The Gadget Queen’s Guide to Gadgets for Small, Safe, Outdoor, Family, Physical-Distancing Events

© 9-13-2020, by Nalida E. Lacet Besson

Years ago I published my book “The Gadget Queen™: 100 Ways to Simplify Your Life” (Copyright 2004 by Nalida L. Besson) with National Braille Press. Today the Gadget Queen is back in the age of the pandemic to talk about how to “gather” without actually “gathering” closely to keep from potentially spreading the virus. Besides having virtual videoconferencing get-togethers with various themes (that will be a more in-depth article for another time), as the year grows colder and darker in many places and Fall and Winter holidays approach, we want to maintain—or begin if you haven’t already done so—virtual videoconferencing meet ups with family and friends where we chat, play games, do recipe baking clubs, have book club discussions, and my family’s favorite-Karaoke Night! But virtual is not always enough for people because we are naturally made to be with other people. 

We know that people who live in the so-called Blue Zones have a longer life expectancy and experience more joy not only because they consume a mostly plant-centered diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, but also because they tend to live closely with family and have close-knit communities. Even in my community of Dorchester in Boston, multi-family houses used to be rich with family—grandma and grandpa living upstairs, cousins downstairs, and in-laws next door or across the street. In this age of mostly every family unit for itself and everyone working multiple shifts and doing their own things, we have, for the most part lost that sense of connection, family and community which Dr. Dean Ornish’s research agrees can give us love and joy and increase our lifespan as well as improve our quality of life. So as we enjoy virtual videoconferencing events such as Zoom Bingo night, we also may want to consider safe physical distancing events in small pods/groups. But how do we do it without the dangers we have been reading about when groups meet but several people become infected despite being outside and wearing masks, sometimes with face shields, and maintaining at least 6-feet distancing? We have to work at it! Each household unit can have it’s own group of materials to succeed with safe pod/group gatherings. Below are some ideas to consider. Disclaimer: This is not a suggestion for anyone to meet up nor is this an endorsement of any product discussed here. This is merely an article to help us think outside the box and continue to meet our need for human connections in this age of pandemics. So let’s clear the yard of leaves or snow or find a safe, large area of a neighborhood park and consider the safest pod gatherings you’ll ever hear about from The Gadget Queen! 

My backyard is a decent size for myself, my husband and our three kids but not overly large. If we had a family pod gathering, we would have to keep it to two, maybe three small pod/groups. Since it is our yard, we would use our outdoor tent-igloo and maybe even set up clothesline rope with clear plastic shower curtains across our area of the yard, marking a physical distance where we could walk around outside our clear tent-igloo. We might even run another clothesline from the middle of our clothesline to the other side of the yard (so it is now in the form of a “T”) and run clear curtains down the middle to separate and accommodate two more groups of family (other family or friend(s) who are already living and quarantining together). Now, this is key: Each group would have to purchase their own smaller, portable, quick pop-up pod-tents and folding camp chairs, pop-up privacy tents (with folding potty chairs and supplies) to put to the side of their smaller, portable, clear pod-tents, and their own meals. Since we have extra outdoor tables and chairs in our yard, we would sanitize and leave one in each pod area and people could bring their own tablecloths to set up their food in their outdoor areas. All their supplies can fit in a large, rolling duffle bag. We could all talk, laugh, and eat “together” but distantly and enjoy some time together safely. It may seem like a hassle and not worth it but after the initial individual family purchases that will not break the bank (for the most part) and initial set up, it will be well-worth the effort to re-connect as closely as we physically can! 

Possible Gadgets to Pull This Off:

  1. Alvantor Winter Screen House Room Camping Tent Canopy Gazebos 4-6 Person for Patios, Large Oversize Weather Pod, Premium Greenhouse Instant Pop Up Tent, Snow and Rain Protection Beige 10’×10′

This clear igloo-tent in my backyard with a table and two chairs inside. Our plan is to add more chairs during the late Fall and Winter when we gather inside from the snow. It is actually very warm in there in the summer if it is zipped up so it should hold some heat in colder weather with everyone wearing warm clothing.

2. Under the Weather MyPodDoubleX Pop-up Weather Pod. The Original, Patented WeatherPod

These Weather Pods are sold in single and double models and can sometimes be connected to accommodate more family household members.  They literally set up in seconds! They were originally made for people to attend outdoor sports or musical events and be able to still enjoy the events but stay out of the elements (cold, rain, or snow). Now they can be used to get some sunlight on a dark Fall or Winter day and not freeze if you don’t have an enclosed patio and be used as a traveling outdoor pod-room for small, distanced, outdoor gatherings. My family and I would still bring our masks and face shields for when we are outside and also always make sure we are set more than 6 feet away from another pod and not directly facing but instead in a wide triangular angle to still see and hear one another if we were to travel with a weather pod.

