Showing posts with label Smartphones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Smartphones. Show all posts

Gear Closet: Lander Powell iPhone Case

Lets face it, there are literally hundreds of smartphone cases to choose from these days and it has gotten to the point where it is impossible to see them all. But, there aren't very many of them that are slim, light, and still manage to provide a high level of protection. Those are exactly the characteristics I'm looking for when I want to buy a case for my iPhone, as the device is already quite thin and lightweight on its own and I don't want to mess with that. Because, I'm very particular about the case that I put on my mobile device, particularly when I'm traveling. Recently, the one that I've found myself using the most is the Lander Powell, which is a good looking suit of armor that doesn't detract from the looks of the phone.

The feature-set on the Powell is what you would expect from a good iPhone case. It is tough and rugged, and includes a raised bezel that helps protect the screen from accidental drops. It also has a nice textured feel to it that makes it easier to grip, which is a common issue for Apple's sleek gadgets.  It even has a sleek, modern look to it that helps to set your phone apart from the crowd, which is a refreshing change in a sea of cases that often look exactly alike.

But beyond that, the Powell has been certified to meet military 810 drop-test standards. That means the case was built to survive a fall of up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) without causing any damage to the phone. That might not seem like very much, but it is enough to keep your device safe from most common accidents.

As someone who has owned an iPhone since the very first day the became available, I've always been drawn to its nice sense of style. Thankfully, the Powell doesn't detract from that style, but instead compliments it. In face, Lander even makes a version of the case that is translucent, which allows your chosen color of iPhone – not to mention the iconic Apple logo – to be seen even while the case is in place.

Its slim design hugs the body of the iPhone nicely, giving you the extra protection you need but without turning the phone into a brick. That's something I appreciate greatly, because I now take my phone pretty much everywhere, including to some pretty remote places. This year alone, my iPhone has gone to Utah (multiple times!), Alaska, Colorado, North Carolina, California, Spain, the Caribbean, the Adirondack Mountains, Quebec, and Mongolia, and each time it was used extensively in all of those different places. That means that every time I hit the road I run the risk of damaging the device. But, with Lander's Powell case I don't feel like that is much of a legitimate concern, and I suspect you won't either.

Sure, there are other case options to choose from, some of which extend the level of protection to making the phone waterproof as well. But, those cases usually add a significant amount of bulk to the phone, and can create some other challenges too, not the least of which are poor audio performance and difficulty taking them on and off. While the Powell won't make your iPhone waterproof, it will provide all the protection it needs against drops and hard impacts, which is what we generally need for our backcountry excursions and adventure travels to the far side of the planet.

Lander makes the Powell for both the iPhone 6/6S and the iPhone 7, as well as the "Plus" editions of each of those models as well. Priced at $34.95 for the standard model and $39.95 for the "Plus" version, this is an excellent case at a great price. If you need plenty of protection in a thin package, this is a case you'll want to have on your list. It'll perform admirably without dramatically changing the look of the device.

Find out more at Lander.com.

Gear Closet: Stacked Wireless iPhone Charging Case

One of the biggest buzzword phrases in technology surrounding smartphones in recent years is "wireless charging." For those who don't know, this is a way to power up your device without having to actually plug it into a cable and wall outlet. Instead, you use an inductive charging system – typically in the form of a special case and a charging pad – that allows you to simply place your Android phone or iPhone onto it and automatically starts recharging the gadget. It's quick, simple, and easy.

As a bit of a tech nerd, I've followed the wireless charging scene with some interest, but always had two issues with the technology. First, I never thought it was all that hard to plug a cable into my phone to charge it up in the first place, so I thought that wireless charging was largely a solution that was looking for a problem. My other hesitation with the technology is that it isn't really "wireless" per se, it just shifts the cables to other devices – in this case the charging pad – and adds another layer of tech in the form of a charging case or built-in inductive chargers. To me, wireless charging wasn't something that I saw as all that useful or innovative. Wake me up when true wireless charging hits and my iPhone automatically charges from anywhere in the house at all times.

But, recently I've had the chance to test out the Stacked wireless charging system, and I have to say that I've come around on the technology quite a bit. It definitely is convenient to use and offers quite a bit of flexibility, even for travelers. And while I still want a more advanced wireless charging system fro my future gadgets, the Stacked system is definitely something I've come to appreciate in a very short time. Well... at least mostly.

One of the things that makes the Stacked system so helpful is that it is modular, allowing you to use it in a variety of places, in a variety of ways, with the help of a few accessories. The base Stacked product includes the 360º Speed Case, which fits over your iPhone 6/6S or 6/6s Plus (a version for the iPhone 7  is coming). The case itself fits snugly on your device, and while it doesn't add much in the way of bulk, there is definitely more heft to it. The case doesn't weigh an awful lot (less than an once), but you'll definitely know that you've added it to your phone once its in place.


Like most iPhone cases, the Speed Case added a nice layer of protection to your smartphone, which some of us have a tendency to drop on hard surfaces from time to time. With this case in place however, you'll find that your fragile device is much better at surviving those little mishaps. The back of the Speed Case also has a magnet embedded in it which allows it to attach to the Stacked chargers, which we'll talk about shortly.

Priced at $39.99, the 360º Speed Case isn't especially expensive when compared to other cases, but on its own it doesn't really do much other than help protect your phone from harm. To truly get the benefits of the system, you really need to purchase a Stacked bundle ($99.99), which include a couple of options for wirelessly charging your iPhone. Without the chargers, there isn't much reason to own the Speed Case on its own. But with a charger in the mix, things get much more interesting.

The Stacked bungle comes with the case of course, as well as a battery pack and a standard charger that plugs directly into the wall. Both the battery pack and the charger have magnets that have an opposite polarity of the one found on the case. That means that when you place your phone onto either charger, it'll slide into place with a satisfying click, and within a few seconds begin charging.

The wall charger is small and comes with a fold-out power plug. This is meant to be plugged directly into a standard AC outlet for convenient charging at all times. It holds the phone firmly in place, and provides a nice steady charge, getting your iPhone back up to 100% as quickly and efficiently as the charger that came with the mobile device. The Stacked charger even has a standard USB port built into the side, allowing you to charge another device at the same time. This makes it a handy option to have with you when you travel as well.

The Stacked battery pack comes equipped with a 2000 mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery of its own. This is enough to fully charge your iPhone once, with just a little power left over for later. It also features two USB ports, one micro-port for charging the battery pack itself, and another standard USB for charging other device. The pack is thin, lightweight, and easy to take with you anywhere. It also has the magnetic connection system integrated right into its case as well. In fact, it has two magnetic ports, one for connecting to the Speed Case, and another for attaching a second battery pack. In this way, you can actually daisy-chain multiple battery packs (which run $39.99 on their own) for a convenient way to carry extra power with you.

In my case, I actually use the battery pack to charge my smartphone each evening. The pack is plugged into a USB charger of its own and sits on the desk in my office. Before I head to bed each night, I simply put my iPhone onto the pack – with that satisfying click once again – and the next day it is fully charged. It is quick, simple, and efficient too.

