■ The TV presenter, 35, talks about solar panels and drone farmers
Do you use any fitness tech on your adventures?
I used a Garmin watch when I kayaked 2,000 miles down the Amazon river — I had to do it in 40 days so I needed to keep track of how many miles I was doing. I also used it to pace myself when I did an ultra marathon, which was 80 miles across a desert. In hindsight, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done but it was hell on earth at the time.
Do you use any handy travel gadgets?
I have a small set of digital scales to make sure my bags aren’t too heavy on the way back as I tend to buy a lot of things when I go away. And I’ve got a foldable hairdryer by Babyliss and a travel iron, which is handy for when I travel for work.
Did any gadgets make an impression on you as a kid?
I grew up on a farm so I had loads of pets but I got a Tamagotchi as well. Because I had real animals I was quite good remembering to feed it — it didn’t die.
What tech did you use in your Blue Peter days?
The best thing I had was a solar panel in Antarctica, which was the size of an A4 piece of paper and you could roll it up — we used it to charge the phones. We had satellite phones on all the trips. For the Antarctica trip I had to cycle to the South Pole and the bike was made especially for us — it was lightweight but with massive tyres to get across the snow. It’s in a children’s museum now. It was a fine balance getting the right air pressure into the tyres every night.
Have you seen any tech innovations while presenting Countryfile?
Eight years ago I did a film about farmers using drones to keep an eye on their flocks — that was a game-changer before every man and his dog had a drone. My dad was an old-school dairy farmer but now lots of people use mechanical milking machines run by computer. I find that fascinating when I go to those sort of farms because it’s quite alien to me.
What’s your favourite social media platform?
When you’re at school there are some kids you hang around with who are bitchy troublemakers and others are nice — Twitter’s like the bitchy friend you don’t really trust but is quite fun. Instagram’s like the reliable friend you still know 30 years later. I hate taking selfies but I do it — I hate posing. People ask where I got the dress I wore in a particular programme — I feel like an idiot posting a picture of my dress and saying where it’s from but people have asked. Using that friend analogy, if your friend asked where you got your dress from and you didn’t tell her, you’d be a bit of a cow, wouldn’t you?
If you could invent any gadget what would it do?
Something like contact lenses that can take pictures and record videos. One of my kids was riding his bike without stabilisers for the first time the other day — I wanted to get my phone out and film it for my husband but if I did that I’d have to let go of my son and he might hit the deck. If I had these special contact lenses I could blink and it would record that moment.
Helen Skelton is supporting HSBC UK’s Ready Set Ride, a free online tool designed to help children learn how to ride a bike, readysetride.co.uk