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Trekking: The Nature Ear

Outside magazine, May 1995

Trekking: The Nature Ear
By Mike Steere

Like binoculars, Walker's Nature Ear is a field tool that makes nature seem closer and clearer--albeit less natural. Listening in on coastal Alaska with one of these tiny amps stuck in your ear is like having sea mammals right there on a conference call. However, the sound is canned, low-fi, like the creatures are contacting you via speakerphone. But then again, the alternative is to hear practically nothing.

The quarter-ounce device is about the size and shape of a hearing aid and has the same creepy plastic flesh tone--resemblances owed to the fact that Bob Walker, its inventor, is a hearing-aid fitter by trade. This man knows his aural cavities, and it shows: Three interchangeable foam tips make for a comfortable fit, and a tiny knob lets you adjust the volume while you're wearing the device. The Nature Ear can add 32 decibels to natural sound, with a maximum output of 105 decibels; to better render bird and animal sound while damping the wearer's own breathing and footfalls, tuning favors high frequencies. One warning: Don't wear the Nature Ear around any camo-clad sorts--amplified gunfire constitutes a hazard.

$199. From Walker's Game Ear Inc., Box 1069, Media, PA 19063; 800-424-1069.

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