Another Stacked accessory that I've been testing is the 360º Wireless Car Charger. This add-on costs $49.99 and extends the wireless charging set-up to your automobile too. It conveniently attaches to your air conditioning/heating vent and includes the magnetic locking system as well. So, when you get in the car you simply place it on the dock which holds it in place while you drive, and provide power at the same time.

While driving I often listen to music and podcasts that stream to my audio system via Bluetooth. The 360º Wireless Car Charger holds my phone in place so I can access those audio files quickly and easily too. It also comes in super handy when you're using your phone to navigate as it allows you to see the screen as it provides direction and points of reference. And since using your phone's GPS is one of the biggest hits on the battery, keeping it charged is an essential piece of the puzzle on long road trips.

So, is the wireless charging system a time saver? Hmm... not really. I still don't find plugging in a cable to be all that time consuming, and it really doesn't take any more time than placing the Speed Case onto the charger or battery pack. That said however, I do like that I can use it with the Wireless Car Charging while in my vehicle, which is where I've found this product to be the most useful for me personally. And that said, if you were to buy this system for use in the car, it is probably in your best interest to have the charger and battery pack too.

All of that said, I do really like this line of products. All of the items are well made, look great, and are easy to use. The case provide a great level of protection for your phone as well, and it can be removed – or put back on – within a matter of seconds. And while I'm not exactly saving any time over using a directly plugged in cable, it is still handy to be able to just quickly place the phone on the charger without even thinking about it.

I did run into a few issues when using this wireless charging system while traveling recently. I was out of the country, and plugged the wall charger into an outlet for use in charging my device. But when I got up the next morning, I discovered that it hadn't worked, and my phone was at 22% charge as I was getting ready to head out the door for the day. Unfortunately, I hadn't brought the Stacked battery pack, so I instead had to plug my iPhone into a standard battery pack that I take with me on all my adventures. The problem was, I had to remove the case and plug in a standard cable to make it work. This left my phone without a case, and vulnerable to drops. In future versions of the Speed Case I'd love to see a lightning-cable pass through that would allow me to charge using a standard battery pack – without removing the case – should the need arise.

I learned a valuable lesson from that trip as well. When traveling I should always take the Stacked battery pack with me. It really isn't all that large, it serves the same purpose for keeping my phone charged, and it can help charge other gadgets too. That helps to make it a very useful gadget to have at your disposal on any journey.

After reading all of that, the question still remains – am I a wireless charging convert yet? Again, the answer is both yes and no. While I still want to see true wireless charging at some point, this is a really nice product for sure. Everything is built to a very high level of quality, and it works quite well – the one incident mentioned above not withstanding – too. I especially love using it mine car, and have come to rely on it around the home and when traveling too.

If you're going to jump into the Stacked wireless charging system, I'd recommend doing so with one of the bundles and the car charger. That combination is pretty much perfect and will have you covered for all of your needs. Find out more at PoweredbyStacked.com.

Gear Closet: Catalyst iPhone 6/6S Waterproof Case

Okay, I'll admit it. For a very long time I was very resistant to putting a case on my iPhone. I always appreciated the sleek, thin lines that Apple had designed for the device, and adding a case usually changed that aesthetic drastically. On top of that, most cases I saw added weight and bulk that took away from the look and feel of the phone too. And some of the cases designed for use in the outdoors ended up impacting sound quality and ease of use as well. So, as a result, my iPhone went unprotected for years, and usually when I traveled to a remote location, I'd end up leaving it at home or somewhere safe where it couldn't be harmed.

But, as the speed and functionality of the device increased, and the camera continued to improve year in and year out, I've now started taking my iPhone with me pretty much everywhere. It serves as my mobile command center, allowing me to take notes, share images and impressions of the place I visit, snap amazing photos, keep in contact with friends and family, and navigate foreign cities with ease. And since the device is now a constant companion during my adventures, I found that I needed a case to help protect it from the elements too. Finding the right one however, took some time and plenty of trial and error. But finally, I've found what just might be the perfect match for my particular needs in the form of the Catalyst Case for iPhone 6S.

As mentioned, one of the things I have always disliked about most iPhone cases is that they change the look of the device, and add a lot of bulk as well. This is especially true of a case that has been designed for use in the outdoors, which typically brings a measure of protection from dust, accidental drops, and water. The Catalyst Case does all of that, but manages to do so without turning your elegant-looking device into a massive brick. That's because it has been unique designed to provide a high level of protection with the most minimal amount of material necessary. In fact, it is easily the thinnest and lightest protective armor I have ever seen for a smartphone.

That doesn't mean that Catalyst skimped on the specs however. This case can keep your iPhone safe from water down to a depth of 5 meters (16.4 ft). It is also dust, sand, and snow proof, and is rated to survive a drop of 2 meters (6.6 ft) onto a hard surface. In other words, it was built for use in rugged, demanding environments, and should be able to keep our precious devices from suffering an untimely demise.

The case is also comfortable to hold and provides users with a firm grip at all times, which makes it far less likely that the phone will slip out of your hand in the first place. It also comes with external buttons that allow you to adjust volume and power the device on and off as easily as you could without any type of case at all. At Catalyst has even integrated a special rotating crown that allows you to flip the mute switch just as easily as well. The case allows full access to the camera and flash, and even the Touch ID fingerprint scanner functions normally too. In short, once this suit of armor is in place, you won't lose any of your normal functionality.

Installing the case on your iPhone is about as easy as it could possibly be. Everything snaps precisely into place, and fits as snugly as you would expect. It took me just a couple of minutes to take the product out of its packaging and have it installed on my smartphone, which is not something that I can say about some of the competing products that I've tested over the years. Best of all, the case comes off easily too, for those of you who only want to use it when absolutely necessary.

One of the issues with many cases like this one is that the thick armor that is installed ends up having a detrimental effect on the sound quality from both the microphone and speaker of the device that it is installed upon. This can make it difficult for you to hear the person you're talking on the phone with, and it can muffle your voice for them too. Thankfully, that isn't the case here, as Catalyst has found a way to deliver a high level of protection without interfering with audio performance in any way.

Inside the box you'll find a couple of additional items that could come in handy. For instance, Catalyst includes a special adapter that allows headphone users to more easily access the standard 3.5mm audio jack. This port may be gone from the new iPhone 7, but it is still in use by many who haven't made the leap to Bluetooth wireless headphones just yet. But some earbuds have an tough time of locking securely into place when a case is on the phone. This adapter makes sure that that isn't a problem. There is also an included lanyard that can be used to further secure the device when carrying it around as well.

Catalyst sells this case for $69.99, which is actually quite competitive for something that turns your iPhone into a waterproof and durable gadget. Similar cases from the competition can cost nearly twice that, and often add a lot of bulk to the phone in the process. But considering how sleek, well built, and easy to install this product is, it is easy to recommend it to those of you who – like me – are reluctant to add a similar layer or protection to your phone as well. If you happen to fall into that category, or are simply looking for a great case to keep your iPhone safe during your travels, this is the option for you. Once you have it installed, you'll wonder why you ended up waiting so long.



