Category Archives: Accessories

Storm Glass Barometers Make Great Gifts

Storm Glass Barometer

You may not have heard of them, but you’ll likely be seeing a storm glass barometer in a home or office near you in the coming months and years. First created in the mid-1850s by Admiral Fitzroy of the British Royal Navy, storm glasses are now widely available in various shapes and sizes. If the name Fitzroy rings a bell it’s because his other claim to fame was being the captain of Charles Darwin’s pioneering ship that sailed the Galapagos Islands.

While old Fitzroy may have first promoted storm glass barometers, until recently they were pretty hard to build yourself. Recently, however, a number of merchants have started to offer storm glasses in nice looking gift boxes – much easier than creating one yourself!

What is a storm glass? It’s a glass vessel, often in the form of a large teardrop that contains crystals and ethanol. This makes it act like a traditional barometer that measures air pressure. As the weather changes the crystals dance around in various ways to mimic what’s going on outside. So if it’s about to snow you might see the crystals float up to the top of the liquid and start to fall down to the bottom. Very cool!

The best looking storm glasses that we have found are on the larger size (about a foot tall) with a wooden base. The smaller sizes just don’t seem big enough when placed on a shelf or desk. Amazon has a good selection of storm glasses. There are round ones and pyramid shaped ones, but to our eyes the teardrop shape looks the best.

Expect to pay around $32 for the large size of storm glass barometer. Makes a great office, graduation, or housewarming gift.

Spencer the robot

KLM Airlines Introduces Airport Robot Guide

Spencer the robot

Finding your way around an airport can be challenging, especially if you’re in a hurry to make a connecting flight. Signage points passengers in the right direction, but there’s so much to see and read while juggling carryons, coats, and keeping kids in sight that it can become confusing.

Now KLM Airlines is making a technological jump to help confused passengers at Schipol Amsterdam airport with a robot by the name of Spencer.

Why a Robot?

For now, the KLM Airlines plan to introduce the robot with a test run the first week of December. KLM chose to donate money to this unique project because passengers were commonly getting lost and often missed connecting flights.

They chose the armless robot to work as a guide because, unlike an information center, it can interact with people and actually show them the way to go. However, this presented challenges, too.

Spencer

Achim Lilienthal, project leader at Örebro University, told Engadget that, “Navigating an airport is challenging, there is a lot of glass and a constantly changing environment in terms of temporary obstructions, such as parked luggage trolleys and people everywhere. Objects that are temporarily permanent so to speak, are the most difficult to work around. We do not know, for instance, how long that luggage trolley will be parked in a particular spot, which makes it harder for the robot to determine its own location. We are working on a general map representation that includes and allows the robot to handle temporarily permanent objects.”

Spencer the Robot

The robot is referred to as “Spencer” and in a report on Engadget it says that “Spencer is equipped with laser range-finding eyes and detailed maps of the airport’s interior.” All this high-tech gadgetry will help guide travelers trying to find their way around the airport.

The team behind this project have “trained” Spencer to comprehend human behaviors, and to a limited degree, social habits.

For instance, instead of barreling through a crowd, Spencer knows to sidestep the group. It even knows enough to keep tabs on the group it is leading to make sure no one is left behind.

Photo credits: wochit Tech

Gulf Buddy WT5

Golf Gadget Gift Ideas

Gulf Buddy WT5

Gulf Buddy WT5

Not every geeky golf gadget measures up to expectations, but these three gadgets for the golfer in your life offer some of the latest tech that’s lightweight and practical even when traveling.

The first helps alleviate the frustration of losing your ball, the second is designed to improve your game, and the third lets you play after the sun goes down.

Prazza Golf Ball Finder

Prazza Golf Ball Finder

Prazza Golf Ball Finder: Hitting a stray shot is frustrating enough for any golfer and a lost ball adds an unwanted hassle to the game. In fact, most golfers lose an average of four balls per round and searching for those lost balls adds about 20 minutes of play.

Now, the Prazza Golf Ball Finder is designed to save that time and money on lost balls, as it locates high performance Prazza golf balls when they stray from the green. (Effective within 110 yds.)

GolfBuddy WT5 GPS Watch: GolfBuddy WT5 GPS Watch features a slimmer design and more comfortable fit than its previous model. It’s a perfect gift choice for the tech savvy golfer.

The GolfBuddy is a fully functional digital wristwatch with a rechargeable battery that includes unique golf-related options including Dynamic Green View and movable pin placement features with simple press-and-hold buttons.

Additional menu items include:

  • Distances to front/center/back of the green
  • Distances to targets and hazards
  • Pin placement
  • Digital scorecard
  • Dynamic Green View Automatic course/hole recognition
  • Shot distance measurement
  • GPS tracking
  • Waterproof Rechargeable battery lasts 8 hours in golf mode 35 days in watch mode

Light Up Golf Ball

Night Sports Light Up Ball: The patented technology behind the Night Sports Light Up Balls has revolutionized the golf industry.

