This is the season when many people do some travelling or spend a bit of time at a cottage. Ideally, it would be very nice if that could be a time for getting away from it all but lots of details can conspire to compromise that goal. Here are a few devices that may be helpful, if you can only get away from some of it.
OVER THE AIR TV ANTENNA: Be honest now; it’s not just the grandchildren who might enjoy a TV fix now and then on a rainy day at the cottage. If we’re not utter snobs, we might admit to the occasional Blue Jays game, or maybe some pre-season Redblacks. In a location where cable or satellite service is not available or too expensive, an antenna might do the trick. Local television stations tend to have their transmission towers clustered in prime locations and it is quite possible that you might find yourself in range and able to bring in as many as twenty channels with surprising quality. Those of us of a certain age remember “rabbit ears” sitting on top of the TV set and the simplest of the modern equivalents do just that, for less than $50.00. Even challenging locations (longer distances, or dare we say it – tents, trailers or boats) can be served with external antennas, some with an electric rotor, for less than $100.00. In fact, lots of urban homes are now making do very well with a combination of an OTA antenna and some Internet TV, instead of cable or satellite.
CELLULAR PHONE SIGNAL BOOSTER: It might seem ironic that your fancy new smartphone doesn’t have the signal range of the 2-pound “brick” monster of 25 years ago. When it is necessary to cram a miniscule antenna into the tiny space that is now available and you add to this the fact that the vast majority of cell phones are being used in urban areas with lots of towers, maybe it is not surprising that modern cellular coverage and reliability drop off very quickly on a trip to the country. Cellular signal boosters don’t perform miracles but under certain conditions they can make a remote location safer or just more convenient. Our successful experience was with a Yagi (directional) antenna costing less than $100.00 and permanently installed by amateurs at a cottage where cellular coverage was otherwise hopeless. While this certainly does not qualify as a universal success story it does indicate that this technology has graduated from the gimmick stage where it was only a few years ago.
PORTABLE POWER BANK: We have always been skeptical of the ads that show a tiny battery the size of a paperback jump-starting a pickup truck but the new generation of these rechargeable power packs would certainly be up to the task of keeping a cell phone, GPS or flashlights recharged during a lengthy backpack or canoe back country adventure, especially considering the fact that nowadays many people include such devices under the heading of safety equipment. Anker is probably the best-known manufacturer of modern rechargers. The primary consideration in these devices is usually the size-to-power ratio and the commonest compromise is the 20,000mah size which, simply put, is about the size of a big chocolate bar and half the power of a car battery.
Read LOTS of reviews before buying, both to avoid worthless junk (of which there is plenty out there) and also to ensure that you have found a device precisely suited to your needs.
On the other hand, maybe you will be one of the lucky ones who won’t need this equipment. In any case, we hope that you have a terrific holiday season.