3. Trademark Innovations 31.5″H Loveseat Style Double Camp Chair with Steel Frame

I do not have this specific double chair myself. We do have individual folding camping/outside chairs that are lightweight and portable in a tube bag with a sling. We bought them years ago in a department store.

4. Portable Camping Table,Aluminum Folding Table Ultralight Camp Table with Carry Bag Collapsible Table Top for Picnic,Cooking,Camping,Beach,Festival

The small camping table can be useful if you go to a pod/group gathering where there is not a table for you to use. It won’t hold much but you can at least put some covered container(s) of food on it.

5. YUNLIGHTS 2-in-1 Solar Bug Zapper LED Camping Lantern, Portable Waterproof Mosquito Killer Lamp with 3 Lighting Modes and USB Charging for Indoor, Outdoor, Home, Hiking, Fishing, Emergency

We have two of these. We keep them charged with the USB during the day but they can also be charged with the sun during the day and be ready to light up at night.  They are surprisingly bright and great as an extra source of light when it gets darker.

6. Solar Lights Outdoor [42 LED/3 Working Mode], SEZAC Solar Security Lights Solar Motion Sensor Lights Wireless IP 65 Waterproof Outdoor Lights for Garden Fence Patio Garage (6 Pack)

We have TONS of these solar lights around the yard and toward the back of the house and they add nice lighting when it gets dark. We keep them on the second setting so that there is always dim light but the light will get stronger when there is motion.

7. Patio Heater-Trustech Space Heater Infrared Heater w/Remote, 24 Timing Auto Shut Off Radiant Heater, 500/1000/1500W, Super Quiet 3s Instant Warm Vertical Electric Heater for Big Room Backyard

Lots of people are getting heat lamps or outdoor heaters to enjoy the outdoor space more during the cold months. Look for the right one for you if you have a safe area to run it to help warm the outdoor air around you a bit (but not in a tent or weather pod).

8. KingCamp Pop Up Dressing Changing Tent Shower Room Detachable Floor

Okay, people will have to use the bathroom at some point and you don’t want to risk people touching the same services and risking contagion. Even though it may sound extreme, it actually is no more extreme than having an outdoor porta-potty. The advantage here is that no one needs to enter the host’s house and risk/give any exposure either way. To have privacy, just open up an easy pop up changing tent and put one of the portable toilet solutions inside. Don’t forget to bring along supplies, including hand sanitizing wipes.

9. Flexzion Outdoor Portable Toilet – Travel Mobile Toilet Potty Seat w/ Large 5.3 Gal Water Tank & 3 Gal Waste Holding Tank, 3-Way Flush, Cover and for Camping Hiking RV Travel Boat Outdoors Hiking Trip

This system is a little pricier than the solutions below but is an all-in-one system that is a little fancier for those who want to make that investment and who know they may also go camping or travel via RV sometimes.

10. 5 Gallon White Bucket & Lid – Durable 90 Mil All Purpose Pail – Food Grade – BPA Free Plastic–

So the cheaper outdoor toileting system starts with a regular bucket….

11. Reliance – Sturdy Bucket Toilet Seat – Will NOT Buckle – fits Any 3,4,5-Gallon Bucket – 14 3/4″ x 13 1/4″ x 1 1/4″ #9880-01 or

Added to the bucket is a toilet seat made for buckets ….

12. Portable Toilet Replacement Bags 100% Compostable Bags for Portable Toilet Chair,15 Count, ASTM D6400 and OK Compost Home Certified – by Green Elephant

And finish up with portable toilet compostable bags to keep things cleaner if multiple people in your group need to use the bathroom.

13. Eco Gel Port-A-Potty and Emergency Toilet Chemicals, Eco-Friendly Liquid Waste Gelling and Deodorizing Powder. Available in Single, 2, 3, 4, 30, and Case Packs

The eco gel will just help make things fresher and more manageable.

14. Green Elephant Folding Commode Portable Toilet Seat – Porta Potty and Commode Chair – Comfort Chair Perfect for Camping, Hiking, Trips, Construction Sites, and More

If you want an easier system than the bucket and seat with bag, but a cheaper alternative than the portable flushing toilet in number 8, then the folding commode with bags may be the way to go. Buy get the eco gel too.

15. SereneLife Portable Camping Sink w/ Towel Holder & Soap Dispenser – 19L Water Capacity Hand Wash Basin Stand w/ Rolling Wheels – For Outdoor Events, Gatherings, Worksite & Camping – SLCASN18,White

This camping sink that is handsfree for pumping the water is something to consider as an extra handwash station for the other pod/group members who are visiting and want to wash their hands with water and not just use their own water supply or hand sanitizer when they use their porta-potty systems or are going to eat.


And to make hand cleaning completely touchless, add the touchless soap/sanitizer dispenser to the touchless water sink or as just a stand-alone.

So here you go! 16 gadgets and ideas to consider for safe, outdoor, physically-distanced events! Whatever you decide to do or get, just remember safety first and think outside-the-box!

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