It’s that time again. Time to unfold yourself from the desk and emerge into the sunlight. Even though high-tech gizmos aren’t necessary for getting out and enjoying nature, we here at DT know from experience that the right assortment of tech gear can make outdoor excursions simpler, safer, and more fun. These days more and more companies are making gear that’s designed to withstand the elements, and make those backpacking trips more vacation and less survival. We’ve added some new tech to our round up of the best summer outdoor gear.
Ever wished you could take your tunes along on a nice, relaxing river float? Now that waterproof Bluetooth speakers are hitting the market with a vengeance, your dreams are a reality. This badboy is waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, completely buoyant and self-righting, and connects wirelessly to your smartphone in a snap. Their sound isn’t the best we’ve heard from a wireless speaker, but it’s crisp and clear in the midrange, which helps your tunes effectively cut through any ambient nature noise.
How cool is this shirt, huh? Sorry, couldn’t help it. That’s what you get when you make stuff that looks as cool as it makes you feel. Columbia Sportswear has outfitted it’s Omni-Freeze Zero shirts with little blue rings that absorb moisture as you sweat, drawing away heat in the process and leaving you feeling like you’re wearing a little portable air conditioner. And the best part is, the shirts are pretty stylin’; long-sleeve, golf polo, tank top, v-neck- take your pick. You can even get hats, shoes, and bandannas with the wearable tech.
BioLite CampStove ($130)
This badass little biomass stove has won the hearts of techie outdoorsfolk ever since it completed its Kickstarter campaign, and we’re still in love with it two years later. It runs on nothing more than twigs and bits of wood, it can boil a pot of water in under 3 minutes, and it uses any waste heat created to power anything that charges via USB. As an added bonus, BioLite now offers a grill attachment.
Titan Stormproof Matches ($10)
Still need something to light the stove, right? It would suck to get to the middle of nowhere and discover your lighter is out of fuel or that the striker is worn to a nub. Say thanks to the experienced campers at UCO for their line of Stormproof matches –and this is the king of the bunch. At more than 4 inches long, these are the biggest baddest matches you’re like to find. Water resistant and nearly windproof, you can get 25 in a box with a pair of spare strikers. If you get the kit, you get 12 matches in a waterproof floating carry case with three strikers, and both are $10. Come July, you’ll be able to grab these.
If you’re thinking “why the hell would anyone need a tablet in the backcountry?” rest assured, that was our initial reaction, too. But then we looked at the features on this thing. Tablets by nature are designed for maximum utility, and Earl is no different. It’s almost got too many features to list here: it runs Android 4.1 and can run apps, has a flexible and durable 6-inch screen, solar panels on the back for charging, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, FRS/GMRS/MURS transceivers (two-way radios), GPS, accelerometer, magnetometer, barometer, thermometer, anemometer, AM/FM/SW/LW radios, and a 20+ hour battery life. We’re still waiting on the finished product.
Petzl’s headgear already sets the bar high for headlamp manufacturers, but the NAO reactive lighting system takes things to a whole different level. It’s more than just a head-mounted lamp – it’s got two different beams and an ambient light sensor that adjusts them in real time to fit what you’re looking at. The beam will get tighter and more focused when you’re looking at something in the distance, and instantly adjust to a dimmer, wider beam when you put a map up to your face. Necessary? Probably not. Cool? Absolutely.
Purifying water is a must when you’re out in the wilderness, but boiling takes too long, iodine makes it taste nasty, and reverse osmosis pumps are just a pain. If you’re looking to kill off waterborne illnesses in a snap, check out SteriPen – a fast, compact, and lightweight water purification system that uses high-intensity UV light to murder microorganisms in your water. The light kills 99.99 percent of all viruses, bacteria, and parasites in just a few seconds.
Naked Water Filter ($25)
If you like the SteriPen, but not the taste of grit in your water, then add the Naked bottle top water filter to your go-bag. In the top of the bottle is a new filter made of electro-spun polymer that removes cysts, bacteria, and silt. It doesn’t get viruses, but it also doesn’t need to be charged. What’s more, the top itself can fit other sports bottles in case you already have a bottle you love. If you missed out on the Kickstarter campaign, check their page for info on where to find one.
Electricity is hard to come by in the backwoods, and when it comes time to power up your gear on the trail, you’ve generally got three options: battery packs, solar chargers, or thermoelectric chargers. PowerPot is one of the latter. This clever little cooking pot feeds off the heat created by your campfire and converts it into usable energy you can use to juice up any USB-powered device.
