- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2016

Give the gift of gadget this Father’s Day to dads who love cooking and playing outdoors. Here are just a few ideas to make the high-tech big guy happy.

Survivor (Dreamwave, $279) — Music-listening, outdoor-loving dads get help to pursue their extreme lifestyle with an aurally powerful, multifunctional olive green, high-tech block the size of a loaf of bread.

At its simplest, the Survivor is a high-performance, 30-watt, Bluetooth-connected speaker system delivering seven hours of tunes at maximum volume on a single charge with full, chest-pounding bass response and anti-distortion circuitry.

Next, add a hand-free mode to connect phone calls through a smartphone and a 110 Lumens LED Flashlight with an SOS flash for emergencies.

Now, pull open the soft plastic side cover to reveal, a USB 5V/1A port for charging mobile devices, an aux in port and a place to plug in the car adapter or AC adapter (included) for recharging.

The area also features a port to attach the included car battery jumper cables, that’s correct, and Survivor boasts enough power (with even only a 50 percent charge) to start a 7.0L V8 engine vehicle.

SEE ALSO: Father’s Day Gift Guide: Best gaming gadgets for dad

And, perhaps most important, the rugged design includes IPX5 protection against direct attacks from dust, water, sand and snow. No, don’t drop it into the lake, but it will take a direct jet of water.

Suffice it to report, the outdoorsman in the family will call it a new friend.

While in tech survival mode, gift givers might also toss in the compact WeatherProof 8000 battery pack (Tough Tested, $59.99). The palm-sized, orange metallic design with hard rubber bumpers offers enclosed, dual USB ports delivering 8,000 milliamps of power (multiple charges to cell phones, mobile gaming units, GPS devices, action cameras and computer tablets, for example) and a LED flashlight.

It is water-resistant, dust- and shock-proof and will take a beating. The package also includes a micro USB charging cable and car charger.

Simple Smoker (Char-Broil, $299.99) — Shaped like an Imperial R2-Q5 droid (sans legs) from the “Star Wars” universe, the circular, domed-shaped, fairly easy-to-use meat smoker stands almost 27 inches tall and opens at the top to place poultry (up to a 16-pound turkey), pulled pork, ribs and brisket-type cuts of meat into large wire racks for a hands-off cooking experience.

Using SmartChef technology, the smoker connects to a smart phone (iOS and Android) via an app, so the user can set up the smoking regime while monitoring meat temperature, estimated cooking and done times and the chamber temperature.

He simply clicks the start on his phone and the cooking process begins and is monitored through the phone, even sending progress alerts.

Ultimately, using minimal amount of chips, the smoker does deliver a well-cooked, flavorful piece of meat. Clean up is easy, but remember that the wood chips need to be replaced before the next session.

The Simple Smoker includes an integrated meat probe, a basket to add wood chips, drip tray and warming basket, and must be plugged into a 120-volt outdoor outlet.

One caveat is worth mentioning for the new owner: This smoker does not use Bluetooth technology but requires a strong and consistent Wi-Fi access point through a home network. Specifically, it needs a nearly unobstructed view of the routers or Wi-Fi extender (concrete walls are no good) to work efficiently and stay connected with the phone.

If you have a sporadic connection, like I do (thank you very little Comcast), the chef may lose all of the settings during the cooking process and need to shut everything down and reconnect the unit to the phone.

Now the cooker supposedly compensates for it by keeping track of the cook in the vent of a shut down but it can be very temperamental. For example, I had to start my smoking cycle over again during a couple of trial runs before understanding the rules.

The Simple Smoker can also cook without the phone app, using presets for the meat by selecting a number that corresponds to the instruction manual for the type of meat (cooking pulled pork, brisket or chicken/turkey). Obviously, its much less convenient than the extras afforded the phone app with the settings handled via a pair of lit buttons at the bottom of the unit.

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