These specialized golf balls provide the high performance aerodynamics, control, accuracy, feel and distance expected from a professional quality ball but they can be seen in the dark.

They let golfers see the ball at twilight and are great for night golf tournaments. Among other accessories available is a backyard LED night golf pitch and putt.

Photo credits: Amazon, Amazon, Amazon

Ford Transit

Pros and Cons of Campervans

Ford Transit

Today, the world of recreational vehicles can be confusing for someone entering the RV lifestyle or even for those with camping experience who are looking for a different type of motorhome.

While die-hard non campers won’t usually consider tent camping, and aren’t ready to make a commitment to a caravan, there is an in-between option. These motorhomes are built using a cargo or camper van as the base and are called camper or conversion vans.

Camper Van

Benefits of Campervans

The campervan is a middle-of-the-road option and is perfect for planned and spontaneous trips because everything can stay in the van so it is always set up for your next trip.

These campervans are good option as long as your family isn’t big and can all sleep in the same vehicle, and they are more secure than tents because they have doors that lock.

As the smallest of the three classes of motorhomes, they get the best gas mileage compared with other motorhomes, and they can actually fit in your garage. Plus its size makes it a vehicle that can double as a full-time family vehicle

2014 Ford Transit

Cons of Campervans

On the downside, if you aren’t planning to use the campervan regularly it can turn into an expensive and underused property that sits in your garage waiting for your next trip. Plus, because they are the smallest of the motorhomes they offer limited amenities.

While a number of options are available, most models typically feature a small kitchen, seating area (living room) and a bathroom. Everything is small, and usually they are equipped to accommodate between 2-4 people. Bathrooms generally are equipped with a small shower and a toilet often called a wet bath.

A campervan works as a link between the world of camping and everyday life. They can be used everyday, and if you keep your campervan clean and stocked between trips, it really cuts down on packing because you’ll be set to go.

Photo credits: wikimedia, wikipedia, wikipedia

Logitech Keys-To-Go

Holiday Gift Ideas for Travelers

Logitech Keys-To-Go

Logitech Keys-To-Go

 

Carry-on luggage is a convenience that offers limited space for essentials we want to carry on board as we travel.

With that valuable bit of space in mind, this list of gadgets offers ideal gifts choices for travelers because they’re practical, make life on the road a little better, and are small enough to take up little room in your luggage.

Logitech Keys-To-Go: The Logitech Keys-to-Go is a universal keyboard that’s only a quarter-inch thick and connects to any Android or iOS device via Bluetooth. These mechanical keys make it much easier to type and reduces chances of typos. Starts around $70.

mophie powerstation

Mophie Powerstation

Mophie Powerstation Plus Charger: Traveling with various gadgets has led to other issues like a tangle of cords and chargers taking up valuable space in our carry-on.

The Mophie Powerstation Plus Charger is only about the size of a business card holder, but it has built-in Lightning or micro USB ports that can power multiple gadgets at up to four times the speed of a standard a charger. Starts at around $100.

Apple Watch: The Apple Watch is not only small but is wearable technology.

This versatile gadget is worn on the wrist and helps people stay connected while traveling. It allows the wearer to take calls, get and reply to text messages, check email, and even gives gentle nudges to help remind of appointments.

This handy gadget will even let the wearer call for a taxi. This watch has up to 18 hours of battery life and costs around $470

RHA Earbuds

RHA Earbuds

RHA T10 Earbuds: These earbuds are available in two models. The T10 and T10i (iOS-friendly mic and remote). These earbuds are remarkably customizable. They come with 10 sets of ear tips in different sizes which are created using various materials.

They are designed with over-ear hooks and come with 2 pair of interchangeable filters to adjust tone and optimize bass and treble. Start around $190.

Tech gadgets are becoming more and more prevalent in the world of modern travel, and these four offer lightweight practical gift choices for the traveler in you life.

Photo credits: Amazon, Amazon, Amazon

Convergent Shell

Black Diamond’s New Convergent Shell Keeps You Warm and Dry

Convergent Shell

Often when skiing or snowboarding, how much fun you have is directly related to how comfortable you are. If you’re too warm or not warm enough, it can make for a miserable outing, so when it comes to ski gear, one of the biggest challenges is finding clothing that’s breathable and water resistant.

The Black Diamond’s new Convergent Men’s Shell Jacket fits that bill. It’s lightweight and designed with a three-layer WindStopper Active membrane that’s hooked up with fully taped seams. It provides better water resistance than the comparable Induction and if offers the same amount of breathability.

