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Top 5 Awesome Camping Gadgets

The summer camping season is upon us. Since Tech Talker is the ultimate outdoorsman, he's got a round-up of the 5 hottest gadgets to make your next camping trip safe, fun, easy, and totally high-tech.

By
Eric Escobar,
June 5, 2014
Episode #127

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I’ve been eagerly gearing up for the summer camping season and I’ve found some awesome gadgets to take with you into the great outdoors. Today, I will discuss 5 awesome additions to any camper's gear collection.

Sponsor: This episode of Tech Talker is brought to you by the audiobook edition of Rogue Code by Mark Russinovich. In this intense thriller, cyber security expert Jeff Aiken discovers that the New York Stock Exchange has been hacked… and someone on the inside knows. Listen to an excerpt at www.macmillanaudio.com/RogueCodeAudio.

Gadget #1: BioLite Camp Stove

First up is the BioLite Camp Stove coming in at $130. This is very much like your traditional camping stove - you can cook food over it, boil water on it, and...charge your smartphone. Wait, what? Charge your phone? That’s right this stove uses the heat from the flames to generate electricity to power any USB charging device and it can boil a liter of water in just 5 minutes!

The only fuel that this stove requires is a collection of small twigs and sticks that you find around your camp site. Simply start a fire and watch the stove generate electricity. The fact that it uses twigs and not traditional camping fuels impresses me because it means you can just find fuel from your surrounding rather that packing and carrying it with you. This really cuts down on the weight of your backpack (plus, you can leave your phone charger at home).

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I haven’t tried one of these out yet. I’ll be purchasing one shortly and rest assured that when I do, I’ll post a full review of it.

Gadget #2: SPOT Gen3 GPS        

One big drawback to heading out into the backcountry is the ability to let friends and family know where you are during your journey, both for their peace of mind and also in case you need help. Traditionally, I’ve just laid out my itinerary with best guesses as to where I would be and when. This hasn't always turned out great because plans could change - leaving friends and loved ones unsure where I am if something were to happen. I mean it’s not like I can just make a quick phone call from the woods!

That’s where the SPOT Gen3 GPS comes in. This is basically a GPS tracking device that you carry with you. It keeps tabs on you in predefined intervals, beaming up your location to satellites circling overhead. You can program it to send predefined text messages to friends and family at certain intervals. Basically you type in what you want to say in advance (“Hey, I’m doing great! Just saw a woodpecker!”) and they go out to a predetermined contact list.

But the coolest feature of the SPOT is that it allows your friends and family to track your progress on Google maps! You can set the device to update on a schedule (anything from every few minutes to once an hour if you want to save battery life) and it sends a signal of your whereabouts.

The SPOT even has the ability to transmit an SOS with location data attached to it so emergency professionals can get to you in no time at all!

The downside to this device is price. It costs $150 for the unit and another $150 for a 1-year subscription. If you’re planning a big camping trip, or hike out often, this is a pretty good deal. However, it's a little pricey for a single summer backpacking trip.

Gadget #3: Solar Power Pack

I’m sure you've seen the little solar panels that you can buy to charge your electronics. Generally these are pretty awful because they have a single panel that generates next to no electricity. However, I’ve managed to find a solar charger that is actually worthwhile. Allpowers' Solar Foldable Charger is a 16W 4-panel charger that unfolds so you can drape it over your backpack or lay it on the ground to absorb sunlight.

I’ve also used a smaller single panel design solar panel by Poweradd that has a battery built in. It works well because you don’t need something constantly plugged in to be taking advantage of sunlight. It just charges its internal 1700mAh battery. If you’re looking to save space, this little solar charger might be for you. Just know you’re not going to be charging any high powered devices with it.

If you wanted to charge your cell phone solely off the solar charger, it would take about 10 hours of solid direct sunlight to get a full charge. Which is why, in conjunction with your solar chargers, I bring one of my longtime favorite camping devices, the Anker Astro E5 battery charger. This way you can always charge your battery with the solar panel and use your Anker to power everything else!

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