Ventev Mobile accessories & charging gadgets come to Canada

There’s a new provider of mobile and wireless accessories like cables, power banks and charging gadgets. Ventev, a US-based maker of gadgetry and smartphone gear, has arrived in Canada.

I recently had a chance to try out some of the gear, and was very impressed with its durability, sleek styling, simple design and versatility. Continue reading “Ventev Mobile accessories & charging gadgets come to Canada”

Spyder Commuter is the ninja of extra power

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 11.15.10 AMSince our smartphones work as everything from digital wallets, to phones, to tracking devices and even keys for our homes, it’s more important than ever that they don’t run out of power.

That’s why it’s a good idea to carry extra juice with you whether it’s in your car, bag or pocket. The new Spyder Commuter pack will fit in any of those places, and can supply enough extra power to keep you going for several more hours.img_1167

The Commuter is a 3-in-1 universal battery charger. It can be used in the car, by plugging it into the wall, or as a standalone power pack for on the go needs.The wall outlet and car charger end both fold into the battery pack so it stays sleek and compact when it’s not in use.

The Commuter is a perfect companion for travellers, since it weights a scant 4.5 oz or 128 grams, and you can charge from an AC wall outlet, via USB on your computer, or in the car. Plus it works with any smartphone or tablet.

I found this device super handy for extra juice on the go. It has 2600 mAh, which on my iPhone 6 gives me one full charge. Though there are other power banks out there that will give you more power than that, often you’ll need to remember to bring along charging supplies like a car adaptor, cord or AC plug.  This one has it all built right in, meaning that even though you might need to recharge it more often, it’s much easier to do so.

Find The Commuter at Spyder’s website for $59CAD

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Cool New Camping Gear!

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Stanley French Press Coffee Kit

You can usually find me testing out the latest gadgets and high tech gear.  But this time, some of the new gear I got that I’m most excited about isn’t as high-tech as I’m used to.  I love it nonetheless and want to share.

First up, this awesome Stanley French Press Coffee Kit I got at Campers Village. This versatile set up allows you to boil water in the compact narrow kettle pot, add your coffee (grounds are conveniently stored in the lid!)  then use the French press plunger grid to press fresh quality coffee, and transfer it to the thermos where it’ll stay hot for 24 hours. It also keeps drinks cold or iced if that’s your thing. I also thought it was really clever that the lid unscrews into two coffee mugs.

I also got a lot of use out of this kit by pairing it with a Biolite CampStove. Check out my video of how it all worked together!

black diamond ember power lightNext, I tested out a handy flashlight charger. The Black Diamond Ember Power light gives you light when you need it, which you always do when you’re camping, plus its USB port will also charge any gadget you have with a USB plug.  Dead camera?  No problem.  Phone out of juice? Easy to fix. I kept this gadget in my purse and also found it really versatile when we were short-cutting home through a park after visiting a neighbour after dark. My husband’s also been stealing it for everything from finding some papers in his truck after sunset, to recharging his phone on the golf course.

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LED Tent Peg

Speaking of light, I also love these new 10″ LED Light Tent Pegs from Coghlans.  They secure your tent, tarp or lines, and have a simple twist on/off bright LED light which will keep you from tripping in the dark. I found myself using these to mark hazards around the campsite too, like big rocks and roots. Now, if only we could build LED lighting fibers into the tent strings….

I also picked up a couple other low tech options that I find I’m using constantly while camping and on the road.

The Nemo Helio Pressure Shower is super handy if you like to camp away from crowds and off the beaten path.  It comes in a tiny zip pack about the size of a mixing bowl.  The 11L capacity means plenty of water, and because it rests on the ground, you don’t need to worry about hefting it overhead, or trying to fill it while it’s dangling from a tree. So how does it work then?  You pressurize the “tank” with a foot pump then use the sprayer to enjoy 5-7 minutes of shower time.

Curious how it works?  Watch the short video!

Lastly, I snagged one of these versatile hooks, thinking it would come in handy and it did. The Nite Ize Gear Line is a handy line with rigid twist-tie-like tabs on each end.  It’s got several different carabiner-type S-clips along its length, meaning you can string up whatever you want and keep it there with ease.  You can use it on a tree like I did to keep a garbage bag within easy reach, or use it in a tent to keep gear, towels, water bottles, or keys off the floor and within grabbing distance.

