Gadling’s gift guide for the outdoor and adventure traveler

In this first of several Gadling gift guides, we’ll follow the tradition of all other sites by suggesting some great gift ideas for travelers. Today, we’ll take a closer look at some impressive kit for the outdoors and adventure traveler.

Since I am more geek than adventurer, you’ll notice a trend towards battery powered gadgets. Some of these great products were featured here on Gadling this year, others will be reviewed in the coming weeks, so keep paying attention to our product reviews!
Contour HD camera

The Contour HD is a lightweight HD digital camera that can be attached to almost any surface. It features a really impressive wide angle rotating lens. To top it off – the camera also features 2 lasers, which help adjust the camera so you know exactly what you are shooting.

One of the coolest features of the ContourHD is its large sliding record button, which allows you to immediately start recording whenever you want, without having to fiddle with small knobs. The slider is large enough to operate when you are wearing gloves.

The camera itself is only part of the package – once you have recorded some awesome adventure footage, you can share it with the world on the VholdR ContourHD community. If you have recently paid attention to Mike Rowe on “Dirty Jobs”, you’ll have noticed him climbing off the edge of a building using one of these cameras to record his antics. We’ll have a full review of the ContourHD here on Gadling next week.

Price: $279.99 (Contour HD) and $329.99 (Contour HD 1080p)
Where: ContourHD retailers

180s Quantum Vent gloves with Tec Touch

There is very little “high tech” about most gloves, unless those gloves are the new Quantum Vent gloves by 180s. These gloves are obviously designed to keep your hands warm, but they also feature an adjustable venting system and a goggle wipe.

The really cool feature comes from 180s patented “Tec Touch” system. This nifty invention allows you to control your iPod or other capacitive touch screen device without having to take your hands out of your gloves. Metal conducting fabric on the inside of the gloves, and a metal tipped finger make it possible to switch tracks or start your iPhone fart app on the slopes.

Price: $75
Where: 180s product page

Garmin Oregon 400t

You can tell I’m not much of an outdoors person, because I’m the kind of person that would pick a GPS unit before even thinking about good boots. Still, a good outdoors GPS device can be a real handy piece of kit.

One of the best outdoor units is the Garmin Oregon 400t. This device combines a waterproof touchscreen GPS unit with a compass, barometer and even wireless connectivity with other Oregon devices. You can plot tracks, view topographic maps and of course, find your way back to basecamp (or your car).We reviewed the 400t earlier this year.

Price: $499.99
Where: Garmin product page

Eagle Creek Take 2 ORV Trunk 28

Adventure travel is not always lightweight travel. If you need to haul a lot of gear, then check out the new Eagle Creek Take 2 ORV Trunk. This large rolling case features 2 separate compartments, with enough room for a ton of kit. The bag works as a rolling trunk, or as a shoulder bag (with the included shoulder strap). If holds 49 liters of stuff, and weighs just 12lbs when empty, which is really impressive for a bag this large.

Compression straps help reduce its bulk. and “off road” wheels let you pull it through smooth hotel floors as easily as through muddy trails. A full review of this bag is coming up later in December.

Price: $350
Where: Eagle Creek product page

SPOT Personal satellite messenger

If you really love the outdoors, you’ll regularly find yourself well out of range of cellphone signals. This is where the SPOT personal satellite messenger can help. This small device communicates with a constellation of satellites to relay your position, inform people that you are “ok”, or send an emergency message in need of immediate assistance.

Sure, it may not be a replacement for a true emergency beacon, but at just under $150, it is a really handy tool, with a proven track record of saving lives. We reviewed the previous (larger) generation SPOT unit last year.

Price: $149.95 + $99 annual subscription
Where: SPOT retailers

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TX1 waterproof camera

Heading to cool locations is great, but if you’d like to share your trips, you’ll need a camera that can survive the elements. The Panasonic DMC-TX1 is a waterproof and shock/drop proof digital camera. Its internal 4.6x wide angle zoom lens shoots in 12 megapixels, and allows you to record HD video clips. We reviewed the Lumix DMC-TX1 here.

Price: $379.99 (MSRP)
Where: Panasonic Lumix retailers

Gadling gear review – Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 waterproof digital camera

In this Gadling gear review, I’ll introduce you to one of the newest cameras in the Panasonic Lumix lineup. The DMS-TS1 is the first shock and waterproof from Panasonic. The basic specifications are very respectable – 12 megapixel photos, a 4.6x wide angle optical zoom with image stabilization and HD movies recorded in “AVCHD lite”.

Of course, what sets the DMC-TS1 apart from most other digital cameras is its ability to go swimming with you.

