Let’s be optimistic and pray for a long hot summer. What gadgets can help your summer really sizzle? From making parties more entertaining to ensuring your barbecued food is full of flavour and not food poisoning, gadgets are here to help you make the most of every second of summer.
One of the big trends this year is solar power – not because Britain has suddenly got sunnier, but because the combination of more efficient solar technology and low-power technology such as LED lights means solar gadgets work properly, even when it’s a bit dull. You’ll have seen endless solar lights and spotlights, but how about solar-powered water fountains, bird baths or other water features? You can spend from around £50 to several hundred pounds depending on how complex the feature is and what it’s made of: cheap ones tend to be made of resin, while natural stone takes you into the hundreds.
Solar power is also very good for charging phones, which is handy if you’ve embraced streaming music and use your smartphone to play sounds in the garden. It pays to shop around: for example the PowerBee Executive charger, which has an RRP of £39.99, is widely available for as little as £13.99. While you’re at it, you could buy yourself a solar powered wireless speaker too: the Gemtune Kinna speaker is £40, while the larger and longer range Jabadoo wireless outdoor solar speaker is £99. Even if you don’t go solar, a wireless speaker is an excellent investment for summertime sounds, as it means you don’t need to keep your music close to a power point.
For many of us summer means outdoor cooking, and of course there are plenty of products designed just for us. The Looftlighter (£48) and BBQ Dragon (£46) use super-heated air to get your barbecue started quickly, while the iGrill Mini (£43) is a Bluetooth thermometer that tells your phone when your food is ready. If money’s no object, the SmartGrill offers voice control, recipe apps and notifications on your phone or tablet. The bad news: the smallest one is around £1,400 and the most expensive model, the 42-inch, is nearly £7,000.
Gadgets aren’t just about grilling, and they don’t all require a second mortgage either. Automatic wine coolers cost from around £50 and can chill a bottle of white wine in less than 10 minutes, while the lower-tech bottle wraps sit in the fridge until you need them, chill bottles in around 15 minutes and cost £9.99. Beer drinkers can join in too: the Xcellent Global Beer Chiller Chilling Sticks, stainless steel rods you freeze and then stick in your beer bottles, are £9.99 for two. The chillers work in some soft drink bottles too.
We started off with optimism, but let’s add some realism too: the British weather being what it is, it’s a good idea to have early warning of incoming bad weather. An outdoor weather station provides just that, and you can choose from traditional clock designs with integrated barometers and thermometers from around £25 or go high-tech with a wireless weather station, which can cost from around £25 to several hundred pounds depending on the features you want to have. Or you could always go on Amazon and buy the Amscan PPP GB Umbrella Hat, which offers the protection of an umbrella with the hands-free convenience of a hat for just £2.99.
Images: PowerBee Executive solar mobile/tablet charger (top left); Soulra XL solar powered sound system; (top right) Looftlighter BBQ lighter/accelerator (bottom left); Lynx SmartGrill (bottom right)