For all you good athletes, travelers, tree huggers, and showboats, a few tempting ideas to whisper in Santa's ear
Behold this season's bounty of mechanical timepieces, those hey-look-at-me-the-yachtsman symbols of the upwardly sporting lifestyle. They're built to withstand all manner of natural disasters, not to mention a lifetime of use. Tag Heuer's Formula 1 (bottom right) comes with enough timing functions — 12-hour-, minute-, and one-tenth-second dials — to run an Unser family training session, and at $895 it could serve as collateral for the fuel bill as well. Save for the tenths-of-a-second counter, similar features adorn the $2,450 Sector Diving Team (top), which with its bulbous, bombproof bezel is somehow reminiscent of a Brinks truck. Water-resistant to 3,300 feet, the hefty Sector could double as dive ballast. Swiss Army's Titanium RB330 (bottom left) is no lido deck icebreaker, but for $500 you get a piece of truly elegant simplicity. Its Swiss-precision clock and date functions will do the job in somewhat humbler fashion. Tag Heuer, 800-321-4832; Sector, 800-994-3452; and Swiss Army Brands, 800-442-2706.
Garmont Kevlar Hiker
Everything you ever wanted in a full-grain leather hiker, except the leather. Meaning Garmont's Kevlar-Cordura woven upper requires no attention or special dressing, yet it supports your foot like any good Italian hide. It's not actually bulletproof, but it's lighter than leather, nearly abrasion-proof, and water resistant. $209. From Garmont, 888-343-5200.
Proof that fashionable cuts don't have to be a drag in the pool: two new women's swimsuits in a conforming tricot weave that allows the fabric to stretch four ways rather than two. EQ's flashy Rave ($60), with 5 percent polyester woven in along with the standard nylon-spandex blend for durability, will hold fast against numerous workouts in the most overchlorinated of pools. And should you find yourself in a pinch for something to wear to that Solid Gold dance party, the Rave is perfectly suitable. Nike's Race Stripe ($63) offers two-piece freedom, yet the fast-back, high-neck top and drawstring bottom engender one-piece confidence whether you're on the blocks or lounging poolside. From EQ, 800-794-7946, and Nike, 800-344-6453.
Cool-Weather Cycling Wear
It's like wool without the washday bother, silk that doesn't get soused, spandex that doesn't cling — only better. Sugoi's Microtherm Full Zip jersey wicks like crazy, confounding your winter-training efforts to drench it. And, postride, it happily submits to machine laundering. $70. From Sugoi, 800-432-1335. o For days when your Gore-Tex ski parka would render your run an on-the-go sauna, Pearl Izumi's Max Jacket, with W. L. Gore's three-layer Activent, lets you vent while keeping out all but the monsoons. Unlike double-layer constructions, this one isn't potato-chip-bag crinkly. $160. From Pearl Izumi, 800-877-7080.
Marmot 8000 Meter Suit
If Saint Nick could have one wish of his own for that chilly business of darting to and fro through the stratosphere — in a convertible, mind you — it would surely be to own Marmot's plush 775-fill down Dryloft jumper. Slip on this toasty little moon suit and you'll think you're wearing a sleeping bag with limbs. However, articulated joints, tapered cuffs, and a U-shaped fly called the WizZip render you ready for action, whether it's a Gettysburg of a snowball fight or your next clip up Kanchenjunga — for a price: $999. From Marmot Mountain, 707-544-4590.
Have Pack, Will Skate
Commuting to a skating session just got considerably more manageable with K2's HydroSkate pack, which tucks in-line skates into side holsters and serves as a hydration pack once you start skating. $130. From K2 Outdoor, 406-587-4188. o Disguised as bomber backpacking boots, Alpina's Speedbull 712 skates are really heavy duty skate-park tricksters. $280. From Alpina, 800-425-7462.
Just when you thought 24 speeds were de rigueur for mountain biking, Bianchi trots out an unexpected piece of cutting-edge technology: a single speed. On the beautifully simple B.O.S.S. (Bitchin' Orange Single Speed), you experience no fuss, no muss, no derailleurs — no shifting problems! The unencumbered Easton Elite aluminum frame is strong and snappy, and obviously light (21 pounds for the bike). And how about those tires and grips, rendered in the Italian manufacturer's signature celeste green? $850. From Bianchi, 510-264-1001.