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That’s just some of the new gear I’m loving this season.  You can find everything I mentioned at Campers Village in Calgary and Edmonton, or online at Campers-Village.com

I’ll also be showing off these gadgets and some other cool camping gear later in July on CTV’s Tech Talk!

Better Device Charging Options! Throw away that 3-foot cord!

We use our smartphones so much today, it’s almost impossible to have a battery that can keep up.  So when the juice is gone, what do you do?  What are some better options for keeping your devices charged and at the ready?  Check out my recommendations:

Trunk Charging cable: ilovehandles.com

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A small, compact charger that bends to accomodate nearly any USB plug, the Trunk is small enough to fit in your pocket, but handy in a very big way!

USB Outlets: leviton.com

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It’s frustrating when all the plugs in your home are taken up charging your devices.  A smart alternative is to have USB plugs installed.  These from Leviton, available at many home improvement stores, have the regulation dual AC plug, plus 2 USB slots, allowing you to charge up to 4 devices, and also come in other configurations!

Space Bar Charging Station, Pivot Power Bar and Converge charging dock: Quirky.com

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Quirky.com has to be one of my favourite websites right now.  The company works with inventors to bring their tech ideas to life  – and to the market.  Some of the smartest ideas are their Space Bar, which is a monitor stand that also doubles as a USB power centre, and the Pivot power bar, which curls like a snake to allow you to actually use every slot in the power bar.

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The Converge charging station (above) is also smart, allowing you to keep cords organized, and in line while charging devices as they stand.  The dock also has enough power for both small and high-speed items, and you can fit several phones, or phones and tablets with ease.

Cord Taco, Mod Case & iPhone “Sleeping bag” : thisisground.com

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A simple invention, but one that’s really handy is the hilariously named Cord taco from This Is Ground.  The leather circles snap around bundled cords, keeping them tangle free!  The adorable and soft iPhone sleeping bag keeps your device safe, while allowing a bit of space in the back for your charging cord (like the Trunk above!).  And the luxe leather  Mod case has slots and compartments for cords, headphones and cables, plus room for a large smartphone, or notebook.

Cobra Car Starter & Device charger: cobra.com

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One of my favourite gadgets this year, the Cobra JumPack will not only charge any and all your devices via its USB port, it will also boost your car on a cold day!! I can’t tell you how handy this is.  I’ve tried it and it works so well, I’m getting these for all my friends. Read my full review of it here.

Energi Charging backpack: tylt.com

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A genius option for the traveler, the Energi backpack comes with power pack and cables to keep all you tech charged, while it rests safely in your backpack.  Just keep the included power pack juiced for when you run low, and use the handy cord openings to feed cables through the inside to everything stays secure.

Powerocks Charger/Flashlight: POWEROCKS.CA

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This handy little gadget is a flashlight that doubles as a battery pack.  Compact and lightweight, it’s got enough juice to fully charge your phone and then some.

Got a gadget you just can’t live without? Let me know in comments below!

Boost your Car and Charge Devices; Review of the Cobra JumPack

Cobra Jumpack

If there’s a person who’s actually happy with the battery life of their mobile device, I haven’t met them. I’m always on my phone and I’ve been carting around a credit card sized battery pack in my bag for a while now; it’s tiny and it’ll only give me about a third to half a battery boost. So I was excited to try out a new device that will not only charge your devices, it will also BOOST YOUR CAR! It’s the Cobra JumPack.

cobra2.jpgThe first thing that struck me about the Cobra JumPack is that it’s small; just 5”x3”x1”.  It’ll easily fit in your palm, pocket or purse, not to mention the console of your car, where it will morph from handy gadget booster to ninja auto rescuer when it boosts your car’s dead battery.

You might have heard of Cobra Electronics.  They make CB radios, radar detectors, dash cameras, and GPS systems.  The company also makes larger portable power units, but the JumPack is the smallest one I’ve ever seen that can do so much.  The company describes it this way; “the Cobra JumPack allows users to rapidly charge smartphones, tablets, cameras or other mobile devices and additionally has enough power to even jumpstart a car, motorcycle, boat or other vehicle.”

