Winter Travel Guide 1996
The Always-Prepared Traveller
By Bob Howells
Pentax 8 x 24 UCF WR binoculars
The stylish Pentax 8 x 24 UCF WR binoculars have rubber armoring and a sealed body to keep knocks, spray, and rain from sullying the optics-which, for the money ($202), are excellent. The lenses are sharp and comfortable even for long-viewing sessions, although the clarity falls away just a bit at the far edges. They're a good choice for eyeglass wearers-the eyecups collapse to
make the full, 393-foot field of view available to the bespectacled-and the 8 x 24 combo strikes a nice balance of strong power and decent low-light viewing. Pentax: 303-799-8000.
Fuji Endeavor 250
You've probably heard about the film system; now check out the cameras. Both Fuji and Kodak make film in the new Advanced Photo System format, which is much more sophisticated than you'd expect from something made so deliberately you-know-what-proof. You never handle the film: It plops into the camera by way of a cartridge and stays there even after processing; you get a sheet of
positive "index prints" instead of impossible-to-read negatives. The film is 60 percent the size of 35mm, so the cameras are correspondingly downscaled. The Fuji Endeavor 250 ($350), for example, weighs just 7.2 ounces, yet has a 25-55mm zoom lens (roughly equivalent
to 31- 68mm on a conventional camera) and a surprisingly sophisticated (though not terribly powerful) flash that reads shadows for fill-flash and red-eye. Just as handy, if more basic, is Kodak's Advantix 2000 ($100), a spy-camera-size snapshooter with flash that weighs just six ounces. Fuji: 800-800-3854. Kodak: 800-242-2424.
Ortlieb's Protect bag
Most camera bags are more like shoulder-strapped sponges than a river guide's dry bag, but Ortlieb's Protect ($60) bag is a truly waterproof case for camera, binoculars, or anything of equivalent size (like a couple of sandwiches and a wallet). Made of Cordura coated
with polyurethane on the inside, the Protect's seams are welded, not sewn-hence no leaky needle points to pass water through to hydrophobic electronics. Access is actually easier than with a zippered bag: The top rolls down to seal, then secures with quick-release buckles. It's also generously padded on three sides with dense, closed-cell foam. Ortlieb, from NewSport:
Hi-Tec's Aqua Terra
Unless tanning your toes is a priority, water shoes are a better choice than sandals for most amphibious activities. Where open sandals invite annoying detritus and bashed toes, Hi-Tec's Aqua Terra ($50) swathes the foot with a Propex/mesh upper that drains easily, a thin slice of EVA midsole, and a sticky carbon rubber outsole. Judicious use of neoprene padding keeps it comfy on
sockless feet, and at six ounces it's sandal-light and running-shoe nimble. Five Ten's Water Tennie is a heavier (14.4 ounces), more expensive ($96) water shoe with a full EVA midsole-better for heavy portages, but its buckle closures are a tad awkward. Hi-Tec:
800-521-1698. Five Ten: 909-798-4222.
Ultra Sun Hat
Covering up can be cooler than slathering-ask any cowboy. What's more, figure your cotton T-shirt has a sub-ten SPF, and even if you don't notice a burn, a long day in the sun invites those insidious UV rays to subtly do their thing. Much safer is the Solumbra Explorer
Shirt ($85) from Sun Precautions, rated 30-plus (even when wet) by dint of tightly woven (but way soft) nylon, and cut full, with mesh back panel and underarm vents for bellowsy air-conditioning. It's a great choice for passive-to-moderately-active days spent, say, rowing or flycasting, as is the Ultra Sun Hat ($50)-the wide, 360-degree brim protects face, pate, and eyes, and
keeps your temperature-sensitive noggin nice and cool. Sun Precautions: 800-882-7860.
Hitachi's VMH81A Hi8 camcorder
This camcorder (two pounds, $2,099) is the video equivalent of a rugged point-and-shoot camera: a good choice for when you're around water, if not actually in it. The splashproof-but-not-submersible 81A seals out moisture (and grit) by way of a rubber membrane-makes
the push-buttons a bit stiff, but it's a worthwhile trade if you'll be shooting around surf, whitewater, waterfalls, or rainfall. The heavy-duty design also protects against the odd bump and knock. Beneath the armor, the electronics are excellent: a stabilizer to compensate for those of us lacking brain-surgeon hands, 24-power zoom lens, color viewfinder, and the excellent
resolution of the Hi8 format. A less expensive, if bulkier, around-water alternative is a Sony camcorder (say, the CCD-TR94-one pound, five ounces; $900) cozied inside Sony's SPK-TRV1 camcorder case (two pounds, two ounces; $249). Hitachi, 800-448-2244; Sony, 800-222-7669.
Cruiser Skin Vest
Why should the fish look better than you? Personally, we wouldn't be seen around a reef in anything less than a hand-painted mask from Scubapro. Hot Frames masks ($109) come in seven splashy motifs and are comfortable, too, with neoprene-padded headband and effective
double-edged seal. Then add a matching Shotgun 2 Snorkel ($37), which quick-clips on or off the mask and has twin valves to keep the airway dry, and Veloce Fins ($78) that come in colors like teal and pink. Round out your outfit with Scubapro's Cruiser Skin Vest
($100), a neoprene waistcoat that takes the chill off a long stint in the brine, inflates with a handy valve, and comes in neon yellow-to the envy of tropical pelagics. Scubapro: 800-467-2822.
The Ute For You