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THE GOODS

Hot Cool Stuff

Heat got you down? The water purse, long pants that turn into shorts, the SnakeFan and more can bring relief.

August 27, 1996|BERKLEY HUDSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

During last summer's heat wave, a Georgia woman died because she got too hot. Her daughter told authorities that her 83-year-old mother refused to turn on the air-conditioning because it cost too much.

Staying cool can be as simple as that: turning on the air conditioner, invented by Willis Carrier in 1902, or getting under a shade tree and eating helado (ice cream) from a vendor. On any hot day in L.A.'s Chinatown, you can see dozens of people employing another technique that's centuries old--holding an umbrella for shade.

And there is more than a measure of truth to the motto of FasTrak Systems Inc., a Weatherford, Texas, firm whose motto is "hydrate or die."

Sometimes beating-the-heat experts are ultra-athletes, like the Australian Olympic bicyclists who wore neoprene vests filled with ice packs at the Atlanta Games. And 13 Olympic medalists, including Dan O'Brien, who won the gold in the decathlon, took a plant-extract food supplement made by Monterey's PrimeQuest and said to be good for thwarting heat.

It's true: Everyone curses the heat but does anyone do anything about it? The answer, in quite amazing variety, is: yes. From the wacky to the practical, manufacturers turn out products to keep us cool: from pith helmets with fans to hand-held atomizer-misters and the "queue-line misters" you might see spraying above outdoor restaurants.

So far, American ingenuity hasn't figured out how to download coolness from the Internet but, as we enter the homestretch of summer, here are products, both brand new and old, touted as really cool.

The Water Purse: Targeting consumers who want to combine their needs for water, a purse and a fashion statement, New York-based Nine West Accessories this summer introduced its water bottle purse. Made under the Squirts label, it comes in five styles, including a tote bag and a top-zippered one. The purses have a removable water bottle in an insulated pouch. Found at 9 & Co. shoe stores and at major department stores, such as Macy's, they retail for $28 to $58.

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Rain Room: For those who want to go industrial in getting cool, inventor Lawrence Ducey in Rockville, Md. ([800] 859-9274), has created "the Rain Room." With a patented, spraying configuration, dozens of these tent-like rooms were set up as oases at the Olympics. "You can get cooled off or completely wet, depending on how long you want to stay," Ducey says.

Rentals cost from $200 to $1,200 a day. To buy, they cost $2,000 to $9,800. The smallest is a 9-foot-by-6-foot canopy that, Ducey says, is suitable for a homeowner who likes to have "cool" parties. In addition, Ducey recently created "Urban Mistery." This sprinkler, perfect for your average street corner, addresses the hot-time, summer-in-the-city syndrome. It consists of a 40-inch-high, sprinkler tower mounted on a concrete base. "We're blowing the humid environment away," Ducey says.

For municipalities, he says, it's cheaper than having fire hydrants spewing thousands of gallons of water. The Urban Mistery sells for $3,900.

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Solar-Powered Auto Ventilator: This product "actually removes 50% more hot air from your parked car than others," the folks at New Hampshire-based Brookstone say about their ventilator. It sells for $40 and is offered at the company's outlets or by mail order.

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SnakeFan: Black & Decker came out with its SnakeFan three months ago. It's portable and battery-operated. Its flexible yet sturdy tubing allows the tiny fan to be wrapped securely around exercise bicycle handles or fashioned into the shape of a cobra to sit next to your computer monitor. The fan, with an AC adapter, retails for $29.95.

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Headband: For those who want more than a wet bandanna, Brookstone markets the trademarked "Hydroband." Similar products are also available in sporting goods stores. "A single 30-minute soak in cold water turns its crystals into a cooling gel that keeps you cool all day," Brookstone says. The $12 band can also be stored in the refrigerator to keep it in the ready mode.

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Hands-Free Drinking: Several outdoor-equipment companies now make devices to carry and provide water without your having to hold a bottle. These are, in essence, small backpacks or fanny packs for carrying water, whether you're bicycling, hiking, walking, running or gardening. The products are targeted for people such as construction workers, military personnel and police officers.

The devices are neoprene bags of water that have tubing with a mouthpiece, which you bite on to get a drink. Versions of these packs are designed with suction cups to be attached to the sides of a boat. The packs carry anywhere from 32 ounces to 190 ounces of liquid. Prices range from $25 to $113. Two major makers are Ultimate Direction of Rexburg, Idaho ([800] 426-7229), and FasTrak Systems Inc. of Weatherford, Texas ([800] 767-8725). They are available by mail and from outlets such as REI.

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