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Gear & Gadgets

On the Road in a Manageable Fashion

September 01, 1996|JUDI DASH

Car trips can be as simple or complicated as one chooses. Pack a few things and hit the road, or load up with gear that makes the going more efficient, comfortable and fun. I tend toward the latter approach, especially with kids on board. Following are handy helpers for road trips. Many items may be available at area stores. Prices do not include shipping and handling.

Trunk organizer: Orvis, maker of flashy fishing rods and other haute sports gear has devised an exceedingly practical automobile trunk organizer that you don't have to be a sportsman to appreciate. A huge leakproof polyethylene tub, designed to fit specific car models, comes with adjustable dividers that turn a car trunk into a kind of giant tackle box. The organizer makes a stable system for transporting sporting equipment, suitcases, groceries and emergency road supplies. When you need open space for extra large items, just yank out the easily removable organizer and load away.

Auto Trunk Space Organizer (CD297J) is $110 from Orvis; telephone (800) 541-3541. Specify make, model and year of vehicle when ordering.

Back support: No matter how ergonomic a car's seat design, long drives can be a real pain in the back. Cascade Design's compact backrest is a 16 inch by 8 inch by 2 1/2 inch self-inflating pillow that slips easily between the driver or passenger and the seat back. It can be further inflated (or deflated) orally via the flexible air valve. When not in use, the back rest compresses and rolls into a diminutive 3-inch diameter tube. The pillow also can be a boon on plane trips.

Back Rest (IF385) is $29.85 from Magellan's; tel. (800) 962-4943.

Kids' gear in reach: On a much smaller scale, the Kargo Keep'r is a tote bag/organizer for toddlers. Buckled into their car seats, younger passengers are likely to be a lot less fidgety if they can easily reach toys, books or a handy bottle. Two large expandable storage pouches are connected by a strap that slides under the seat pad and fastens against the seat sides. Junior simply reaches over and pulls out the gear he wants (getting him to put it back into the elastic mesh pouches when he's finished is another matter). The organizer also works well attached to a stroller.

The Kargo Keep'r is $8 from Kel-Gar; tel. (800) 388-1848.

Cure for bored kids: If a busy child is a happy child, yours should be ecstatic with "Miles of Smiles: 101 Great Car Games and Activities," by Carol Terwilliger Meyers, a travel writer and mother of two. Many of the activities in the 120-page paperback have travel-related themes--license plate games, geography quizzes, destination identification. Others are brain-teasers--completing famous adages, rattling off synonyms. Answers are in the back of the book, as are age recommendations (preschool through junior high) for the various games.

Miles of Smiles is $8.95 in bookstores or from the publisher, Carousel Press; tel. (800) 990-9386.

Mighty light: The Flexi Map Light from The Sharper Image sheds welcome light on any car interior. The lamp, which plugs into the cigarette lighter, has a 14-inch flexible gooseneck arm and tungsten-halogen bulb that beams a glare-free spotlight. A large three-position power knob makes it easy to switch the lamp on and off, and to remove the back for replacing the bulb. I use the light for reading directions or maps in the dark--a task that can be difficult with my car's weak, nondirectional overhead light. Since this lamp does not light up the entire interior of the car (as would an overhead light), it's safer for use while driving. The only disadvantage is, if your car's cigarette lighter does not work when the engine is off, neither will the Flexi Map Light, so have a flashlight along as well for road emergencies.

Flexi Map Light (YS101) is $14.95 from The Sharper Image; tel. (800) 344-4444.

Gear & Gadgets appears the first week of every month.

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