The waterproof rating allows you to take the camera in up to 10 feet of water for up to one hour – this is a real underwater rating, not just splashes. In addition to this, it’ll also survive falls up to 5 feet and the design also makes it dust proof.

The design of the camera is awesome – not only do you get a camera that is built to survive the elements, it also looks like it was designed to survive them. A rugged metal frame, and big buttons give it the perfect balance of style and ruggedness.

On the back of the camera are buttons for maneuvering through the menu, switching to playback or video mode and a selector dial for picking the photo mode you want to shoot in.

On the bottom is the battery compartment and memory card slot. These are both behind a waterproof door, protected by a seal. The lock/unlock slider shows a clear red warning when it is not closed correctly.

Photo performance

Photos and video made with the DMS-TS1 look good. For some reason, I did notice that the glass lens picks up more grime than most other cameras, and because it does not feature a (built in) lens cover, I’d recommend bringing a lens wipe with you.

Videos look good – the AVCHD Lite format makes very acceptable 720p HD videos. The audio does leave a little to be desired, as the camera picks up a lot of background noise.

You can transfer files to your PC, or watch them on your HDTV using an HDMI cable. No HD cable is included, so you will have to invest in a MiniHDMI > HDMI cable (about $10 from or the Panasonic Component digital cable.

The DMC-TS1 does come with a standard (non-HD) cable and a USB transfer cable. Sadly, the USB cable is a proprietary Panasonic design, so be sure not to lose it.

For most people, the Panasonic Intelligent mode will be more than sufficient – this setting has all the gimmicks you need to make good photos. In scene mode, you can select from 24 different settings. The camera features a dedicated underwater mode, as well as a couple of neat effect modes.

Day to day operation

The DMC-TS1 is fairly snappy, and does not suffer from the slow performance I’ve found on some other Panasonic cameras. Startup time is about 2 seconds, and once on, you can take photos right away. The menu system is very easy to use, and all the features can be accessed very quickly.

My only minor gripe with the operation of the DMC-TS1 is with the zoom slider button. Because it too had to be made waterproof, it is quite hard to operate, and requires a lot of pressure to slide. After a lot of zoom work, your fingers will actually hurt.

Final thoughts

I’m impressed with the DMC-TS1 – it takes all the things I like about the Panasonic Lumix line of cameras, and adds enough protection to turn it into a very travel friendly camera that will be at home on a sightseeing trip, or a day at the beach.

Obviously, the fact that it does not take regular AA or AAA batteries means you’ll need to invest in a second (or third) battery. One word of warning about batteries – the Lumix DMC-TS1 will only work with original Panasonic batteries.

One issue I do want to point out is the warranty – in reading some of the consumer reviews of the DMC-TS1, it would appear that some extra attention is warranted in keeping the camera protected. One of the things that keeps popping up is the recommendation to replace the seals once a year. This is a $140 job. Also, even though the camera is sold as being shock & waterproof, if you do drop it, Panasonic recommends replacing the seals in order to keep it waterproof. This is one of those products that may deserve the extra investment in an extended warranty.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 is available in orange, green and silver. Its retail price is $379.99, but many retailers are selling it for just over $300. You’ll find the Panasonic DMC-TS1 are your favorite camera retailer or

Gadling gear review – Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1

Last year, we picked the Panasonic DMS-TZ5 as one of our top 25 travel technology products of 2008. That camera featured a 10x optical zoom and took photos in 9 megapixels. Today, I’ll introduce you to the successor of that camera – the Lumix DMC-ZS1.

The DMC-ZS1 builds on the excellent features of the TZ5 by increasing its zoom to 12x, and making photos in 10 megapixels. Sadly, it does lose its HD video ability, but with an online retail price of under $240, it is one of the cheapest compact ultra-zoom cameras on the market. A slightly beefier version of the DMC-ZS1 is available as the DMC-ZS3 which adds a larger screen and HD video capability. It retails for $399 ($320 street price).

To give you a bit of an idea what a 12x optical zoom can pull off, check out the 2 photos posted above. They were shot from the same spot. I’ve included high resolution versions of these photos in a gallery below.

Videos are shot in WVGA or VGA, which is a step down from the HD clips shot with the DMC-TZ5. The interface is a pleasure to use, and it keeps its buttons to a minimum. I did find the selector dial on the top to be a bit too easy to control, and often when taking it out of a carrying bag, the dial had changed to a different setting.

The camera is very “pocketable”, and despite a bit of a bulge around the lens (when retracted), it is still small enough to carry around all day. Startup time is almost 3 seconds and the time between shots (flash off) is about 2 seconds, which may be a little on the slow side for people looking to make action photos. The slow startup speed is most likely due to the speed at which the lens extends.

