Chattanooga Now Tech innovations to take your outdoor sport to infinity and beyond

Chattanooga Now Tech innovations to take your outdoor sport to infinity and beyond

December 1st, 2017 by Myron Madden in Get Out - Features

In 1989, Marty McFly and his time-hopping accomplice Doc Brown introduced the world to 2015 — the future.

From the seats of crowded theaters, "Back to the Future Part II" audiences gazed transfixed upon the technologies of tomorrow: video-calling platforms, smart glasses, self-lacing shoes and, of course, the hoverboard (still holding out hope for that last one).

What moviegoers weren't introduced to, however, were the technological innovations that lay in store for lovers of the outdoors.

Over the last few decades, every recreational activity from running to fishing has seen its fair share of ingenious devices designed to make the pastime safer, easier and more enjoyable for its practitioners. Contraptions once considered the stuff of fiction are now available to anyone willing to match their otherworldly price tags — and the temptation to splurge only grows stronger with each revolutionary new upgrade.

While the 21st century has yet to deliver on all of the inventions featured in the iconic 1989 film (still looking at you, hoverboards), we compiled a couple of high-tech goodies you won't have to blast yourself 26 years into the future to get your hands on.

Smart Jackets

A two-year collaboration between Levi's and Google has given way to the most fashionable installment in wearable technology yet: a Bluetooth-accessible jean jacket.

Rolled out just this October, the futuristic accessory allows bike commuters to stay connected to their mobiles without taking their eyes from the road.

The jacket's left cuff is woven with touch-sensitive fabric that lets the wearer interact with his or her smartphone through a customizable set of gestures. With just a few quick adjustments in its companion app, riders can program their jacket to pause their music or relay GPS directions when they brush or tap the sleeve.

While the technology is incredibly impressive, critics have come down hard on the jacket, primarily for its hefty price, which they say does not match the limited amount of actions it currently performs.

In any case, the smart garment is only a first step for Google. We could eventually see updated capabilities in a wide variety of connected clothing.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Levi's Commuter x Jacquard Jacket


» Detachable Bluetooth tag for washability

» LED lights on tag for additional notifications

» Two days of battery life on a single charge

Digital Camera Binoculars

First, there was the telescope, giving us the gift of far-flung perspective. Next came the binoculars, two telescopes mounted on a single frame, a marvel in 1825.

Today, there are digital camera binoculars, enabling hobbyists to capture images and video of the wildlife they spy through their lenses. Sound too good to be true? Could be.

Most of these devices have low-quality cameras, ranging between 1.3 and 8 megapixels. For context, the iPhone 7 boasts a 12-megapixel camera. The binoculars are, however, fairly inexpensive, ranging from $20 to $250 — though, according to online reviews, you get what you pay for.

Still, digital camera binoculars are new to the market. How they will evolve in the future is yet to be seen.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Best for Cost


» 2-inch LCD screen

» 12x magnification with 720p resolution

» Tripod-mountable

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Best for Night

Bushnell 260501 Equinox Z 

» Infrared illumination for nighttime viewing

» Rugged, water-resistant housing

» 4x magnification

» Tripod-mountable

Bone Conduction Headphones

The idea of listening to your workout playlist through your skull "ears-free" might sound strange, but it could just save your life.

Used by the U.S. military to keep soldiers aware of their surroundings while listening to incoming radio transmissions, bone conduction technology is more than capable of allowing runners and cyclists to own the road and feel the beat without compromising their safety.

The headset enables athletes to keep their ears unplugged by channeling vibrations through their cheekbones directly to their inner ear, where the vibrations are converted in to nerve impulses the brain interprets as sound.

While they may not deliver Bose-level sound quality, the volume capabilities and depth of base in newer models are an unexpected surprise — just be prepared to feel the speakers pulsating slightly against your skin in rhythm with the music, which even product developers admit takes some time to adjust to.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Best in Class

AfterShokz Trekz Titanium 

» Lightweight and flexible

» Sweatproof and secure

» Plays six hours of music on a single charge

Smart Hydration Bottle

One of the most dangerous mistakes any athlete can make is waiting until thirst hits to take a water break, yet fending off dehydration is a task we far too often forget.

Luckily, the tech gods have gifted us with smart bottles capable of doing all that pesky remembering for us. Smart bottles allow you to set your hydration goals for either a day or a given activity. The rechargeable bottles, which have been steadily gaining popularity over the last year, track your daily water intake and send you reminders via flashing lights on the bottle or alerts on your phone when it's time to drink up.

Each bottle has its own unique set of features. Some measure your water's temperature, warning you if it's too hot and hailing you when the water's just right. Others aren't bottles, but rather attachable devices — caps or lids — for your preferred cup that let you keep tabs on your water intake. Some also detect coffee, tea and other beverages, giving you a complete picture of your fluid consumption for the day.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Ozmo Smart Bottle 


» Records water and coffee consumption

» Syncs with Fitbit, Apple Watch and other fitness trackers

» Up to 3 weeks of battery life on a single charge

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Thermos Smart Lid  $59.99

» Includes connected hydration bottle

» Real-time temperature readings

» Charts daily, weekly, monthly progress

» Up to 12 days of battery life on a single charge

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Hidrate Spark  $44.95

» Glows to help celebrate achieved daily goals

» Syncs with Fitbit, Apple Watch, Under Armour Record and other fitness trackers

» Long-lasting replaceable battery means no charging required

Electronic Fish Attractor

What if there was a gadget that could instantly transform even the most novice angler into the pied piper of the Hiwassee? Could you handle the power? The responsibility?

Jeff and Jack Danos would like to think so.

After launching a successful Kickstarter campaign from their Louisiana home, the father-son duo took to ABC's "Shark Tank" last year to properly introduce the TactiBite Fish Call.

The floating fish magnet, cleverly disguised as a Nerf football, uses a built-in transducer to imitate the sounds and vibrations made by bait fish, enabling it to attract hungry game fish swimming nearby. Related products, like HydroWave's line of boat-mounted gear systems, use similar vibrational stimuli to trigger fishes' predatory feeding response and competitive nature, igniting a "feeding frenzy."

While some anglers have questioned whether using these fish charmers is cheating, many buyers have already tested the devices, with varying results. Though the tech may not necessarily beguile schools of bass to fling themselves at your line, its ability to change the behavior of inactive fish still makes it a useful tool.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Most Popular

TactiBite Fish Call  $99.99

» Three different sound settings

» Includes anchor and 20 feet of anchor line

» Batteries last 15+ hours

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Best Functionality

HydroWave H2 System Package  $409.99

» 16 different sound patterns for specific fishing situations

» 2.5-inch LCD screen

» 12-volt power supply cable

Invisible Bike Helmet

No, it's not what you're thinking. It's even better.

Developed by Swedish company Hövding as a helmet for helmet-haters, this airbag for urban cyclists is giving the traditional shell design a run for its money. In Europe, at least.

The battery-powered "helmet" is worn around your neck like a scarf and equipped with sensors that deploy an ultra-strong nylon fabric airbag when they detect an accident.

The device has faced a fair amount of skepticism from commentators, who note that the airbag must be fully charged to work and can only be deployed once, but researchers at Stanford University claim it offers eight times more protection than standard helmets.

Regardless of where you stand on the debate, the helmet is not commercially available in the U.S. just yet, meaning you might just have to blast a couple of years into the future to snag one, after all.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Hövding 2.0
€299 ($345)

» Waterproof and dirt-repellent

» Nine hours of battery life

» Consists of collar and cover