Gear Closet: JBL Reflect Mini BT Wireless Sport Headphones

In case you haven't heard, there is a new iPhone coming out this week. That's pretty much common knowledge considering how much press Apple gets. But what you might not have heard is that one of the design elements of the new smartphone that is getting the most attention is Apple's decision to drop the standard audio port. This has freed up some precious space inside the phone that Apple engineers can use to add more tech, but it also means that we can no longer simply plug in a standard set of headphones. Moving forward, the iPhone's lightning port will pull double duty for both charging and audio output, which means you'll need to either use a set of lightning earbuds, a lightning-to-3.5mm adapter (included in the box), or wireless headphones to listen to your music, podcasts, and audio books. While all of those are obviously viable solutions, Apple is making a hard push towards Bluetooth headphones, particularly since they are releasing their own unique entry into that market with the new AirPods and some updated wireless options from Beats.

I haven't had a chance to test out the AirPods yet, but I have been testing some other wireless headphones that are specifically designed for use by those of us who are fairly active. I actually made the switch to Bluetooth earbuds awhile ago, and I have to say that it is a niche shift. Not having to deal with cables while running or cycling is a major plus in my book, and I think that while some will continue to be reluctant to make the change, once you do, you'll never want to go back.

Recently I've been testing the new Reflect Mini BT sport headphones from JBL and have discovered a product that ticks all of the boxes in terms of what I'm looking for when it comes to earbuds. And while they may not be quite a fancy as Apple's AirPods in terms of design and technology, they still perform very well and cost a lot less.

The Reflect Mini use Bluetooth technology to connect wirelessly to your smartphone. There once was a time when that pairing process was a bit of hassle, but those days are long over at this point. It literally took just a few seconds to pair the two devices together, and after that when ever I turned on the headphones they would automatically connect with one another. That's the way all wireless audio devices should work, and that has pretty much been my experience with all of them for some time.


As with most wireless earbuds these days, the Reflect Mini comes with an inline remote that allows you to control volume, switch tracks, pause playback, and so on. It even has a built-in mic that gives you the ability to pick up incoming phone calls too. Those are fairly standard features at this point, but JBL has made them easy to use thanks to a remote that has large buttons and a simple, straight forward configuration.

I've tested wireless earbuds in the past, and one of the biggest challenges I've typically faced is finding the right sized rubber ear tips to fit into my ears properly. Some previous models I've tried out have come with as many as seven sets of those silicon inserts, and I'd usually have to mix and match to find the ones that worked best for me. The Reflect Mini ships with four ear tips – two sets of sports and two regular. But, this time out there was now fiddling to find the right fit. The ones that came preinstalled worked perfectly for me right out of the box, snapping into place and staying there while I ran. Obviously you may find that you'll have to play around with the tips a bit to find the ones that work for you, but I've never had fit this good before.

In terms of audio performance, I found these earbuds to be solid, but not overwhelming. Music sounds crips and clear, even at higher volumes, and there was even some solid bass mixed in, something you don't always find on smaller, sport-oriented earphones. The Reflect Minis probably aren't going to win any awards for their performance, but in terms of something that you want to wear out on a run or for a workout at the gym, they are definitely up to the challenge. I will note that some of the podcasts I listened to while wearing these headphones did sound a bit muddled at times, but that is probably more due to the quality of those recordings and less about the earbuds themselves. Music tracks, which have higher production values, sounded great, which is a better way to judge overall quality.

Battery life is the other element that always concerns me, as unlike standard earbuds you'll need to recharge your wireless models on a regular basis. JBL says that the battery is good for about 8 hours playback, although that number can vary depending on volume, audio source, and so on. In real-world testing, I found that I was getting closer to 6 hours of battery life, which for me translates to having to recharge after I've run with the earbuds four or five times. While I would like to get a bit more battery life out of the Reflect Mini, I've been mostly satisfied with their performance so far.

On that note, it doesn't seem that JBL has built-in an auto-off feature for the Reflect Mini, which means if you accidentally leave them on, you'll drain the battery somewhat even when they're not in use. When you're done working out, be sure to turn them off so they'll be charged for your next session.

Since these are earbuds designed for use while being active, they have been built to be sweat proof. That means that they can survive your wet hands pawing at the remote control or you working up a good sweat while running. That doesn't mean that they are water – or even rain – proof however, so keep that in mind when using them. I've had other wireless earbuds that were sweat proof in the past, and some would stop working if I used them on a run in the rain. I don't know if that will be the case here, as I haven't tried the Reflect Mini BT in the rain yet, but it is definitely something to keep in mind.

In terms of long term durability, we'll simply have to wait to see how well these earphones perform. Right now, they function very well, with great battery life, solid audio performance, and very few distortions or audio cut-outs while in use. But, some of the wireless earbuds I've used in the past haven't stood up to the test of time, wearing out after just a couple of months of use. Hopefully that won't be the case here, but only time will tell.

In terms of price, JBL has delivered a good product that performs very well, that won't make your wallet duck for cover. At just $99.95, the Refect Mini BT stacks up very well against the competition in terms of performance and value. Apple's new AirPods, which aren't specifically designed for use while exercising, cost $159, making them a bit pricer for those who are just entering the wireless earbud market.

Whether that's you, or if you're simply looking for a new pair of wireless earbuds, the JBL Reflect Mini BT is a good choice.


Gear Closet: Kyocera Hydro Shore Waterproof Android Phone

Now days, most of us carry our smartphones with us wherever we go, including into the backcountry when we go hiking, camping, or backpacking. That's because those devices have proven invaluable just about anywhere we might travel, including places where cell network connections are at a premium. The problem is, most smartphones are also incredibly fragile, which means taking them with us on these adventures means putting our precious gadget in jeopardy, or shelling out extra cash for a case that is waterproof and rugged. But what if you could have a smartphone that is already designed to survive in that type of environment? Better yet, what if that device was also very affordable? That's exactly what you get with the Kyocera Hydro Shore, a budget phone designed to run on AT&T's GoPhone network.

First things first, it is important to note that in terms of onboard technology, the Hydro Shore features components that won't compete with high-end, flagship phones from competitors including the iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy S7. It's 5" high-def display is bright and colorful, but not on par with those found in more expensive phones, and its 1.1 GHz Snapdragon processor is under powered at this point of its lifecycle. Additionally, the Hydro Shore's 5-megapixel main camera won't win any awards either and lags behind the competition in performance as well. On top of that, the device comes with just 8GB of onboard storage and 1GB of RAM, which is underwhelming when compared to other smartphones too. As if that wasn't enough, the device runs the Android 5.1 (Lollipop) operating system, which is two full versions out of date at this point, with no clear upgrade path moving forward. Taken as a whole, that makes this a fairly average Android device to say the least, and well behind much of the competition in what has become an increasingly crowded market.

