Now that we're in high summer, a camping trip may be on your agenda. Studies have shown that a walk in nature can improve our mental state, reduce stress and revive us, so a little trip outside will do you good.
Sometimes it's nice to just get out and disconnect completely, but most of us take at least one or two gadgets with us. From rugged smartphone cases to protect them to solar chargers to keep the battery full and even a couple new gadgets we thought you might like to have on hand, below are the best gadgets and accessories to take on your camping trip this summer, so you can worry less about battery life and enjoy the great outdoors more.
1. Snow Lizard SLXTREME Smartphone Case
The SLXTREME case is built from thick, dirt-resistant poly-carbonate with rubber grips and it's waterproof up to 6 feet, making it super rugged and letting you wade through creeks without worry. It features a built-in battery that can be recharged by the solar panel on the back of the phone, giving you extra battery time so you can go a little farther off grid. It costs $129.99.
2. Point Source Power VOTO Charger
The VOTO charger turns your campstove or BBQ into a power source, featuring a fire-activated fuel cell that you place under the charcoal of your cookstove whenever you cook food. It converts carbon and hydrogen into electricity and generates enough power to charge a combination power pack for charging your devices and an LED light unit which provides 30 hours of light when fully charged. The handle for the VOTO is about $17 (USD), and the fuel cell costs about $7.
3. Earl Tablet
When it comes to GPS and other backpacking gadgets, not many can do what your smartphone can't, but a big exception is the Earl tablet. Built using the Android 4.1 operating system, it features a low energy E-Ink screen and GPS that gives you precise location, direction and elevation that can be linked to everytrail.com, giving you access to 300,000 trail maps. It has built-in weather sensors that provide accurate forecasts of changing conditions, even in remote locations. You can view current temperature, humidity and barometric pressure and measure wind speed and direction using the built-in micro anemometer and compass. For safety, Earl also includes radio communication technology that connects to analog and digital radio frequencies up to 20 miles away. You can send secure text or voice messages via Walkie-Talkie or even transmit weather, location, and route information. Finally, it has an AM/FM/SW/LW radio tuner for listening to music or NOAA's weather channels. It also comes packed with trail guides. It has solar-panel charging, is waterproof up to three feet and is glove-friendly for when it's too cold to touch the screen with bare hands. It currently retails for $299.
4. Wenger Solar Charger
There are lots of charging options for when you're in the great outdoors these days, but one of the simplest and lightest is still a good solar charger. This charger from Wenger, the maker of the Swiss Army Knife, can be rolled up for carrying or laid flat for attaching to tents or backpacks. It features polycrystalline solar panels and lithium-ion batteries connected by USB and it has a five-pronged USB cable that lets you charge up to four gadgets at once. It comes in three sizes ranging from $180 to $340, with all having the option of adding a 3-watt LED light to make it a solar-powered flashlight.
5. BioLite CampStove
If you keep up with what's new in camping gear, it will be no surprise to see the BioLite stove here, but it must be included because it really has been revolutionary. The campstove uses twigs, pine cones or other biomass you find on the trail for cooking instead of fuel, making it a cleaner and lighter way to cook on your camping trips without the need to lug fuel canisters. The heat generated from cooking is then converted into electricity for charging your gadgets or lights. It retails for $129.95.
6. Eton Scorpion
If you need to simplify and want to have a gadget on hand that takes on many tasks at once, the Scorpion from Eton is a great choice. The solar-powered and hand-crank equipped AM/FM/NOAA weather band digital radio and LED flashlight combo can also act as a charger for your phone or other gadgets. It's splashproof and can clip onto your backpack with a caribiner. As a bonus, the clip also works as a bottle opener. All this goes for $49.99.
7. Higear Wind Up Headlight
This headlight by Higear is great one to have on hand when you need a lightweight and hands-free light for hiking, getting around the campsite or inside the tent. No need to worry about having extra batteries on hand since it comes equipped with a hand crank that provides 20 minutes of light with just one minute of cranking. The light can be detached from the headband to be used as a torch light. It has three functions (1 LED / 3 LED / 3 LED Flash) and goes for about $15 USD.
8. Solarmonkey Solar Charger
If you need a solar charger that is more rugged and robust, the Solarmonkey charger fits the bill. With a tough water- and shock-resistant clam-shell case, you can feel good about attaching it to your backpack and hitting the trail. Unlike other solar chargers, it includes an internal battery that, when fully charged, can charge a smartphone two to three times. It takes about 8 hours to get a full charge and comes with a variety of adapters for all your gadgets. It retails for $132.
Another entry in the cook-and-charge category is the PowerPot, a lightweight thermoelectric generator that converts heat into DC electrical power. You just add water to the pot and place it on a heat source and it will charge your gadgets. The PowerPot is equipped with a standard USB port and three feet of heavy-duty, flame-resistant wire so it can safely go over the campfire or stove. In addition to charging, it can also run speakers, lights, fans, or other low-power USB appliances. The PowerPot goes for $149.
10. Eco-Made iPhone Amplifier
If you're not hiking far, bringing a set of portable speakers for your smartphone for when you set up camp is no big deal, but if you're getting far away, you want to keep your pack light. The Eco-Made iPhone amplifier is a flat-pack folded cardboard amplifier that stows neatly in your pocket or backpack and then can be popped up to pump up the sound of your music in your tent. It won't be enough for a party, but for some tunes around the campfire, it's an easy and lightweight solution.