Avery’s Favourite Things: Summer Gear Guide 2021
As the resident tech expert on Canada’s largest national morning show, it’s my job to keep a look out for the coolest gadgets and gear. Here’s my roundup of the ten products I recommend for having a fun and safe summer close to home — whether that’s in the backyard, on your patio or balcony, at the park, or beach.
Editorial note: none of these picks are sponsored, and you won’t find an affiliate link on this page. The only way to make it on this list is to have a product I think is worthwhile, offers good value, and have tested extensively myself. - Avery Swartz
For my family, with our tiny urban backyard (pictured above), this $75 inflatable pool was the hit of the 2020 pandemic summer. At eight feet wide and a foot and a half deep, it’s just big enough to float in and cool off while all other pools were closed. Socially distanced bliss. I can’t wait to get it set up again this year.
There are a lot of portable Bluetooth speakers out there. I like many of them, especially the Bose SoundLink Revolve. But for overall value for price, the UE Wonderboom can’t be beat. It’s small and cute, totally waterproof (throw it in the pool for funsies - it floats!), has decent sound, and can handle being dropped. The only downside for me is that it doesn’t have an auxiliary jack, so you can’t plug in that iPod Classic you keep telling your kids is “vintage”. It’s Bluetooth or nothing, baby.
Ah, watching movies (or sports, or streaming Netflix) under the stars. It’s a true summertime pleasure. But if you live in the north like I do, the sun stays out late in the summer. It can be close to 10pm by the time it’s dark enough to see the picture from most portable projectors on the market. They’re just not bright enough.
So skip the handheld “pico” projectors. Yes, they’re inexpensive, but they’re not gonna cut it. You’re going to have to drop some coin to get a portable outdoor projector that’s bright enough, has enough battery to last the length of a movie, and has speakers that don’t sound like total garbage. The one you want is the Nebula Mars II Pro.
You know what’s better than spraying chemicals all over your body to keep mosquitos away? Dispersing chemicals into the air around you to keep mosquitos away! Hey, if it works, I’ll do it. And the Thermacell mosquito repellants do work. I used them all last summer, on my patio and at campsites. I recommend getting more than one if you have a large space. Also, if the wind is blowing, they won’t work as well (duh). Finally, you’ll likely have to buy refill canisters of the repellant, which will set you back another $30. Trust me, it’s worth all of this to not have bug bites.
If I’m outside directly under the hot sun, I will wilt like a flower. I need shade! For those times when it’s not always possible to sit under a tree, I pack a Sport-Brella. It’s easy to carry (folds up like an umbrella) and creates a nice amount of cover for a few people. Keep it in the trunk of your car all summer long. You can thank me later.
YETI Rambler drink tumbler
I like my hot drinks to be hot, my cold drinks to be cold, for them all to be portable, and for none of them to taste metallic. Is that too much to ask? For some insulated drink holders, apparently yes. But not for the YETI Rambler. It holds 20 ounces of whatever beverage you’re indulging in, and keeps it the way you like it for hours. Is that a flat white or an Aperol spritz you’re enjoying in the park? I’ll never tell. Bonus: the lid uses a magnet to slide open and closed, so it’s super secure and also easy to remove for cleaning.
Wham-O Ultimate Frisbee
I always kind of hated those Ultimate Frisbee people in university. They were just so… earnest. But in these trying times, we need ways to entertain ourselves and our children outdoors that keeps us distanced. So frisbee it is. Even an uncoordinated dork like me can handle that. Sure, you’re turning your nose up at it now. But pack a frisbee in your park bag and see how well it goes over.
Kindle Paperwhite eReader
What’s summer without a good beach read? Whether you’re in to drama, romance, thrillers, comedies, or all of the above, you can pack hundreds of books into your bag with a Kindle. I like the Kindle Paperwhite because it’s waterproof (great for the pool) and you can read in bright sun without any glare. The only downside is that Kindle doesn’t work with anything but Amazon in Canada, so you can’t put your library books on it. I still think it’s worthwhile, and use mine daily.
Kuma Lazy Bear Chair
I do a lot of camping and am no stranger to crappy portable chairs. My ass deserves better, and so does yours. Kuma chairs are padded, spacious, comfy, and well made. If you want even more luxury, they also make double-wide chairs for two and ones with heated seats.
ENO Double Nest Hammock
If the inflatable swimming pool above was my absolute favourite pandemic purchase, this portable hammock was my second favourite. The double-size hammock easily attaches between two trees (with separately sold, super easy-to-use ties) and can hold up to 400 pounds. It’s rugged, durable, and folds down into a four inch by five inch carrying pouch. Goes very well (maybe too well?) with a cool drink in the YETI Rambler.