So what exactly does the Hydro Shore have going for it? For starters, it is very affordable. The device carries a price tag of just $79.99, which puts it amongst the least expensive smartphones on the market at the moment. It also has expandable storage capacity through the use of memory cards (up to 64GB), and it features a design that makes it easy to grip and use with one hand – something that we shouldn't take for granted in an era where smartphones continue to expand in size. Plus, the phone has solid battery life – up to 13 hours of talk time – which is better than most of the competition too.


But best of all, the Hydro Shore also happens to be waterproof, which is certainly not something you find at the $80 price point all that often. In fact, the device is certified IP57 waterproof, which means that it can be fully immersed in up to 1 meter (3-feet) of water for 30 minutes without harm. That means that it should survive rainstorms, kayaking trips, and accidental dunkings, which is not something you can say about most other smartphones on the market regardless of price point.

And since the Hydro Shore was built for use around water (hence the name!), its 5" screen was made to be interacted with even when you have wet hands. That means you can snap photos, make a call, or send a text no matter the conditions. I personally appreciate this feature after a long run, which is when my sweaty hands can sometimes make it a challenge to interact with my iPhone too.

The Hydro Shore's case is made from a soft, easy-to-grip material that provides a measure of protection from accidental drops, but isn't as durable as some other ruggedized phones that I've seen, including the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active.  Samsung's offering is bulkier, heavier, and costs more, but includes better waterproofing, a shatter-resistant screen, and a host of other tech features, such as wireless charging. That said, the Hydro Shore feels like it can survive quite a bit of punishment, although you may still want to add a case for a bit of extra protection.

In addition to its waterproof design and great pice, the Hydro Shore's other best feature may be that it connects to AT&T's GoPhone network, which is available through Walmart. Not only does this give consumers an option to purchase phones and services without a yearly contract, it offers affordable voice, text, and damage usage too. Plans start as low as $30 a month, although the top-end option runs $60 and includes unlimited talk and texts from the U.S. and Canada, as well as voice, text, and data usage while in those countries as well. That makes GoPhone and the Hydro Shore an intriguing and affordable option for anyone who frequents those destinations, even if they happen to own another smartphone.

As a self-confessed tech nerd, I have to say that there isn't a lot to get too excited about technology wise with this device. Its specs clearly lags behind the competition in nearly every way. But, as someone who travels a lot, and often visits remote places, the fact that they Hydro Shore is waterproof is certainly a major benefit as is the GoPhone options for use in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. If you happen to visit those places on a regular basis, and want a solid, reliable phone for use while traveling, this is a great option. It is tough, dependable, and has great battery life. Additionally, it is also so affordable that you can actually keep your high end phone and this one too.

Find out more at the Hydro Shore official website.

Gear Closet: The Zus Ruggedized Charging Cable is a Fantastic Travel Accessory

These days when we travel we always carry a host of gadgets with us. In fact, depending on the trip I'm taking, I often have a wide variety of devices that I need to keep charged while on the go. Those include a smartphone, tablet, and at various times a rechargeable headlamp, smartwatch, water purifier, headphones, and more. In order to keep all of those items from becoming nothing more than dead weight, you'll also need to carry charging cables, most of which are not designed for use in the back country or withstand the rigors that are often placed on them when traveling. But fortunately, there are some options on the market that are built to survive, even in remote environments, making the ruggedized charging cable a must have for outdoor adventurers.

One such cable is the ZUS from Nonda. Encased in an outer shell of tough nylon braiding over a thin PVC tube, and made up of protected aramid fibers, this cable was built from the ground up to survive darn near anything. In fact, the ZUS was tested in the lab and survived being bent more than 15,000 times without suffering damage. But if that wasn't enough to convince you, it is also backed by a lifetime guarantee.

Available in standard micro-USB, USB-C, and Apple Lightning versions, the ZUS cable definitely feels more substantial in your hands than most other charging cables I've used, especially those that come directly from a device manufacturer. There is a clearly defined resistance in the cable that you can feel as you use it that simply provides a sense that even though you're twisting it about, it isn't doing any kind of damage to the cable itself.

Speaking of twisting it about, the ZUS has also been built to be tangle free, which is something I appreciate when traveling. The materials used to create this cable also prevent it from wrapping up around itself, which means you can pull it out of your pack and plug it into your device and charging solution within a matter of seconds. If you're carrying multiple cables with you, this feature is even more handy, and the ZUS doesn't end up wrapping itself around them. And since it comes with its own built-in Velcro tie, it is extremely easy to keep it organized too.


I've been using the ZUS on a number of my summer trips ranging from up-state New York to the wilds of Mongolia to the craziness that is Outdoor Retailer, and beyond. I have found that it has now become my go-to cable whenever I need to charge something. Partly because it is easy to pull it out and plug it in, but mostly because I know it will survive whatever I throw at it. Moving forward, it is likely that I'll replace all of my cables with the ZUS as it just happens to be a great choice for the adventure traveler.

If I had one complaint about the design of this cable it would be that the USB plug is turned at a 90º angle over what you are most likely accustomed to. Nonda says that this is to improve its compatibility with the ZUS car charger (which I reviewed here!), but I found it to be not as handy when plugging it into other charging units, including the battery packs that I carry with me when I hit the road. A most standard approach to the plug layout would have been more useful for me in general, and I suspect others might find similar challenges from time to time.

That said, this is an extremely well built cable that travelers will appreciate immensely. And at just $19.95, it isn't priced all that much more than most other cables on the market, while being less expensive than other ruggedized cables that I've come across.

A review of charging cables certainly isn't as sexy as the latest boots, sleeping bags, and jackets from our favorite outdoor companies, but it is still a product that most of us use on a daily basis. In this case, we're getting a cable that is built specifically for road warriors and outdoor adventurers, something that can't be said about most. If you happen to find yourself breaking or fraying your charging cables while out in the field, give the ZUS a look. I think you'll be happy with the the $20 investment, which will survive just about anywhere that you take it.

Gear Closet: Zus Smart Car Charger Makes Road Trips Easier

Planning a spring or summer road trip? Whether you're traveling to visit friend or family, or making a major overland expedition to remote corners of the globe, you're going to want to take the Zus smart car charger with you where ever you go. It will not only help you keep your mobile devices fully charged, it packs a couple of extra unexpected tricks that come in handy too.

Lets face it, since most of us carry smartphones with us no matter where we go these days, keeping the batteries charged has become a never ending struggle. And while there are hundreds of chargers available to keep our gadgets powered up in the car, I haven't come across very many of them that are as impressive as Zus.

One of the first things I noticed about this charger is that is feels solid and well built in your hands. The build quality is much higher than most other car chargers that I've used, many of which are made of cheap plastic. But Zus has a substantial feel that makes it stand out from crowd, and while you're not likely to be abusing your car charger in any way, it is nice to know that it can withstand some accidental jostling if it has to.


