If there is one piece of gear that I have fallen in love with this winter it is The North Face Etip Gloves. I try not to let the cold stop me from being outside, so I needed something where I wouldn’t have to take off my gloves to type, read, or take pictures on my iPad mini. With cost in mind, I first tried a pair that were knit and had a tiny sensor ball in the index finger… it worked maybe 50% of the time and typing a message was nearly impossible. So after some extensive research, I bit the bullet and spent the money to get something that most claimed worked. The stretch knit gloves are comfortable, keep my hands warm, AND the X-Static finger caps work every time I want to flip a page on my Kindle app, type an email, or take a photo. I also really like the silicone pattern on the palm as it allows me to feel that I have a comfortable grip on my iPad. Trust me, these gloves are worth the price.
With my pediatric-sized earlobs, I’ve had more luck carrying a boom box on my shoulder than getting iPhone-issued ear buds to stay in my ears, most especially while running. And the quality of sound is a whole other beast. To find a pair of high-performance buds that cater to the small-eared lot was a God send, because a six-mile run just isn’t the same without a little classic rock. The Yurbuds Inspire Limited Edition Headphones do just that, they inspire. Inspire you to run harder, faster, longer—just like those who take on the Ironman, the company that Yurbuds joined forces with to release this product to the public. The headphones come with five different shapes and sizes of silicone ear fittings to ensure an adjust-free fit (you can also choose between ambient aware and noise isolating). The twist lock technology is simple—place the buds into your ear and then twist and lock into place—but it works. Allowing also for a hands-free run, the tangle-free, sweat-resistant cord features a iWhatever-friendly control that allows you to switch songs, answer calls, and change the volume without ever having to touch your music-playing device. Yurbuds is so confident in their design that they’ve issued the buds with a lifetime warranty, and the option to send in a photo of the buds in your ears for a custom pair to be made and sent to you free of charge. There’s no denying that there’s something inherently cool about a boom box, but there is little that compares to finishing mile ten to a soundtrack of Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.”
www.alitedesigns.com, 1.6 ounces
The self-portrait may be the reigning Facebook profile photo trend, but all those close-to-the-camera, off-kilter shots with your arm extending into the great beyond shouldn’t dominate your wall. Alite’s Twig Pod offers an easy solution, ideally suited to help you document your outdoor adventures. This quick-to-assemble monopod has a rugged stake at one end so you can literally plant it in the earth, angle the shot, set the timer, and let the world bear witness. The 30-inch height is perfect for a from-the-hip angle, and the ball-head mount lets you position the camera in all imaginable angles. Then, when you’re done posin’, the Twig Pod collapses (much like a tent pole) to fit into a seven-inch-long stuff sack. Then you can stash the 1.6-ounce device and forget about it until you need it again. You can also use the Twig Pod to take long exposure shots, and it’s suitable for point-and-shoot cameras (as well as iPhones when accompanied by the $15 Glif, a one-piece stand and tripod mount). Serious photographers are better off with a true monopod, but for lighter cameras and people looking for fun ways to get real self-portraits, this one’s a low-cost winner.
www.lifeproof.com, 1.1 ounces
You’ve spent a veritable fortune on your new iPhone—only to have it ruined while you answer a call (or text or while taking photos) a snow or rainstorm. We’ve tried a dozen cases for iPhones and most seemed too bulky or provided insufficient protection, until we found the Lifeproof case, which delighted our testers with its sleek design. At only 13.3 mm wide, it’s barely larger than the phone itself. The snap-on, O-ring case has a slick plastic exterior that doesn’t catch on everything when you’re trying to slip it in and out of your pocket. But best of all, the case is 100-percent dirt-, water-, and snow-proof. The case is guaranteed to not leak in up to 6.5 feet of water, a fact that was corroborated by one tester who went for an impromptu swim in the Rio Grande after a hot hike in Big Bend National Park. The phone was completely submerged, with no leaks whatsoever. The case is also guaranteed to protect the phone for short drops on hard surfaces—nice if you have kids with no sense of value; Lifeproof guarantees the case will protect the phone for drops up to six feet—we can attest that the phone and case can fall out of a car onto hard pavement and survive. The touchscreen sensitivity is excellent, with no loss of function or distortion. Included in the package is a headphone adaptor that allows you to use waterproof buds for swimming, snow sports, or running in the rain. Our testers’ only complaint? Plugging the charger in is difficult, and it’s easy to lose the water-sealing screw that covers the cord jack. Boaters should invest in the Lifeproof Life Jacket ($40), a bright orange rubber case that holds the phone firmly and floats to the surface if dropped in the water.
www.etoncorp.com, 3.75 pounds
Bluetooth-compatible speakers aren’t new, but we’d be amazed if you can find a system that’s as sleek and outdoor friendly. We first tested the Eton Rukus during a backyard barbeque—it works so well we brought it along to use as base camp audio source for a multi-day outing. The wireless speaker with any Bluetooth-enabled device—including most smart phones and tablets. Set the Rukus on a picnic table and head out to collect firewood—the device says it has a 30-foot radius, but we found it to be effective at more than 40 feet. If you want to change playlists, your phone or iPod is as close as your pocket. A nine-inch by five-inch solar panel bridges across the dual torpedo-styled 2.5-inch speakers. On a sunny day, you can play and charge while the sun’s out, then party late into the night with eight hours of reserve power. There’s also an AC adaptor to charge the device when the weather doesn’t cooperate and you’ve got access to a power line. Included in the package is a USB cable that will charge your other electronics—great for powering up while camping, tailgating, or on a picnic. An e-INK display keeps you up-to-date on the battery and solar charge status. There’s even a convenient elasticized pocket on the bottom to secure your phone or iPod when not in use.