Next Page: Nine more must-haves for your 2015 outdoor adventure
Everyone’s jumping on the wireless Bluetooth speaker bandwagon, and we couldn’t be happier about it. This one from Eton is pretty similar to the ECOxBT we listed above – just a tad less durable. We’ll forgive it though, since this rugged little Bluetooth speaker does boast one feature that most others don’t – the ability to get a charge from the sun. The Rukus features a solar panel that can fully recharge itself with a few hours of sunlight.
NEMO Helio Portable Shower ($100)
No matter what type of camper you are, there comes a point at which you should bathe. No, really. You should. The problem is, sudsing up in a lake, river, or stream comes with all sorts of complications. Perhaps that’s why solar showers are so desirable. Unfortunately, most solar showers are unwieldy, leaky bastard bags of frustration. Not so with the NEMO Helio. This foot-pump solar shower comes with a spray wand so the solar heated water inside only sprays when and where you want it. Get one — your tent-mates will thank you.
Handpresso Wild Hybrid ($116)
Coffee is definitely a luxury at the campsite, but nothing will put more pep in your step than a tin cup full of java before you hit the trail. For the longest time, this meant packing along a sandwich baggy full of grounds and a couple filters and brewing it like a hobo, but this nifty little gizmo from Handpresso changes all that. Using a pre-pressed coffee packets and a hand pump to get the right water pressure, the Wild Hybrid is undoubtedly the most portable espresso machine we’ve ever encountered.
Nite Ize Reflective Rope ($12)
There’s nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night to pee, finally managing to find the tent zipper just before your bladder explodes, and then tripping on a guyline as you sprint around your tent in the dark. Save yourself from going face first into a pile of pinecones with this super-reflective rope from NiteIze. We’re not sure what it’s woven with, but the stuff is reflective enough to light up and become visible with just a tiny bit of moonlight.
Sony Digital Recording Binoculars ($2,000)
Face it; nobody will believe you spotted a bay-breasted warbler or a golden-crested bushtit if you only bring your standard binoculars. If you want to make all your birdwatching friends jealous at your next Thursday night bridge game, you’ll need hard evidence of all the rare avian species you’ve spotted. With these digital recording binoculars from Sony, you can capture footage of all the wild and exotic birds you see and finally make that skeptical old bat Flora believe you.
GoPro Hero4 Silver ($400)
Planning on doing something insane this summer? Perhaps rafting some gnarly class V’s, slacklining over a canyon, or making the world’s biggest rope swing? Do the world a favor and get yourself a GoPro so you can capture your awesomeness from a first-person point of view. In case you’re not aware, these rugged little cameras are waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, and can shoot in 1080p or 4K. The entire Hero camera class just screams “Do something hardcore and put it on Youtube.” Cue Skrillex music.
Canon Powershot D30 ($300)
A step up over last year’s Canon Powershot D20, the D30 matches the same 12.1 megapixels and 5x optical zoom, and has an even tougher case. Waterproof up to 82 feet, shockproof up to 6 and a half feet, and freeze proof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s easily one of the most durable point and shoots on the market.
ExOfficio Bugs Away Clothes ($9-100)
Who wants to smear themselves with stinky bug repellent over and over again over the course of one hike to keep from ending up looking like they were a snack for an entire ant’s nest? No one, that’s who. But maybe you don’t have time for DIY clothing-prep. ExOfficio has been around since 1987; this is an oldie but a goodie and they just keep getting better. There are a few brands out there designed and treated to keep bugs away, but ExOfficio has a complete collection that keeps away more than just mosquitoes. Forget chiggers, flies, ticks, ants and no-see-ums (or widges). The Premethrin treatment on their duds should last 70 trips through the washer. Check out ExOfficio’s three lines from casual to something like business safari. They have everything from bandannas to button-downs.
Permethrin Spray ($10+)
Premethrin is an active ingredient in anti-insect clothing and a host of other things designed to keep you free of companions with antennae. It’s the same stuff that’s in Nix (that stuff you had to use when one kid gave your whole class lice in grade school), and when creepy crawlies touch it they seize up and die — it’s harmless to humans. If you checked out available insect-repellent clothing brands like ExOfficio’s Bug Away line, Columbia’s Insect Blocker, and Mountain Warehouse’s mosquito repellent clothes, but don’t like their style, grab a bottle of this and apply it to whatever fabric you like. It’t good for a lot of your gear, so get your tents and packs too. This is a tried and true tactic of many a backpacker. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There are even tutorials on how to do it.