The Zus also comes equipped with a high quality lighting system that illuminates the device, and its twin USB ports. This makes it very easy to find in the dark, when we often struggle to plug our USB cables into the proper slots. Those same USB ports are each fully powered as well, allowing you to charge two devices at once without a loss in speed. Most other USB chargers like this one see a drop off in charge times when two gadgets are plugged in at the same time. Just how fast is it? Zus can charge two iPhone 6s smartphones in just two hours.

But the feature that really sets this charger apart is it's ability to help you find your vehicle after you've parked it. Zus actually saves your location when you stop the car, and allows you to track yourself back to that location using a specially designed app. The Zus app actually shows the location of the car on a map, and uses a compass to direct you back to where it is parked. We all know how handy that can be when you've parked some place and are having a hard time finding your way back.

Considering all of the features that the Zus delivers, not to mention how well it is made, I would expect it to cost far more than it does. The MSRP for this car charger is $35.99, which makes it more expensive than most other chargers on the market, but head and shoulder above them in performance as well. My recommendation for those of you who need to keep your devices charged on the go is to spend a little extra dough and get the product that actually delivers on its promises of fast charging and high quality design.

Order one for yourself and find out more on Zus' official website.

Gear Closet: ASAP Dash - The Fastest USB Battery Charger On the Market?

For me, one of the most life-altering pieces of technology that has appeared in my lifetime is the smartphone. Sure, mobile phones existed before the iPhone and Android appeared on the market, but those devices, coupled with great mobile operating systems and a creative app ecosystem, have fundamentally altered the way we work, play, and communicate on a daily basis.

But if those gadgets still have one fundamental flaw, its the with their battery life. As we use them throughout our day, they can run out of charge very quickly, ending up useless. Fortunately there are a wide array of portable USB battery chargers on the market that give us a quick boost of power when we start to run low. The downside of most of them however, is that they are yet another device that we need to keep charged, and if you've ever used one, they can take awhile to gather power too.

Enter the ASAP Dash, a portable USB charger that promises to be the fastest charging battery pack the market. The device is currently in the crowdfunding stage, but is well on its way of achieving the $30,000 goal that its designers need to get it into production. What sets the Dash apart from the competition is that it can save enough power to recharge an iPhone in under five minutes, or completely fill its 5000 mAh battery in just 15. That means you don't have to wait long for it to be ready, which is different from most other battery packs that I've used, which can often take hours to fully charge.

So how does it do it? Well, unlike most other portable chargers, the Dash doesn't rely on a slow micro-USB port to provide it with energy. Instead, it ships with a high capacity adapter of its own, which is capable of filling the internal battery in a matter of a few minutes. The final product will even ship with a car adapter so you can fill it up while on the road too.


In terms of design, the ASAP Dash is sleek, small, and light. It is also very rugged, and has been build to survive a drop of more than one meter, with its anodized aluminum shell keeping it safe from harm. That makes it great for travel, where weight and durability are always an issue.

I got the chance to test an early prototype model, and came away very impressed. The actual build quality of the Dash is quite nice, and it looks very classy. My model didn't quite charge as quickly as the final version, but it was close enough to get the idea of how it will function once everything is finalized. Is it fast? Most certainly so. My test unit came with a half-charge, and I was able to fill it up completely in well under ten minutes. That's not something I can say about any other charge I've used in the past.

Its clear that a lot of attention was put into the details of the Dash. For instance, in addition to the adapter charging port, there is also a micro-USB port as well, which will allow you to charge it the old fashioned way, albeit at a much slower pace. The standard USB port that is used for charging your devices is also of the smart variety, which means it auto detects the fastest speed your smartphone or tablet is capable of gathering a charge, and tunes its flow of power accordingly. And since it has 3 Amps of power, it can recharge your devices very quickly too.

That's not to say there isn't room for improvement in the ASAP Dash. For instance, I would have preferred to have two USB ports for charging rather than one so that you and a friend can use it at the same time. That's fairly standard on most chargers these days. And while the 5000 mAh battery is capable of charging most smartphones up to three times, it will hardly put a dent in the battery life of a tablet. I'd like to see a higher capacity Dash at some point down the line so I can share the rapid-charging love with my iPad too.

The Indiegogo campaign for the Dash has been underway for a few days now, and it is already more than 80% of the way towards its goal. If you order one while in the crowdfunding phase, you can get the charger for just $69. When the Dash hits retail in June it is expected to sell for $119, so this is a real bargain.

Find out more at ChargeASAP.com and in the video below.


Gear Closet: ECOXGEAR EcoPebble Powerbank Bluetooth Speaker

There is no denying that technology has brought a level of convenience and enjoyment to nearly every aspect of our lives, and that includes the outdoors. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets have put a great deal of information right int he palm of our hands, not to mention plenty of options for entertainment, navigation, and communication. It has gotten to the point now that we rarely leave home without these gadgets, whether we're setting off to run errands around town, or flying to the far side of the planet. 

One of the more popular accessories for these smart devices is a Bluetooth speaker, which allows us to listen to our favorite music, news reports, or podcasts while on the go. And over the past few years, few companies have produced speakers that are more well suited for the active, outdoor lifestyle than ECOXGEAR. Their products are rugged and durable, easy to use, have been designed to take anywhere with us. But of all of their devices that I've tested so far, none compare with the new EcoPebble Powerbank, which brings some much appreciated new options that make it a more valuable both at home, and on the road. 

For many of us who like to travel light, carrying a Bluetooth speaker on our adventures is a luxury that we often can't often afford. After all, these devices do take up extra room in our backpacks, and add unnecessary weight. But ECOXGEAR has decided to counter these arguments by making a device that is more versatile and useful, eliminating some of the reasons why we might not want to take a speaker with us when we hit the road. In this case, the Powerbank not only cranks out our favorite tunes, it also has the ability to recharge our other gadgets, and comes equipped with a built-in flashlight capable of producing 200 lumens of light when necessary.

If you've ever used one of ECOXGEAR's other speakers, you probably already know what to expect from the Powerbank in terms of build quality. The device is built like a brick, and feels nearly indestructible in your hands. It has been ruggedized against the elements, and is IP67 rated. That means it is waterproof, dustproof, and impact resistant, making it a great choice for use not just around home, but the backyard and campsite as well. In fact, the speaker is so durable, I wouldn't hesitate to take it with me just about anywhere. 

As with any modern Bluetooth device pairing is a simple affair that takes just a few seconds. Within a matter of moments you'll have audio being wirelessly fed to the Powerbank, with sound quality that is crisp and clear, even at higher volumes. Audiophiles will probably find fault with the way the speaker performs, but the vast majority of us will find that it delivers solid performance with our favorite tunes, particularly for use in an outdoor environment.

Most Bluetooth speakers have a relatively small battery, which gives them somewhere between 8-12 hours of playtime depending on the device. But the Powerbank gets its name from the fact that it has a massive 10,400 mAh lithium-ion batter, which can keep it belting out music for up to 50 hours. That is impressive in and of itself, and means that it can probably get you through most of your adventures without needing a recharge. 

