Stories & Features

Powered by water, these tech gifts are all the rage

Woman with the Oura Ring  app showing real-time information to her smartphone.
The Oura Ring sends real-time information to your smartphone to help you track your health, with an emphasis on how well you're sleeping.

In B.C., hydroelectricity helps lower our carbon footprint

We’re back with our annual holiday gift guide. And this time, we’re focused on all things electric, powered by our clean hydroelectricity – from the latest in wearable health monitoring, battery-powered and portable power tools, to a smart mug, and more.

As you head into the holiday season, consider adding some of these popular electric devices to your holiday shopping list. But hurry. COVID-related supply shortages, combined with increased consumer demand, means your best bet to snag the most popular items is by shopping early.

For health's sake, put a ring on it

The Oura Ring got a marketing boost when NBA players started to wear them in hopes of adding early detection of COVID-19 through temperature monitoring. But is the ring, which sends health-related data to your mobile device, for someone on your gift list?

That will depend on what they might want out of a wearable health monitoring device. Not primarily a fitness tracker – although it does count steps and heart rate – the Oura's big pluses are its sleep and temperature monitoring, plus its small size. If they're the type of person who enjoys geeking out on fitness tracking, go with a watch-style tracker like a Fitbit, but if what they want is regular check-ins on their health, then go for the ring.

The Oura is not cheap, but it's discreet. Customers find it comfortable – you get a sizing kit in advance of your purchase to ensure the Oura will fit you – and most find the data that shows up on a smartphone to be of great value. And as a gift, you can pre-order a sizing kit, wrap it and gift it for the person on your list.

Did you know? It's always a good idea to put a fitness tracker – be it a ring or a watch – on your less dominant arm. The reasons? You're less likely to damage the device, and you should get more accurate readings from your less-active arm.

Starry night sky projected in the room
In the bedroom, living or even the dining room, the BlissLights Sky Lite projector offers a stunning array of stars. But if you want a true night sky, you'll need to pay much more for a planetarium-style projector.

Star projector: Which night sky is the right sky?

There's a whole universe of star projectors, ranging widely in price and special features. But there are two main types: those that offer hypnotic, brightly coloured night sky images, and those that are scientifically accurate (and which tend to be pricier). The big seller out there is the BlissLights Sky Lite, which costs as little as $50 and projects an LED blend of stars and nebula, has massive wow appeal but is devoid of reality, with model options that project various combinations of green, blue and grey.

If you have deeper pockets, the Encalife Atmosphere adds Alexa and Google Assistant integration, and a variety of light effects and colours. The best of the scientifically accurate projectors is the Sega Toys Homestar Flux , which shows night sky accuracy true to time and date, plus a disc with a constellation overlay, but it's pricey and hard to find. Also showing the accurate night sky (but earning far more mixed reviews) is the National Geographic Astro Planetarium, which also features a "falling star" mode and FM radio integration.

Did you know? B.C. is home to several dark sky parks, designated areas selected away from city lights so that stargazers can enjoy impressive views. Sites include McDonald Park in Abbotsford, Cattle Point at Oak Bay and Mount Kobau in Osoyoos. Hellobc.com also offers tips for stargazing in B.C.

Man wearing sunglasses with built-in micro speaker
Bose Frames use micro speakers to provide you with music, podcasts and phone call access in a variety of styles, including the popular Temple sports sunglass model.

Sunglasses and music all in one

Bose Frames keep getting better. While the lack of a visible ear bud may have others thinking you're talking to yourself when you're on a call, the Frames – which work via integrated micro speakers in each arm – offer excellent sound quality while also offering a safer option than noise-cancelling or noise-limiting ear buds or headphones. The Bose Tempo model – designed as sport sunglasses – are the big player here, recognized for both their design and sound quality.

Did you know? For those who listen to quieter music – and especially podcasts – while walking noisy city streets, noise-cancelling earbuds such as the Apple AirPod Pro might be the better option. With many earbuds, you'll need to crank up the volume to compensate for the street noise, and over time, that can damage your hearing. Noise-cancelling allows you to listen clearly at lower volumes.

