I hope youre wife is doing well, Tim. This should serve as a reminder to female readers that heart disease is more likely to kill them than breast cancer, yet remains much under-publicized as a health issue. So, get out there and have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked, dont smoke, and exercise regularly.
As for a heart monitor, there are a few options. The problem, of course, is that a sensor has to be in a position to pick up the hearts beating. And only a few places on the body work well for that, the chest being far and away the best, hence the ubiquity of chest straps.
I think the best thing to do is get the NuMetrex monitoring system (numetrex.com). The company has integrated sensors into a sports bra, resulting in a setup thats more comfortable than just a strap. You still need a transmitter, but it snaps onto the bra and then picks up the heart signal from the bras sensors.
You can get the bra with sensor and a Polar FS1 monitor/watch for $115the bra alone works with most heart rate monitors/transmitters and sells for $50. NuMetrex has introduced a similar system for men. No, it's not a bra, but a shirt with integrated sensors.
The other choice is the PowerGlove ($80; impactsports.com), a heart rate sensor and monitor combined that you wear like, well, a glove. The unit covers the wrist and thumb, and a small LCD display on the back of it shows you your heart rate. Downside: You cant use it in cold weather, as it wont work when worn over another glove. And, of course, if you put a glove over it, you cant see the display.
The Gear Guy reports from 2007 Winter Outdoor Retailer, the bi-annual gearapalooza in Salt Lake City. Check out his top picks for gear to watch in 2007.