For the kayaker who sees a river's every aberration as a playground, this is one of the shortest, most playful boats out there. The seven-foot, 11-inch polyethylene Vertigo combines extraordinary maneuverability with bigger-boat buoyancy — picture a broadsword with a PFD around its midsection — so the ends slice right through water, while a flat bottom and sharply angled edges let you carve exaggerated wave turns. It's a boat that promises not to bore. $889. From Dagger, 423-882-0404.
Pentax FB-10 Binoculars
The dame had a faraway look about her. I approached: "Care for an FB-10?" She nodded. I reached into my breast pocket, the way I do when I need to make a quick impression. I produced the satin-lined case, flipped it open. There was the FB-10, all 4.6 ounces of it. Ten-power. Didn't look it. Precisely the point. She took it in her dainty hands, slid its slim halves apart, lifted it to her eyes. I noticed a smile. Was it for the binoculars, something in the distance, or perhaps even me? $310. From Pentax, 800-877-0155.
The North Face Base Camp Duffel
Originally available only in mondo-size bags for hauling expedition provisions, The North Face's vinyl-coated tarpaulin fabric keeps ice axes from protruding and water from intruding. The same material now safely cocoons a week's worth of stuff in a smaller, 3,550-cubic-inch bag, with stowable shoulder straps for short-term, backpack-style carries. $90. From The North Face, 800-447-2333.
Minolta Xtreem Vectis GX-4
The first Advanced Photo System (APS) camera undeterred by water (to about 16 feet), the GX-4 willingly accompanies you down river, down slope, or into coral coves. APS allows for slick film loading — you never mess with a leader — and offers the option of a panoramic format for any shot. Still, this 8.5-ounce, coat-pocket-size camera is not your mother's Instamatic: It takes great photos. $175. From Minolta, 201-825-4000.
3Com PalmPilot Professional
At first glance, the PalmPilot digital assistant might not appear to be a piece of travel gear. Yet with a handwriting recognition program, one megabyte of memory, and the ability to check E-mail from anywhere on the road, the 5.7-ounce PalmPilot is the weight-to-usefulness king of any fanny pack. Cross-reference a few thousand hand-tied flies, E-mail your pre-trip checklist to fellow travelers, or jot down those mountaintop pens‰es for future reference. When work pulls you back, upload your trip to your desktop computer and enjoy a little of the outdoors indoors. $369. From Palm Computing, 800-881-7256.
Fire & Light Pasta Bowls
The folks at Fire & Light were roving for used mayonnaise jars this morning so you could serve your fusili al pesto with a clean conscience this evening. Deep and wide enough for a 10k carbo-load, this gorgeous glass dinnerware has a politically correct pedigree: It's handmade in northern California from recycled glass and colored with natural minerals like cobalt. $18 per piece. From Fire & Light, 800-844-2223.
Whether you're morally opposed to portaging petrochemicals or just want a backpack that's far more suave than anything the fashion industry would whip up, Terrapax's Rucksack is sure to please. Made mostly of organic hemp — the strongest of natural fibers, renewable, even compostable — with felt-lined leather shoulder straps, the 2,600-cubic-inch pack carries quite comfortably. Bonus: Its closures are fashioned from naturally shed elk antler tips. $145. From Terrapax, 800-308-3772.
Indigenous Designs Sweater and Jacket
Doonesbury would love this stuff: The Snow-Tracks roll-neck sweater is hand-woven in traditional Andean villages, and the Yukon Zip Jacket — lined with cotton from pesticide-free fibers — is made in Ecuador, we're told, by decently paid, fairly treated workers. As for the wool, no harsh dyes or bleaches are used, and the donor sheep are handled lovingly. More than sufficient to appease the most socially conscious, eco-sensitive giftee. $142. From Frankel Bros., 888-420-3246.
Resource Revival CD Rack
One cyclist's junk is another's place to stash Neil Young and Moby. Resource Revival transforms 3,000 pounds of discarded bike parts a month into useful furnishings with the help of a foundation that employs developmentally disabled adults. In this case, it's a few cogs and rims deftly welded into a conversation piece that holds 40 CDs. $88. From Resource Revival, 800-866-8823.
Black Diamond Carbon Fiber Black Prophet
Questions about a deep-seated craving for attention aside, why are you smeared against a frozen waterfall, 100 feet above death, 200 to go, your body ajumble with adrenaline, fear, dread, and all that? Heft this ice tool, possibly the sexiest such implement ever made, and you'll know. The carbon-fiber shaft is startlingly lightweight, immensely strong, and shaped to keep knuckles unharmed. This is one to hang on the wall as an avant-garde objet d'art just before the guests arrive. $295. From Black Diamond, 801-278-5533.