Ryobi power tool set
The one-battery-fits-all approach to tool kits is the go-to for do-it-yourselfers, and Ryobi's combo kits combine affordability with access to a surprising variety of power tools.

A battery of power tools

Ryobi 18-Volt power tools have hit the sweet spot for years for practicality and price, and with the improved compact Li-Ion batteries (replacing the old Ni-Cd system), this is the go-to brand for most do-it-yourselfers. There are more powerful cordless power tool systems out there, but unless you intend to use a tool hour after hour, day after day, the Ryobi system is an inexpensive and versatile kit. For about $400, you can get a 18V ONE+ 6-tool combo kit that features a drill/driver, impact driver, reciprocating saw, circular saw, multi-tool, flash light, two batteries, charger, blades and accessories.

Did you know? The "ah" rating (amp hours) of a battery indicates a battery's run-time capacity, and that can be a big factor in the practicality of your tools. Ryobi's 1.3ah or 1.5ah battery packs are smaller and lighter and fine for most DIY jobs but won't last as long (or provide as much power for more demanding tools) than the brand's batteries with a 2.0, 2.5, 4.0, 5.0 or 6.0 battery. But as you go for more powerful batteries, there's a trade-off on weight (and price). Ryobi's two-pack of 4.0 ah batteries is a popular option.

Ember Temperature control smart mug
Coffee and tea stay hot for hours with the Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug.

A smart mug for the slow drinker

Do you know someone whose morning cup turns into a back-and-forth dance to the microwave and back? Not everyone guzzles, and for those who don't, a tepid cup doesn't cut it. The Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug – which comes in a variety of designs and sizes – allows you to set (and maintain) the ideal temperature for your beverage. For those who take their mug on the road, there's even a travel mug version of the Ember that can keep things hot for up to three hours. Alternatively, you can go with a really great thermal mug such as the wildly popular (and much more affordable) Yeti Rambler Tumbler.

Did you know? There's a quick fix for a cup of coffee that's too bitter. Just add a pinch of salt and stir.

Laptop with video conference lighting kit
The Selfila ring light clips on laptops and/or shelves to produce light that's adjustable for both brightness and colour temperature.

In the shadows? Light up a face for video calls

Ideally, we'd all have natural light on our faces for Zoom and other video calls. But that's not usually an option, so we're often cloaked in shadow, and often backlit. The Selfila video conferencing lighting kit is a clip-on ring light that's powered via USB and which can also be used as a desk lamp.

Did you know? The best angle for a video call is with the webcam as close to eye level as possible. You don't want to have people looking up your nostrils. Elevate your laptop on books or a small box to get that monitor camera closer to eye level.

A pair of heated gloves
You've probably experienced numbing fingers on a cold day on the slopes. Heated gloves and liners are an option for keeping hands comfortable on the coldest of days.

Bluebird ski day, warm fingers

Heated gloves, boots and socks are nothing new, but the products are getting better and the options have multiplied. They charge up in advance and can last for hours, up to six or seven hours on lower heat settings with some products. There are a lot of options out there, so take care to figure out what works best for the skier on your list. Do they need to be waterproof, or not too bulky to make grabbing a ski pole a chore? One option is to go with a heated liner such as the Snow Deer electric rechargeable that also has two fingertips equipped for smartphone touch operation. Another option is to go with a portable handwarmer such as the Celestron Elements Firecel Plus, which doubles as a portable phone charger.

Did you know? You'll get heat for much longer out of a charge if you use the "low" setting most of the time. And when your hands get really warm, you may even be able to switch off your electric gloves.

Wireless charging station and sanitizer
The Lexon Oblio not only charges a smartphone. It also sanitizes the phone each time you drop it in for 20 minutes or more.

Wireless charging station and sanitizer

No, that's not a vase. The Lexon Oblio is a 10-Watt wireless charging station that also cleans a smartphone via built-in UV LED technology. Tested to eliminate most bacteria on a phone in 20 minutes, the Oblio takes about three hours to fully charge a drained phone.

Did you know? Wireless chargers aren't the most energy-efficient methods of charging, but they're getting better. And cheaper. Mophie's 15W compact wireless charging pad can be found for as little as $40.