The quality of photos made with the camera are slightly above with what you’d expect from a camera in this price range. The camera has an optical image stabilizer which actually works quite well. Its intelligent mode is perfect for people (like me) who get confused by terms like ISO. The camera also offers a whole host of intelligent shooting modes, which take the guessing work out of changing the settings.

Final thoughts

All in all, I found the DMC-ZS1 to be a worthy successor to the DMC-TZ5. The loss of HD video is more than made up thanks to its impressive zoom lens and boost in megapixels. Operation is a breeze, which means even the most amateur photographers won’t have a problem controlling the camera, and making the most of its various features. The scene selections are: Candle, Beach, Snow, High sensitivity, Starry sky, Soft skin, Baby, Portrait mode, Aerial photo, Hi-speed burst, Clipboard, Film grain, Pin hole, Party/indoor, Night portrait, Self-portrait, Pet, Scenery, Food, Fireworks, Panorama assist, Night scene, Underwater, Sports mode, Sunset.

For amateur photographers who travel, the Panasonic DMC-ZS1 is quite simply perfect – a great wide angle 12x optical zoom, built in flash and surprisingly decent battery life make for a great camera. The camera stores photos in its internal memory (45MB) and SD(HC) memory cards. With memory card prices at an all time low, adding 4GB or even 8GB won’t break the bank.

The camera comes with a Lithium-Ion battery pack, charger, USB and video cable as well as a CD with some basic editing software.

PRO’S: Fantastic wide angle ultra-zoom, good quality photos, amazing price.

CON’S: Slow startup, no HD video.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1 is available from most online camera retailers and select camera stores.


Daily deal – Panasonic Lumix FS3 digital camera for $99.95

My daily deal for today may be a little out of the realm of the “stocking stuff” budget, but it is still a fantastic deal.

The Panasonic Lumix FS3 is an 8 Megapixel camera, with a 3x optical zoom. The lens is made by Leica and features optical image stabilization.

The FS3 has 50MB of internal memory, and can be expanded by adding SD memory cards, which you will have to purchase separately. The FS3 also supports the new larger SDHC cards, allowing you to add cards larger than 2GB.

Inside the camera, you’ll find scene settings for anything from beach shots to snow scenery. The unit runs off a lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack, which is rated for 330 photos per full charge.

The camera comes with a USB cable, video cable, battery charger and of course the unit itself with a battery pack.

The Panasonic Lumix FS3 usually retails for about $170, but if you can settle for a pleasant shade of green, you’ll be able to order one for just $99.95, with free shipping from Amazon.

Gadling’s Top 25 travel technology products of 2008

Welcome to the Gadling top 25 travel technology products of 2008.

It has been a great year for gadget loving travelers, and I have come across some really fantastic products that have helped make my own trips much more enjoyable.

It was not easy keeping the list to just 25 products, and there should be something for everyone in this lineup. So, without any further delay, I present (in no particular order), the 25 best travel technology products of 2008.


Boingo is the only thing listed in the top 25 that isn’t a physical product.

Boingo provides a service that lets you pay a single monthly fee to get access to over 103,000 different Wi-Fi hotspot locations around the world.

For $59 you get their global traveler plan, which offers unlimited access to any of the locations in the Boingo network.

If you have traveled the world, you’ll have probably stayed at one of the many hotels using Wi-Fi as another source of income. Think of Wi-Fi as the new minibar. With daily rates as high as $30, using Boingo makes perfect sense. Business travelers will certainly appreciate the ability to use a single logon and not have to worry about a different expense for each connection they setup on a trip.

Why it matters to travelers: Saves money and makes getting online around the globe much easier.
Price: From $7.95 for a US only PDA plan, $59 for a global plan
Gadling review: Coming soon.

T-Mobile Blackberry Curve

With all of the mobile phones popping up this year, you’d probably expect me to pick the new 3G iPhone as the most travel friendly phone. Sadly for Apple, it’s actually a Blackberry that is still my favorite pick. The Blackberry Curve on T-Mobile has one very important feature that makes it the perfect pick for global travelers; Wi-Fi calling. The technology is called UMA, and it allows the Blackberry to roam onto a Wi-Fi hotspot signal and behave just like it would on a regular cell tower.

You could be in Japan on a Wi-Fi signal in your hotel, and your Blackberry will be able to make and receive phone calls and text messages just like back home. Of course, because you are not roaming on an international network, you can even make these calls for the same rate as a normal call back home, without the insane roaming rates involved.

