6 ways to improve your spring and summer with technology

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This past winter was harsh on much of us here in the United States. Loads of snow, bitter winds, and icy roads made going outside something of a hassle. Thankfully, we’re well into spring now, and summer isn’t far behind. After being cooped up for so long, it’s no surprise that this time of year is when many of us like to go on hikes, go camping, and even take extended vacations at the beach.

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That got me thinking about how I want to spend my summer, and so I came up with a list of technologies that will improve my enjoyment of it. So today, let’s take a look at seven different products that will significantly improve your warm-weather experience. Whether vacationing or simply going on a quick run, let’s try to make the most of it.

FitBit

Fitness trackers

Packed on a couple pounds while sitting inside drinking cocoa this long winter? Now that the weather is more conducive to exercise, it’s time to boost your motivation with a fitness tracker. Not only can you share your data with friends and trainers, but being able to personally track your progress can help keep you on pace with your goals.

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In terms of price, these trackers range from a couple dozen dollars to hundreds, but which one should you choose? It all depends on what you’d like to track, and how much money you’re willing to spend. For example, the Fitbit Surge costs a little under $250, but it’s basically a smartwatch with a fitness focus. If you’re just looking for the basics, you can grab a Fitbit Flex for about $90.

Sunscreen

Nanotech sunscreen

If you’re going to be outside for longer than a few minutes, everyone knows that sunscreen is a good idea. But did you know that some companies are using nanotechnology to make sunscreen even more effective? Using titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, these formulations break down the individual particles to between five and ten nanometers — keeping everything spread out to make the sunscreen better at reflecting the harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

If you’re interested in finding a sunscreen that uses nanoparticles, check out this list at The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. As of publication, there are at least 40 nanotech sunscreens available in the US, UK, and Australia.

Case Waterproof

Waterproofing

If you like to spend your vacations by the pool or at the beach, your electronics are in danger. One false move, and your $650 smartphone is a paperweight. Thankfully, there are simple waterproof pouches that fit most smartphones. Slip it in, seal it up, and you won’t have to worry about splashes and drips.

While this specific pouch shown above is marketed as being waterproof up to four meters, I wouldn’t tempt fate by purposefully submerging my smartphone. If you’re really dying to snap some pictures underwater, consider investing in a relatively cheap waterproof camerainstead.

Battery Pack

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USB battery packs

Whether you’re jamming out on vacation or using the GPS on your phone to navigate on your hike, battery usage is a big concern. The last thing you want is a dead smartphone at the end of a busy day. Thankfully, there are plenty of USB battery packs available that drastically extend your smartphone’s usable hours. Personally, I use an EasyAcc battery pack with my iPhone 6 every time I take a day trip. I can navigate, browse, and take pictures with peace of mind the entire time. It’s absolutely changed the way I use my phone.

Solar Panel

Portable solar panels

If you plan on being out in the wilderness for long stretches, you might want to consider an alternate method of powering your devices. And since we happen to have a giant ball of hydrogen hanging out above our heads, why not take advantage of that? Simply unfold this portable solar panel, plug in up to two devices over USB, and wait as they charge.

Skeptical? I don’t blame you. I was slightly suspicious when I first heard about this $50 solar panel as well, but everything seems to be on the up and up. There are hundreds of reviews for this device on Amazon, and it still has a 4.5 star rating — very impressive.

Hotspot

Mobile hotspots

Staying connected is important, and even if you’re sleeping at hotels on vacation, solid WiFi isn’t always easy to come by. Even if your smartphone offers hotspot functionality, you might be in an area with poor coverage from your provider. If you have an AT&T phone, you can snag a Verizon hotspot. Verizon phone? Get an AT&T hotspot instead. That way, you’re covered just about anywhere.

Coolest Cooler

BONUS: Coolest Cooler

This one isn’t on sale yet — and its ship date has slipped several times — but it’s worth keeping an eye on. This crazy device came to prominence from a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. In fact, $13.3 million were raised from 62,642 backers in just a couple of weeks — making it one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns ever. So, why is this cooler such a hot commodity? It all comes down to insane list of features that you wouldn’t expect out of a cooler.

With this cooler, you get a battery-powered blender, a Bluetooth speaker, a USB charger, an LED light, a built-in bottle opener, and handy-dandy storage for things like plates and a cutting board (both included). Of course, you can still stash ice in the center, and keep your food cold, so this is a really clever way to enjoy the beach season. Unfortunately, you can’t buy the Coolest Cooler just yet, but you can add your name to the waitlist, and hopefully you’ll get yours in time to enjoy the weather.

A good time had by all

Of course, these gadgets should never run your life or take over your vacation. These are tools to augment your experience, and help you enjoy yourself more. For example, I used a wireless hotspot a few years ago to work in the car on my way to my family reunion. By using tech to my advantage, I got to spend an entire extra day with my family by leaving Friday morning instead of Saturday. With that in mind, I hope these products will help you enjoy yourself and your loved ones as well.

[Main image credit: Dennis Jarvis]

Author Grant Brunner
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