Holiday Gear Guide: Tech


SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger, $150

Carrying a GPS tracking device when you head out for places without cell reception lends peace of mind not only for the adventurer but also for loved ones at home. SPOT’s Gen3 is the latest from the Louisiana firm. It features increased battery life (partially due to now using four AAA batteries compared to the previous versions three), USB power input and the ability to track every 2.5 minutes (called Extreme Tracking). Tracking is also now motion activated, helping to increase battery life and make use a bit easier. Like all SPOT tracking device a yearly subscription is required with various packages to meet a user’s particular needs. I’ve used a SPOT for years and had zero issues despite use in rain and snow. The new Gen3 is a great security device for all travelers, especially those who head off into remote areas. –NL

TomTom Spark Cardio + Music, $250 (on sale for $175)

I never really got the whole FitBit obsession. Counting steps? Sleep tracking? More phone notifications? These were all things I figured I could do without, and some of them just caused more stress. Fitness watches were not going to be my thing. But then I tried TomTom’s Cardio + Music watch, and now I’m a convert. Why? Because this watch finally frees me from having to carry my phone during workouts. It’ll count your steps, record your sleep patterns, monitor your heart rate, and track your routes — and it will also store, and play wirelessly via Bluetooth, up to 500 of your favorite pump-up songs.

For those of us who strive for efficiency, as well as those without easy access to pockets — which is to say, anyone female or spandex-clad — being able to ditch the phone is a beautiful thing. Even if you prefer to bring a phone along for safety’s sake, being able to keep it securely stashed while shuffling through music is a game changer. You’ll need to invest in a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones to take full advantage of the watch’s capabilities. TomTom offers a pair for $99.95, but there are cheaper options on the market.

The Cardio + Music’s other features are robust. It’ll track activities from running to cycling to swimming to sleeping, and its optical heart rate monitor never skipped a beat. Don’t worry, it’ll track your steps too. It’s not a small watch, but the large screen is handy when on the move, and after a quick glance at the manual, the single toggle button works intuitively to cycle between features. Hook it up to your computer and it’ll charge and sync workouts and music in no time. –CN

Casio WSD-F10 Smart Outdoor Watch, $500

As a child of the 80’s, I have an affinity for Casio watches. Their style is so timeless that you can still pick up their classic calculator watches through a few retailers. While they do a good job of embracing their past, don’t think that they’re not keeping an eye on the future. The Casio Smart Outdoor watch is packed with features that will help you track just about any adventure — all in a well-built and attractive package that features a full color touchscreen display. Powered by Android Wear, when paired to your smartphone operating Android 4.3 or later you can upload a variety of third-party apps, such as the ViewRanger activity tracking app, to expand the watch’s features. Unfortunately the watch does not have a built-in GPS, so it will reply on the assistance of your smartphone for ride tracking.

Some other features worth noting include incoming call notification, weather information, a compass, and Casio’s own activity app. You can pair it to an iPhone, but you’ll have limited functionality and will not be able to add third-party apps. If you have an Android-powered phone, however, this watch is a lot of fun! –JT

Go Puck 6XR battery pack, $100

A backup battery pack is great for anyone who travels, whether for business or pleasure. Go Puck’s new 6XR has a huge 9,000 mAh capacity, enough to charge an iPhone 6S five times from dead to full power, and allows users to charge two devices simultaneously. If you have a compatible device, the 6XR also delivers quicker charging via its 5v-to-12v outlet. The Go Puck has come in handy on several trips, topping off phones and GPS units when camping off the grid. While the battery pack is not waterproof, it does have a rugged design that is up to the rigors of bicycle touring or bikepacking when stored away from precipitation. –NL