Portable power gets more rugged, even floats, for the outdoors

Check out the latest outdoor electronic gadgets to hit retail shelves in 2015.
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Once a rarity and an annoyance outdoors, smartphones have become a staple for most excursions.

That’s leading outdoor brands to adapt their focus and emerge to cater to the “smart” packer. From battery packs that keep tech gear alive to cases and mounting systems to keep it safe, show goers saw more booths at Outdoor Retailer that focus on the now omnipresent gadgets.

Brunton has made it a point to create specific categories for different users. “We’ve segmented the line, and now we’re creating outdoor lifestyle (price point), outdoor performance (higher end) and outdoor professional stuff,” said Erron Sorensen, president at Brunton Outdoor Group. For professionals, it has the high-end Bolt series, which includes the Bolt (MSRP $1,099), a 12-pound lithium polymer battery capable of fully charging a MacBook Air about six times, and the BOLT XL ($1,899), that’s double the size and power. “We made these for geologists and mines and other people who work and are way off the grid,” Sorensen said.

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On the consumer side, simply charging a device isn’t enough to make a charger stand out anymore. UCO is going the way of the Swiss Army knife with its Tetra (MSRP $50) USB charger … and lantern … and flashlight. The Tetra’s 2.5AH lithium-ion battery sports a 150-lumen LED beam that can illuminate up to 150 feet, and the split ring lets you hang it while using it as a lantern. It’s even got a glow-in-the-dark power button, so you can find it in the dark.

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Goal Zero follows suit with the Switch 10 USB Multi-tool kit (MSRP $140). Touted as an advanced version of their Switch 8, the Switch 10 will include a solar panel, flashlight, fan tools/attachments, and a micro-USB or certified Apple Lightning cable.

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Tough cases are another trend we’re seeing on the floor, as Outdoor Tech is shows its 6000mAm Kodiak Battery Pack (MSRP $50). The 9.6-ounce pack is dustproof, shock resistant and IPX-7 waterproof. Goal Zero also is going the waterproof route with its Venture 30W (MSRP $99) charger, including two completely sealed USB ports (which means no rubber plug that can break off). The Venture has a feature that allows it to adapt its USB outputs anywhere up to 2.1A to deliver the best charge for a variety of devices. Brunton ups the waterproof game with the Revolt (MSRP $49) battery pack, which is not just waterproof, but it also floats, so retrieval won’t require scuba gear if it falls out of the boat.

If you want to generate power as well as store it, Secur has the Sun Power Pad 3000 (MSRP $90), which has a 5.8- by 7.5-inch surface with a 3.7V/3000mAh lithium battery attached, and can charge in 2.5-3 hours of direct sunlight.

There are a variety of new mounting options for cameras and smartphones. One to check out is Peak Design’s strap-mounting systems. Known primarily for quick-draw camera mounts, Peak Design’s newest offering is its Capture POV (MSRP $70), which allows users to mount cameras facing forward, letting them use any point-and-shoot as a POV camera.

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Wires are out of vogue, as evidenced by Outdoor Tech’s lineup of wireless accessories. This year, it unveils the fully waterproof Orca wireless headphones (MSRP $99), which have the same specs as the old version — 6 hours of talk and music time and 150 hours of standby time — but they’ve upgraded the splash-resistance to total submersion.

--Billy Brown

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