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Taking the Dry Road on Vacation

August 06, 1995|JUDI DASH

Keeping the wet out often is of prime concern on outdoor excursions. Whether tackling inclement weather or water sports, travelers will find a multitude of innovations that keep damp situations from putting a damper on a trip. The following items also may be available at local stores. Prices do not include shipping and handling.

The sounds of the sea could very well be rock 'n' roll if you take along the Sea Sounds Underwater Cassette Player next time you head for the deep. Designed specifically for divers and rated to 130 feet, Sea Sounds is basically a simple personal cassette player (sound is mono and there's no auto-reverse) housed in a bright yellow heavy-duty watertight casing with large control knobs that can easily be maneuvered underwater, even with gloves. Four spring-snap buckles release the casing top so that cassette tapes and batteries can be changed above water. The unit runs on one nine-volt battery for the amplifier and two AA batteries for the cassette player. The earphone is a 1 1/2-diameter disk (connected by a waterproof wire to the cassette player housing) that can be tucked under a mask strap or diving hood, leaving ear canals free for equalizing.

Sea Sounds, which measures 7 inches by 4 inches by 2 inches, can be toted underwater in a buoyancy-compensator vest pocket or fastened to a D-ring by its spring clip.

This cassette player is not the kind you'll want to take jogging in the rain--it weighs nearly 2 1/2 pounds. Underwater, however, the unit's weight becomes negligible, and it's fun to use, not just for music tapes but for instructional tapes and guided audio tours of underwater parks, trails or dive sites.

SM-100 Sea Sounds Underwater Cassette Player is $345 from Central Sales, a distributor; telephone (800) 445-5007. How many times have you left your favorite binoculars behind because you were afraid they'd get damaged in foul weather or during water sports? Minolta's compact 8-inch-by-23-inch Weathermatic binoculars solve the problem. Rubberized seals keep water out and the lens barrels are filled with nitrogen gas to prevent the lenses from fogging or collecting condensation during rapid temperature or humidity changes. The binocular grips are coated with a shock-absorbing rubber that I found bore up under sharp knocks and some intentional dropping. The Weathermatic has eight-times magnification and weighs 17.6 ounces; the field of view at 1,000 yards is 366 feet.

Minolta Compact Weathermatic Binoculars are about $250 at camera and outdoor stores. For those who want to shoot what they see, I've found a fine water-resistant camera. I tested a slew of top models on a rough and tough--and very wet--white-water raft trip in South Carolina, and the Pentax IQ Zoom 90WR came out a winner. Though it is not waterproof--and thus not viable as an underwater camera--the thick plastic shell is reinforced with rubber seals, making it thoroughly reliable for the wettest weather and water sports. The camera is a point-and-shoot with some fine bells and whistles: a push-button zoom lens that goes from a slightly wide-angle 38mm to a 90mm zoom, and everything in between; an automatic flash that can be set for red-eye reduction or overridden; a self-timer for getting yourself in the picture, and a nifty slide-out wireless remote control that can activate the zoom lens and the shutter from up to 15 feet away. The camera even has a macro mode, for photos of flowers and other close-up shots. Unlike many small point-and-shoots, which have tiny eyepieces that make for difficult viewing, the IQ 90's viewfinder is big enough to get close to. I use the camera as a backup when traveling, and it's my main camera when the going gets wet.

Pentax IQ Zoom 90WR, has a suggested retail price of $368, but is available for less at discount camera stores. What to do with money, passport, wristwatch and other valuables when you're in the water? Take them with you. The Water Pocket is a 6 1/2-inch by 4 1/2-inch zippered nylon pouch containing two heavy-duty resealable plastic bags that keep contents dry, whether you're floating on your back or diving down to 130 feet. An adjustable polypropylene web belt with plastic side-release buckles makes for easy transport around the waist. A larger 6-inch-by-9-inch version can hold a small point-and-shoot camera or paperback book. No more worrying if the gear on your beach blanket will be gone when you surface.

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