Convergent Shell

Helmet Compatible Hood

The Black Diamond Convergent Men’s Shell Jacket is designed with a helmet compatible hood, a brushed microsuede collar, and water resistant zippers.

It’s the perfect combination to help stay dry, not too warm, and wear your helmet without bulky material making it hard to turn your head and without a gap letting in wind, cold or moisture.

It’s an ideal choice whether you’re climbing, skiing, snowboarding, or hiking.

Gore Windstopper

The Convergent Shell coat is an outer layer that functions well in any conditions.

Whether you’re caught in a rain downpour while hiking or hit intense powder on the slopes, the Gore Windstopper which is taped like a full Gore-Tex product, keeps you dry with unbelievable water resistant properties and wind resistant capabilities while still retaining superior breathability.

The Black Diamond Convergent Men’s Shell helps you be prepared for any condition when you understand the basics of layering.

However, the one thing this new shell doesn’t include is the Cohesive Cord Lock Technology that debuted in Black Diamond’s Front Point Shell, but hopefully that will come along in the next model.

For now, the Convergent Shell is a perfect choice for your front-line shell on the mountain and trails.

Photo credits: Amazon

How to Choose the Best Bicycle Rack

Bicycle on top of car

A road trip for many of us includes carrying a bicycle or two on our vehicle. So how do you decide which bike rack is best for your needs?

To start, of course, you need to identify how many bikes you plan to transport. Then comes the challenge of finding a rack that fits your vehicle as well as your price range.

Determining Factors

Aside from these obvious points of what to consider when buying a bicycle rack for your vehicle, here are a few other questions to ask yourself:

  • Does your vehicle have a rear-mounted spare tire that could interfere with some bike rack models?
  • Does your vehicle have a tow hitch or utility rack? If yes, what is the load capacity?
  • How high can you lift the bike you’ll be transporting and hold it in position with one hand?
  • How often will it be used?
  • Will it be used on more than one vehicle?

Answering these questions will help narrow your options.

Bicycle carrier at rear tow hitchThree Main Types of Racks

Bike racks come in three basic styles: a hitch-mount rack, strap-on trunk rack, and a roof rack. Each one has its pros and cons.

  • Hitch Mount: Easy to operate but the most expensive.
  • Roof Rack: Most versatile but most difficult to use. After all, you have to get the bikes on to the roof of your vehicle.
  • Strap On: The strap on is the most affordable but the least secure.

Aside from these basic racks, there are also specialty racks designed specifically for pickups or for inside SUVs or vans, but they will cost you more.

Finding the rack that is easiest for you to use will pay off in the long run, because if the job it too difficult it can add stress and frustration to your trip.

Also, it’s good to note that Consumer Reports doesn’t recommend carrying heavy loads on the roof of an SUV, because the higher center of gravity “can compromise emergency handling leading to a rollover accident.”

For more regarding safety ratings regarding bike racks, it is a  good idea to check Consumer Reports for more information.

Photo credits: Wikipedia, wikipedia

ski boot

Ski Boots Support and Fit Can Improve Control

ski boot

Finding a comfortable fitting ski boot that also performs well can be a challenge. With a properly fitted boot, your toe should come away from the front of the boot when flexing, but when standing it should just touch the front of the boot.

When it comes to comfort and fit, it is a good idea to wear your new ski boots at home first. New boots straight out of the box will be snug. Actually stand in them and flex them to help your feet grow accustomed to the stationary, rigid fit which is much different than wearing regular shoes.

This will help you figure out any adjustments needed, and whether or not you might need custom work done to the boots before you ski in them.

Measure for fit

Oversized Boots Promote Fatigue

Ski boot fit needs to be snug, because ski boot liners compress as you ski which will make your boots roomier the more you wear them.

Because ski boots fit tight right out of the box and feel that way for the first few days of skiing, many people make the mistake of buying boots that are too big. In the long run, this can turn into a painful mistake.

In extreme cases, it can even lead to sprains and bone breaks, but the more common problem is that it can hinder skiing and promote fatigue because your body tries to compensate for poor fit by clawing your toes and tightening your thigh muscles and hamstrings to maintain stability and control.

Ski Boot Fitting

Snug Secure Fit Important

Finding the right fit with ski boots is much different than with most footwear. Shoe size is only one of the variables boot fitters use to help you find the right boot. Right fit will also take your foot shape, including arch length and width, into consideration.

Ski boots need to be snug and secure in order to be comfortable when skiing. They also need to ensure that the interaction of the lower legs, boots, skis and bindings all work together effectively.

When buying ski boots, they should be tried on without the liner, first to see how much room you have in the boot. There should be about 2 centimeters between the heel and shell. This is also the time to ensure that the ankle bone has enough space.

