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Gadling Gear Review: Bluetooth Speakers For Travel

Bluetooth Speaker: Damson Twist
Damson
Smartphones, tablets and iPods have made it incredibly easy to carry your entire music collection wherever you go. This is particularly useful when traveling; you get an entire library of songs right at your fingertips, helping to make those long stays in airports and hotels just a bit easier. Add a portable Bluetooth speaker to the mix and you have a wireless entertainment system with high quality sound that can go with you anywhere. Those speakers have gotten smaller, lighter and more affordable over the past few years, making them a great travel companion for the music lover. Here are two unique options to consider for your next road trip.

Damson Twist ($69.99)
If you're looking for a compact, yet surprisingly powerful, Bluetooth speaker to take with you when you travel, it's tough to beat the Twist from Damson. This diminutive audio device really packs a punch and thanks to its unique design it even provides a solid amount of bass -- something that can't be said about most of the competition.

When taking the speaker out of the box for the first time you'll probably be struck by two things. First, the Twist is quite small, measuring a shade under three inches in height and about two-and-a-quarter inches around. The second is that the speaker is surprisingly heavy for something so small. It tips the scales at 12 ounces, which doesn't sound like much until you hold it in your hand. For such a small device the Twist feels incredibly solid, conveying the sense that it can take a little abuse and keep performing just fine. The build quality on the speaker is truly top notch and Damson should be commended for creating a portable speaker this good.

Gadling Gear Review: Microsoft Surface Pro

Microsoft Surface Pro
Microsoft
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months, you've no doubt seen the ubiquitous advertisements for Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet computer. You know the commercials I'm talking about. The ones that feature a good looking group of young people dancing around the boardroom while snapping the device's removable keyboard into place with a distinctive "click." Those advertisements would lead you to believe that the Surface is a device capable of handling the full workload of a laptop while still offering the convenience and simplicity of a tablet -- which if true would make it the Holy Grail of travel devices. I recently had the opportunity to put a Surface Pro model to the test on two very different road trips and I can tell you that it (mostly) lives up to its billing. The device really is unlike any other I've ever used and it has the potential to make many road warriors very happy.

Before I dive too far into the performance of the Surface Pro it is important to point out that Microsoft has released two versions of the tablet. In addition to the Pro model there is also the Surface RT, which runs a stripped down version of Windows 8, which comes with a few compromises. For instance, it can only run apps specifically made for Windows RT, while the Pro model can run any Windows software that you care to install. The RT also has a less powerful processor as well, but it makes up for it with longer battery life, a thinner and lighter design and a smaller price tag. Since I haven't had the opportunity to use a Surface RT for any length of time, this review is based off the Surface Pro, which is a considerably more powerful device. In simplified terms the RT is a tablet with laptop aspirations while the Pro is a laptop wrapped in tablet form.

Gadling Gear Review: Eddie Bauer MicroTherm Down Hoodie

Eddie Bauer First Ascent Down Hoodie
Eddie Bauer
One look at the calendar (not to mention the thermometer) will tell you that we are most definitely in the dog days of summer. But it won't be long until the mercury begins to drop and we'll start planning our cold weather adventures. The key to enjoying those escapes is good gear that will keep you plenty warm even as the temperature plunges. A down jacket can be the difference between a wonderful day spent outside and hours of misery in frigid temperatures.

Eddie Bauer has a long history of making quality gear that performs well in any environment. Over the years, its clothing has protected climbers on their way to the summit of Everest and explorers traveling to the extreme ends of the Earth. A few years ago, the company launched a new line of adventure inspired apparel that would carry on that legacy into the 21st century. The First Ascent line was designed specifically for active travelers and adventurers with a focus on delivering a high level of performance in an affordable and attractive package. Thw MicroTherm Down Hoodie fits that description very well, keeping the wearer warm and dry when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Gadling Gear Review: Travel Pants And Shirt From Clothing Art

Clothing Arts P-Cubed Pants
Clothing Arts
Awhile back we reviewed a pair of pants from a company called Clothing Arts that were specifically designed to keep your valuables safe and secure while traveling. At the time, we were impressed with their pickpocket proof pants, giving them high marks for security, comfort and style. Since then, the company has continued to evolve its line of travel clothing making subtle improvements to their designs and expanding their offerings. The result is a new generation of apparel that improves on previous offerings in just about every way.

