If you’re hitting the open road this summer, here are some cool gadgets, useful apps and handy tools to keep you safe and entertained on your next road trip. Just remember to stay safe and properly physically distanced this summer, so that everyone can enjoy the roads.
1. A reliable dashboard camera
These portable cameras, which record images and sounds while you’re driving, are handy in case of an accident or insurance claim.
One of the newest coming to market this summer is the Nextbase 622GW 4K dash cam. It offers 4K HD filming and playback in super-slow motion, enhanced night mode for better picture quality on dark roads, an extreme-weather mode for better visibility in fog, an emergency SOS feature and built-in Amazon Alexa. It also has an intelligent parking mode, which automatically starts recording if someone bumps your vehicle in a parking lot. At $499.99, it costs considerably more than a regular dash cam, but there are cheaper Nextbase versions, as well as options from Garmin and Thinkware, available at Best Buy, Walmart and Canadian Tire. They start at about $79.
2. Tools that prepare for the worst
Another useful tool to get you out of a jam is a car battery jump-starter, because the last thing you want on a road trip is a dead battery. There are many pocket-sized external battery packs that can bring a dead battery back to life in mere seconds. The MotoMaster Eliminator 750A Lithium-Ion Booster Pack and Power Bank (Canadian Tire, $149.99) and the JunoJumper Pro external battery (eBay, approximately $125) come with built-in jumper cables. They’re portable, powerful and can jump-start not only a dead battery in a vehicle or a motorcycle, but they can also charge must-have gadgets such as a smartphone, tablet or gaming device.
A wireless, solar-powered tire-pressure-monitoring system is also handy to gauge tire pressure on the road (Amazon.ca, approximately $40); while mini air compressors, like the Air Hawk Pro automatic cordless tire inflator (Walmart, $79.88) is a smart, no-fuss solution to inflate tires quickly and easily. Always follow the recommended tire pressure listed in your owner’s manual or door jam.
According to Transport Canada, just one underinflated tire can reduce the life of the tire by 15,000 kilometres and increase fuel consumption by 4 per cent.
3. Gadgets and resources that help you plan your trip
Skip a costly GPS navigation system and download free apps, such as Google Maps or Waze, which keep you up to date on real-time traffic congestion and road accidents. Other must-have apps include GasBuddy, which tracks gas prices on your route, and The Weather Network, which can help you stay out of the path of storms.
4. Tech gadgets you didn’t know existed
Buy a mount for your cellphone, like a WeatherTech CupFone (weathertech.ca, $59.95). It’s a universal, fully adjustable portable phone holder that fits snugly in the cup holder of your car to keep your cell safely in place and make it easier to read.
If you have an older vehicle without handy features such as roaming WiFi, consider buying a mobile hotspot or USB rocket stick to connect multiple devices in your vehicle to the internet. Data plans vary depending on your cellphone provider.
For drivers and passengers who don’t want to waste precious time on a coffee break, consider a portable espresso maker for your vehicle such as the Handpresso Auto Hybrid V12 espresso machine. At $199.99 (Espressoplanet.com), it’s pricey, but easy and fast to use. It takes Nespresso pods or ground coffee. Fill with water, drop in a pod, plug into a 12/24V outlet and voila, fresh-brewed espresso.
5. Don’t forget something for children or pets
For babies, an in-car baby-bottle warmer from Munchkin (Walmart, $24.97) is also handy. A flexible heating band wraps around the baby’s bottle and plugs into the car’s outlets to warm milk in minutes. A mini fridge/cooler, like a Koolatron 12V compact electric cooler and warmer, can keep snacks and drinks at your fingertips (Walmart, approximately $120).
If you’re travelling with furry, four-legged friends, you might want to invest in pet travel seats, seat-belt harnesses and waterproof car-seat covers to keep your cabin clean and tidy at all times. (Amazon, $20 and up). A hand-held Dyson vacuum cleaner also makes for effortless cleanup when crumbs, dust and kibble hit the floor. (dysoncanada.ca, $249.99)
Be organized in your vehicle, too. Get headrest hooks to hold tablets for kids in the rear seats, as well as backseat organizers that come with multiple-sized slots for iPads, cellphones and games. A trunk organizer is also useful to store awkward items like umbrellas – in a rear-end collision, a flying umbrella could be dangerous.
6. One last important reminder
Before you hit the road, visit a mechanic to make sure your car fluids are topped up, your battery is fully charged, your tire pressure is properly set and your wiper blades are in good working order. Now, sit back, relax and enjoy the drive.
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