Fun in the Sun: Outdoor Entertaining Products

With winter now a distant memory, it's time to enjoy the long days and starlit nights. We've rounded up eight new and novel products made for a range of outdoor activities, including cooking meals, entertaining family and friends and, of course, lounging around doing nothing at all. We're sure they will enhance your time outdoors and help to make this a summer to remember.

Out-of-this-world fire pit
The typical backyard fire pit is little more than a large, round metal bowl. Practical yes, but attractive? Not so much.

The Third Rock Outdoor Fire Pit ($1,490), on the other hand, is a work of art. Hand-cut from 1/4-in.-thick carbon steel, the 36-in.-dia. globe features cutouts of all seven continents. The sculpture is eye-catching when empty, but it really comes alive when filled with flaming firewood, as if it's revealing the earth's fiery inner core.

The fire pit stands 40 in. tall with the included base, and each one is individually signed and numbered by the designer, Rick Wittrig.

Made in the shade
If you long for shade on a sun-baked deck, patio or balcony, the space-saving Paraflex Wallflex Umbrella ($995) is an innovative solution. Unlike standard shade umbrellas, which have vertical poles that always seem to be in the way, the Paraflex umbrella attaches directly to a wall via an extendable anodized-aluminum arm.

The umbrella has an 8-ft.-10-in.-dia. canopy made of durable Sunbrella acrylic fabric (available in four colors). The articulated aluminum arm extends to nearly 6 ft. and can be tilted and rotated to a variety of sun-blocking positions. At the end of the day, you can collapse the umbrella and fold the arm flat against the wall.

Mosquito-repelling lantern
Nothing can ruin an outdoor gathering like bugs. So keep them at bay — and the party going — with the ThermaCell Mosquito-Repelling Lantern ($30).

This compact, cordless lantern runs on four AA batteries and has four LEDs for illuminating small- to medium-size areas. Inside the lantern are a small butane cartridge and a thick fabric mat that you soak with allethrin (a synthetic form of a repellent that occurs naturally in chrysanthemums). When you flip on the lantern, the butane warms the mat, which releases allethrin vapor to repel mosquitoes, black flies and other biting bugs within a 15 x 15-ft. area.

For maximum effectiveness, you need to replace the repellent mat every four hours; a single butane cartridge lasts about 12 hours. You can purchase 12 mats and four butane cartridges for $25 and 12 butane cartridges for $30.

Summer blockbuster
Enjoy the ultimate in outdoor entertaining with the CineBox Lite Outdoor Movie Theater ($2,000).

Manufactured by Open Air Cinema, the easy-to-use system includes a 73-in. screen with a collapsible, adjustable steel frame; a bright, 500-lumen projector with a tripod; a wireless 20-watt speaker with a six-hour battery; a Blu-ray Disc player that also plays DVDs and music CDs; all necessary cables; and a carrying case. There's even an optional bicycle-power generator (bike and teenager not included).

Because the system is portable and battery-powered, it can be set up and enjoyed virtually anywhere — a backyard, a beach, a park, a campsite or even indoors.

Personal pizza oven
One of the best ways to keep your kitchen cool during the summer is to avoid using the oven. So if you're craving a delicious fresh-baked pizza, you'd better cook it outside.

The KettlePizza Deluxe Pizza Oven Kit ($220) enables you to bake pizza on any 18-1/2-in. or 22-1/2-in. kettle barbecue grill. The kit includes a stainless steel pizza-oven sleeve, a baking stone, a metal pizza pan and a wooden peel (a wide, flat paddle used to slide the pizza onto the stone and remove it after baking).

Once the oven sleeve is set in place on the grill, you can bake pizzas on the stone or in the metal pan. Because there's no lid to lift off or open, the heat remains stable and constant, two keys to producing crispy pizzas. The KettlePizza can be used with wood or charcoal for roasting meats, fish and vegetables as well.

Private hangout
If you were to combine a pup tent with a hammock and hang it from a tree, you'd have something like the Cacoon, a new concept in relaxation.

Inspired by the hanging nests of the weaver bird, the Cacoon provides a shady, sheltered retreat where you can relax, sway in the breeze and snooze the day away. It's made of sturdy, machine-washable fabric and an aluminum support ring that forms the round base of the Cacoon. The snap-together ring comes apart for easy storage and transport.

The Cacoon is available in a variety of colors and three sizes: double ($499), single ($340) and child's ($249). Each comes with a 12-ft. hanging rope and steel carabiner.

Chill chaser
Extend your summer — and chase away evening chills — with the Umbrella Halogen Patio Heater ($160). This cleverly designed electric unit clamps onto the pole of a patio umbrella and produces over 5,000 Btu of warmth from its three 500-watt halogen heaters.

The heater measures about 39 in. wide and has a 92-in. power cord that plugs into a standard 110-volt electrical outlet. When it's not in use, the unit folds down so you can collapse the umbrella. It can be used indoors as well.

Outdoor TV
Wouldn't it be great if you could sit outside and watch your favorite TV shows, movies and sporting events? You can with the 46-in. SkyVue Smart TV ($2,599).

This all-weather outdoor television features HD, 1080-pixel LED technology that produces an incredibly crisp, vibrant picture. It has an antiglare screen and automatically adjusts to ambient light, ensuring excellent viewing at all times of the day and night.

Other features include a USB port, Ethernet connection, four HDMI ports and a 40-watt speaker bar for enhanced sound. The set has built-in Wi-Fi for easily viewing photos, videos and music. And popular applications such as NetFlix, Twitter, Vudu and Cinema Now are readily available at the click of a button.

SkyVue LED outdoor televisions come in nine colors and range in size from 32 in. to 80 in. They can be exposed to the weather and are engineered to withstand temperature extremes from minus 24 F to 130 F.

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