Summer is here, and you’re ready for some fun in the sun—but are your gadgets ready? Here are seven ideas to make your summer more tech-friendly:
Waterproof camera or camcorder: The Kodak PlaySport, a $150 pocket-size camcorder, works as well underwater as it does in the middle of Red Rock Canyon. It’s great for active families or for touring Paris (the city, not the hotel-casino—although I suppose it could work in either) during a rainstorm. The camera is simple to use, and videos download easily into your computer’s existing software. (But the PlaySport also ships with a software package from Arcsoft.) I’ve tested several waterproof, point-and-shoot digital cameras from Sony, Olympus and Pentax with great results. These products also shoot acceptable videos, both above and below the waterline.
Helmet cam: We live in the era of YouTube and we like to do some crazy things. Why not strap a video camera to your head while doing them? The VholdR ContourHD ($300) is durable and splash-resistant, but not waterproof. It also features one-touch operation, accepts 16 GB microSD cards, boasts four hours of operating time, and comes with several mounts.
Flexible tripod: The Gorillapod lineup of flexible tripods are great accessories to capture still shots and video. You can hang a Gorillapod to a tree, place it on top of a rock, or attach it to the handlebars of your bike. Gorillapods come in several sizes, from the original $20 model for point-and-shoot digital cameras and pocket-size camcorders, to a bigger, $100 model that mounts professional-scale video cameras.
Portable power: Responsible vacationers should pack supplemental power. If you’re an iPhone owner, check out the MiLi Power Skin, a $50 iPhone case that doubles as an auxiliary battery. When your iPhone starts running low, turn the case on and you’ll get an additional three-four hours of use. The Power Skin is thinner and lighter than my longtime favorite, the Mophie Juice Pack Air ($80). For a universal power source that works with just about any gadget and can be charged in your car, with a wall socket or from the sun, check out the Kiwi U-Powered: Solar & USB Portable Charger. This $50 unit has three panels to capture the sun’s energy, much like the popular Solio Classic ($80), which I’ve used for years. And attention company picnic planners: Kiwi also brands solar chargers with corporate logos, making this charger a unique corporate gift. Perhaps BP should consider it.
Solar radio: Etón makes great radios for emergencies, the back porch or camping trips. That includes the Etón SolarRadio, a $50 unit that charges via hand crank or exposure to the sun. As a radio, it picks up AM and FM stations and all seven National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather channels. It’s easy to fit into a backpack, and doubles as a gadget charger in a pinch, too.
Portable speakers: Radio may not cut it if you want to cut loose on vacation. Hence, a pair of portable speakers may be in order. There are plenty of choices, from tinny-sounding iPod cases that double as speakers to compact speakers that plug into a 3.5mm headphone jack. The company iLuv offers both of those options, but one of the newer options to soon hit stores is their Portable Stereo Speaker Bar. Frankly, I have low expectations regarding the sound quality, but at less than $30, I love the price, and the size, too—it’s about 15 inches long and weighs a single pound. It should work with just about any gadget you own—iPod, iPad, smartphone or otherwise.
Geocaching: Have you tried Geocaching? Me neither, but it could be a fun way to keep the kids busy. Here’s how it works: Treasures are hidden in random (public) places, and you use GPS devices to find them. I admit, it sounds kind of wacky—and geeky—but the pastime has developed a massive international following—check out geocaching.com. Several iPhone apps can help point you in the right direction, or you can buy a handheld GPS device for about $200. I particularly like GPS products from DeLorme, Garmin and Magellan.