From a wireless barbecue thermometer to personal weather stations to the ItchZapper, gadgets can help you enjoy the outdoors this summer.
By DAVE GUSSOW
Published June 23, 2003
Stick a sensor in your steak and keep tabs on your back-yard barbecue from the living room with the Wireless BBQ Thermometer, from Radio Shack.
The Smartcast uses a bobber, sonar and a wrist monitor to track fish.
Ellulas HotAirSubwoofer system features two inflatable speakers and a subwoofer that can be hooked up to a portable CD, MiniDisc or MP3 player.
Forget the heat. Ignore the humidity. Grab some gadgets and head for the great outdoors.
Some purists say electronics interfere with communing with nature. Personal Tech says if it lures you away from your homebound electronics, go for it.
Besides, some of the gadgets we found are not on our traditional menu for electronics.
The wireless barbecue: Standing over a hot fire to cook is a summer tradition. But the Radio Shack Wireless BBQ Thermometer ($49.99) gives you room to roam, up to 100 feet from the barbecue in fact. You put a probe into the food on the grill. It has settings from rare to well done, and works with eight types of meat and fish. The probe sends a signal to a wireless receiver that you can clip to your belt. It beeps when the food is done.
Music's in the air: Here you can truly pump up the volume. The HotAirSubwoofer $99, www.ellula.com) is an inflatable stereo speaker system. Deflated, it's about one-tenth the size of when it's used. Inflated, it's about 9 inches tall and, the company says, the plastic helps the sound resonate. It works with CD, MP3 and MiniDisc portable music players, according to the company. It weighs about 6 pounds and can fit in a backpack when it's not inflated. Less powerful and lighter models without the subwoofer cost about $50.
For those looking for music and convenience at the beach or picnic, the Jeep AM/FM Radio Insulated Cooler Box ($70) provides both. It's water-resistant, but batteries are not included.
Watching the weather: It's not too difficult to know what the weather forecast is in Florida this time of year: hot, with a chance of afternoon thunderstorms. But the weather intrigues a lot of people, and home weather stations are, um, hot. A number of companies such as RainWise (www.rainwise.com) La Crosse Technology (www.weathermeter.com) and Oregon Scientific (www.oregonscientific.com) have models that can be as fancy as you want. For example, the RainWise WS-2000 ($990) is wireless and solar-powered, and it covers everything from wind speed and direction to relative humidity.
For those on the go, the Storm Hawk system ($549.99 for software, $9.95 a month for service) uses GPS and wireless communications to send current weather data to a personal digital assistant.
Yard work: Watering restrictions can put a real crimp in keeping a yard green. But a couple of gadgets might help you conserve a drop or two. The wireless S.Sense from Digital Sun $149, digitalsun.com monitors the soil moisture through a stake with a transmitter. It sends a signal to a box connected to a sprinkler system, which can regulate when water is needed. Davis Instruments ($195, www.davis.net) has a similar wireless leaf and soil moisture station.
Keeping cool: A patio umbrella provides some relief from the heat. Add a fan and it could be downright comfy. Okay, that may be pushing it. Summer Blast Inc. has what it calls the first outdoor patio umbrella fan ($40). According to the company, it fits under any traditional patio umbrella, takes about five minutes to install - but doesn't include batteries.
Down with bugs: What would Florida be without bugs? Heaven? Two gadgets at the Vacation Gadget Man site (www.beachcomber.com) caught our eye. The Electro-Stun Swatter ($11.75 on sale) looks like a tennis racket. But flip the switch, give it a good forehand and fry flying critters that invade your space. In case a bug nonetheless gets to you, the ItchZapper ($18.95) puts heat on the bite and, according to the site, eliminates the urge to itch.
A shore thing: Fishing types who use boats have had electronic fish finders for years. Now, we who prefer to wet a line from shore can use tech to track our prey. The Smartcast RF30 $89, www.humminbird.com) uses a bobber and a sonar sensor to detect fish down to 100 feet. It wirelessly transmits a signal to a wrist monitor, where fish show up as silhouettes or dots.
- Information from Times wires was used in this report. Dave Gussow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727 445-4228.