By Darren Bush

Attention curmudgeons: The following contains information about electronics. Those who feel an electrical apparatus detracts from the pure wilderness experience are welcome to close the window on their computer or smartphone.

Love it or hate it, tech has a place in the outdoors; consider lifesaving devices such as personal locator beacons (PLBs). Some provide a more comfortable experience, like a solar panel charging a string of LED lights in your tent. Some are decadent. More on decadence later.

Blue Freedom portable hydro power.

Blue Freedom portable hydro power

Blue Freedom

We all love renewable energy. Solar panels are relative latecomers to outdoor, at least in the price range for mortals. Nice, but it’s not always sunny. Wind power would be cool but difficult to transport, and has a host of other downsides. But what about hydropower?

Blue Freedom is a compact hydroelectric generator. German engineered and constructed, the Blue Freedom unit generates electricity from a small blue turbine, which attaches to the generator and battery unit with a four-foot cable. Just stick the turbine in flowing water and the turbine spins, creating energy that is stored in the unit. Into that unit you plug your USB devices and charge away. There are also LED lights built into the generator and battery unit.

I’m taking one to the Boundary Waters next month to drag behind my canoe and see what happens, but I’ll probably drop it into a river between two lakes to see how it does in a shallow brook.

Thermacell Mosquito repelling apparatus. Human shown for scale.

Thermacell Mosquito repelling apparatus. Human shown for scale.

Thermacell Mosquito Repeller

Paddlers in all parts of the world battle mosquitoes. We battle them with headnets, bugshirts, citronella candles, Skin-So-Soft and a gallon of DEET. In northern Minnesota, we sometimes use a .410 shotgun. Mosquitoes above the 46th parallel mean business.

Thermacell’s answer to the shotgun is the Backpacker. It’s a lovely piece of engineering, using the same technology as other earlier Thermacell products. The Backpacker uses a repellent called allethrin, a synthetic derivative of the chrysanthemum. All you need now is a little heat to disperse the repellent, which comes from a small butane cartridge that uses no open flame. A canister lasts dozens of hours, more than enough for a week or so.

It’s small, and I can’t wait to test it on a humid summer night on a low-lying campsite on the river. I’ll leave the shotgun at home and keep you posted.

Braven BRV-1M Waterproof Speaker

This is where some of you anti-tech people (are you still here?) might lose your composure. You have been warned.

Three or four years ago I took a solo canoe trip down one of my favorite rivers. It’s a big, wide, sandy-bottomed river, with no one around on a late fall long weekend. That’s why I wasn’t shy about pulling out my bluetooth speaker and my iPod and played Handel’s Water Music. It seemed fitting for some reason. It was just loud enough for me to hear it, that’s all. It was a lovely moment.

It wasn’t waterproof, whatever it was, and I wish I had been listening with a BRV-1M. Braven’s fully waterproof (IPX7) bluetooth speaker is very stout and compact speaker with a shockproof rubber exterior that can be used with a GoPro mount if you wish. It paired quickly with my phone and had excellent sound quality. Classical and jazz sounded lovely. Dubstep was lacking low end, but this thing is the size of a large TV remote, so I forgive the lack of subwoofer. Expect 12 hours of playtime.

A built-in power pack to charge other USB devices makes the BRV-1M a natural for paddlers. Because a little Miles Davis (Freedie Freeloader is awesome) while eating dinner beside a campfire on a sandbar ain’t so bad sometimes. In fact, it might even be considered decadent.

Check out more from Darren Bush’s coverage of the 2016 OR show: Four good trends (and one bad one); and Outdoor Retailer paddling accessories.

Follow Bush’s regular camp-tip column, BushCraft.