Tech toys to bring along for sunny outdoor fun

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      Most of us are perfectly content to work indoors when it is rainy and grey. But when the sun shines, any excuse to be outdoors, even if it’s just to test new shiny devices like a camcorder for our cycling helmet or an LED lantern, is a good one.

      Motorola Atrix 4G
      ($24.95 with three-year contract to $600 without contract; Bell)
      The Motorola Atrix 4G received all kinds of love after its unveiling at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. The Atrix has a dual-core processor and a four-inch qHD screen that looks good and is super-fast, but other smartphones, like Sony Ericsson’s Xperia arc, have similar features. What makes the Atrix unique is the smart way Motorola decked out its accessories. This phone becomes the brains for other devices. A lapdock ($299.95)—a thin shell with a keyboard and screen—turns the Atrix into a serviceable laptop when it’s docked. The HD multimedia dock ($129.95), which includes an IR remote, can connect the phone to a monitor or TV for webtop applications, including video-viewing and surfing, while allowing the user to still make phone calls.

      SteriPen and Water Bottle Pre-Filter
      ($68; Mountain Equipment Co-op)
      The SteriPen and Water Bottle Pre-Filter uses shortwave UV light to disinfect water, acting as a purifier and pre-filter. Stick the device, which runs on batteries, in water and it disrupts the DNA of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, the organisms that can cause parasitic diseases such as malaria. The pre-filter helps remove particulates and debris from water. While the SteriPen won’t guarantee you clear and infection-free water, it can lessen microbial contamination in mildly turbid water.

      Owle Bubo
      ($170; )
      I first saw this gadget while on a news assignment in Prince George and was impressed by the one-person-news-unit reporter who was able to file her story, as well as post video and audio using the Owle Bubo attached to her iPhone. She had a hard time wrestling it back from me after graciously letting me try it. This tripod/microphone/macro lens is designed for the iPhone 3G, 3GS, and 4 as well as the fourth-generation iPod Touch. The sturdy grip stabilizes the unit. An accompanying lens gives images a much more realistic colouring and the 0.45x wide-angle/macro combination lens increases the field of view. Third-party lenses can also fit. The Owle Bubo, which also has a very responsive external microphone, is a heavy little thing at half a kilogram with its aluminum casing. While that’s five times heavier than an iPod Touch, this device may be worth the extra weight.

      Snow Peak Hozuki LED Candle Lantern
      ($89; Mountain Equipment Co-op)
      The Snow Peak Hozuki LED Candle Lantern looks like a candle but has the safety features and convenience of an LED. It’s a great add-on for those camping or boating trips this summer. This light runs on four AA batteries or can be powered with a mini USB cord. It has three preset light settings, and provides illumination for eight hours on high, 20 hours on the medium setting, and 80 hours on low. Best of all, its silicon-rubber shade can be squished down for travel purposes.

      Contour Wearable Sports and Helmet HD Camcorder
      ($280 to $400; Best Buy)
      The Contour Wearable Sports and Helmet HD Camcorder provides proof you really were where you said you were and did catch that wave or make it down the mountain on your bike exactly as you described it. Every moment is recorded in 1080p video, and there’s a sharp built-in mike. The one-button recording makes it easy to get started, and then you just let the camera take over while you concentrate on steering or staying upright. There are two versions, one for $280 and a GPS-featured one for $400, and it’s easy to mount on helmets, handlebars, skateboards, or even a surfboard. While not entirely waterproof, it’s water-resistant enough to use in the snow or rain.

      Pandigital WikiReader
      ($44.95; Future Shop)
      The Pandigital WikiReader is a device I can’t figure out. It’s either pure genius or the biggest waste of money this summer. Hailed as putting Wikipedia in your pocket, it lurks among ebook devices and looks like a large pedometer that you would get free in a cereal box. This gadget is both addictive and frustrating to use. Its 3.5-inch touchscreen display moves upward or downward but not from side to side. Besides the on-off switch at the top, the device has only three buttons—Search, History, and Random on the main body—and it fits easily in the palm of your hand. It comes pre-installed with three million topics, so can be used anywhere—no Internet connection needed. Content is updated quarterly and available online or on a microSD card. Chances are, if you go into the Future Shop on Robson Street, you’ll see the exact device I tested on the stand, because none of the units had sold yet, according to one of the sales reps in the store. When I typed in “How much to tip”, the answer that came up was “Mull Historical Society”, the name of a Scottish rock band. A second attempt returned the entry for the 1981 R & B hit single “How ’Bout Us” by the musical group Champaign. I was strangely impelled to continue pressing on the small touchscreen keyboard to find random facts. If you press the Random button, however, you have to enter a password, as the unit has a built-in lock for parental controls. Who would buy one? I have no idea. But I did get a kick out of looking at other entries and discovered that the person testing out the device before me had entered the word psilotaceae. If you had one of these, you too could figure out what that word means.