Why it matters to travelers: Cheap calls, email, Internet browsing and travel applications.
Price: $99.99
Where: or any T-Mobile authorized dealer
Gadling review: October 15th 2008

Cradlepoint PHS300 personal Wi-Fi hotspot

Several years ago the big development in wireless technology was the availability of broadband 3G wireless access. If you keep your eyes open next time you are at an airport lounge, you’ll see loads of people working on their laptop with a little antenna sticking out the side of the machine.

To me, the biggest development in wireless data this year, came from the Cradlepoint PHS300 personal Wi-Fi hotspot.

The PHS300 turns your 3G modem into a Wi-Fi hotspot. The battery powered device creates a wireless signal ready to use by one person, or an entire conference room. By moving your wireless card out of your laptop, you also save battery life, plus you can move the Cradlepoint router closer to a window to pick up a better wireless signal.

Why it matters to travelers: One modem card can be shared with others, reduces the load on your laptop.
Price: $179.99
Gadling review: August 25th 2008

Eye-Fi wireless enabled SD memory card

Nothing in the photography world has made life easier for me than the Eye-Fi wireless memory card. The Eye-Fi card is a regular SD card, with a built in Wireless adapter.

What this means to anyone taking photos is that they can take a photo and within seconds it will be uploaded to their computer or a photo sharing site of their choice (as long as you are in range of a wireless network).

The card was released last year, but 2008 brought several major updates to their lineup including the Eye-Fi Explore. The Explore adds hotspot access to any Wayport locations, as well as basic Geotagging of your photos.

I’ve become so used to offloading my photos using the Eye-Fi card that I actually lost the USB cable of my previous camera.

Why it matters to travelers: Send your photos home before you leave your destination.
Price: From $79.99
Gadling review: Coming soon

Panasonic Lumix TZ5

In picking my favorite digital camera for 2008, I went through almost 15 different models. When it comes to a camera that is suitable for travelers I looked for several things; it had to be small enough for traveling light, and it had to offer something invaluable for making decent shots.

I’ll admit right away that I am a horrible photographer, I’ve played with digital SLR cameras, but never managed to quite master the art. Since I’m convinced the same applies to many other traveling consumers, I’ve picked the small Lumix TZ5 for this lineup.

The TZ5 is a 9.1 megapixel camera like many other point and shooters on the market. What makes the TZ5 different is its 10x optical zoom and the ability to shoot basic HD video clips.

Why it matters to trav
10x wide angle optical zoom, HD video clips, special “travel” mode for sorting your photos.
Price: $329.99
Gadling review: coming soon

Lenovo Ideapad S10

Every several years something big happens in the computer world. 3 years ago we saw a big shift from desktop PC purchases to notebooks. 2008 was the big year for the Netbook.

This new generation of ultra portable (and ultra affordable) computers has forced every major manufacturer to bring at least one machine to the market. What started with a single design from Asus has now morphed into about 30 different machines. I’ve tried almost every single one of them, but eventually there was just one clear winner for me; the Lenovo Ideapad S10.

This 10″ Intel Atom powered Netbook is perfect for business travelers as it is available with Bluetooth and it has an Expresscard slot (for expansion cards). The Lenovo S10 has a very sleek design, and incorporates the reliability Lenovo is known for. In my personal opinion, the S10 is also the best looking Netbook of the year.

Why it matters to travelers: Size, looks and performance.
Price: From $399
Gadling review: coming soon

SeV Quantum jacket

When you are on the road a lot, you learn to value the importance of pockets. It sounds pretty quirky, but the combination of travel and carrying too many gadgets means you always need more ways to carry them. The SeV Quantum jacket is a stylish jacket made of breathable material. Hidden away all around this garment are 28 separate pockets, including some large enough to carry a water bottle or even a small laptop!

Almost every pocket is linked to the others using the SeV patented “personal area network” which allows you to route cords inside the jacket. The Quantum even features 2 special pockets with clear plastic which allow you to have easy access to your iPod or mobile phone.

Why it matters to travelers: Pockets, lots and lots of pockets.
Price: $250
Gadling review: September 29th 2008

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

After years of making our lives miserable, the TSA actually used 2008 to help bring some common sense back to the checkpoint. One of their accomplishments was the creation of some better rules for how they treat your laptop. In the past, they were so scared of laptop computers that they wanted every laptop on its own going through the X-Ray conveyor. The new rules allow you to keep it inside an approved bag.

The Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer was one of the first checkpoint friendly bags to ship. The bag is made in the USA and features an ingenious folding laptop portion. The bag is very well made, and is full of great little touches like waterproof zippers.

