Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Gadgets for the Canada Day Long Weekend

As we all prepare for the upcoming Canada Day long weekend (why on earth can't we just move the holiday to the Monday rather than the Tuesday?) I'm sure many of you are planning to head up to the cottage, a camp site, or just enjoy some well-deserved R&R on the patio or in the backyard. But just because you're turning yourself off from cyberworld doesn't mean that gadgets can't play a useful role in your fun-filled summer activities. Let's take a look at some of the "coolest" gadgets for your long weekend celebrations.

Eureka Nergy 1210 tent: I took this high-tech tent camping last year, and really enjoyed the benefits it provided. There are several 12V ports and switches around the interior that, when used with the optional power pack, let you charge or power up your gadgets. You can plug in anything with a 12V adapter, from a mobile phone to an iPod, and even things like flashlights or portable fans. As a sleeping agent, this tent is really spacious as well, rated to sleep 8, but comfortably sleeping four with plenty of room to roam. Click Here for a video demo of the tent.

Patio Heater: I'm not sure what it's been like in other cities, but Toronto weather has been severely sporadic: 30+ degrees one day, followed by rain storms and clouds the next. A patio heater is a great idea for a surprise cold day, or even for the chilly nights. VisionQuest has some neat stainless steel and copper models that can heat at up to 11,000 BTUs. They can easily sit table-top, or travel by car to your campsite as a back-up if you can't seem to get that campfire going!

Portable DVD Player: If you have young kids and know that getting to your destination requires a long car ride, a portable DVD player can help to provide at least a few hours of quiet time. There are plenty on the market from well-known manufacturers like Toshiba, Panasonic, and Philips that can keep the kids entertained with movies, cartoons, or even a slideshow of still images and music.

iPod Speaker System: If you're out on the deck or at a campsite, I highly doubt you'll be bringing along a high-end, expensive speaker system. But there are some affordable options out there that will let you play your iPod tunes via battery operation while swimming at the cottage or even lounging on the beach. A really funky option is a neat line of fashion cooler bags from Lifepop. Speakers are integrated into the lining, and you can connect your iPod via a port inside. But they also come in handy for carrying your beach gear and refreshments. And you're sure to grab the attention of anyone around you with the super-retro designs of these bags.

Waterproof Camera: As I get ready to head out this weekend, one item I know I'll be packing is my waterproof digital camera. You don't need to be deep-sea diving to make use of one of these. I'll be using mine in a backyard pool where I can feel comfortable passing it around to friends and family without worrying about wet hands damaging the inner workings or the camera falling into the water. If you're on a beach, snap all the shots you want with your sandy hands, then rinse the camera off in the water. If you are an avid swimmer and not just a beach bum, the ability to take underwater photos is a definite plus. My model is from Olympus, but there are other waterproof options on the market right now from companies like Pentax, Sanyo, and Panasonic, the latter two of which even have waterproof handheld camcorders for taking video. (Check out the latest issue of here's how! magazine for a hands-on review of a few of these models).

Projector & Screen: While projectors might not be mainstream in the home, they are great options for watching films or home movies while away at the cottage. You can set up a portable screen and projector when you're there, then pack it back up and bring it home when you're done. This is especially useful for people who don't often visit their cottages and might be worried about potential theft. Epson has some great options in this category, including its MovieMate line-up that come with built-in DVD players.

Rock speakers: I'm sure you've seen them: they're nifty little speakers that come disguised as rocks. They're typically weather-proof so you can leave them outdoors all year long, even through harsh weather conditions. What makes them uber-cool, however, is the fact that your backyard BBQ guests will hear the music, but have no idea where it's coming from! Neat models are available from companies like Boston Acoustics, Rockustics, and Stereostone.

Portable GPS: If you're traveling by car, the price of gas these days will entice even the manliest of men to ask for directions when needed. No one wants to be roaming around the street at $1.30/litre! There are plenty of models on the market these days, from companies like Garmin, Magellan, and TomTom, as well as new players like Panasonic and LG (the latter of which just entered the category a year ago). Although it won't be ready in time for Canada Day, Mio's latest model provides turn-by-turn directions in the official KITT voice from Knight Rider, which is sure to provide some laughs.

There are plenty of other outdoor-friendly gadgets, but hopefully this short, snapshot will help enhance your long weekend experience. Happy Canada Day!

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