But that massive battery isn't just for keeping the speaker powered up. The Powerbank also has two integrated USB ports that allows it to transfer power to other devices as well. For instance, it can recharge most smartphones up to four times, or cameras as much as eight times. It'll even power-up your full sized tablet once too. That means that when you carry this speaker with you, you're also bringing a portable power source for your other devices too. 

ECOXGEAR has also integrated a speakerphone into the Powerbank, which allows you to take calls right from the device when it is pared with a smartphone. This is a handy feature to have around home, and extends the usefulness of the device a bit further. This isn't a feature that I use often, but it is nice to have in a situation where you want to have a conference call, or allow the whole family to chat at the same time. 

The Powerbank's built-in flashlight feels a bit like an add on that isn't altogether necessary, but it is also nice to have in a pinch. As mentioned, the light source is 200 lumens, which is plenty bright for use around a dark campsite, or for emergency purposes at home when the power goes out. It won't replace a trusty headlamp of course, but it is certainly nice to have in a pinch. 

Despite its high level of build quality, enormous battery life, and level of versatility, there are still a few issues with the Powerbank. For starters, it is not only built like a brick, but it is about the size of one as well. If you like to travel light, you'll probably still have some qualms about taking this speaker with you, particularly since it weighs 1.4 pounds. That's a considerable amount of weight to add to your pack, although its increased functionality does help to offset that to a degree. 

I also found that the range on the speaker's Bluetooth chip wasn't particularly impressive. In theory, Bluetooth should have a range of about 30 feet (9 meters) or so, depending on conditions. Some devices even have greater range than that. But if you wandered more than 15-20 feet away from the speaker while carrying the audio source, the sound quality dropped off and began to cut out. I ended up leaving my smartphone next to the speaker most of the time as that ensured a good connection, but if I carried the device too far away, it left others without any music to listen to. 

Despite a few nitpicks like these however, I really like the Powerbank. It is a fun device that is truly built to survive in the outdoor. Because it is on the heavy side, I'll certainly pick and choose the times when I'll want to carry it with me. But it is a very well-built device that offers a number of features that I truly appreciate while on the road. The fact that it can not only play audio sources, but also recharge my other gadgets, is a big plus, and the flashlight is a nice bonus that adds convenience. 

The EcoPebble Powerbank is available now for $99.99. It offers solid audio performance, outstanding battery life, and useful features that go beyond what most other Bluetooth speakers can provide. That makes it easy to recommend this device for anyone looking for some backcountry entertainment around the campfire, and it would be a great gift for the adventure traveler on your list this holiday season. 



Gear Closet: Limefuel Rugged Portable Battery Pack

Keeping our electronic devices charged while we're on an expedition to a remote area can be real challenge. After all, we generally set out with a slew of gadgets with us these days, including smartphones, tablets, cameras, and other tech toys. All of those items are extremely useful when they work, but once their batteries go dead they are little more than dead weight.

With that in mind, a few months back I went looking for good solutions to help keep my iPhone and  iPad Mini running while I was climbing Kilimanjaro this past February. I discovered that there were a host of options to provide portable power, but not all of them met my requirements. I wanted something that was fairly lightweight and compact, but also rugged enough to withstand plenty of punishment too. I also wanted an option that would provide plenty of juice for my devices, as the trip was going to be 12+ days away from any kind of power outlet. I found everything I needed – and more – in the form of the Rugged battery pack from a company called Limefuel, which will no accompany me on just about every adventure that I embark upon.

I knew I had found the right product when I reached out to Limefuel to request a sample for testing and review, and they informed me that they would be happy to send one my way, provided I shared photos of me running over the Rugged in my car. The battery pack is so tough that it can survive being driven over, and still continue to operate with out the slightest hint of damage. That told me that this was the portable power source for me, and one that was meant for use on outdoor adventures.


The Rugged features two USB ports for charging multiple devices at once. Both of those ports are rated for a 2.4A output, which is a bit unusual in a product such as this one. There are other battery packs capable of charging two devices at once of course, but one of the ports is usually only capable of providing a single amp, making it underpowered and taking much longer to charge. That isn't the case here, as the Rugged will rapidly provide power to both ports, which can come in handy when you need to recharge two devices quickly.

Living up to its name, the Rugged battery pack is built to survive in the outdoors. It has a tough armored shell with a rubber finish that makes it easy to grip. It is also dust and shockproof, and water resistant with an IP66 rating. That means that it is capable of being immersed in water for a short time, and surviving. A well-placed lid snaps tightly over the USB ports as well, helping to protect them from the elements too. The result is a portable power source that is built to survive harsh conditions in some of the toughest environments imaginable.

One of the things I love about the Rugged is that it comes equipped with a 15,000 mAh battery. That is a lot of power to be carrying around in such a relatively small device. This gave me the ability to fully recharge my iPad Mini twice, and still have a bit of extra juice left over, which made some of the long nights in a tent on Kilimanjaro much more bearable as I didn't have to worry about using my device to read books, watch movies, listen to music, or play games. I knew that even if I ran the battery down, the Rugged would be available to help keep my tablet running.

Limefuel includes a cleverly designed, and very useful, charging cable with the Rugged. On one end is a standard USB plug which can be inserted into the ports of the battery pack when you're ready to charge. The other end has a micro-USB tip that can be removed to reveal a lightning port adapter for Apple products as well. Essentially, this is the only cable you need to take with you, as it allows you to charge any device you carry. As a frequent traveler, I appreciated this nice design choice, and it was great to not have to search for individual cables when I needed one.

Weighing in at 365 grams (12.8 oz), the Rugged is heavier than some of the options available from the competition. But I haven't found a battery pack that combines its durability, versatility, and power (15,000 mAh!) into one compact package. I have similar products that I have used when traveling in the past, and while some are lighter, they lack the larger battery, dual-USB ports, and the overall toughness of the Rugged. I'm sure minimalists will look for something smaller and lighter, but this is the complete package as far as I'm concerned.

The large-capacity battery does come with one drawback. It can take an incredibly long time to recharge the Rugged when it runs low on energy. Limefuel estimates that it could take anywhere from 9-15 hours when plugged into a power outlet, and I'd say that is accurate based on my testing. I powered up the battery packs overnight prior to departure on my trip, and actually used one on the long flights to Africa as well. I then topped it off again before leaving for the mountain, and had no problems from there. But you'll need to think a bit strategically about your charging situation, and take advantage of an outlet when you can.

If you're someone who needs a solution for keeping your tech gadgets powered while in remote areas, I can't possibly recommend the Limefuel Rugged highly enough. This is an excellent product that performs above my expectations. It is durable and powerful, without adding too much bulk to your pack. And with a price tag of $84.99, it is an affordable charging solution too. Limefuel also offers a model with a 10,400 mAh battery for $64.99 for those who want a slightly smaller, and less expensive, solution as well.

Either way, you can't go wrong. The Rugged battery back is going to be a constant travel companion for me from now on.

