7 hot gadgets to make your summer sizzle

Ready for summer? We've tested a fresh batch of tech gear built for the great outdoors. Whether you're going camping, paddling upriver, exploring the backcountry or just lounging by the pool, these gadgets can enhance your alfresco adventures.

Ecoxgear Ecoxbt speaker
Credit: Ecoxgear
Ecoxgear Ecoxbt waterproof Bluetooth speaker

An ideal water sports accessory, this nifty speaker is shock-resistant and waterproof (not just water-resistant), and it has a large carabiner clip on the back for attaching it to a raft or a pool ladder. It even floats.

What surprised me most about the 9-in., 1.5-lb. speaker was the audio quality. OK, so you might not use one for a large pool party, but its sound is good enough for all-day personal use. In my tests, the $130 speaker streamed Bluetooth audio from both an iPhone 5 and a Samsung Galaxy S4 without any problems; the bass from bands like Bell X1 and Iceage came through loud and clear.

The Ecoxbt comes in orange, red and black. Its rechargeable battery lasts about 10 hours.

Contour ROAM2 waterproof video camera
Credit: Contour
Contour Roam2 waterproof video camera

This $200 rugged video camera has one major advantage over competitors: A large slider button lets you start recording. In my tests of the Roam2 on an ATV and on the front bumper of a Toyota FR-S sportscar, the slide-to-record feature proved invaluable.

You can record in 720p HD at 60 fps or in full 1080p HD at 30 fps, or snap a 5mp photo every 5 or 10 seconds. The lens rotates 270 degrees to change the angle without moving the cam, and a red laser helps you level the recording field of view.

The 5.2-oz. waterproof camera comes with a clip and adhesives so you can attach it to handlebars or a helmet, and it works up to 200 ft. underwater.

FX-Sport VR1 personal trainer headphones
Credit: FX-Sport
FX-Sport VR1 personal trainer headphones

Water-resistant and comfortable to wear, these $189 headphones are a fitness ally. There's 8GB of storage for your MP3 audio files, which you load from a computer via the included USB cable.

You can use the included app to create custom workout messages like "Keep pushing hard" or "Sprint for 1 minute" that play at user-set intervals while you listen to your music. You can also share your workouts at the FX-Sport site, and download workouts from celeb trainers and other users.

A rear strap helps the headphones stay put as you exercise. They take about 4 hours to fully charge and last about 5 hours. FX-Sport will offer a Silicone Skin accessory later this summer to make the VR1 fully waterproof.

Eton BoostSolar device charger
Credit: Eton
Eton BoostSolar device charger

Solar seems like a great way to charge your mobile devices, but many solar chargers are not exactly portable. The 11.7-oz., 6 x 6 x 0.75-in. BoostSolar, however, is light enough to slip into a laptop bag or tablet case.

The solar panel charges the backup battery, which has enough juice to fully recharge most smartphones from a zero state twice via the USB port. In my tests, a solar charge took about 16 hours; once the battery was fully charged, it easily powered up my iPhone 5 twice. The BoostSolar can also charge a tablet (once), but not a laptop.

The $100 BoostSolar is water-resistant to light splashes, and its rugged design can withstand some abuse, including jolts and short drops.

Garmin Oregon 600t
Credit: Garmin
Garmin Oregon 600t handheld GPS

Having a good map to guide you is indispensable on backcountry hikes. Preloaded with 100,000 topographic maps for the U.S., including Alaska, the $480 Garmin Oregon 600t is a rugged, waterproof handheld GPS intended for serious outdoor use.

During a trip to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, I used one to find Fall Lake northeast of Ely. The multi-touch screen looked amazingly clear in sunlight, and every tap, flick and swipe registered accurately during my tests -- even after I dropped the device a few times and got it wet.

The 7.4-oz., 2.4 x 4.5-in. device has 1.5GB of internal memory and uses two AA batteries, which lasted for about 16 hours on my hike. A rugged clip attaches it to a backpack or belt.

UCO Arka USB Charger + Lantern + Flashlight
Credit: UCO / Industrial Revolution
UCO Arka USB Charger + Lantern + Flashlight

The LED bulb in this 8.5-oz. flashlight and lantern shines as bright as 180 lumens -- the same brightness as a mobile projector you might use for work. In lantern mode, its diffused light is ideal at a picnic table or in the tent. Slide the handle out for a 250-ft. flashlight beam.

You can adjust the brightness down so the $70 rechargeable lantern lasts 50 hours, or use it as a flashing warning beacon. It also works as a USB smartphone charger in a pinch.

The Arka is IPX-5 rated for short drops and water-resistant use (splashes, not dunks). In my tests, it took about 8 hours to charge from a zero state. One minor gripe: It's a bit light and easy to tip over.

Raindrip WeatherSmart Pro sprinkler timer
Credit: Raindrip
Raindrip WeatherSmart Pro sprinkler timer

Sprinkler timers are convenient, but they don't seem so smart when they water your lawn through summer rainshowers. The $110 Raindrip WeatherSmart Pro, on the other hand, turns your sprinklers on only as needed, automatically.

The device works with most in-ground sprinklers that use 24VAC on/off solenoids. It's pre-programmed with average rainfalls in your ZIP code, which helps it gauge how often to trigger the sprinklers.

But the key ingredient is a wireless sensor that measures rainfall and temperature. Made from durable, UV-resistant plastic, the sensor feeds real-time weather data to the WeatherSmart Pro timer, which adjusts the sprinkler activity accordingly. An auto-shutdown feature turns the sprinklers off as soon as it starts raining.