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For Fun and Comfort in the Field - camping equipment  - Buyers Guide

Thermo-Cool [TM] Headband Hydrokool [TM] Bandanna About $5 to $7 each from Forestry Suppliers

The best way to stay cool is to start work before dawn when the world is grayish but expectant, stop at noon, and then return to the field in the early evening. But given gringo time schedules and the nine-to-five work ethic, this is an infrequent habit. So here are a few tricks. Thermo-Cool's washable Three-in-One headband is 26" long and can be used dry, soaked, or soaked and refrigerated. HydroKool bandannas (40") can be wrapped around the body as well as the head or neck. Soaked for five to ten minutes, they work for eight to ten hours. The bandanna gel swells about one-half inch. By the way, my friend Greg Schoon tells me that Americans are chronically dehydrated, and lack of water contributes to our disease load. Thermo-Cool is not a substitute for drinking at least eight glasses of water daily.

Repel [R] Earth Essence Insect Repellent $5.95 for 5-oz. from Forestry Suppliers

No DEET, but equivalent to 20-percent DEET, which is sometimes strong enough. (Cutter's varies from 7- to 35-percent DEET.) The repellent, a derivative of a lemon eucalyptus, is more effective than citronella, the classic New Age ingredient. Although I have not subjected myself to all of these, the label says that Repel disgusts chiggers, fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, and sand fleas.

Emergency Ponchos with Hood $14 for pack of twelve from Ben Meadows

Caught in rain. No shelter. To save on weight, you didn't bring rain gear. You can start punching holes in Hefty bags for your head and arms, but there's no hood. These emergency ponchos weigh about an ounce each, and have a hood. Great if you're out there in a cloudburst with kids and old folks.

Suunto [R] Vector Computer/ Watch $199 from Ben Meadows

Bruno Sherpa [TM] $155 from Forestry Suppliers

There are only a few ways to carry a portable watershed tool kit. Given my love of knowing what plant at what elevation and on what slope, and what the temperature is under trees vs. in the clearcut, I splurged on a Suunto Vector, which measures altitude, barometric pressure and trends, temperature, and compass direction, and serves as a clock and alarm. Altitude varies with pressure and temperature, so claims of ability to measure to "within 10 feet" can rarely be met. The best method is to adjust the altitude every time you know it, and always after airplane rides and at new locations. Then you get a good feel (within 100 feet) of how high you are above sea level. There is lots of competition (Casio, Avocet) but the Finns (Suunto's Finnish) win on this one. To prevent temperature distortions from my wrist, I wear the Vector on my belt.

If you have a lovable watch, but want all the other info, the Brunton Sherpa is a four-inch watershed techno-amulet on a lanyard. The Sherpa has everything the Vector has (including the timekeeper), but also an anemometer that measures wind speed and wind chill in mph, knots, beaufort, km/h, and m/s. Its two-button operation is easier than the Vector's, and it's cheaper.

Solar/Lunar Watch $249 to $399 from YesWatch, 2269 Chestnut Street #618, San Francisco. CA 94123 877/937-9282; www.yeswatch.com

A fairly heavy, Oreo-cookie-thick watch at upscale prices, water-susceptible, ringed by too many buttons that look very vulnerable to getting banged up, doesn't sound very attractive. Might make a better clock. But, Mike (who's worn it) and I found it intriguing for restoring our sense of "natural" time. The watch is in tune with day/night, sun/moon, solstice/equinox cycles. The "hand" circles once every twenty-four hours, and--the best part--the watch face displays day/night proportions and sunrises/sunsets. The moon on the watch face shows its phase. The digital display shows time, day, date, and sunrise/sunset times. It's programmed for 500 cities worldwide, or can be set by longitude/latitude.

Goja Pumice Hand Cleaner $4.95 for 18-oz. can from Ben Meadows

Cursing the tree sap, asphalt, adhesives, grease, putty under the fingernails, printer's ink that looks like blood? After a hard day's work, this giant can of non-petroleum pumice hand cleaner will turn the whole crew's hands dot-corn clean. Conditioned with Vitamin E, lanolin, and aloe.

Dealing With Ticks

With Lyme disease, embedded ticks have moved from disgusting to dangerous. Forestry Suppliers offers tick/chigger gators that seal your boots from creepy crawlies reaching your skin ($9.50). You can also buy permethrin-based (for outer fabric application only) tick-repellent sprays and concentrates. Toxic stuff. If you're penetrated, Forestry Suppliers has a Tick Release liquid ($3.50) with a Tick Nipper ($6). With liquid and nippers you don't squeeze the tick's body on removal (which can force more tick saliva into the wound).

Cargo Bars About $20 from Ben Meadows

Packing in a crew, with gas cans, water coolers, and boxes of food, on a rutted, rock-filled dirt track? This extendable bar for pick-up beds will keep everything where you put it. Jam the stuff against the back of the cab, then screw the bar until it's tight against the sides.

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