Gear Closet: Beeline iPhone Case

One of the most crucial pieces of gear that we own these days is without a doubt our smartphones. While many of us try to deny it, they truly have become a central part of our day to day operations. These gadgets not only play a significant role in keeping us in touch with the important people in our lives, but deliver a great deal of other invaluable functions as well. For instance, our smartphones maintain our calendars, provide important updates and information about what is happening in the world around us, and generally help us to navigate through life. They also have taken a role in tracking our fitness, as well as recording our adventures through photos and video. In short, a smartphone pretty much goes with us everywhere these days, and considering the important information they hold – and just how expensive they are – it is vital that we keep them safe. It is for that reason that most smartphone owners wrap their precious devices in a protective case, although even that can't always save them from disaster.

That's where the new Beeline Case for iPhone comes in handy. It not only provides a tough outer shell that protects your phone from accidental drops on hard surfaces, it quite literally has a lifeline that could save it from complete destruction. The designers behind the Beeline have cleverly installed a self-retracting kevlar cord with a tough carabiner on it so that you can always secure your device no matter where you are and what you're doing.

Judged on the merits of the case alone, the Beeline is a good choice for someone who leads an active lifestyle. It enshrouds the iPhone in a layer of protection that will keep it safe from typical daily activity, including the occasional accidental drop. The case features a hard outer shell, as well as a shock-absorbing inner-lining, that work together to keep your expensive gadget safe from harm. As you would expect, the Beeline still provides full access to the power and volume buttons, as well as an unobstructed view for the all important camera.


I appreciated the fact that the case the rubberized outer coating of the case made it very easy to grip. I never felt like I was in danger of dropping it, which isn't the case with some competitors. I also like that it fits snugly around the phone, but isn't too difficult to remove. It is a bit on the thicker side however, which may turn some iPhone owners away, but when you consider that it is meant to be used in active pursuits, such as climbing, hiking, trail running, and so on, it makes a lot of sense that the designers at Beeline elected to go with a higher level of protection versus a thinner shell.

Of course, there are plenty of iPhone cases available that can provide this level of protection. What sets the Beeline apart from the crowd however is its integrated carabiner on the end of a 30-inch Kevlar cord. This allows you to clip your phone onto a belt loop, zipper, backpack, or just about anything else you want to secure it to. The value in this extra option is that if you drop your phone while doing some of the activities you love, it won't actually smash against the ground, destroying the gadget you love too.

Inside the case is a sprocket that allows the cord to be easily pulled out, and easily retracts it when you want to store it away. A button on the back of the case is pressed one direction when you want to add a bit more slack to the cable, and it is pressed another direction when you want to pull some of it back in. It is a well designed system that works surprisingly well. It also goes a very long way towards providing a nice sense of security for your mobile device.

Awhile back I also tested the Highline case from Kenu, which uses a similar idea of incorporating a safety line for your phone. These two products have a similar philosophy, but are actually quite different from one another. For instance, the Highline is a much lighter case, providing only a minimal amount of protection and relying on its cord to prevent major damage. Meanwhile, the Beeline acts much more like a suit of armor for phone, although it adds more weight and bulk to the package. Also, with the Highline the cord is not integrated into the design in anyway, which means it is easier to forget or lose. With the Beeline, it is part of the package, meaning you'll always have it with you when you need it.

The Beeline case is available for the iPhone 5, 6, and 6 Plus. It comes in a variety of colors and carries a price tag of $59.99. That is twice the price of the Highline case, but considering the higher level of protection the Beeline brings to the table, it is worth the investment for climbers, runners, mountain bikers, or other outdoor enthusiasts who like to use their smartphones on their adventures. This is a high quality, well built product that could potentially save you a lot of money and heartache. We all drop our smartphones from time to time. It isn't a matter of "if," but more likely "when." Having this case on your iPhone will help protect it from those unexpected mishaps.

Gear Closet: Cogito Connected Watch (Updated!)

Update: After applying a firmware update to the Cogito Classic watch the issues I've mentioned below about it not staying connected to my iPhone have pretty much disappeared. That said, the device now puts more of a hit on the battery of my phone as well. The tradeoff is that you have a much more reliable connection between the two devices for passing updates, messages, and so on.

One of the hottest trends in technology at the moment is in field of wearables. With the impending release of the Apple Watch, there is a lot of buzz about smartwatches can do for consumers, although it has yet to be seen if there is a true market for these products. But Apple's latest gadget isn't the first entry into this rapidly developing space. There are a number of options available, including a wide variety of Android Wear devices, and the very successful Pebble line as well. Recently, I've had a chance to catch a glimpse of what all the fuss is about while testing the Cogito Classic Connected Watch, a timepiece that both shows the potential of these products, and sheds some light on their shortcomings as well.

At first glance, the Cogito Classic doesn't look like it is a smartwatch at all. In fact, it actually appears to be a rather stylish casual watch that you would wear for many occasions without drawing attention to its tech-centric features. Available with a wide variety of leather, nylon, and metal bands, it can take on a surprising number of looks, while its stainless steel body is eye-catching without being overly flashy in any way. This isn't always the case with other smartwatches, many of which stand out due to their poor design. But while wearing the watch over the past few weeks I've had more than a few people compliment me on how good it looks. When I explain a bit further about what it can do, they are often intrigued further.

In addition to looking much like a normal watch, the Cogito Classic has a few tricks up its sleeve. With its integrated Bluetooth technology, it is capable of paring with your smartphone (both iOS and Android) to provide basic information right on your wrist. For instance, it can tell you when you have received new emails or app notifications, and alert you to upcoming appointments on your calendar. It will also tell you when you have a new text message as well, and display it on a tiny screen hidden on the watch face. It can even alert you to incoming phone calls, providing the caller ID on that same screen. The device is also able to act as a remote control for playing music from your smartphone, and can snap photos with its camera too. As if that wasn't enough, the watch also functions as a basic activity monitor as well, keeping track of the number of steps you take throughout the day as well.


Much of the functionality baked into this watch is meant to provide convenience for the user. The alerts and notifications allow you to have some idea of what is going on with your phone without ever having to take it out of your pocket or bag. This can be enormously helpful when you're in a meeting or other gathering where looking at your phone is frowned upon, as a glance at your watch is much more subtle and less distracting.

While in theory all of that sounds great, in the real world it doesn't always function as nicely as it could. For instance, the watch will buzz at you constantly to alert you that you have emails or notifications waiting, but it isn't capable of displaying any of those messages on its screen. You still end up having to take your phone out to see exactly what is waiting for you. That might be a good thing though, as the Classic's screen is so tiny that it is difficult to read much on it anyway. When it does display a text message or calendar alert, it needs to scroll multiple times just to give you the notification. You won't simply be glancing at your watch to read a text message, you'll have to wait patiently for it to appear on the very small display.

