Far-Flung Adventures, Summer 1998
All the right travel gadgets
By Bob Howells
Sojourning without the sport-ute takes a few ticks off the family checklist. Sorry — the badminton set stays behind. But every duffel has space for a few select gadgets to grease the sometimes sticky skids of travel. If not indispensable, everything here has at least been field proven to combine both practicality and amusement value — traits highly prized when you're shepherding small troops on the road.Duffels and convertible packs are the most versatile carriers — duffels are light and easy to pack; convertibles give you the option of a backpack-carry when you need it. Eagle Creek's large Cargo Gear Bag (3,600 cubic inches, $110) is a Cordura duffel with zippered end compartments to put muddy shoes in isolation, a big side pocket for small items, and a horseshoe zipper for easy access to the main compartment. The Atlantic (2,900 cubic inches, $179) from Pangaea by Kelty has what you need in a convertible — backpack straps that zip away for a suitcase-carry, a molded foam waistbelt for support, and a roomy panel-opening main compartment — plus extras: side pockets that tuck away if you don't need their extra capacity and a front pocket that's also a removable daypack.Then there's the inevitable ephemera that must be carried. A fanny pack is the best way to organize and tote pens and notebooks, tickets and passports, wallet, sunglasses, and, OK, crayons. The North Face Essentials Hip Pack ($24) from the company's new Adventure Travel Accessories line is a streamlined model with zippered main compartment, a secondary compartment, and an inside mesh pouch with key clip. There'll be plenty of room inside (or in your shirt pocket, for that matter) for Pentax's new FB-10 binoculars ($310), 4.5 ounces of crisp 10-power magnification in a unit the size of a pack of cards.
Eagle Creek Cargo Gear Bag
No hardware is more necessary than a flashlight, but aren't we all tired of drooling while doing the old mouth-hold? Hands-free is the solution, and Princeton Tec's Solo Headlamp ($32) is state-of-the-art, with padding at the forehead and interchangeable reflectors to focus or broaden the beam.
Oregon Scientific Weather Clock and Grundig Traveller II Digital Shortwave Radio
Murphy and his legal code often go on the road with us; a multitool can bail us out. The Victorinox SwissTool ($80) is that neutral-but-efficient army's wonder gizmo, with pliers, saws, can openers, wire cutters, even a couple of knife blades, among its 23 features. If you already own the progenitor of the multitool species, the Leatherman, extend its handiness even more by adding the new Adapter ($27).
It slips over the aft end of the jaws of any Leatherman's pliers, locks into three different positions, and includes a half-dozen bits — Phillips, slotted, the works. If the going really gets rough, you'll be glad to have Coghlan's Survival Kit-in-a-Can ($11): a wondrous assortment of 38 essentials like fishing line, compass, waterproof matches and fire starter, signal mirror, and more, all tucked into a sardine can, sans fish. For emergencies of a different nature, carry some Easi Pee plastic pouches from Marconi Group ($5 for three) — sort of like cat litter in a zip-locking bag, it's the way to go when there's nowhere to go.
Coghlan's Survival Kit-in-a-Can
Kids and the curious dig a shortwave radio when away from home. Even when not reeling in Zambian news or Tasmanian weather, the Grundig Traveller II Digital shortwave receiver ($110) has a 20-frequency memory into which you can store your favorites, and it's an AM/FM clock radio as well. Packing the Oregon Scientific Weather Clock from Liberty Mountain Sports ($54) is like traveling with Willard Scott: It displays a friendly graphical weather forecast, visible even in the dark with a push of a button, in addition to the usual alarm functions.
Princeton Tec Solo Headlamp
Finally, a couple of indispensables for dealing with the funky hygenics of travel: Shower 'n Towels ($2 each) are oversize, alcohol-free towelettes for a full-body cleaning during those showerless days between destinations, and a glob of Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer from a two-ounce squeeze bottle ($1.50) is the most inexpensive traveler's health insurance you can find.
Photographs by Clay Ellis
Copyright 1998, Outside magazine