Gear Review: Small gadgets
These small items pack a lot of power, from lighting up your night to adding inspiring graphics to your fanny pack or making you feel like a true MacGyver.
BioLite AlpenGlow Mini
I initially used the BioLite Alpenglow Mini as a nightlight on the colored mode in the kitchen, and it was quite fun. The next night, I took it to the young writers’ group I teach, and they wanted to turn off the lights and write by 150-lumen LED, which created a nice candlelight glow. When I turned the bright overhead lights on after about 15 minutes, they said they couldn’t concentrate as well; they loved the fact that the BioLite added low illumination to the paper they were handwriting on.
So the light apparently calms teens — and you can dim the white LED. At the highest brightness (150 lumens), the rechargeable internal battery lasts five hours, but on its low setting, which delivers 5 lumens of mesmerizing colored light (changing or stable, you choose), it lasts a whopping 40 hours.
The best way to illuminate a tent or other space involves hanging it upside down from its bungee cord, which unhooks if you need to strap it to a pole; it wraps around anything about an inch in diameter. Recharging through the USB cord takes three hours. While this provides adequate light in a small (just under 3-inch diameter), lightweight package, if you really want to light up your life, you might go for the larger AlpenGlow, at 500 lumens. The price point of the mini is a bit steep for a little light, but this water-resistant light is convenient, and the changing colors are ultra-fun.
Outdoor Element Firebiner Fire-Starter Multitool Carabiner and Fire Escape Multitool Carabiner
Why buy an ordinary carabiner when you can have a multitool carabiner that acts as a fire starter, a utility blade, a screwdriver, a bottle opener, and a carabiner?
That’s exactly what these two carabiners do. The Fire Escape Multitool Carabiner was made with first responders in mind – it includes a carbide pin window breaker, a quarter-inch hex wrench/bit driver, and an oxygen bottle wrench, the latter of which you can use as slots to hang keys, gear, etc. It also includes the ever-so-clever-and-useful EverSpark wheel to start fires, which the Firebiner also features. The fire wheel throws sparks — it’s not like a lighter that stays on — so the carabiner is quite safe to carry wherever you go.
Measuring about a half-inch higher than the 3-inch high Firebiner, both utilize incredibly strong stainless steel; Fire Escape is rated to hold 125 pounds of gear.
Firebiner is a super multitool, with a flathead screwdriver, utility blade, bottle opener, hang slots, and EverSpark wheel contained neatly within the carabiner, which holds 100 pounds. Both weigh in at an ounce.
The EverSpark wheel is easy to use and does actually start a camp stove and other fires. While most people, like me, get along just fine with the Firebiner, the Fire Escape provides larger hang slots, and the blade is nice to have as well. The packaging conveniently orients consumers, numbering each feature and explaining it. Colorado-based Outdoor Element started with two men with a mission to “spark confident outdoor adventure through innovative gear,” and they definitely do.
Firebiner, $14.95; Fire Escape, $24.95, outdoorelement.com
Outdoor Element Folding Feature EDC Pocketknife
The first task this pocketknife excelled at was releasing the aforementioned carabiners from their tightly gripping plastic grips, which weren’t easily going to be cut with scissors. What a breeze this knife made that task, as well as plenty of others in the last few weeks.
The 2.75-inch blade gets under tight packaging and is super sharp. Open, the knife measures 7½ inches, and closed, it’s a convenient 4.38 inches with a stainless steel, frame-lock handle.
Just like the carabiners, Outdoor Element adds a handy EverSpark to start a fire. Weighing just 3.7 ounces, it makes a great backpacking knife, and really, an every day, carry-around knife, with its built-in belt clip.
Outdoor Element Omni-Tensil
I’ve been carrying this around in my car, and it has definitely come in handy. Though I do have a home, my car is, let’s say, my second home. It stores all my winter activity equipment, and at least several times a year, I’m on a phone interview or writing in it (You know, when someone can only talk at noon, and the powder is so good, I push my last turns right up to the interview time).
Inevitably, I also end up eating in my car, which is where the Omni-Tensil comes in. No longer do I need to search for a plastic fork and end up using a spoon because that’s all I have in stock.
The microfiber-towel roll pouch with mesh pockets holds all of the utensils it comes with a spoon and fork made of hard anodized 7075-T6 aluminum, a bamboo toothbrush and chopsticks, and a fire bellows. All connect into threaded stainless steel tube handles, which also can act as a mini bellow when starting a campfire. Though I’d probably rather have tweezers, a knife, or another tool I’d use more than the chopsticks, I love the fact that I’m set with basic utensils and a toothbrush.
The lightweight (3.3-ounces) set is great for backpacking or traveling, and the towel dries quickly when wet.
AtomicChild Midnight Campsite Fanny Pack
I love festive accessories.
AtomicChild products brim with inspiring artwork, and this fanny pack is no different. On the back, it features a planet floating above a mountain range, and in front, an artistic mountain rendering with trippy aurora borealis depicts the outdoors.
This fanny pack is roomy, though the front 6.5-inch zipper could be just a tad bigger to accommodate really large hands. The back pocket, at 5×9 inches, is great for separating my phone from the rest of the stuff I pack into the main compartment. It’s a playful, artistic, and functional festival bag that’s durable and easy to carry, with its adjustable belt, which extends to 42 inches.
This year marks the 57th year that the tiny wine shop on Main Street has offered up special wines for exceptional prices. And who can’t use a price break in this day and age? For that matter who can’t use a great bottle of wine or a special case for the holidays? The folks at Carl’s are there to meet your seasonal needs.