The Holiday Gift Guide gadget edition


While video games - handhelds and consoles, PCs and game-playing smart phones, discs and downloads - promise to be big holiday gift items this year, there are a lot of other high tech gift options to explore. Gadgets, James Bond style, are available everywhere. I didn't include links, but you can find anything in this guide with a quick Google search.

For the Adventurer: How about a really cool watch? Seriously. I'm not talking about a Rolex or Omega, but something that does more than tell time and look good. Think brands like Suunto or Momentum or even Casio (they make high-end watches too, you know) that double as altimeters, barometers and compasses, that can sync with global signals so your watch is precise at all times. Some even have solar chargers built in, or heart rate monitors/calorie counters.

All adventurers could use a really good headlamp. Many of the LED models available today are bright enough to mountain bike on trails at night, but the one model that leapt out at me is a Mammut that had four bright red LEDs built into the battery at the back, which means you don't have to buy a second light for cycling after dark. Genius.

On a serious note, having the right gear in the backcountry can mean the difference between life and death. Two things that you really shouldn't be without if you're alone or with a small group are a satellite phone and a good quality GPS. Phones are available for rent or purchase, but aren't cheap. If you go a lot you'll want to buy a phone and then prepay minutes. If you go into the backcountry infrequently you can rent a phone for about $9 a day.

If you're bringing gadgets to the backcountry, you should also pick up a solar charger, preferably one that also has a hand crank.

The other necessity in the backcountry is water, preferably water that doesn't come with the potential for beaver fever. There are a lot of neat bottles out there that will clean and disinfect it for you, using UV light or filtration systems.

For the Traveller: Amazon has recently dropped the price of their Kindle ebook reader to a svelte $90 or $140 for their latest model. Of course you can use your smart phone or computer to read, but if you're looking for a screen that's easy on the eyes - far easier than an LED - long battery life and seamless interaction with Amazon's online store, then it's a good buy. The only drawback is that you can't download the books to keep or move them to other non-Amazon devices, and the screen isn't backlit. Color e-ink is on the way and there may be some buyer's remorse down the road when you see it in action.

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