P-Cubed Adventure Pants ($109.95)
The core product in the Clothing Arts line-up remains the P-Cubed travel pants which have seen some nice upgrades since we first took a look at them. For instance, the pants are now available in your choice of two fabrics, the original cotton-nylon blend and the new "nature-like" nylon. The latter of those options is soft and feels a bit like cotton, but has all the benefits of modern high-tech materials. It is lightweight and breathable, dries quickly and is comfortable to wear. It also resists wrinkling and is very durable. In short, it is the perfect fabric from which to make a pair of travel pants.

This new fabric is a fantastic addition to the P-Cubed design but the product hasn't lost its focus on security in any way. The pants feature six pockets: two on the front, two on the back and two cargo style pockets on the legs. Each of them is deep and spacious, allowing them to safely carry plenty of small items such as keys, a passport and a wallet. There is even plenty of room for a mobile phone, a small camera or just about anything else you may want to take with you on a walk about town or on a trek through the Himalaya.

Gadling Gear Review: Smartphone Accessories

Smartphone Accessories: PowerTrip mobile charger
PowerStick
As smartphones have become more commonplace, an entire industry has sprung up around mobile accessories that have the ability to make our gadgets even more useful than they already are. Many of those accessories have been specifically designed to make travel more convenient as well. Here are a few items that may come in handy the next time you hit the road with your favorite smart device.

PowerTrip Mobile Charger ($99)
One of the biggest challenges of owning a smartphone is managing to keep it charged and fully operational for a full day. Answering emails, taking calls, sending text messages and surfing the Internet all require significant amounts of juice out of our phone's power cells and as a result, more and more of us are carrying external battery packs to help keep them charged while on the go. Small, compact and lightweight battery packs are extremely affordable and portable these days. The problem is that most of them have a hard time standing out against the competition, as they all share similar characteristics and functionality. But the PowerTrip portable charger from PowerStick has several unique features that help to distinguish it from the crowd and make it a wise choice for travelers.

Gadling Gear Review: Two Camera Bags From Lowepro

Lowepro Transit Backpack camera bag
Lowepro
When you invest a considerable amount of money into a good camera and a set of lenses for travel, it is important to also spend a little extra cash to get a quality camera bag as well. A good bag is not only comfortable to wear but also provides plenty of protection from accidental damage while also managing to keep all of your gear well organized and easy to access. That can play a big difference in whether or not you get the chance to capture that perfect shot or miss it altogether.

Lowepro is a company that has been designing excellent camera bags for travel and outdoor activities for years. Their bags are popular amongst professional photographers and amateurs alike because they always offer great quality and incorporate certain elements that indicate the designers know their customers' needs very well. Here are two new bags from Lowepro that are sure to be popular options with active travelers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Transit Backpack 350 AW ($119.99)
Photographers in the market for a versatile camera bag with plenty of room for all of their equipment need look no further than the new Transit Backpack. The bag features plenty of pockets, interior compartment space and mesh organizers to hold camera bodies, multiple lenses, memory cards and a variety of other gear. A small tripod can even be lashed to the side of the pack thanks to built-in straps designed for that very purpose. On top of that, the pack has a sleek, attractive design that not only looks good, but also puts everything you need right at your fingertips.

British Cyclist Chris Froome Wins 2013 Tour De France

Tour de France winner Chris Froome
Courtesy Sky Sports
The 100th edition of the Tour de France will come to a dramatic end today when the riders arrive in Paris at last. For the past three weeks the best cyclists in the world have been battling it out on the roads of France for the right to wear the famed maillot jaune – better known as the "yellow jersey" – that designates the current leader of the race. As the peloton turns toward the finish line later today it will be Chris Froome, captain of the Sky Procycling team, who will be in yellow, and since the final stage of the race is uncontested, he'll head for home knowing that he is already the winner.

Froome, who was born in Kenya but carries a British passport, took control of the race early on with a stunning ride in the early mountain stages of the Pyrenees. His impressive climbing skills left all other contenders in the dust, including former champs Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck. Later he was able to widen his lead by dominating two individual time trials and although he looked a bit more vulnerable in the Alps, he still managed to gain time on his closest rivals.