Why it matters to travelers: Every minute saved at the checkpoint is valuable.
Price: $225
Gadling review: October 7th 2008

Altec-Lansing iM237 Orbit MP3 portable speaker

The Altec Lansing Orbit MP3 speaker is the perfect companion for your iPod, iPhone or other music player.

The speaker works off three AAA batteries and allows you to store the audio cord in the bottom.

The Orbit MP3 produces an amazing amount of sound, and despite its tiny size, you’ll easily be able to fill a decent size hotel room with your tunes.

Why it matters to travelers: Room filling audio from a pint sized speaker.
Price: $39.95
Gadling review: October 29th 2008

Creative Labs Aurvana headphones

I’ve had the Creative Labs Aurvana X-Fi headphones lined up for a review for some time, but I’ve been using them so often that I never got around to giving you a full review. The Aurvana X-Fi headphones feature the highly rated Creative X-Fi system for improving the sound quality of your digital music as well as a special mode for creating virtual surround sound when you listen to a movie.

The headphones are even $50 cheaper than that “other” brand of popular noise canceling headphones.

The Creative Labs Auravna X-Fi headphones are quite simply the best noise canceling headphones I have ever used. Included in the package is a sturdy carrying case, adapters for most headphone jacks and an extension cord.

Why it matters to travelers: Combines amazing sound quality with amazing noise canceling features.
Price: $249.99
Gadling review: coming soon

Duracell PowerSource mini battery pack

I like power. Sadly I don’t have much of the influential kind, so I compensate by collecting gadgets that can keep my other gadgets working. The Duracell Portable Power Pack is such a device.

This small rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery pack features a folding USB connector, a second female USB connector and a battery life indicator. A fully charged Duracell battery pack holds enough juice to recharge most of my gadgets at l
east three times.

Why it matters to travelers: Because a gadget without power can be really depressing.
Price: $39.99
Gadling review: coming soon

Peek Email device

Back in September we posted the first ever review of this personal email device.

Peek is a handheld wireless emailer which runs off the nationwide T-Mobile network. For $99 (priced at $79.99 till the end of the year) and a monthly service charge of $19.99, you get unlimited access to your email on the go. There is no contract, and no paperwork involved. You simply give Peek a credit card number, and you are all set.

I like Peek because it delivers on its promise; it does email, and only email, but it does that one thing quite well. Peek was recently voted “best gadget of 2008” by Time magazine.

Why it matters to travelers: Provides simple and affordable email on the go for anyone.
Price: $99.95 ($79.99 till December 31st)
Gadling review: August 26th 2008


The Chargepod by Callpod has completely changed the way I charge my gadgets on the road. In the past I had a complicated array of chargers, cables and splitters. The Chargepod powers off one AC adapter, and can power 6 gadgets at the same time.

Chargepod offers an impressive list of power adapter tips for anything from your Bluetooth headset to the latest portable gaming console. I have yet to run into a gadget that can’t be powered off the Chargepod.

Why it matters: One charger instead of 6
Price: $39.95 for the base unit, or $79.99 for the bundle pack with a selection of power tips
Gadling review: August 28th 2008

Otterbox cases

As gadget prices go up, so does the disappointment when a gadget breaks. Anyone who is on the road a lot will subject their gadgets to all kinds of abuse.

Otterbox produces a lineup of cases that provide several levels of protection. They vary from basic bump and scratch protection, to full water and shockproof protection.

Otterbox cases are available for all iPods as well as most Blackberry smartphones including the recently released Blackberry Bold.

Why it matters to travelers: Take your gadget to the beach, or up a mountain.
Price: From $19.95
Gadling review: September 10th 2008

Amazon Kindle

It’s almost impossible to list “best gadgets” without mentioning the Amazon Kindle. This electronic book reader launched in November of 2007 and has been one of the top selling electronic devices on ever since.

The Kindle was not the first electronic book on the market, but it does something no other eBook can do; wireless downloads of books.

No longer will you have to jump into the book store at the airport to buy another overpriced book, nor do you need to stock your carry-on with magazines and newspapers.

The Amazon Kindle offers it all, in a slick and easy to use package. The usability is slightly questionable, and the page changing buttons are a nightmare to use, but at the end of the day, nothing beats the ability to download a book right before takeoff. In addition to books, the Kindle also offers wireless access to select newspapers, magazines and RSS feeds.

Why it matters to travelers: Never worry about running out of something to read on the road, reduce the weight of your carry-on.
Price: $359 + the price of your reading materials
Gadling review: coming soon

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