It’s the most wonderful time of the year: gadget time.
We hope you’re ready for another installment of what has become a yearly ritual: our top gadget recommendations for your favorite EP pro. A lot of exciting and cool tech has popped up this year, and we hope you’ll find something you love in that bunch. Why 14? We had to stop somewhere.
Let’s get started!
Blue Force medical kit
What it is: A portable, on-your-belt med kit that never gets in the way and allows you to carry most—if not all—the essential lifesaving tools you might need.
Why you need it: Why wouldn’t you need a medical kit that’s affordable and has a great design? Granted, you’ll still want to keep a bigger kit in your car—just in case. But the Blueforce bag is so lightweight and practical you’ll barely notice it dangling from your belt.
Why we like it: This is the best design we have seen so far on a small, on-body med kit. It’s the first one we have seen that has both customizable (and removable) indicators so you’ll know what to reach for at a glance, and lets you access whatever you need one-handed. It really is fantastic.
What it is: A high-definition, wire-free camera you can use essentially anywhere to keep an eye on locations of your choice.
Why you need it: Did we mention wire-free? No more pesky cables, clunky batteries—it’s got a rechargeable one—or having to use a cloud service, since it has decent on-board storage.
Why we like it: It’s tough to find a cam that’s portable, easy to set up, and supports LTE networks—but the Arlo Go does it all. It doesn’t hurt that picture quality is great and it has a night vision mode. It’s even weatherproof in case you need it outdoors. Tape it to a wall, a branch, or whatever—and you’re good to go.
What it is: A cool gizmo that turns your phone into an off-the-grid device for voice communication (push to talk up to 5 miles) and texting (up to 10 miles). Beartooth only works with other Beartooths, so you’ll need at least 2 to tango.
Why you need it: You need to keep in touch with members of your team at any time, whether you’re indoors or in the middle of nowhere. The last thing you want is to hope that your phone is getting proper reception. Beartooth entirely negates that worry: it communicates via the 900 MHz band – not cellular nets or Wi-Fi.
Why we like it: We first mentioned this phone before it was even released, and we’re glad it’s now available and living up to its promises. The same things we liked back then are included, and then some: encrypted messages, one-on-one or group comms, and mesh networking to extend your range. The Beartooth even displays topo maps and charges your phone!
What it is: A stuff-in-your-pocket Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 5 devices that works anywhere in the world using local cellular nets. Well, almost anywhere: over a hundred countries are covered.
Why you need it: Because you want to stay connected wherever you go. And even if you’re the kind of nerd who collects foreign SIM cards as a hobby, Skyroam is an excellent backup for emergencies. Plus, it’s cheap: $8 will guarantee you a day of unlimited Wi-Fi coverage. Business plans are even cheaper.
Why we like it: This is yet another device you can “set and forget”. Drop it in your bag and you’ll know you’re covered. No SIM cards to worry about, no exorbitant roaming charges. It connects to multiple devices and has a solid battery life. With Skyroam, you have one less chance to miss an important message or call at a critical time.
Leupold LTO Tracker
What it is: A tiny, lightweight (less than 10 ounces!) yet powerful thermal imager.
Why you need it: Hunters love this one and for good reason. It provides excellent thermal imagery up to 600 yards and lasts for several hours. If you need to keep an eye on your prey or any other surveillance situation and don’t need a bigger thermal imager, this one ranks among the best.
Why we like it: Don’t get us wrong, there are technically “better” thermal imagers out there—better zoom, longer-lasting battery, and so on. But just like the Blue Force kit, this is all about having what you need with you and never having to worry about it getting in your way. It’s so practical there’s no reason to not bring it along.
Goal Zero Yeti Lithium Portable Power Station
What it is: A series of portable power stations that you charge using either the mains (AC) or solar panels, and can then use to power up tablets, laptops, mini fridges, TVs, medical devices, lights. Oh, and phones. Battery capacity runs from 150 to 3075 Wh – or from a lot of power to a crazy lot of power.
Why you need it: EP professionals spend a lot of time away from reliable power sources, yet need to keep plenty of devices juiced up and running. If we’re sitting in a car waiting for a principal or doing residential work and, then leaving the engine running is often not an option: besides this being illegal in many places, it’s a sure-fire way to bother neighbors, attract attention and make an unnecessary stink. Having one of these along in the car prevents a lot of headaches.
Why we like it: It’s all about the power. The much smaller rechargers you can carry in a pocket are great in a pinch if your phone needs a boost, but the smallest will only charge a smartphone 60-100% – once. The upper range of the Yeti will charge the same phones up to 50, 60 or 70 times. Top of the line? 150 charges.
The EP Admin bag
What it is: An unassuming backpack that doesn’t broadcast its real purpose. This bag is tailored to fit the needs of EP practitioners – especially solo practitioners and agents in charge – so they can bring along and find all their must-have gear.
Why you need it: This hassle-free bag is big enough to carry most, if not all of your crucial gear—med kits, mags, wires, batteries, phones, keys—whether you’re at a larger event or out on a solo detail.