Clip-on toilet bowl lights
There are a surprising number of clip-on toilet bowl lights available online, but the Lumilox comes with a lifetime replacement warranty.

Night lights for all ages: Dinosaurs and glowing toilets

LED night lights offer comfort and safety for adults and kids alike, and features range from motion-sensor options to choose-your-colour capability. For young kids, look to inexpensive options such as the Globe LED Dino lamp, which is rechargeable via USB and features different light colour options. For adults, consider the Illumibowl Germ Defense Activated Toilet Night Light that doubles as a germ-killer, or the kind of jokey but fun LumiLux Toilet Light with motion detection that literally lights up the bowl with the colour of your choice.

Did you know? Light has dramatic effects on your sleep quality, so avoid bright light before you go to sleep (soften the light of your smartphone if you need to check it in bed), and don't blast yourself with light if you need to use the bathroom overnight. That's where night lights, or dim motion-sensor lighting, come in handy.

Apollo Ghost electric scooter
The Apollo Ghost is a speedy scooter that's an ideal commuter, and it's equipped with disc brakes and front-and-back safety lighting.

A designed-in-Canada scooter for the smart commuter

We have liftoff! The Apollo Ghost is not your kid's scooter, with the ability to top out at a speed of 55 km/h and take you up to 60 km between charges. Designed and developed in Montreal, the Apollo's power comes from a dual motor that's earning raves from the likes of Wired magazine. Worried about safety? The Apollo's disc brakes are designed to bring it to a stop very quickly (and safely), and as it gets dark out there, you'll be seen at night: the Apollo features two LED lights in front, two in back, and blue light strips along both sides of the deck. And just like electric cars, its brakes regenerate some electricity back to the battery to help extend range.

Did you know? A 2019 survey conducted for BC Hydro found British Columbians drive an average of 20 km a day, and that 95% of all car trips are less than 30 km. If you happen to be driving Canada's best-selling car – the Honda Civic – switching to the Apollo could save you more than $1,000 a year on gas while reducing your carbon footprint by more than 8,000 kg over five years. Oh, and it's a bit easier to park.

USB rechargeable bike light
Everyone should have front-and-back lights when riding at dawn, dusk or in the dark. The Schwinn 30 lumen USB rechargeable light is an inexpensive option.

Stocking stuffer extraordinaire: A bike light or two

Know a cyclist on your list who has a habit of heading out in the light of day and coming home in the dark, without a light to make it safe? Run out now and get a great rechargeable light, one for the front and one for the rear. You can find rubber-strap lights – the kind that you can quickly wrap around a handlebar or seat post, then remove it so it doesn't get stolen – for as little as $20 for a front-and-back combo. One popular option is the Schwinn 30 lumen USB rechargeable bike light set, which is easy to attach and gets kudos for how long it lasts between charges.

Did you know? When choosing a front bike light, it pays to ask yourself whether you want a light strong enough to "see" the road in front, or if you can get away with a "be seen" light that, especially via a blinking setting, is designed more so that a cyclist is seen by drivers in particular.

Kia Niro EV
The Kia Niro EV has the muscle and tech to compete with electric vehicle heavyweights, and it's eligible for combined federal and provincial rebates of $8,000 off the purchase price.

Go big with an EV, and shrink your footprint

Is it ridiculous to include a car on a holiday shopping list? Almost certainly. But imagine opening a gift box to discover your loved one has ordered an electric car for the family.

Owning an electric vehicle is getting more and more practical, and with sky-high gas prices, the costs of long-term ownership have tilted toward EVs as the smart choice. There are now dozens of electric vehicle options in B.C., including at least 10 fully electric models priced at $55,000 or less that qualify for combined federal and provincial rebates of $8,000 off the purchase price.

Act fast if you have your eye on a specific model. A recent BC Hydro report on EVs found that about two-thirds of British Columbians are considering purchasing an EV within the next several years, and the majority hope to buy one in the next year or two.

Did you know? BC Hydro and CleanBC have rebates for home chargers available, for up to $350 for single-family homes. And there are thousands in rebates available for multi-unit buildings.

Related: