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Camping out equipment evaluation

Any experienced camper knows the basics to take into the woods--tent, sleeping bag, cooler, etc. There are a couple of items from Zelco Industries, Inc., Mt. Vernon, N.Y., though, that might not spring to mind immediately, but will prove well worthwhile to stick in your backpack for comfort and/or safety's sake.

FoodTool, the Multi-Purpose Culinary Tool ($30), could put a Swiss Army knife to shame for versatility. Less than six inches long and an inch and a half wide, it contains a knife, can opener/screwdriver, bottle opener, corkscrew, and salt and pepper shakers in moisture-proof plastic containers. The FoodTool has a die-cast aluminum body and the implements are stainless steel, cleverly designed to resist rust and make cleaning a snap. To appease picky wine-lovers, the corkscrew is Teflon-coated for smooth penetration.

The bright-yellow Kangaroo Light ($35) is a rugged, weather-resistant marvel that functions as a lantern, table lamp, or emergency flasher; runs either on batteries or plugs into a car lighter; and has a baby flashlight that separates from the larger mother light and can be clipped onto a belt or pocket for hands-free operation. The extendible arm pivots vertically to bounce the beam off a ceiling (or tent roof) to serve as a room light; converts into a table lamp with the addition of a frosted filter and by tilting the head; and can be turned into a flashing emergency light by attaching an amber filter. (The various filters are stored in the rear container of the main lantern compartment, as is a 12" cord with a cigarette-lighter plug.) The baby flashlight nestles under the larger light and can be separated or used to cast a beam downward at the same time the lantern is aimed forward. The main light operates with a high-intensity Krypton bulb (Superman beware!), with a spare included, and runs off four C batteries, while the baby light uses two AA batteries. As a final touch, the main light comes with a four-position switch (dim, high, blink, and off).

These ingenious devices can be ordered from www.zelco.com, or call 1-800-431-2486 for a retail outlet near you.

This symbol * indicates USA Today has tested a product for operating in full compliance with the manufacturer's specifications and to determine its performance as applicable to our reader's needs. Disadvantages, if any, also are reported. Although we cannot guarantee a product, we offer the starred designation as a guide to readers.

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