Cobra JumPack – The Specs

So how does it work and what will it charge?  Cobra says it can reenergize devices multiple times on one charge, making it perfect for emergencies like a power outage, for travelling, or for whenever your slowly wasting cell phone battery decides to give out on you.
cobra Jumpack console.jpgThe Cobra JumPack has a powerful 200A starting current, 400A peak current (for non mechanics, that means it has enough juice to boost your car more than once on a single charge). The JumPack has a 2.1 Amp USB output and a powerful 7500 mAh Li-Cobalt Battery with a large and easy to read battery status indicator.

It also has an LED flashlight with a strobe and S.O.S function for emergencies, or so you can see your way under the hood when boosting that dead battery.  The kit includes jumper cables and two different re-charging methods; a wall charger for home and a 12V car CLP charger (cigarette lighter charger) to charge your battery pack while you’re out.

The Tests: Using JumPack on Devices & Dead Cars

I took a very dead iPhone, and hooked it up to the Cobra Jumpack.  It was fully ready to go in under an hour, and the JumPack was still full, according to the battery indicator.  The next test was bringing the JumPack camping.  I gave it a full charge before leaving home, and the JumPack recharged my cell phone twice and my husband’s phone, and was still ¾ full at the end of the weekend.

While the JumPack is bigger than the mini charger I currently carry around with me, it’s not so much bigger that you’d rather leave it at home.  It only weighs 10.58 oz  or 300 g, so it’s just over half a pound.  In a backpack, it’s not the kind of weight you’d notice.  In a small handbag, maybe.
The device works great for device charging small electronics and gadgets, in my opinion.  But the big test for me will be to see if it’ll recharge a car; which is the main reason Cobra created it.

A Mechanic weighs in on the JumPack

I brought the JumPack to my mechanic Dean.  In truth I needed an old car to boost, to really see if it works, and Dean has plenty of them.  He took one look at the Cobra JumPack and said, “that’s it”?  He seemed surprised by the small size.  Large caddy-style battery boosters have been available for a while, but they’re big, heavy and clunky.
We hooked the JumPack up to the battery of a ‘92 VW Passat, turned it over and it fired up immediately.  Dean seemed impressed, and I was too.  There’s a lot of power in the JumPack, and after we started the Passat, the JumPack still showed a full battery; definitely enough to boost another vehicle, or charge up all my devices again. Dean immediately began listing off all the places and situations where the JumPack would come in handy. There are plenty I can think of and you could probably dream some up too, dear reader.
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Jump your car, motorcycle or even a boat!

The Cobra JumPack would be handy on any trip.  On a road trip, you can easily tuck it into the glove box or console, and keep it fully charged with the included cigarette lighter charger.  Flying somewhere?  The JumPack will fit in your bag, and give you hours of power for just about any device. That would mean you can work, or use it to keep children’s entertainment fully juiced.  photo 3-6.JPGThis device would also be perfect to stash in a boat or RV, or even a motorcycle saddlebag for emergency power, or for use as a flashlight, or of course to boost any dead vehicle battery.  While camping it was indispensable, and my friends were impressed at its small size, and big charging capabilities.  Keeping a JumPack fully charged would also be super convenient in a power outage.  You could use it at a cottage, cabin, or out on a boat… the possibilities are almost endless…..

The Verdict on Cobra JumPack

I need to get one of these.  I try out a lot of gadgets and new tech, but this is one of the rare devices that is well proportioned, powerful, extraordinarily useful, and affordable.  Never again will I be caught in a cold dark parking lot, begging jumper cables and a functioning battery from passing strangers.  I also appreciate all the juice it holds for charging my iPhone, my camera, and iPad.  As I said in the beginning, my teeny charger is fine in a pinch, but the JumPack is much more powerful and reliable.  The Cobra JumPack does exactly what it says it does, it works very well, and it’s infinitely handy.  It’s a must-have for anyone needing portable power on the go.

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 This post was originally written for Future Shop’s Tech Blog. Future Shop is now Best Buy in Canada.