Online Original: For The Outdoors Lover On Your List

You donit have to be planning an assault on Everest to love cool outdoor equipment. Witness the explosive sales of extreme-sports as fashion statement -- outdoor apparel sales for July and August, 1998, shot up 33%, to $191 million, compared to $127 million for the same period the previous year. We estimate that 80% of the outdoor footwear sold never hits a trail,o said David Secunda, executive director of Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America, which tracks camping-gear sales.

The good news is there are plenty items this season suited for any great adventure, even if your idea of an great outdoors adventure is a stroll through a Nature Company store.

Motorola TalkAbout SLK

Parents who want to ski the double diamonds can keep in touch with kids on the bunny slope with these popular two-way radios. Motorola recently introduced the SLK ($170 or $210 with a privacy feature), which slimmed the earlier TalkAbouts from 7 ounces to a svelte 4.5 ounces -- and reduced the size to about that of a pack of playing cards. The radios, which use the family radio frequency set aside by the FCC two years ago, receive well at about two miles, depending on terrain. Lots of people tell us it will go more than two miles, particularly on water. In cities, there is lots of steel and concrete and its range is less,o says Pamela Thomas, TalkAbout spokesperson. (For more distant conversations, Motorola sells the larger TalkAbout Distance for $145, which has a range of five miles but requires an $80 license to operate.)

The new units are available with a rechargeable battery that allows about an hour of talk time, or they can be configured for three AA batteries that allow about three hours talk time.

If your gang is already tethered by radio, you might add on the Earbud In-Line Mike ($14.99) that allows hands free conversation, or the low-profile Belt Bike Carry Case ($11.99). It wonit restrict movement and keeps the radio out of the way.

Sun Company Triple Whistle

Every outdoorsman needs emergency gear, and Triple Whistle packs a lot into a simple and inexpensive little package. The Triple Whistle is a small, round thermometer and compass attached to the sides of a coachis-style whistle. As much as it looks like it comes from a box of CrackerJack, itis no toy. The liquid-filled compass is accurate to about plus or minus four degrees. It is a high-quality backup compass. I feel safe that no compass of its size is more accurate,o says Scott Becker, Marketing Manager for Sun Company, makers of the whistle. It can also survive a dunking up to 100 feet and operates up to 20 below zero.

You donit have to be stranded in the woods to appreciate the gizmo, which retails for about $10.50 through EMS and REI stores. They are selling real well in downtown stores in Chicago and Minneapolis, as rape protection or something like that,o says Becker. They also have found favor with a younger audience. We marketed it as a safety item, but people buy it for kids,o says Becker. The compass moves, and kids love that.o

Oregon Scientific All Hazards Weather Emergency Alert Monitor

The intrepid traveler might find it useful to know when a storm front is fast approaching, and thatis what this $69.95 emergency radio receiver reveals. Tuned to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Agencyis radio signal, which broadcasts continuous weather reports, the weather buff can listen to local atmospheric action all day long. Or the radio can be put in standby mode, in which an emergency activates an alert sound, the LCD display flashes alert,o a red light blinks, and the speaker turns on so you can hear if there's a tornado or a hazard like a chemical spill.

If those arenit enough bells and whistles, the radio, which runs 200 hours on three AA batteries, also has a freeze alert that lets you know when the temperature dips below 37 degrees, and it has a digital alarm clock. Water-resistant, the 8-ounce 6 1/2 by 3 by 1 1/4-inch radio will survive a heavy rainstorm, or even a shallow dunk in the drink.