Weird gadgets that are actually really useful

I get a lot of weird and sometimes wonderful gadgets across my desk, and some end up impressing me by actually being extremely useful.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

If you like gadgets, you should look at this selection of weird gadgets that I've actually found to be very useful -- so useful they have found their way into my day-to-day kit.

Also, be sure to check out our other installments for more weird and useful gadgets:

Weird and useful gadgets

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Garmin inReach Mini

Garmin inReach Mini

Handheld Iridium Satellite Communicator for $275

If you venture out into the wilds regularly, outside of the reach of cellphone coverage, then having a way to communicate with family or loved ones is a comfort. Today small -- and relatively cheap -- handheld gadgets exist that allow you to use the Iridium satellite network to send and receive text messages no matter where you are in the world.

Garmin makes several handheld gadgets that allow you to leverage the Iridium constellation, from the simple Garmin inReach Mini to the Garmin inReach Explorer+ which combines the Iridium features with a handheld GPS receiver loaded with topo maps.

Note that a subscription is required to access the Iridium network.

NOCO Boost Pro GB150

NOCO Boost Pro GB150

NoCo Car Jump Starters for $300

I used to be skeptical when it came to lithium-ion car jump starters. I didn't think that the power packs were up to the task of starting a vehicle, and I always thought that a lead-acid pack was far superior. I was wrong.

Not only is a unit like the NOCO Boost Pro GB150 capable of starting pretty much any 12V vehicle with an engine (even 10 liters and above, gasoline or diesel), but it can also be used to keep your gadgets charged up. 

A handy gadget to keep in the boot for emergencies.

Swiss-Tech Utili-Key 6-in-1

Swiss-Tech Utili-Key 6-in-1

Swiss-Tech Utili-Key 6-in-1 for $11

The Swiss-Tech Utili-Key 6-in-1 is the smallest multitool that I've owned, not much bigger than a key. It's like a Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman, only a lot smaller. It looks like a flimsy toy, but it's actually very useful. I've had one attached to my car and house keys for a few years now, and I'm surprised how often I use it.

It features a: Flat screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, micro-sized screwdriver (perfect for eyeglasses), straight blade knife, serrated blade knife, and a bottle opener.


Fiberglass Scratch Brush for $7

Gone are the days of using a screwdriver or knife to scrape corrosion off battery terminals. The fiberglass scratch brush makes short work of cleaning electrical terminals that have corroded as a result of leaky batteries.  A must for any repair kit!

USB rechargeable AA/AAA lithium batteries

USB rechargeable AA/AAA lithium batteries

USB rechargeable AA/AAA lithium batteries for $20

The name is pretty self-explanatory, and these USB rechargeable AA and AAA batteries are super-useful in things like computer peripherals or remote controls. Just make sure someone doesn't toss the dead ones into the recycling!

USB solar charging panels

USB solar charging panels

USB solar charging panels for $70

I've been using small solar panels to keep power banks and gadgets charged up for years now, and over the years they've become much better and more efficient. A unit like the RAVPower Solar Charger can keep your devices charged up even in cloudy conditions.

Handy for basecamp when camping, or to keep in the car or rucksack.

DS212 2-channel pocket oscilloscope

DS212 2-channel pocket oscilloscope

DS212 2-channel pocket oscilloscope for $104

I used to think that you had to pay big money for a decent oscilloscope, but the DS212 proved me wrong. It is a very capable 2-channel oscilloscope that is handy for diagnosing problems with low-voltage electrical gadgets (good up to 40 Volts).

Instructions are a bit scant, so getting to know how to use it can be a bit of an adventure -- Google is your friend – but once you have the basics down, it is pretty straightforward.

A staple of my repair kit.

Magnetic Wristband

Magnetic Wristband

Magnetic Wristband for $15

Sometimes when I'm working on something where I have to swap tools regularly or have lots of different fasteners and parts to assemble, I find that a magnetic wristband is a perfect solution.  I find it great for screws, nuts, drill bits, bolts, nails, and washers.

Do you have a favorite gadget that you find particularly useful? Let me know below!

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