Camping out is one of the most budget-friendly vacation options around—and thanks to digital technology, there's no need to "rough it." Here are five cool tech gadgets, ranging from a solar charger to a fish finder, that can make life at the campground easier and lots more enjoyable.
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1. Powermonkey Extreme 12V Waterproof Rugged Solar Powered Charger
Your family will almost certainly take at least one smartphone with you on vacation—to stay in touch with friends and to report any emergencies that might spring up. But what happens if your phone's battery goes dead while you're out in the woods?
This solar charger from Powertraveller Ltd. is designed to charge a smartphone up to four times and an iPad up to two times, depending on model. List-priced at $200, it can also power up portable DVD players, SLR camera batteries, and in-car chargers.
Of course, you should bring along the standard chargers that come with your devices, too. Sooner or later, you'll come across an electrical outlet somewhere!
2. UST 30 Day Duro Lantern
You can still use an old-fashioned flashlight or even the flashlight app on your phone to illuminate a small patch of your tent at night as you grope around for some needed item. But Ultimate Survival Technologies (UST) Brands has a brighter idea: a portable lantern that can deliver 30 days of light on a single set of three D batteries.
Carrying an MSRP of around $40, the 30 Day Duro Lantern demonstrates that LED lighting has practical uses that extend far beyond the smart home. The lantern's light is visible from quite far away, too—welcome news for anyone trying to get back to the family camp site after sundown.
A word of caution: The manufacturer reiterates that the lantern provides 30 days of continuous light without a battery swap, but only if you run it on low, at 30 lumens. If you run it on high, at 700 lumens, you'll get just 22 hours of continuous use. For longer usage, you can either pack spare batteries or invest in the slightly pricier 60 Day Duro Lantern (MSRP: $80). On the other hand, your family probably won't need 24/7 continuous lighting, anyway—unless you plan to camp out at a site near the North Pole in midwinter!
3. Westone Adventure Series ADV Alpha In-Ear Headphone
Like the idea of listening to your favorite music while away on vacation, without disturbing your spouse and kids in the sleeping bags next to you?
These sound-isolating in-ear headphones from Westone Audio (listed at $200) are designed for camping and other outdoor activities. Ruuggedized features include an IPX3 weather-resistance rating, a durable earphone body constructed of magnesium and aluminum, and a waterproof remote control and mic housed on a detachable rubberized cord.
Sound isolation is a double-edged sword, however. During certain vacation activities, you won't want to seal out external noise. For those times, use headphones that don't have a sound-isolation capability, or tuck the headphones away temporarily so you can get an even better listen to the birds singing and your children playing.
4. GPX SkyKing Quadcopter Drone with Video Camera
Only a few years ago, family members might have gathered together while on vacation to figure out how to fly a kite. Now, it's all about drones.
Though you could easily spend thousands of dollars on a drone, the widely acclaimed SkyKing from GPX is a much more affordable choice, with a list price of around $170. It can capture sharp images of the campground (or any other site) with its built-in 0.3-megapixel camera.
Like other drones in this price bracket, the SkyKing has a relatively short maximum flying time (maybe 6 to 8 minutes for this model) in comparison to its charging time (about 60 to 70 minutes). Let everyone in the family know this in advance, so nobody goes home disappointed! Then, for months after your camping trip you can all spend hours viewing the video snapped by your drone.
5. FishHunter Pro Portable Fish Finder
Fishing is another fun pastime for camping families. But how do you know where the fish are lurking? Listing for about $180, this floatable gizmo uses sonar technology to scan the depths of even the murkiest nearby creek or lake, and reports what it finds to an accompanying iPhone or Android app. To keep FishHunter Pro from straying too far, you can tether it to a fishing line from a boat or from the shore.
When you've landed your catch, you can use the app to share photos taken with your phone's built-in camera via email, Facebook or Twitter. Then your friends will know for sure that you're not just telling "fish stories" about the great time your family is having on vacation!
Despite the name of this product, you don't need to be a "pro" at fishing to use the device (or the app). If you do have an advanced fishing hobbyist in your family, you might want to check out the company's somewhat more costly FishHunter Directional 3D Portable Fish Finder (listed at about $250).
Photo credits: FishHunter Sonar Devices, GPX, Powertraveller Ltd., UST Brands, Westone Audio.