Gadget guru: T3's tech sage solves all your problems

Tech enlightenment from the one they call Gagu

How can I make camping more bearable? Are there any, erm, adult-friendly toys? What's the best way to cool myself down? Which sunglasses should I consider? Can you give me some good vaping options? What's the best teeth-cleaning tech?

Your questions answered by the mysterious T3 tech sage...

Q. I'm going camping. Please help me survive this hell!

- Hannah Philips, Cirencester

A. Guru generally likes to make like Bear Grylls, wiping his arse with leaves (and not even smooth leaves; really coarse ones – stinging nettles if available), warming up by doing naked push-ups in the snow, then sitting down to a nice lunch of raw rat's spleen.

If you're some kind of panty-waist who prefers to use a tent, GaGu would currently recommend the old-school Robens Klondike at £500. This retro, canvas (well, polyester and alloy) mini-hut looks like it should be full of Boy Scouts eating Spangles and furtively smoking Woodbines when Akela is away, but will actually sleep six contemporary people in something not a million miles from comfort. There's room to cook, thanks to a stovepipe port, and the whole thing weighs about as much as a chicken's testicle.

Speaking of cooking, Gadget Guru recommends you purchase a BioLite (£140). That's not only a brilliant stove, it also happens to run on twigs and fir cones, AND it will generate electricity to charge up your gadgets. Handy.

Or how about a pop-up? GaGu well remembers when these first became popular about six years ago; he'd survey the landscape at the end of music festivals (the East Cheam Jazz and Death Metal Fest 2009 was especially heavy), and there'd be abandoned sproing-o-tents as far as the eye could see, left behind by people too wasted to figure out how to force them back into their bags.

Today, Eurohike makes some great two-man pop-ups for around 30 quid; or, if you're a larger group of lazy people, Coleman's Instant Tent Tourer 4 does exactly what its name suggests.

Heimplanet, meanwhile, makes crazy inflatable tents that are somewhere between a bouncy castle and a sci-fi prop. From the €450 (£288) Wedge to the ludicrous, space-age geodesic dome that is the €5,000 (£3,200) Mavericks, these things are the most fun you can have with inflation this side of a blow-up 'affection companion'.

Q. I want to get my child a toy I'll enjoy playing with too. Have you got any suggestions?

- Jason Cormer, Nottinghamshire

A. Are you kidding? Children these days have toys so awesome, they make GaGu's childhood seem Dickensian. Actually, it was quite a hard time: Guru's dad once gave him two knackered Matchbox cars nailed to a piece of bark, and claimed it was a Scalextric set.

By far the most awesomest thing GaGu has seen this month is Anki Overdrive. This isn't out till September, so you've got time to save up – and you'll need to. The starter kit is $150, but by the time you've bought all the add-on cars and track sections – and you WILL have to buy all the add-on cars and track sections – you'll have spent Junior's college fund. Oh well.

Overdrive is essentially Scalextric with artificial intelligence, guns, control via a mobile device, and cars designed by the man who made the vehicles in Tron: Legacy and Minority Report.

You lay the magnetic track sections in any order you like, including having them weave over and under each other. The cars then go round your track once, 'mapping' it before enabling you to race against your kids and also AI opponents of crippling toughness.

Via your mobile, you accelerate, brake and steer the cars, fire weapons and activate tractor beams – it's completely bonkers. The brains behind it include people who've worked on everything from robotics to autonomous (full-size) cars, and to see that tech expertise applied to a 'toy' is quite something.

Also out this month are Parrot's latest wave of Minidrones, with 'Evolution' devices to rule the skies, the ground and even the water.

The new Hydrofoil drone has been burning up GaGu's local duck pond at 10kph, with, it must be said, a certain amount of duck collateral damage.

The problem with these things won't be so much wanting to play with them with your kids, as finding the munificence to allow your kids to have a go on them. Roll on, Christmas Day!

Q. It's getting hot in here. Shall I take off all my clothes?

- Alan Hanley, Wiltshire

A. That won't be necessary, Alan, as comfortable as GaGu is with the human form.

Instead, don an AeroChill, a miracle vest that you dunk in water. Yes, that sounds very much like GaGu is advising you to put on a wet T-shirt, but the AeroChill doesn't feel wet (even though it is), and the cooling effect is much greater than what you'd get with a normal wet T-shirt. Plus, it won't emphasise your moobs as much.

Indoors, try Dyson's Humidifier.

This puts out cold, moistened air, which is good for allergies and your skin and blah blah blah. It's meant to sit in the corner, moistening your whole room, but GaGu's research has shown that it feels most pleasing when sat on a desk, pointed directly at his face. Mmm-mm.

Finally, mop your fetid brow with the Mission Enduracool Towel. Here, “the unique radiator-like fibre construction circulates water molecules and regulates evaporation to create a prolonged cooling effect”. In other words, it's like the AeroChill vest but in towelette form. Isn't that better?

Q. Sunglasses: which do you rate, Guru?

- Tony Brown, Amersham

A. GaGu has stood by four sunnies brands for as long as he can remember (three minutes on a good day).

For luxury, Maui Jim's construction and UV/glare-beating lens tech are easily up there with Ray-Ban, but without the ubiquitousness of that admittedly fine brand. For style and innovation, ic! berlin is the don. Its screwless hinge is as iconic as hinges get, while its 'looks' range from 'classic with a twist' to 'you'll need a lot of balls to wear that'. Finally, for the occasions that GaGu wants to dress like a top footballer, there's Police – fans should check out its Neymar range.

