If you live in the U.S., chances are you’re celebrating Memorial Day weekend, an annual event where Americans flock to lakes, rivers, the beach and try to enjoy the outset of summer with BBQs and time with family and friends. It’s a time to relax and, most importantly, remember those who served for our country. It’s when I usually get my kayak out on the ocean bays for the first time. I figured I’d build a list of fun outdoor gadgets, some of which I already own and enjoy myself, that might help you celebrate this weekend and throughout the rest of the summer.
I bought the Omaker M4 Bluetooth speaker last summer so that I could listen to tunes while I was rowing around on my kayak in search of fluke and clams. It’s water-resistant and has, so far, survived an entire summer with me out on the ocean. I don’t purposefully dunk it in water, but it has definitely sat in a pool of it and been soaking wet at times. It offers Bluetooth functionality, so you can stow your phone and kick off a playlist on the speaker. There’s also a flap that protects the charging port and aux-input. Volume controls and even a dedicated phone button are within easy reach right on top. Bonu: I attach a Nordic Flash floating camera strap so I can easily grab it when it falls overboard, too.
You don’t need an expensive product to protect your smartphone from water. I use a very simple $8 product from Amazon called the JOTO CellPhone Dry Bag. It’s not pretty, that’s for sure, but you can easily pop your phone in and out, control the display, snap photos and more. When you’re done, just unlock the top of the bag and slide your phone right out. Again, I attach a Nordic Flash floating camera strap to this when I’m in my kayak in case it falls overboard. It works well, and there are several color options available in case you want to add a little flare.
I’ve long been a fan of Casio’s digital watches for the outdoors. They’re rugged and usually hold up really, really well. I haven’t tried the new Casio Smart Outdoor Android Wear Watch yet, but it’s definitely on my list for playing with. It offers full Android Wear support in addition to plenty of outdoorsy features like a barometer, altimeter, compass and more. It’s also water-resistant to 50 meters and MIL-STD-810G certified, so it won’t damage easily. If a smartwatch isn’t up your alley, Casio also just announced the brand new PRO TREK PRG300-4 and PRG300-8 this week. They feature compasses, altimeters, barometers, solar power technology, sunrise/sunset data and more. They’ll launch next month for $250.
If you have a backyard, consider setting up a projector and a big screen (see below) for an outdoor movie night. I have an old portable projector sitting around that I wanted to use, but turns out it’s not bright enough with just 100 lumens. I found the Epson VS240- SVGA 3LCD Projector online, which has 3000 lumens. That should be more than bright enough for watching movies outdoors at night and even in a bright indoor room during the day, in case you want to use it as a dual-purpose device. It only projects in 800 x 600-pixels, which is a bummer no doubt, but it’s also priced at just $299 and features HDMI-in so you can easily hook up a Chromecast. You might also consider cheaper projectors from less established brands, like the $99 Crenova XPE460, which offer 1080p connectivity, too.
You’ll need a screen to project the movie onto and the Camp Chef 120-inch Portable Outdoor Movie Theater Screen should be just the ticket. It offers a 120-inch display in a movie-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio and includes ropes with stakes for securing into the ground in case a light summer breeze tries to disrupt your showing of Frozen. It weighs 44 pounds, which isn’t too bad, but don’t plan on trekking up a mountain with it, and includes a carrying case.
This is a pretty cool gadget. The Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini is a small lantern that provides dual LED lights with adjustable brightness and up to 500 hours of life if used on the low light setting. But, even cooler, it hides a 3,000mAh battery inside that can be used for charging up a cell phone once. Take it out to the BBQ table if your phone is dying, or pack it for a night out camping to make sure you’re juiced up. It’s super tiny, so it won’t take up too much space in your hiking bag, and has two built-in legs so it can stand on its own.
7. Jaybird Freedom Wireless Buds
Jaybird just announced its latest set of headphones, the Freedom Wireless Buds. They’re not cheap, priced at $199.99, but are sweat proof so you can take them out on a nice jog or long bike ride. They also offer a premium metal body, Bluetooth connectivity with up to 8 hours of playtime, customizable sound controls, secure-fit buds and support for taking phone calls, too. Four colors are available, including carbon, gold, ocean and blaze. If you’re a fan of Jaybird’s products, be sure to check out the new Freedom headphones.
8. iGrill 2
Don’t worry about BBQ anxiety. It’s tough enough getting a burger cooked properly for one person, let alone an entire party, especially on a stranger’s grill. If you’re deemed “chef of the night,” cook the perfect burger with the iGrill 2 no matter where you are. The smart thermometer, now owned by the famous Weber BBQ company, features four probes that can be inserted right into the meat you’re BBQing. The temperature is then displayed on your smartphone so you can pull it off the grill at just the right moment. Grilling a bunch of food? The app supports multiple iGrill devices at once, including other products like the iGrill mini. It’s $99, but at least your burgers won’t come out like charcoal briquettes.
I had to sneak a smartphone on this list. I was going to include the Galaxy S6 Active, but that device is aging and we’re expecting the Galaxy S7 Active any day now. Then I remembered the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are already water-resistant. What better phone to have for the summer? It should work just fine if it takes a dunk in the pool or the lake, though you’ll want to keep it away from salt water, which never really mixes well with electronics (take it from me, I’ve ruined plenty of gadgets while fishing in the ocean.) I recommend tossing on a case just to prevent any scratches and dents while you’re in the great outdoors, but otherwise the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge should be perfect devices for anything you throw at them this summer.