With the balmy weather and a relaxing pause from hectic day-to-day life during Golden Week, I’m sure many people have been inspired to start planning some kind of getaway to the countryside when things really heat up.

Many may argue that a trip out of the city for camping, hiking, or even a daytime barbecue, is a time to relax and leave the gadgets at home. For others, however, an escape to the woods is all about flashy new tools. Here’s a round-up of a few toys to make your summer adventures easier, more fun, and safer.

BioLite CampStove

So, you arrive at your campsite around dusk and set up camp. It’s time to get dinner going with a fire, and perhaps sit around listening to music. But how to light the night and charge that iPod? This is where the BioLite CampStove comes in handy. While there are plenty of different kinds of gas camping stoves around — not to mention the comfort of a good old-fashioned campfire — the BioLite CampStove is a safe, clean, easy option with an incredible perk.

First of all, it efficiently burns wood and other bio-matter that can be collected around your site or on a short hike. The BioLite is also quick to light and heats up fast, eliminating the hassle of starting a fire and getting those growling stomachs satisfied faster. It weighs less than 1 kg and folds for easy packing. And if that doesn’t sell the device, here’s that amazing perk: in addition to fueling the cooking fire, the BioLite collects escaping heat and converts it to electricity that can be used to charge your gadgets. This is great for keeping torches lit, and smartphones charged, and comes in handy when you need to use the GPS or look up song lyrics for those campfire sing-a-longs.

The BioLite CampStove can be ordered through the BioLite website at biolitestove.com and retails for $129.

UMI USHI Solar charging system

A more conventional, though by no means less ingenious, way to charge the electronic gadgets that — even on camping trips — are such a normal part of life these days, is to use solar power. PANS Ltd. has recently come out with a convenient solar charging system which consists of a panel of solar cells called the UMI USHI Solar Turbo Charge, and the UMI USHI Tablet battery for storing the juice.

The Solar Turbo Charge comes with a case that can be secured to a car window or other smooth surface using suction cups or can be set upright on its stand, facing the sun. On its back, it has a pouch to hold the Tablet battery pack. Small devices such as phones, smartphones, tablets and mobile game consoles can all be charged directly from the panel during daylight, but the Tablet battery would certainly come in handy for storing power and charging up at night.

The Tablet has two different models, the 5500 and the 2800 (storing 5,500 and 2,800 mAh [milliamps hours] respectively). They come with a selection of adaptors for all makes of Japanese mobile phones and can charge other gadgets using a USB. Both Tablet models have a maximum output of 5V/1A. The 5500 can handle two devices at a time with double USB ports while the 2800 has one. Both Tablets come in either blue and white or black and pink, and have four LED indicators to verify the state of the current charge. Marketed as an essential addition to any disaster kit, it will hopefully get more use during leisure time.

UMI USHI Solar Turbo Charge is ¥6,980 while the Tablet 5500 is ¥7,560, and the Tablet 2800 is ¥5,980. www.ipodstyle.net/products/pans/umiushi.html

Pin Light

A new concept in camping innovation recently garnered a red dot design award. Called the Pin Light it was created by Kim Jung Su, Kim Dong Hwan, Yoon Ji Soo and Yoon Jae Sun. The design combines the function of tent stakes with the added feature of solar-powered lighting. As anyone who has ever been camping knows, cables and stakes are a serious hazard on a dark and crowded campsite. If the Pin Light does make it to market, I imagine that they will need to be made of a super durable material, or should only be used on grass and other soft surfaces as a mallet swing to the solar panel and light seems likely to reduce it to a mere stake. Pin Light stakes would come in very useful at large events where masses of tents in close proximity make it both difficult to find your own, as well treacherous to navigate between tents without getting clotheslined. Here’s hoping we see this in stores soon.

For more info head to: red-dot.sg/concept/porfolio/o_e/RC/R246.htm Jess Mantell is a PhD student in the department of Media Design at Keio University. Follow tweets about design, technology and urbanism @jessmantell.

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