Lenses? Brown or very black, or clear-to-dark-in-a-trice Transitions lenses for that '1970s sex pest' vibe.

Q. Do you vape, Gadget guru? I'm trying to quit smoking.

- Harrison Meale, Manchester

A. Vaping is a crazy, crazy world, where people willingly walk around sucking on what looks like an instrument from the Mos Eisley cantina band, and get ever so cross if their pastime is criticised or described as in any way unhealthy online.

On the other hand, it does appear to be better than smoking actual cigarettes.

GaGu wouldn't recommend anyone take it up, but if you're looking to quit real smokes, Blu e-cigarettes seem like a good way to go. They look like real fags, as opposed to space flutes, they charge via USB, and users assure me they have “good flavour”.

Q. How can I make my teeth better with tech?

- Dean Loris, Sutton Coldfield

A. GaGu has more electric toothbrushes than he has teeth, and despite sterling efforts from Colgate and Panasonic, the choice always comes down to Philips or Oral-B – the Godzilla and King Ghidorah of oral hygiene.

Right now, he narrowly favours Philips, as its brushes look nicer and appear to clean just as well as Oral-B's; though he does admit a big soft spot for the latter's Bluetooth “How well have you brushed?” app, and the little 'mouth satnav' it throws in with its brushes. After that, it's got to be Philips's Airfloss, which is, so they say, “as good as flossing (with actual floss)”.

Finally, try the Luster Pro Light. This involves painting gel on your yellowing teeth, blasting them with blue light from a mouth-shaped torch, then enjoying the super-white fangs of Tom Cruise, all for 30 quid. Erm… You first.

Gadget Guru's Magic Box


Guru is determined to get fit, and helping him out this month is Moov Now ($60, UK pricing TBC).

A mix of fitness band and Jabra-style audio coach, this promises to track multiple activities, from cycling to boxing, while feeding motivational words to your earphones – “Put some effort into it! Nobody will ever love you unless you lose weight!” That sort of thing, GaGu imagines.

OMG, what a grill. GaGu is never less than impressed with Sage by Heston Blumenthal's super-butch kitchen accoutrements, but it's surpassed itself with The Smart Grill Pro (£300). Like a George Foreman gone luxe, this uses external and internal temperature probes to ensure perfect cooking, with presets for beef, lamb, pork, poultry and fish. It can be opened out to use as a combined flat-top and griddle, essentially making it an indoor BBQ, and the cooking plates come off for dishwashing. Yes!

Want to wear the same socks for three weeks? Look for the hand-shaped Polygiene logo on clothes from Patagonia, Dynafit and many others. Polygiene's guy made the bullish “three weeks” claim to GaGu at an event this month – apparently, silver chloride molecules in the fabric prevent bacteria from forming, which means no odours. The uses for sporty types and gentlemen of the road are clear.

Always wanted to control the lights of your hotel room with your Watch? Well, now you can, as Premier Inn's mobile app has been extended to Apple's piece. You can't just use it in your bog-standard Premier, though – head to London's Hub by Premier Inn (pricing and saver rates on its website). This is the brand's boutique, artisan branch, with a high-tech, Japan-via-Shoreditch vibe. GaGu spent a night there and was so captivated by the ability to turn the air con on and off, change the light settings and operate the TV from his wrist, he spent his entire stay doing so.

After some low-cost, high-quality hi-fi speakers? Monitor Audio's Bronze range (right) starts at £230 and is up there with the Wharfdale Diamond range in terms of audiophile bang for your buck.

Diamond speaker

Need to Know: Sleep tracking

Gagu, you've got to help me. I can't sleep!

Guru feels your pain. It's the guilt, right? Whatever the cause, tech can help you… to an extent.

Yes, I've heard talk of 'sleep tracking'. can it really aid my restfulness?

Here's Guru's view on sleep tracking: until recently, it was a near total waste of time, dogged by inaccuracy, unlikely claims and uselessness. Now, it's, erm… slightly less so.

How does it work?

Built into a good fitness tracker (GaGu recommends the Charge HR or Jawbone UP3) with heart-rate monitoring, and interpreted by a decent algorithm, sleep tracking can give you some useful info. It uses the motion sensors and HR tracker of your band to discern whether you're in deep (near-zero movement, lowered heart rate), light or REM sleep (more movement). Or, indeed, if you're awake. The aim is to get eight hours, with a solid slice of deep sleep. There's some evidence that REM sleep aids creative thinking, so that's desirable too.

How much of each is ideal?

This is where it gets less scientific: different people require different amounts. As with tracking fitness, perhaps the most useful thing is to look at whether the amount of deep sleep is going up over time.

What can I do if my tracker shows I'm getting only light, interrupted sleep?

Bad news: there are all sorts of reasons for poor sleep, and you'll just have to try addressing each in turn. In order of potential expense, this could include: going to bed earlier, giving up booze and caffeine, using a lighter or heavier duvet, getting blackout blinds, changing your mattress, installing soundproofing, moving to a quieter area or getting your partner to whack you with a hammer, nightly.


I don't know why I bother.