While today's ride is technically the final stage, there is an unwritten rule in the peloton that you don't attack the yellow jersey on the ride to Paris. With more than a five-minute advantage on the next closest rider, it would be impossible for a competitor to actually make up that much ground anyway. Instead, Froome will enjoy a leisurely ride into Paris where the sprinters will take center stage on the Champs Élysées. That will prove to be a fast and furious scene that the race winner is generally happy to stay well clear of.

Since this was the 100th anniversary of the Tour, the organizers of the event went out of their way to make things special. In the opening days, the race visited the island of Corsica for the first time ever. Later, they punished the riders with some of the toughest stages that have ever been a part of the race, including a double ascent of the famed mountain stage of Alpe d'Huez, on the same day no less. Today may be the best day of all, however, as the riders will embark late in the afternoon from the gardens at Versailles and will arrive in Paris as the sun is going down. They'll then pedal through the courtyard at the Louvre before making their way to the Champs Élysées, where they'll race around the Arc de Triomphe for the first time. It should make for a very memorable finish that will leave fans of the race counting the days until its return next year.

An Octogenarian's Himalayan Adventure (VIDEO)

Who says you have to give up an adventurous life just because you get a little older? Certainly not Simon Gandolfi, an 80-year-old writer who just so happens to be on a journey from Delhi to London aboard a 125 CC TVS Phoenix motorcycle. In the video below we get a chance to experience part of Simon's adventure as he rides up the Rohtang Pass in India and into the Himalayan State of Himachal Pradesh. To call the roads he rides treacherous would be an understatement but the views along the way look absolutely spectacular.

I hope I'm still taking on adventures like this when I'm in my 80s. Simon is an inspiration, even if he does look absolutely exhausted at the end.

A Day At The (Camel) Races

Camel Races in Alice Springs, Australia
Kraig Becker
The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes are three of the biggest horse races on the planet, collectively making up the prestigious Triple Crown. Steeped in tradition, each of those events deftly mixes exhilarating action on the track with plenty of pomp and circumstance in the stands. With their large purses, competitive fields and rich histories these races are the very embodiment of the "sport of kings," drawing plenty of attention to thoroughbred racing on an annual basis.

The residents of the town of Alice Springs, located deep in the heart of Australia's "Red Center," aren't particularly impressed with the Triple Crown, however, mostly because they have a fine race all their own. In the minds of local residents, their homegrown event more than rivals those races in terms of prestige, action and unpredictability, while easily surpassing it in quirkiness. The Lasseters Camel Cup takes place on the second Sunday in July each year and features some of the finest camel racing you could ever hope to see. That is, if you should ever find yourself at an actual event that features those irritable, obstinate and down right mean animals pitted against one another on a racetrack. The sport seems aptly fitting for Australia, however, where they not only have an abundance of camels but more than a few jockeys crazy enough to try to ride them.

Gadling Gear Review: Samsung WB250F Smart Camera

Samsung WB250F Smart Camera
Samsung
Over the past couple of years, smartphones have managed to supplant dedicated cameras for many aspiring photographers thanks to their ability to take good, clean images and quickly share them across a variety of social media outlets. While they don't come equipped with true zoom lenses or overly large sensors, in many cases they capture images that are good enough to meet most people's needs and as a result, camera sales have suffered. But Samsung is a company that knows a thing or two about smartphones and cameras, and they've leveraged that expertise to create devices that can serve a wide variety of consumers. Nowhere is that more evident than in their new WB250F Smart Camera, which offers all of the features you'd expect out of a dedicated point-and-shoot, plus a host of features that you've come to love on your smartphone.

In terms of features and specs, the WB250F comes with everything you would expect out of a modern digital camera. It features a 14.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, an excellent 18x zoom lens and a high quality touchscreen that is crisp, clear and responsive. It is capable of capturing video in full 1080p HD and has a convenient pop-up flash that is surprisingly bright and powerful. Perhaps more importantly, however, the Smart Camera includes built-in Wi-Fi, which greatly extends its functionality when connected to wireless network or tethered to a smartphone, tablet or other device.

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