max

48% Larger

12 & Pro

18% Larger

mini

Pro Max

4% Higher

12 & Pro

3% Higher

mini

mini

12

21% Heavier

Pro 

40% Heavier

Pro 

Max

68% 

Heavier

mini

12 & Pro

26% Larger

Pro Max

48% Larger

Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity are excellent with Wi-Fi 6 and 5G. My average speeds are double previous phones and I get connection in places where in the past I could not. For cellular I use 5G auto which switches between 5G and LTE based on 5G availability and battery usage. This gives me 5G when I need it and it’s available, while minimizing battery drain. Wi-Fi 6 is much faster than with previous phones, while maintaining connection reliability. When on Wi-Fi I now use only 5ghz when available. This fast and reliable connectivity is beneficial for video and music play. 

The iPhone 12 mini has the best stereo speakers and microphones of any phone I’ve owned. All the iPhone 12’s have the same speaker and microphone arrangements and quality. A speaker and microphone reside in the notch and additional speakers and microphones are on the bottom edge, on either side of the Lightning connector. This provides great stereo separation and gives crystal clear voice in all orientations. This importance shows for video recording and playback.  

iphone 12 mini shwoing wifiand cellular

Ultra Wide

2x Optical Zoom

Wide

mini and 12

Telephoto

Wide

LiDAR

Ultra Wide

12 Pro, Pro Max

Pro 2x and Pro Max 4x Optical Zoom

The iPhone 12 mini looks and feels like a piece of fine jewelry. I did not want to put it in a case, but alas I succumbed. With the mini so small and light-weight it squirted out of my hand too many times to count. I dropped the little beauty more times in the first week than I did my previous Max phone in a year. But the quandary was which case would meet my needs?

Front facing iPhone 12 mini with California Poppy case moving in from side

I tested many styles and materials: plastic, silicone, wood, and various skins. They all had various limitations: slippery, heavy, bulky, and just not attractive. I wasn’t getting the “look and feel in hand” I mentioned earlier. I did this testing each time I’ve bought a new iPhone and always came back to the same, the Apple leather case. 

‍    Previous versions of the Apple leather case were beautiful and protected my phones through years of usage, drops, and weather conditions. This time I chose the leather case in California Poppy.  The color is not yellow, orange, or gold. It’s spot on honey, identical to a beeswax candle. All Apple’s leather cases I’ve owned aged beautifully, were not bulky or heavy, and felt fantastic in the hand. 

The MagSafe feature wasn’t something I initially cared for positively or negatively, but I really like it after using the MagSafe charger. I have the MagSafe charger in a holder that I can stick to a wall by my workspace or on a car dashboard.  This keeps the iPhone 12 mini elevated and pointing at me for quick use of Face ID. Fantastic for traveling! All this comes together in a Feng shui‘sh way that fits perfectly into my nomadic minimalist lifestyle. 

The iPhone 12 mini is a minimalists dream for traveling and hiking. And that’s me! I believe one should buy only what is needed now and max out the usage. Once the current needs are met, and then exceeded, replace it. To me this is future proofing. This applies to everything in life; phones, computers, cars, houses, clothes, basically all material goods. 

‍    As a minimalist the feeling of using something to its fullest is satisfying. It’s my version of maximizing value. I never buy something new without replacing something old. The old I trade, sell, or give away, thus continuing to maximize its value, just with someone else. 

Rear facing iPhone 12 mini with California Poppy case moving in from side