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Posts Tagged portable music

Outdoor Tech Buckshot Bluetooth Speaker

Buckshot portable speaker

Yeah, we’ve tried out more than a few travel speakers on this gear blog, but this Buckshot one from Outdoor Tech is inspiring serious envy when I show it to people. This is a true travel speaker that sounds pretty damn good but will fit in the palm of your hand like the throttle of a motorbike. Or if you’re the workout type, like the handle on one of those bands you use to do tension exercises.

I’ll get to the sound in a minute, but the big appeal of this Bluetooth speaker—that’s right, no wires—is how small and rugged it is. You can fit this thing in a corner of your daypack or stick it in your suitcase, where it’ll take up less space than a pair of thin socks. If you drop it when you’re taking it out, no biggie. This Buckshot speaker has a shock-absorbing rubber exterior that’s got diamond shapes built into it. I don’t know if that makes it more bouncy when you drop it, but it sure looks cool.

Bluetooth Outdoor TechIt’s water-resistant too, which is a good thing since it comes with a bicycle mount. I’m dubious about the idea of people riding around thinking everyone wants to listen to their music, but I guess it beats having headphones on and being oblivious to things like, oh, ambulances. And other riders.

This little travel speaker has a listed battery life of 15-16 hours. I think I passed that on the first try because I played about 20 full albums and left the thing on for days when I wasn’t using it. Eventually it cuts itself off, but still. That’s impressive. If you’re camping or hiking in areas with no outlets, bring along a solar charger and this thing will keep cranking forever. It charged up in a couple hours in an outlet, so it shouldn’t be one of those all-day affairs if you’ve got a GoalZero kit or a stored power charger.

So how’s it sound? Well, “pretty good considering” would be the best answer. When I play it next to larger and heavier speakers I have around, it doesn’t have the same thumping bass and there’s clearly less dynamic range. This Buckshot weighs a lot less than those and is tinier, so a better comparison is those little X-mini ones and the like you see at mall kiosks and electronics stores all over. This Outdoor Tech one is clearly a step above those.

I’ve played a pretty wide range of music through this: Coltrane, Strokes, Lana del Rey, Thievery Corporation, Band of Joy, John Hiatt, Sigur Ros, Common, Nortec Collective, and some classical for a start. As with most small speakers, it does better with electronic music than rock, better with pop than jazz or classical. New music that’s already compressed for Apple devices sounds better than older stuff meant for when people used real stereos. Anyone under 30 will probably think this speaker sounds amazing; anyone older will say it’s not bad for the size. (If you really want to shake the walls in your apartment, upgrade to the company’s Turtle Shell one instead for more than twice the price.)

Packing for travel is all about trade-offs of course and in this one you get a decent-sounding speaker with no distortion that’s a no-brainer to pack even if you’re only taking a carry-on. Since it’s Bluetooth, you only need a charger cord, which is USB micro and included.

My main beefs with this speaker were encountered in the first few minutes. It’s quite hard to figure out where the plug is to charge it. You have to peel a layer of rubber back to expose it and that’s not pointed out anywhere in the limited instructions. The other problem is there’s just one button to do anything except turn the volume up or down. This means one button does these three things: turn on, turn off, enable Bluetooth. See the problem there? The same action that turns it off—holding the button down—is also the same action that enables Bluetooth. How about just putting another frickin’ button on there? There’s room.

After I got the hang of it though, I was able to pair the device at least half the time on the first try. Then I could crank my tunes all day without needing a recharge.

You can pick up the Buckshot Bluetooth speaker direct from Outdoor Tech for $50 or get it at Amazon.

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Canada Goose Camp Hoody Jacket

In the market for a big ticket winter jacket? I count my two Canada Goose jackets as the warmest I own, and they’re among my most comfortable, too. Canada Goose’s Camp Hoody is also one of the most versatile, lightweight enough to grab for a travel day or a quick cover up, yet substantial enough for nearly any weather situation. It should be noted right out of the gate that the Camp Hoody retails for $450, which I realize is not unheard of in winter apparel, but still warrants explanation.

canada-goose-camp-hoodyThe million dollar (or in this case, $450) question, of course, is: is it worth it? What makes the Camp Hoody worth the price? Answer: it’s extreme warmth and coverage combined with its ability to stuff down to almost nothing. This is a highly functional jacket, built for technical situations experienced by true outdoors-women. On a backcountry winter excursion during which down warmth is required and yet space and weight is at a premium, the Camp Hoody would be priceless. For a day on the ski slopes with easy access to the car or locker? Probably overkill (though you’ll certainly be comfortable). Therefore, I refer back to my opening question: are you in the market for a premium winter jacket? If your outdoor travel warrants a ‘yes’, the value is definitely here.