Hush Puppies Lounge Collection Slippers
If Ward Cleaver somehow were to wake up tomorrow a single man, suddenly feeling his oats, he'd undoubtedly update his wardrobe with these fuzzy pups. Felt-lined and rubber-soled, they just dare the wearer to venture beyond the ottoman and right on down to the nearest piano bar. $40. From Hush Puppies, 800-433-4874.
We have seen the future of motorized transportation, and it is yellow. You can push the thing along skateboard style or twist the throttle and hang on as you rev a surge of stored power up to 15 mph. Rejuice the battery for five hours and you're good for another ten miles. The Zappy folds flat and rides on a bus or in a car trunk, in case you have to drive to find some sweet scootertrack. $650. From Zap Electric Bikes, 800-251-4555.
Lots of 'tude, dude, but these shades work, too: Oakley and Briko use 100 percent UV protective lenses and industrial frames that one-up the tired look of shields for rougher venues. The metal alloy frames, strong beyond their weight, have earpieces that clamp the mastoids instead of hooking around the ear. Oakley's X Metal Romeo ($250) features various rubber "nose bombs" that customize fit, while Briko's B-Zone X4 ($130) borrows its lenses from the most popular specs in the European peloton. From Oakley, 714-951-0991, and Briko, 800-462-7456.
Pure, blended, bouncy, warm, dry, thick, thin, long, short, wicking, hiking, skiing, trekking, climbing, camping, or snoozing. $8-$20. From Wigwam, 800-558-7760; Thorlo, 800-457-2256; SmartWool, 800-550-9665; and Eagle Mills, 800-215-9594.
Smiley's Nose Plugs
Whitewater zealots swear by this handicraft of a copper-wire clamp for its adjustable fit and nonslip rubber nostril pads. It'll conform to the curve of even the most Roman of noses, and it loops securely onto a helmet strap. $7. From Smiley, 505-242-9599.
Polar Xtrainer Plus
No mere bike rider, you. The Xtrainer Plus appoints you minister of information, master of heart rate, altitude, and a flotilla of other functions. A $250 accessory lets you download it all for posterity. $350. From Polar Electro, 800-227-1314.
Pearl Izumi Gloves
Thanks to a pinch of carbon fiber in its leather palm, the Mountain Light glove promises to grip better and last longer. And you get Pearl's quality construction, including a cotton-terry thumb panel for brow-wiping. $37. From Pearl Izumi, 800-877-7080.
For quick off-piste jaunts or the awkward walk to the car, ditch the backpack and don the no-frills Snowboard Carrier. Shoulder straps hold the board against your back, and it crams into the tiniest of pockets. $24. From Grab This: Aggressive Gear, 801-649-0397.
Colorado 14ers CD-ROM
Virtual topography meets handy advice in this two-disc guide to all 58 of Colorado's fourteeners. (One disc covers the northern peaks; the other, the southern.). Point, click, print, and forget the guidebook. $40 per disc (Windows 95 and newer only). From Crestone Systems Inc., 303-796-2066.
Black Diamond Jivewire
Styled after Black Diamond's revolutionary wire-gated carabiners, the ultralightweight Jivewire is built to handle the little stuff — like keys. Given that it's plastic, it's guaranteed not to support your body weight. $2. From Black Diamond, 801-278-5533.
NiteOwl Travel Time
Truths of travel: You're in strange surroundings, and you probably have to get up at an ungodly hour. The lightweight, digital Travel Time gives you an alarm and a gooseneck flashlight that makes a fine reading lamp. $33. From Lumatec, 800-586-2832.
Sierra Designs Coffee Sling
What could be worse than laboring to brew up a mug of backcountry java, only to spill your precious eye-opening fuel while rummaging through your tent? Keep your beverage high and your nylon home dry with Coffee Slings. $30 for two. From Sierra Designs, 800-635-0461.
Planit System Phone Case
You with the phone: If you're going to clutch it wherever you go and use it to chitchat at restaurants, please have the decency to sheath it when not in use. Try Planit System's thick nylon tote, which has a shock-corded quick-release strap that's easy to work. $35. From M.T. Ideas, 888-436-5470.
Ticket to Ride Video
Plentiful as they are, it's tough to tire of those awe-inspiring snowboard videos, and these heady scenes from places like Valdez, Alaska, might even spur you off the couch. Bonus: Ticket to Ride is shot on 16-mm film. $30. From Video Action Sports, 800-727-6689.
Photographs by Clay Ellis