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THE GREAT OUTDOORS — For most avid outdoorsmen, the smell of the outdoors, the crunch of the trail beneath their feet and the magical bugle of a bull elk is enough, but for some like me, there is an insatiable desire to own, gift, and envy the latest and coolest outdoor gadgets.
Here is a list of my 10 favorite gadgets, from the cheap to the expensive, that I think might help satisfy any cravings you might have for new high-tech outdoor gadgetry. What better way to kick off the holidays, than with these outdoor sugar plums dancing in your head.
You have probably seen survival bracelets made from parachute cord 1,000 times, mostly on the wrists of wanabees who think walking through Central Park is an adventure. This gadget, however, is the real thing.
First, the “parachute cord” has all the best elements of the original, i.e., strength, and multiple strong strings, but it also has two lines of fishing twine and a line of jute string added in. You need those, because embedded in the bracelet is a fishing hook, and the buckle is a flint and steel fire striker that doubles as an emergency reflector. I bought one of these a couple of years ago at twice the price, so at just $25, they are going to be a great gift to give this year. With one of these and a good knife, I can survive anywhere.
Photo courtesy of the Grommet
I hate carrying batteries. That’s why I love this water bottle/waterproof storage container that doubles as a camp lantern. Clip it outside your pack on a sunny day and enjoy up to five hours of light after dark. Waterproof, PBA/PVC free, it also charges from a USB port. The bottle (not the light) is also dishwasher safe. What’s not to love?
For the survivalist looking for the perfect mix of modern technology and caveman know how, this next gift is perfect. This is a serious tool for the serious outdoors person. It combines caveman era flint and steel with a modern aircraft aluminum tube to focus hot sparks into a concentrated cone.
The striker guide keeps every strike perfect, so there is no learning curve to getting good with this thing, and it works just as well wearing heavy gloves or mittens. The hollow handle holds accelerant permeated cotton balls to pull apart and place beneath twigs or other flammable material. It may seem a little pricey, but it will last forever, and knowing you can throw focused hot sparks in any condition, is priceless.
Photo courtesy of Sue Hahn
This chair comes highly recommended by my friends and family. Weighing in at only 1 pound 10 ounces and folding up to 4.5 inches x 15 inches, it is specifically designed for backpacking and camping. Rated to hold 250 pounds, this chair is actually sturdy enough and light enough to take backpacking. Besides, who doesn’t want a nice place to sit after a long day on the trail?
It is a little pricey at $79.50, but I have seen it on sale for around $60. There are other chairs out there, but this one is the best one for the money, according to my acquaintances.
This new gadget comes from the same people who gave us the Swiss Army Knife — the ultimate gadget. While you may not think of socks as a gadget, the technology in this product is impressive. The foot bed of the FYF socks are made from Dyneema, a thread that, according to the manufacturer, is 15 times stronger than steel. This allows you barefoot runners, like me, another minimalist option for getting out in the woods without the fear of an activity-stopping injury caused by stepping on something sharp.
The price is a little much when compared to socks. However, when compared to minimalist shoes — it is right on target.
Photo courtesy of Alpine Labs
If you are a camera buff, this is the perfect new gadget for your stocking. The Pulse Camera Remote by Alpine Labs give you the ability to use your smart phone to remotely control ISO, shutter speed and aperture for time lapse photography or any other photography that requires a perfectly still camera. It simply plugs into the camera’s USB port and mounts on the flash holder.
At $100, this deal may be the best one on this page —especially if you are a photographer that takes their work seriously.
This is my favorite gadget on the list this year. First, it provides a screaming hot cooking fire using only twigs for fuel. (I hate carrying fuel almost as much as I hate carrying batteries). Meanwhile, the heat from the fan driven fire charges up the “thermoelectric generator” that will later charge your iPhone, camp light, cameras and other devices that charge through a USB port.
Weighing in at a little over 2 pounds, it compares favorably to a backpacking stove with fuel — without the worry of running out of gas. Besides, it is so much cooler than a plain old camp stove.
You won’t haul this gadget in your backpack, but it sure is handy when you get back to the car. The RinseKit is a pressurized portable shower hose, ready to go, for when you return from your outdoor adventure wanting two things: a decent meal and some way to wash off.
Filling the 2-gallon tank from any water spigot pressurizes the tank to supply about 3 minutes’ worth of pressurized spray time without batteries or a pump. The advertiser says the latest versions have an accessory to refill the tank without a spigot and build pressure with a bike pump ($49.) They are also working on an accessory heater (my dog will love that) for when you crawl out of a cold muddy cave and want to rinse off before getting in the car.
Photo courtesy of Go-Aero-Photography
Wouldn’t it be nice to set up a three-person tent and not worry about rocks, twigs and other things that go poke in the night? Using the same technology that brought us slacklining (walking on a strap hung between two trees), these new full-floor tree tents, with entrances on the side and in the middle of the floor, defy gravity and rocky or uneven terrain like no other tent can.
Prices range from $350 for a two-person backpacker to $650 for a four-season three-person model. A little pricey, but this is one gadget sure to catch the eye of your fellow campers when you set up this futuristic outdoor flying home in less than 15 minutes. Vendors say there is a month long waiting list right now so you will need to get this on your Christmas list ASAP.
Drones are the king of outdoor tech gadgets right now so you might as well dream of getting the best. This year, the best consumer level drone is the DJI Phantom Four Quadcopter.
Normally $1,400, Amazon currently has them on sale for $1,000. For the grand, you get a 4K Ultra HD camera, gimbal stabilization to allow vibration free photography, and automatic take off and return home. This drone will track an object while automatically flying around objects that get in the way.
What other cool outdoor gadgets do you recommend? Let us know in the comments.
Hugh Bouchelle is a freelance writer and Outdoor Club Adviser at Southern Virginia University. You can contact him at hugh.bouchelle@SVU.edu.