Customize Boot Fit

The ski boot liner itself can adjust to different lengths and widths of feet. The shell of the boot is the hard restrictive part. While there are ways to help customize the fit of your ski boot yourself, it’s often best to seek out a professional boot fitter.

Specialty ski shops often have trained bootfitters on staff who can perform modifications to your boots. They have the knowledge, tools, and experience to help you achieve the best fit. For instance, custom footbeds can stabilize and balance the foot because they are designed to fit your foot. They can also modify the shell of your boot with heat or grinding to eliminate pressure points commonly known as hot spots.

The right fit can make you a better skier. It can maximize your comfort and control because it fits and flexes properly. It pays to take the time to choose the right boot, to wear them at home, and to work out fit issues before your riding the chairlift on a perfect day.

Photo credits: Bergs SkiShop

Fall Foliage - Gibbs Gardens North Georgia

Take the Guesswork Out of Seeing Peak Colors this Fall

Fall Foliage - Gibbs Gardens North Georgia

Fall Foliage – Gibbs Gardens North Georgia

Fall vacations are a popular choice as people visit destinations to witness one event: the change of seasons.

While most of the U.S. is transformed by Mother Nature’s hand as the kaleidoscope of colors paint the landscape in breathtaking hues, the timing in each state is different. And the timing of peak colors can vary from year to year, too.

For those planning a trip around this event, there’s nothing more disappointing than to find most of the leaves have fallen and you’ve missed it.

Fall Foliage New Hampshire

Fall Foliage New Hampshire

When and Where to See the Colors

Until now it’s been difficult to know, with any certainty, the best time to see the most brilliant fall colors, but now thanks to smokymountains.com, the guesswork has been replaced by a map that tell us when colors start to change, when colors have partially changed, are near peak, exactly when and where to catch colors at their best, and when they’ve past their peak.

The season starts in states like Idaho, New Mexico, Colorado, the Great Lakes area, and the Northeast in early September. By mid-September, the Rockies and the Northeast are already changing considerably with some areas at their peak a week later.

Fall Smoky Mountains

Fall in the Smoky Mountains

Peak Season

Peak season for seeing fall colors this year starts in early October in the Rockies, northern Minnesota, and parts of the Northeast this year, with colors changing everywhere, too, except for the Southern states.

By the middle of October, parts of Midwest offer the most vibrant colors, while the South begins the color change. By the end of October, the South offers brilliant color (including southern California).

One week makes a big difference when it comes to fall colors. By the week of October 10th, some states will have already passed the peak season.

If you really want to see fall colors at their best, it is better to go too early than too late. Once the peak has passed, colors start to dull from oranges, yellows and red, to dark gold and brown hues and when seasonal winds or storms come along, you may see more bare branches than leaves.

To be sure you don’t miss the fall colors on your trip, use the Fall Foliage Prediction Map available at smokymountains.com.

Photo credits: 4runnerkp, wikimedia, DerrickH1969

Eurail

Save On a Eurail Pass From Oct. 1 to Year End

EurailFor frugal travelers who’ve always wanted to see Europe, Eurail.com will be offering 20 percent off of its Global and Select Passes on passes purchased between Oct. 1 and the end of the year.

This drops the price of a first class five-days-within-10 first class Global Pass to under $340 for travel that must be completed by April 1, 2016. Passes take you to popular countries including France, Spain, Italy, Germany and let you visit and explore at your own pace.

Eurail Map

Global Pass

Eurail’s Global Pass is the ideal way to see Europe. Make a whistle-stop tour to Europe’s most famous cities like Paris, Rome, and Berlin, with the freedom to venture off and explore lesser known villages and towns along the way.

The Global Pass includes 28 countries in all and is valid for travel with participating train, ferry and public transport companies, too.

Select Pass

The Eurail Select Pass is a less expensive pass that covers 4 bordering countries. You choose the four countries of your liking from 26 European countries. The only limitation is that they must border one another by rail or ferry.

Mykonos Blue Star Ferries Ithaki

Mykonos Blue Star Ferries Ithaki

Pass Also Good on Most European Ferry Routes

Another benefit of the Eurail Pass is that it provides discounted and free travel on various European ferry routes. For instance, you can ride the ferry between Greece and Italy for free and make a stop at the island of Corfu in the process.

Reservation and Additional Costs Required For Some Trains

While the Eurail pass offers access to most of Europe’s trains the cost of reservations are not included in the pass. Not all, but on some busy trains a reservation must be made in advance to guarantee a seat. This includes high-speed and night trains, and many trains in France, Italy, and Spain.

Discounts on hotels, museums, and additional public transportation are also available through the Eurail Pass. These passes are only available to non-European residents and must be activated at a European train station within 6 months of the issue date.

Photo credits: Roderick Eime, wikipedia, wikipedia