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Think Tech: Technology Meets the Great Outdoors

New gadgets that can help you enjoy, document, and survive the wilderness

May 29, 2009 5:00 AMNov 12, 2019 4:35 AM
Joshua Scott


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Point, Splash, and Shoot

Now you can record your adventures in the wilderness (or the local water park) without worry­ing about trashing your camcorder. The $350 Sanyo Dual Camera Xacti VPC-CA9 is waterproof to a depth of five feet, making it safe to bring along while snorkeling, rafting, or even skiing. It has a 5x optical zoom and records at 30 frames per second in 720p high definition. The VPC-CA9 can also take still photos at a resolution of up to 12 megapixels. There is even a nice option that allows you to take seven photos per second at a 2-megapixel resolution—great for capturing the perfect action shot. A memory card holds roughly 4 to 11 hours of video (depending on format), and one battery charge will give you about 70 minutes of continuous shooting.

Hand-Cranked Safety

Getting caught without batteries or a place to plug in a recharger can be inconvenient or even dangerous. Etón’s FR160 radio is powered by a solar cell and can pick up AM, FM, and dedicated weather bands. It also offers a built-in flashlight. When the day darkens, turning a hand crank will recharge the $30 FR160’s battery; it can also charge a cell phone through a USB connection.


It is impractical to lug all the drinking water you will need on an extended camping trip. The $100 battery-powered SteriPen Journey allows you to purify two pints of water at a time in just 90 seconds by immersing a hand­held ultraviolet light emitter in a bottle or other container. The light neutralizes microbes so they can’t reproduce and cause illness.

A Tricorder for Plants

Being outdoors isn’t all about taking on the wilderness. If gardening is more your speed, the EasyBloom Plant Sensor can help. Put it in the ground and leave it for a day, then plug it in to your computer. The $60 Easy­Bloom will match your local soil and weather conditions to a database that can tell you which perennials and annuals will thrive in your garden and what your existing plants are missing.

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