Just because you like to spend time outdoors or on the open road doesn’t mean you can’t have your favorite tech toys by your side. These are the innovations that revolutionized recreation in 2012.
The BioLite CampStove
For better or for worse, electronics such as GPS devices, cellphones, and LED lights have become de rigueur in the backcountry. But keeping them charged isn’t easy. Solar panels don’t work well in heavily wooded areas, and spare batteries add weight to a pack. The coffee-can-size BioLite CampStove solves that problemaand cooks meals at the same time. Campers put fuel, such as sticks, pinecones, and brush, into the stove’s combustion chamber. Waste heat radiates into a thermoelectric generator, which channels electrons into usable current. Some of that current powers a small fan, which boosts airflow within the burn chambers for more efficient combustion; the BioLite burns as hot as propane and can boil water in five minutes. The remaining current, a steady stream of about two watts, runs to a USB port. For phones, 20 minutes of charging yields up to 60 minutes of talk time. BIOLITE CAMPSTOVE Fuel: Wood, brush, pinecones Weight: 33 ounces Charger: USB Price: $129
HeadsUp Systems Wireless Gear Alert System
The HeadsUp collision-avoidance system can save adventurers from a very expensive mistake: pulling into the garage with bikes or boats on the roof rack. Drivers place small radio transmitters on their sporting equipment and install an LED alert sign in the garage. When the sign’s 2.4-gigahertz wireless transceiver senses roof-mounted gear approaching, the LED lights up and a connected in-car audio module beeps alerts. $170
Pear Square One
Unlike apps that simply record your run, the Pear offers real-time coaching based on feedback from a shoe-mounted accelerometer and a heart-rate strap. Mated with an iPod Shuffle, a virtual coach speaks to a user through earphones—”Start jogging at a very comfortable pace” or “Increase your pace in small increments.” The device tailors instructions to a runner’s current fitness level and preset workout goals. $249
The Petzl NAO headlamp knows when you need bright light—and when you don’t—and automatically adjusts. A sensor above the lamp detects reflected light within the field of view and a microprocessor determines the ideal beam for the conditions. Glance down at a map, for example, and the NAO will shine low-intensity diffused light. Look up at the trail ahead, though, and it focuses to a bright spotlight. $175
With the Wingscapes programmable feeder, birders can maximize their chances of a rare sighting. Homeowners set seed drops for convenient viewing times; the birds learn the schedule and visit accordingly. The AutoFeeder comes with a one-gallon seed bin. $130
TaylorMade RBZ Fairway Woods
Fairway shots will fly up to 17 yards farther off TaylorMade’s new golf clubs, whose heads were designed to produce less spin and more loft. A 0.4-inch-deep slot on the bottom of the head allows the face to flex on impact, eliminating spin. Also, the steel on the bottom of the club is thicker than it is on the top. That lowers its center of gravity and increases the probability that golfers will strike the bottom of the ball, which adds lift. From $230
Sierra Designs DriDown
Down is an ideal insulator for sleeping bags and outerwear—when it’s dry. Get caught in a rainstorm though, and it loses its ability to trap heat. In January, Sierra Designs introduced waterproof down: feathers treated with a hydrophobic nanocoating. In third-party tests, DriDown stayed dry 10 times longer than untreated down, retained 170 percent more loft when wet, and dried 33 percent faster. It also adds almost no extra weight or cost to jackets.
Humminbird 360 Imaging
Anglers have long relied on sonar-based “fish finders” to locate schools or fishing spots, but those devices only scan a limited range. Humminbird 360 Imaging provides a 360-degree view. A transducer mounted beneath the boat can project a wall of sonar in a circle up to 300 feet in diameter. Users can view bottom contours, structures, and fish on an onboard display that updates continuously. $2,000