The Camp Hoody is a dream to wear. It sits on your body like a cloud, and you feel light as a feather in it (which makes since, as it’s stuffed with white duck down. The fill power is 750, and the double-layer windproof shell provides incredible protection from the elements. I won’t lie: I haven’t trekked to the Arctic in this jacket (yet), but I have experienced wicked cold days on the slopes have haven’t felt a thing. On the other end of the scale, I’ve slid into this jacket with nothing but a t-shirt underneath to walk the dog in the Oregon fog and wind, and felt completely warm. You get a front storm flap to protect against drifts and wind, and a chin guard behind a two-way locking reversed-coil zipper. In other words, wind is not getting in here. The hood is full-sized and adjustable to fit over a helmet or hat, and the hem falls to the hip with a dropped tail. Once you’re in this jacket, you might as well be cozied up in a sleeping bag.

You get two front zippered pockets and an interior mesh google pocket, a Canada Goose logo patch on the arm, and elastic wrist cuffs that really keep out the snow (and which thick gloves can slide over easily). I squished up the Camp Hoody to bring it along via plane on a Colorado ski trip, and once folded and refolded, it fit in my palm about the size of a melon. Packing tip: lay it flat at the bottom of your bag instead of folding it, and let clothes on top compress it down to nothing.

Pick up the Camp Hoody at Moosejaw and Amazon. On the Canada Goose site, you get your pick of colors, ranging from sunset orange (highly recommended), summit pink, red, white, black, or ocean, though colors are more limited at the retail sites.

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8 Great Camping and Outdoor Stocking Stuffers

Whether you’re playing Santa for an outdoor enthusiast in your life, or just want to fill a stocking full of camping gear for yourself, the following nifty products make for great additions to your holiday shopping list.

Coghlan’s LED tent pegs: We love Coghlans! And I’ve tripped over my tent’s guy lines more times than I care to admit. Coghlan’s 10” heavy duty tent pegs now feature a single LED light for visibility at night. Just twist on, and you’ve got a nice glow around your tent. Just $3.99 for a pack of two at Amazon.

Light My Fire knifeLight My Fire Swedish Fire Knife: I don’t know about you, but I definitely want something called a fire knife in my stocking. Light My Fire’s unique fire-starting knife really is all that: this camp knife comes with a plastic sheath and a high-friction rubber handle, and it creates its own spark via a FireSteel Scout, which twists into the knife’s handle when not in use. Get it on Amazon in one of five fun colors for $28. I also love Light My Fire’s meal kits, perfect for young backpackers.

Arka LED rechargeable lantern: This camp lantern by Industrial Revolution is compact, lightweight, and collapsible, perfect for camping and overnights in outdoor shelters like yurts and fire towers, where electricity may be scarce or nonexistent. Recharge the lantern via USB cable to your smart phone. Can be used as a flashlight or strobe light, too! Pick it up for $69 on Amazon. (See Tim’s review from earlier in the year here: Uco Arka lantern.)

Dublin Dog KOA collarsFor the outdoor-loving dogs in your life, how about outfitting them with waterproof collars that don’t stink? Not even after months and months? Our two dogs have been sporting designs from Dublin Dog’s Trout line since summer, and I am sold! They won’t ever wear another type of collar. The KOA material repels dirt and grime, and the collars really do stay fresh-smelling. Pick one up at Amazon for under $30, depending on size.

grayl water filtration cupIcebug ArchFlex Insoles: Talk about the gift that keeps on giving! I’ve been running and hiking with Arch Flex insoles since July, and while I’ve tried many insoles over the years, these are the ones I reach for. They’re slim, easy to get in and out of my shoe, and provide the right shock relief for my repetitive running and hiking movements. Pick high arch or low, plus shoe size. Find them on Amazon.

GRAYL Water Filtration CupIf you have someone headed to a part of the world lacking potable drinking water, the new Grayl makes for a nice gift. Like other water purification bottles, the Grayl has its drawbacks, but is overall a solid choice for travelers who need access to filtered water all day, every day. The cup, which looks and feels more like a bottle, features a duel cylinder construction wherein the user filters water through the bottom of the inner cylinder via a carbon filter. Once you’ve given it a few practice runs, it’s easy to use, though be advised: until it’s well ‘worn in’, the cylinders can be hard to pull apart, due the the vacuum seal. (As I said, not without its drawbacks.) However, the Grayl is sleek and shiny, heavy but definitely portable, and features a nice open-close design. If using abroad, you’ll need to upgrade the filter to the ‘purifier’, but once you’ve done so, you’re good to go for 300 uses. Buy the Grayl on REI for $69.

Liberty bottleCocoon Ultralight Microfiber terry towel: I love Cocoon travel products! I have used their travel pillow and packing cube, but by far my favorite product is their microfiber towel. Perfect for backpackers, campers, and round-the-world travelers, the Cocoon is small, thin, and light, but still actually does the job intended…you know, actually dry your body. Set it outside to dry afterward, and it will be good to go again in no time. Pick it up for your travel or backpacking friend for under $35 on Amazon.

