Come summertime, many travelers make a beeline for the beach. Grab towels, swimwear and sunscreen and you are pretty much ready to go. Not so fast. The living could be easier this summer with new gear for everything from entertainment to safety and comfort. With just 10 days until the official start of summer (and only two days until the kids are set free), we give you 10 summer travel gadgets to take along on your next trip to the shore.
1. THE ERGO LOUNGER
Laid back - and front
The Ergo Lounger is a reclining beach chaise that uses some of the most comfortable features of a high-end massage table. A cushioned face-hole in the top of the chaise lets you lie on your stomach without smashing your nose or hyper-extending your neck or spine - plus you can read a book through the hole. Lie on your back, and the face hole provides room for a ponytail or hat brim while the padding cradles your head. The backrest has six settings, from prone to nearly 90 degrees. The aluminum frame resists rust, weighs just 12 pounds and folds into a compact size, making it easy to carry. All that's missing is the masseuse. Ergo Lounger is $199 at ergolounger.com; 888-820-6606. (Note: Product is sold out until June 20.)
2. WONDER WHEELER PLUS
You big lug
The Wonder Wheeler Plus folding beach cart reduces the schlep factor when the family heads to the beach or other outdoor spot. The large, 10-inch rubber wheels at the back of the cart won't get bogged down in sand. Two smaller double wheels at the front roll easily on solid ground and add stability when the cart is at rest. The cart can hold a 48-quart cooler and the front railing provides a roost for up to four folding chairs. A large mesh pocket can accommodate loads of towels and toys, while a back pocket can hold lotions, books and other supplies. With the snap-on wheels removed, the cart folds easily for storage. A deluxe version holds more, but is also a little bulkier. Wonder Wheeler Plus Beach Cart is $54.95 at 4thebeach.com; 866-351-0240.
3. THE SEE POUCH
It's a challenge to keep belongings high and dry at the beach. An easy solution is Seal Line's See Pouch, a waterproof vinyl bag with a watertight roll-down/clip closure. The front is clear vinyl so contents are easy to spot. My advice is to wear the pouch with the clear side facing your body so you can see what's inside when you want to, but passersby can't - no need to tempt thieves if you are stashing money, a passport or other valuables. The See Pouch has an adjustable neck cord and a built-in fabric belt loop. It comes in two sizes (small and large) and two colors (blue or orange). Prices start at $9.95, from Cascade Designs; 800-531-9531; seallinegear.com.
4. COLEMAN TENT FAN
Breezy does it
The Coleman Corp. designed its new tent fan to go in a - well, duh - tent. But guess what? It also works great mounted to a beach umbrella. Here's why: the battery powered fan secures to a tent via a strong, built-in magnet without damaging the tent's fabric (the metal mounting plate is on one side of the tent "wall," the magnet-backed fan on the other). But the fan mounts just as effectively to a beach umbrella, providing a welcome breeze. The fan blades are flexible plastic, so you won't get decapitated if you stand up - and into - the device. The fan runs on one D-cell battery (not included). Watch your fingers, so they don't get pinched when the magnet gloms onto the metal base. Coleman Tent Fan is $13.99. 800-835-3278; www.coleman.com.
5. HANDHELD FREECELL
Free to play
No need to suffer separation anxiety from your FreeCell game (the addictive and more challenging version of solitaire) just because your computer's at home. A new hand-held version of the game lets you play anywhere. The unit operates on two AA batteries (not included) and automatically illuminates the screen in low-light conditions. Press the New Game button to start the action (or re-deal if you don't like how your game is going). Other buttons add sound or move around the cards. Let the time-killing begin. Handheld FreeCell is $24.95 from Discovery Store; 800-938-0333; shopping.discovery.com.
6. ZEAL OPTICS CONFIDANT SUNGLASSES
Calling all shades
Are those your sunglasses ringing? Could be, if you are wearing Zeal Optics' new Confidant eye wear. The frame of the glasses holds a small removable Bluetooth unit that can synchronize wirelessly with a Bluetooth cell phone up to 30 feet away. Use the buttons on one arm of the glasses to answer and end calls, as well as control volume. Snap in the tiny earphone/microphone and, presto, you're Maxwell Smart. The polycarbonate lenses adjust to the light, changing from clear to dark gray, depending on the sun's intensity. Other lens options are available, including prescription or polarized lenses. Confidant Bluetooth-enabled sunglasses are $250 from Zeal Optics; 888-454-9325; zealoptics.com.
7. CAMPER'S DREAM ICE CREAM BALL
Rock 'n' roll ice cream
Eating ice cream is a ball. Now, so is making it. The Camper's Dream Ice Cream Ball is a low-tech, but highly entertaining, ice cream maker that gives a new - and more fun - meaning to manual labor. Here's the scoop. The 8-inch-diameter transparent hard plastic ball has screw-on plastic lids at each end. Fill the metal cylinder on one end with cream, vanilla extract and sugar. On the other end, pack ice plus rock salt around the cylinder. Screw on the lid. Then roll, shake, or even pass around the ball for 20 minutes, and, voila, a pint of vanilla ice cream. You can add chocolate chips, nuts, and shredded coconut to create more flavors (recipes are included). Camper's Dream Ice Cream Ball is $29.95 from REI; 800-426-4840; rei.com.
(Water) log out
Water-sensitive ears may not have to be kept above the surface if they are protected by EarGuards. The reusable, soft rubber earplugs corkscrew into the ear for a tight, but not uncomfortable, fit. A ceramic filter seals out water, but not sound, so you can still have a conversation and youngsters can hear safety communications ("Mikey, stop trying to drown your brother"). EarGuards come two pairs to a box: one in adult size and one for children. EarGuards are $7.50 per two-pack from Cirrus; 800-327-6151; cirrushealthcare.com.
9. MOTORIZED POOL LOUNGER
Let lesser mortals drift aimlessly in the pool or ocean shallows on one of those inflatable rubber floats. You, on the other hand, will be "driving" across the water in your Motorized Pool Lounger. The inflatable rubber chaise, which has built-in inflatable back- and armrests, features battery-powered propellers on each side. Joystick handles attached to the armrests enable you to steer the two independent propellers at the bottom of the chaise, moving the lounger forward, backward, right or left. The joysticks also can be positioned so that you spin in circles. A built-in cup holder keeps your drink cool and handy. When deflated, the lounger fits easily into a car trunk. Ain't life grand? Motorized Pool Lounger is $150 from Brookstone; 866-576-7337; brookstone.com.
10. I-HOME WATER RESISTANT BOOM BOX
No water added
Think of this boom box as a wet suit (with speakers) for an iPod. The white plastic entertainment system provides a safe base specifically designed for iPods, including the Nano and Shuffle, so you can play away without fear from sand or spray. Slide the iPod in and the thin, transparent plastic allows control of the iPod without actually touching it with wet fingers. Two 4-inch stereo speakers put the boom in the box. The unit also has an FM radio with six preset buttons. It runs on eight C-cell batteries (not included), and comes with an AC adapter and car adapter. Water-resistant Boom Box is $149 from Brookstone; 866-576-7337; brookstone.com.