When it comes to gear for the outdoor enthusiast, there are a lot of crossover products. Hikers, bikers, boaters, backpackers, and climbers share a need for lightweight, durable, and practical equipment. So as Practical Sailoreditors geared up for our summer adventures, we looked for products that could serve double-duty on the boat and on the trail.
ActiveTrax Deluxe On-the-Go Audio
A self-powered radio/iPod external speaker, the ActiveTrax Audio is small enough to fit in a backpack but offers plenty of good sound. The unit has an AM/FM and weather-band radio, and a jack allows it to be a speaker for an iPod or other USB-compatible device.
The ActiveTraxs Lithium-ion battery can be charged via its hand-crank or a top-mounted solar panel. According to maker Seattle Sports Co., a full charge will yield seven hours of radio play. (Playing an iPod uses more power.) The ActiveTrax reaches full charge after 35 hours of sun, or 40 minutes of hand cranking. But it will play without being fully charged.
We used our test unit with an iPod for about four hours in full sun, without any prior charging, and it worked flawlessly. It held enough charge to last the night (about three more hours). For every minute of hand-cranking, users should reap 20 minutes of music.
In its padded carrying case, the ActiveTrax measures 3.5 x 3.5 x 5 inches and weighs 2 ounces. At $40 (www.seattlesportsco.com), the go-anywhere ActiveTrax is a good solution for owners of small boats who don't want to bother with fixed systems. Now, if only it were waterproof.
Quick-Dry Travel Towels
In the August 2007 issue, we gave a thumbs-up to Discovery Trekking Outfitters Wick-er Warmup towel. This summer, we had an opportunity to compare it to the MicroNet Ultra-Compact Microfiber Towel by McNett, a Washington-based adventure-gear maker.
Like the DTO towel, the MicroNet dries in a fraction of the time it takes a cotton towel to dry. Hand-wringing removed most of the water from both, but the soft, microfiber suede MicroNet actually dried slightly faster than the polyester DTO towel in our testing.
Both the DTO and MicroNet towels employ silver antimicrobial technology to kill bacteria and prevent odors from developing, and both pack down quite small, taking up very little space in a bag or locker. One feature testers particularly liked abut the MicroNet was its corner loop with a snap, which allowed users to hang it to dry from a clothesline, tree, or rigging without worry that it would blow away.
We tested the large (30 x 50 inches), but the MicroNet comes in several sizes and comes with a mesh case. DTO offers pillowcases made of the same quick-dry material-an item that could prove a pleasure on a wet passage.
Both towels are high-quality, priced around $20, and live up to their claims of fast dry times and funk prevention. Some testers preferred the drying loop and the softer feel of the micro suede to the polyester. But in the end, either travel towel would prove handy for the boat, beach, or after warm solar shower.
Seattle Sports Camp Bucket
Another product from Seattle Sports that weve gotten much use from onboard and in camp is the collapsible bucket ($14, www.seattlesportsco.com). The heavy-duty vinyl bucket has an abrasion-resistant bottom and a carrying strap.
On small, galley-less boats, its great for washing up a few dishes or handwashing essential apparel on short cruises. The best part it is that the 12-liter, 10 x 9.5-inch bucket collapses flat for easy storage, and it can be washed in the dishwasher.