That said, it is nice to be able to see those text messages, calendar events, and caller ID's displayed on your wrist. This actually gives us a tantalizing hint of the potential that smartwatches could deliver, I just wish the Cogito could offer a bit more in that area. But that's part of the problem with the Classic, it feels like there is a lot of potential here, but it it is hamstrung somewhat by the small display and lack of full interactivity with either the iPhone or Android devices.

Cogito is very careful in marketing this product as a "connected" watch rather than a smartwatch. I think that is a wise move on their part, as this is clearly not in the same category as the Apple Watch, which will be capable of doing a heck of a lot more once it is released. Of course, Apple's product also comes at a much higher price tag than this one, and it needs to be recharged every day. Cogito uses standard watch batteries in their devices, and claims it only needs to be replaced about once a year.

One of the main problems I had with this watch was keeping it connected to my iPhone. Pairing the two devices via Bluetooth is a simple matter, but if they wander more than about 20-30 feet from one another, they'll loose their connection. Typically they'll automatically reconnect to one another once back in range, but not always. I've had to manually reconnect on more than one occasion, and sometimes it requires jumping through a few hoops to make that happen.

On top of that, there are sometimes delays in notifications arriving on the watch. On occasion I'll actually feel or hear my phone buzz to tell me I received a text message or some other kind of update, but it takes the watch awhile to actually refresh and display the alert. While I don't expect instantaneous updates, I would expect them to be a bit more consistent with timing. Anything more than a few seconds seems less convenient, as often I could have taken my phone out of my pocket, and read the message before the watch has passed on the alert.

I will say that Cogito stands behind the watch very nicely. The company continues to push out firmware updates to improve functionality and reliability, and they have routinely updated the iOS companion app as well. This is  good sign for anyone who is actually thinking of purchasing the Classic, as it means that you'll get a device that continues to improve and be refined. One example of this is the fitness tracking aspects of the watch. That wasn't part of its original feature set, but it was added later.

If you're in the market for a great looking watch that can provide some "connected" functionality than the Cogito Classic is a good buy. It's ability to provide notifications and alerts is useful, even if it doesn't deliver completely on the promise of a smartwatch. The basic fitness tracking features are a nice addition as well, and as a frequent traveler I appreciate its dual-time capability too. This watch is also quite affordable at $179.95, comparing favorably to the Apple Watch which starts at $350. Add in the fact that the battery lasts for months, rather than hours, and you can begin to see how the two companies have taken a different approach to putting technology on your wrist.

I am a person who pretty much wears a watch every waking hour of the day. As such, I have several watches to choose from depending on the days activities and the social setting. The Cogito Classic fits in nicely with that line-up, offering some extra functionality that I don't get out of the others in my collection. I appreciate that it is stylish and good looking too, although it now has me intrigued about what a more full featured smartwatch will be capable of. I'm not sure yet if I'll invest in an Apple Watch, but I definitely see the potential that is there.

Adventure Tech: Sonim XP7 Ruggedized Smartphone

Adventure travelers and outdoor enthusiasts looking for the ultimate smartphone to take with them on their excursions may want to check out the new Sonim XP7, a device built to withstand just about any type of punishment, and keep coming back for more. The phone is currently seeking crowdfunding through an Indegogo campaign, but is quickly closing in on its goal. As of this writing, it has already raised nearly $130,000 (of its $150,000 goal), with 34 more days left to go. In short, that means it is already a success, and should begin shipping in early 2015.

So, what exactly does the Sonim XP7 bring to the table? Well for starters, it is designed to work in extreme environments. The manufacturer says that it is weatherproof down to -4ºF/-20ºC and can operate in heat in excess of 131ºF/55ºC. It is also waterproof to an IP 68/69 certification, which means it can withstand being submerged in 6.5 feet (2 meters) of water for up to 30 minutes. The XP7's ruggedized outer shell is also capable of withstanding a drop onto concrete from a height of 6.5 feet (2 meters) as well. If that wasn't enough to convince you the device is tough, Sonim is also backing up the product with a 3-year warranty.

In terms of being a smartphone, the XP7 runs the Android operating system (Android 4.4 KitKat), and comes equipped with a 4800 mAh battery that is said to provide 1000 hours of stand-by time, and up to 40 hours of talk time. If those numbers are accurate, that is amazing battery life for a smartphone, and particularly one that runs Android. The phone also has an 8MP camera and is capable of shooting 1080p video, even underwater. The phone runs on GSM networks, and has LTE capabilities for high speed mobile data as well.

There are multiple levels for contributing to the Indegogo campaign that is currently underway, but probably the one that will be most interesting to consumers is the $579 contributor point, which not only gets you the Sonim XP7 phone, but some other nice items as well. Anyone who helps fund the device at that level, also receives a Sonim Bluetooth headset, a micro-USB adapter, a $200 trade-in credit towards a new Sonim phone in 2016, and an "explorer virtual goodie bag" which contains one month of free voice and data service on Ultra Mobile, a coupon for $100 off an Oru Kayak, and a coupon for 20% off at Fisher Boards.

If you're in the market for a new smartphone, and you're having a hard time finding anything that can survive your active lifestyle, than perhaps the Sonim XP7 is the answer. It is still a couple of months from being released, but if you act now, you can get it at a great price before launch. Find out more here.


Adventure Tech: New Rugged, Waterproof Cases for iPhone 6

If you're one of the millions of people – like me – who rushed out to get the latest iPhone from Apple, you may be wondering which case is the best option for when you want to take your shiny new device with you on an adventure. While there are plenty of cases, and other accessories, available for the iPhone 6 already, there aren't many choices for those who need a rugged, waterproof solution to protect their smartphone. Fortunately, help is on the way, as the brilliant minds over at LUNATIK have announced an Indiegogo campaign for two new cases that will soon shroud our iPhone's in protective armor.

The two new cases aren't expected to ship until the first quarter of 2015, in part because of some revised requirements from Apple. But when they do ship, the new Taktik 360 and Aquatik promise to deliver an unprecedented level of protection. Both models are designed to be airtight, keeping all of the ports and membranes on the iPhone completely safe. The Taktik and Aquatik are IP68 certified, which means they can be submersed in two meters of water for an hour, and still survive. The cases are sealed up so tight, they even offer excellent protection from dust and sand, allowing you to carry your iPhone into just about any environment. And of course, they also come with fantastic drop protection, thanks to LUNATIK's well known rugged designs. This helps to keep your phone completely safe from harm, even when dropped from incredibly high heights.

The company has already achieved its goal with the Indiegogo campaign, with 23 days left to. Pre-orders are now up for the Taktik and Aquatik models for iPhone 6, with an iPhone 6+ version coming soon. And while you wait for the new cases to ship, LUNATIK will even give you their Seismik case for free.

Personally, I love my new iPhone 6, and I wasn't exactly a proponent of the larger size. It is something that I've gotten use to, although it isn't always easy to use or hold with one hand. As a result, I think a case is needed now, more than ever in the past. Particularly if you like to take your phone with you on your adventures. Find out more about these new cases by clicking here, and watching the video the below.


TAKTIK 360 + AQUATIK from LUNATIK on Vimeo.