Liberty Bottle Works Topo bottle: I would say I use this 100% recycled aluminum USA-made bottle every day, but I can’t: the minute I got it, my teen son took it. I think he loves the topographical map design best (ours features Mt. Rainier) but it may be the straw or the easy to open and close flip top lid with carrying handle. Pick out the map your hiking loved one can relate to most for as low as $12 on Amazon. It’s also available at Backcountry.com.

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Hotspot Shield VPN for International Web Surfing

vpn proxy server

Just as all the money in the world couldn’t save Steve Jobs from cancer, all the money in the world is not going to save you from the army of lawyers running the entertainment and social media tech sites you would like to keep using when you travel. Even the richest expatriate is going to get stymied when trying to log onto Netflix, Pandora, iTunes, Spotify, or Amazon. In some countries (like Vietnam and China), you may not even be able to send a simple status update to Facebook or Twitter. Unless you have something like Hotspot Shield.

If you travel a lot, there’s one small investment you should make: a proxy service subscription. This will enable you to click a button or two and be surfing the web from what looks like Rhode Island or California, not Botswana or Bulgaria. Once you have made that connection, you can stream your Netflix film or download those songs you bought from iTunes or eMusic without a bunch of suits getting between you and your entertainment.

There’s a second part to this too, which is another layer of protection in your surfing. Google can’t follow your around your neighborhood and the globe so easily when you’re covering your tracks and neither can all those damn marketing companies trying to watch your every move. Neither can that squirrelly looking guy two tables over in the coffee shop.

Now don’t get the impression this is all some super-simple process where everything always works out perfectly. I’ve tried at least four of these services during stints traveling and living abroad and all of them had their bugs. Hotspot Shield is not immune from bugs either, but it has fewer than most and the price is downright crazy cheap: $30 per year. If you can’t justify that tiny amount and are tempted to go with the free version—don’t. It’ll only take you a couple days before you’re ready to throw something at your computer because of the annoying ads and hijacked browser. Trust me. Mine slips into free mode sometimes by mistake and I instantly turn into Mr. Hyde.

Overall though, Hotspot Shield is $30 very well spent. With it installed on the multiple devices it allows, I can be surfing away undeterred in one room while my wife is watching a Netflix show and my daughter is logged into Youtube. All from Mexico, no problem. I’ve downloaded songs, streamed Pandora, and logged into my credit card accounts no problem.

The bugs I just had to get used to and live with, after support solved a few but the rest were not to be. None of us can send an e-mail from Yahoo Mail while logged in and others have reported similar problems from other web-based e-mail programs. Sometimes I get a strange “service not available” message from some websites. Occasionally messages I send from Thunderbird will get hung up for no reason.

Overall though, this proxy server service works as advertised and unlike others I’ve used in the past, I’ve had very little downtime. You can even choose to log on from the US, UK, or Australia—a good backup and quite useful if you’re a webmaster and you want to see search results from other countries.

Get a trial run direct from Hotspot Shield and ignore that free option with ads. Trust me. And if you don’t trust me or this link, you can also get it from CNET.com in their downloads section. Here’s a link with the price since for some reason they hide that even though it’s a deal – $29.95.

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Distil Union iPhone Dock Alarm Clock

iPhone alarm clockIn my travels, I have seen a lot of snazzy alarm clocks in hotels. In fact, I do appreciate when there is an electrical outlet near the bed or an iPhone-charging clock that allows me to keep my smartphone plugged in overnight. But, I must admit, sliding the bar to stop the alarm on my iPhone is tough in the dark or when I am only half awake.

This clever iPhone alarm clock from Distil Union allows me to do just what we all want to do to our alarm clock when it wakes us up: give it a nice slap!

It comes with a clever, minimalist-style wooden stand that allows your phone to slide right inside and a large functioning rubber snooze bar. It stores your phone on its side and facing you while also leaving enough space for it to charge from its power port. There is an internal wedge that can slide in or out to accommodate bulkier cases allowing you to keep your phone in its case when you insert it into the stand.

Since it is secure in its wooden stand, you don’t need to worry about it falling off the night stand and becoming unplugged or wedged in between tight spaces when you are blaringly awakened mid-dream.

The solid maple wood stand also has a no-slip silicone bottom keeping it from scratching expensive furniture and preventing it from sliding off of a smooth surface. To activate the slap-happy snooze function, you have to download their Snooze Alarm App, which is free in the iTunes store.

The snooze function is simple to use, and Distil Union even provides a handy guide on common questions and answers.

Since space is often an issue for me with only a carry-on bag, I probably would not travel on longer trips with this device although it is ideal for shorter hops when I do not have as much clothing or gear. I have made it my go-to stand at home though, and it looks quite modern and stylish on my glass nightstand. No more need to pick up my phone and fumble for the sliding bar, now I just smack the wooden box and enjoy just a few more minutes of dozing.

This is available for iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 models at the Distil Union website for $34.99 price, or the same at Amazon.

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