Five Personal Essentials to Make Summer Boating Better

The Davis SoliCharger-SP plays tunes from a variety of devices, and uses the sun to charge them. Photo courtesy of Davis.

The Davis SoliCharger-SP plays tunes from a variety of devices, and uses the sun to charge them. Photo courtesy of Davis.

Any summer day is best spent on a boat — we all know that. But a full day in a small or open boat, whether your own or someone else’s, can be a lot more fun if you bring along a few key items to enhance comfort, fun, and security. Here’s a quick list:

Solar Sounds

While many boats today come equipped with fancy built-in stereo systems, there are plenty that don’t have any facilities for playing tunes, especially smaller boats like my 19-footer. If this sounds familiar, you’ll love the Davis SoliCharger-SP. This clever little package features a zip-up Cordura case with a set of solar cells that will charge your iPod, Android, or iOS devices while playing your music through two built-in—and amazingly good-sounding—speakers.

SoliCharger-SP includes adapters for 32-pin Apple, USB, USB Mini, USB Micro, and USB Female so you can also charge other devices like digital cameras and portable gaming devices. Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone about that Bee Gees playlist on your iPhone. $49.99

If your smartphone slips into a live-well, a LifeProof case will keep it from drowning. Photo courtesy of LifeProof.

If your smartphone slips into a live-well, a LifeProof case will keep it from drowning. Photo courtesy of LifeProof.

Oops Insurance

Do you still have one of those flip-phones with a tiny screen and physical numeric keypads? Well, that’s OK, but you may as well skip this section. The rest of you reading this likely have a smartphone of one type or the other, and even if you bought it on contract, you probably paid a lot of money for it. And if you’re like me, you get a twitch every time you take it out on the water. Whether it’s salt spray or a dunk into a cooler full of icy water, moisture and smartphones don’t play well together. You’ll going to need a waterproof case, and some of the most rugged, most functional, and best-rated cases come from LifeProof.

These cases not only keep your phone safe down to 6.6 feet underwater, they also protect it from  drops, dirt, and dust. The company also makes waterproof cases for iPads, and for phones from other makers like Samsung and Motorola. Our partners over at boats.com have tested these cases often. Read Keeping Your iPhone Dry: LifeProof Excels, LifeProof iPad Case Passes Winter Water Test, and  LifeProof Frē Waterproof Case REview: Shelter from the Storm. $59.99 to $99.99

Keeping things cool --  or hot --  is in the YETI Rambler travel mug’s DNA. Photo courtesy of YETI.

Keeping things cool — or hot — is in the YETI Rambler travel mug’s DNA. Photo courtesy of YETI.

Ramble On

I’m not sure about you, but nothing makes me grumpier on a boat trip than a warm beverage that’s supposed to be frosty, or my hot morning cuppa joe being cold. Well, not catching fish is sort of annoying, but I haven’t found a catchall gadget for that. YETI, the company known for producing virtually indestructible boating coolers that keep ice for days, has focused its expertise in insulation to produce a travel mug that’s better than anything I’ve ever used: its Rambler insulated beverage tumbler.

These heavy-duty stainless-steel vessels come in 20- and 30-ounce sizes, and YETI claims they keep your drink “…as cold (or hot) as science allows.” I use one for my morning drives and it keeps my coffee steamy for hours. I haven’t tested the mug’s piña colada skills yet, but you can bet I will.  $29.99 to $39.99

A pair of high-quality polarized sunglasses, like these Costas, makes a day in the sun relaxing, instead of aggravating. Photo courtesy of Costa.

A pair of high-quality polarized sunglasses, like these Costas, makes a day in the sun relaxing, instead of aggravating. Photo courtesy of Costa.

Made in the Shade

Remember how your mother always told you to not look at the sun? Well, riding around on your boat all day without proper sun protection for your eyes isn’t much better. It’s not just bad for your eyes; it can cause fatigue as well. Who wants to be fatigued on a relaxing day out on the water? Luckily for you, a pair of quality, polarized sunglasses will go a long way toward ensuring your sunny weather boating bliss. Though I’ve worn all sorts of polarized sunglasses, Costa and Maui Jim stand out as two companies with not just great optics and quality, but also great service. They’ve both either replaced (no questions asked) or repaired (for very reasonable rates) many pairs of my sunglasses that met their demise under my backside. They can be pricey, ranging from just over $100 to well over $300, but the comfort you’ll enjoy is well worth it.

Simple, lightweight, and elegant, there’s not much you can’t fix with Leatherman’s Skeletool. Photo courtesy of Leatherman.

Simple, lightweight, and elegant, there’s not much you can’t fix with Leatherman’s Skeletool. Photo courtesy of Leatherman.

Inspector Gadget

I have to be honest—I’m not a big fan of multitools. They’re generally cumbersome, heavy, easy to drop overboard, and peeling the tool you need out of them is maddening. Then try to actually use one of those tools successfully and you may be on your way to a drinking problem.

After burning my way through a pile of cash on multitools that now sit in my desk drawer, I finally found a good one called the Leatherman Skeletool. What makes this better than the others? First, it’s very lightweight, having only the essential tools you’d need to do most anything on a boat—pliers, wire cutter, knife, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, and a bottle opener. (Of course the bottle opener is essential.) The Phillips and flathead bits slip in and out with a quick-release arrangement that’s very clever. Last, it’s easy to secure to your person with either a belt clip or a crafty carabiner snap. $69.85

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