Why we like it: We love the clever (and discreet) design this bag offers. Pockets and pouches are conveniently placed so you can access them easily, often with just one hand. You won’t spend time fumbling around looking for a particular item. You’ll always know precisely where it is and can grab it in an instant.
CMMG Tactical Bacon
What it is: Ready-to-eat, delicious bacon in a can.
Why you need it: Come on. It’s bacon.
Why we like it: See above. But seriously: this bacon lasts for a decade. If you haven’t stashed a few cans of this stuff in your bug-out vehicle or mountain hideout, you’ll only have yourself to blame when everyone else is feasting and you’re eating crackers and noodles.
What it is: In its own limited but helpful way, the Apple smart watch matches and extends the functionality of other, bigger iOS devices to the convenient location of your wrist.
Why you need it: The Apple Watch helps you accomplish a lot of what you do with your iPhone without having to dig your device out of your pocket and stare at it like a bored teenager. If you frequently need to check navigation directions, messages, emails, calendars, texts, or receive calls, the Apple Watch will change your life. Not like canned bacon, but still. Watch a video I did last year on driving with the Apple Watch here.
Why we like it: Being able to check your notifications and urgent messages with a quick glance at your wrist can be a real lifesaver—in some cases, literally. Apple Watch helps you keep your eye on the ball, the principal, your significant other – all without missing the latest sports results. At the very least, it’s a tremendous timesaver, and we know how precious that can be. With the launch of Series 3 and watch OS4, unless you’re deeply attached to the Android ecosystem, you simply won’t find a better smart watch out there. It doesn’t hurt that the upper-end models look incredibly cool, either.
What it is: A portable suction device that helps clear a person’s airway in case of choking.
Why you need it: You might be in a situation where you need to perform first aid on your principal, a colleague, or a loved one. Choking, unfortunately, can happen anywhere and at any time—and the Heimlich maneuver may not always work or be practicable or possible to perform.
Why we like it: Like many of the other gadgets in this list, LifeVac is a compact, reliable, and infinitely useful thing that can save lives. Throw it into your EP admin bag and the risk of a principal choking will be one less thing to worry about. We also dig the fact that the LifeVac’s mask only needs to be replaced every couple of years, making this gadget very low maintenance.
What it is: A smart, digital “co-driver” you attach to your windshield so you can read, dictate and send messages – while you keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Chris also facilitates navigation, music, and calls.
Why you need it: Even if you’re wearing an Apple or Android smart watch, and even though Siri and Google Now might someday learn how to be great digital assistants, they’re not ideal for intense driving situations. You still often need to touch your device to interact with it, and not all third-party apps support voice functions or Siri/Google Now commands.
Chris is its own kind of touch-free device. It supports gestures, promises to integrate seamlessly with most of the apps you might need while on the road, and will respond to and learn from your interactions with it. The design’s pretty sleek, too.
Why we like it: We love the small interface right on the windshield that relays everything you need without needing to reach for the dashboard or in our pockets. We don’t want to fumble with our gadgets and get distracted.
Roost Smart 9V Battery
What it is: A 9-V battery that actually lets you know—wherever you are—how it’s doing.
Why you need it: It’s happened to all of us at some point: smoke alarms and other lifesaving devices running out of juice without us noticing. Even worse, an alarm might go off when we’re not on-site to handle the situation.
The smart Roost battery connects to your Wi-Fi network (seriously) and will send a notification to your phone whenever it needs to, say if the alarm gets triggered, or the battery itself needs to be replaced (again: seriously.)
Why we like it: We like it because we don’t like surprises (unless they’re Christmas gifts like this one), and it allows us to be aware at all times of what’s happening with a particular alarm at a given location—even if we’re miles away—for less than fifty bucks.
What it is: A rescue backpack with plenty of cable, carabiners and an anchor point to get you out of a multi-story building when needed.
Why you need it: Granted, this one’s a bit of a niche item, given that no one —not even EP professionals—needs to rappel down the side of a building very often. Still, when you need it, you really need it. It’s one of those tools you might want to keep in an office or apartment just in case quick self-evacuation (or the evacuation of your principal) is desperately needed, right now, and all your other exit points are blocked.
Why we like it: The tech is, simply put, incredible. Fireproof, easy-to-use, reliable, and 50-meter cables? Allows you to escape out of a burning building on a moment’s notice? There’s no better way to feel like James Bond.
SFD-Responder Ankle Pouch by FROG.PRO
What it is: A pouch big enough to carry a first aid kit (or other must-carry essentials) yet small enough to conceal on your ankle.
Why you need it: First aid kits aren’t much help if they’re in the trunk of a car far away from a trauma scene. With the SFD-Responder, you can keep some essentials with you no matter where the job takes you and still keep your hands free.
Why we like it: The SFD-Responder is elastic, lightweight (110 g), super-compact and comfortable. You can pack a tourniquet, bandages, gloves, a penlight and a Sharpie – all out of sight. Yes, you can get way more into a belt pack or a backpack. But do you always want to be recognizable as the guy with extra gear? With one or two of these strapped on, you can actually carry a decent amount of stuff, completely concealed, so you’ve got it when and where you need it.