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Totes and coolers for summer

Summer brings roadside picnics, children's camp, and family excursions in the great outdoors. The following items add enjoyment and convenience to summer travel _ even if that means just a day-trip to the countryside. Some of these items may be available at area retail stores. Prices do not include shipping and handling.

Children bound for summer camp (or just the back yard) will have fun toting along this green vinyl zippered camp bag stocked with brightly colored gadgets for outdoor play. There's a plastic compass with a hook for attaching to a belt loop or knapsack, a whistle on a neck cord, a collapsible plastic drinking bottle and plastic spoon and fork that fold into their own plastic carrying case, a small flashlight with key chain (runs on 2 AA batteries _ not included). Also included are four information cards: an insect identification chart, an explanation of map symbols, a Morse code card and an outdoor checklist reminding junior to take along camping essentials such as a first aid kit, extra clothing, rain gear and trail food. All the gadgets except the water bottle fit into the included red plastic case with belt hook, and the camp bag has plenty of room for more gear, such as those on the outdoor checklist.

Children's Camp Bag (133129) is $19.98 from Lillian Vernon; (800) 285-5555.

This vinyl picnic bag with cotton web handles unfolds from its Velcro fasteners to become a water-repellent, red-and-white-checked ground cover or tablecloth measuring nearly 9 square feet. A rigid square of board sewn into the center of the cloth keeps the container strong when used as a carrier and acts as a sturdy base for spillable items when the basket is opened up. A detachable (via snaps) beverage carrier keeps glass bottles or other breakable containers from clanking against basket contents. This is a fine alternative to carrying around a blanket or other ground cloth, and when the meal's over, leftovers and trash can go back into the reassembled carrier. I would have liked the bag to have a cover, making for more sanitary transport of food, but aside from that quibble, this is a handy, lightweight picnic aid.

Convertible Picnic Basket, (729558) is $32.98 from Just Between Us, a division of Miles Kimball Mail Order; (800) 546-2255.

Whether strolling city streets or country lanes, I like to have drinking water on hand, especially in hot weather. When I'm hiking, that means a canteen strapped to my waist, but less rugged environs demand more genteel equipment. This stretchable insulated bottle carrier holds all popular sizes and brands of bottled waters, and the neoprene material keeps the liquid cool. The carrier can be slung over the shoulder or around the waist using its adjustable strap or on a belt strung through the waist loop. The bag comes with a screw-on, push-pull dispensing top that fits most standard bottle tops. The insulated water bag is particularly useful abroad in places where bottled water may be the safest bet. I've also found another use for the bag _ as a tote for long camera lenses. The foam keeps a fragile telephoto lens from banging against other gear in my camera bag, and when carried via the shoulder strap, the lens is always handy for quick zooming in on the go.

Insulated Water Bag (LB348) is $14.85 from Magellan's; (800) 962-4943.

One can never have too many tote bags _ carriers of different shapes and sizes seem to do the job best at one time or another. The Total Tote from TravelSmith is what I use for major schlepping. Measuring a capacious 15{ inches by 16{ inches by 8 inches inside, the lightweight but heavy-duty Cordura nylon zippered sack has three external mesh pockets (one with a zipper) for more cargo. Best of all, in addition to its two hand straps, the Total Tote has adjustable backpack straps to free your hands for even more gear. When not in use, the bag folds down to about the size of a hardback novel.

Total Tote (1075) in black, evergreen or eggplant purple, is $48 from TravelSmith; (800) 950-1600.

Evenflo, a manufacturer of juvenile furniture, has introduced a travel crib that comes with a retractable canopy and side roll-down flap to shield infants from the elements _ a boon on beach trips. The Happy Cabana has large wheels that make for easy mobility and lock into place with the flip of a tab. Also included are a removable washable toy bag, a mattress, and a quilted fitted sheet. The crib folds down for transport in its own zippered carrying case.

This is a nifty item for family trips to the pool or grandparents' house and could save the day (and night) at lodgings short on cribs.

Evenflo Happy Cabana Play Crib with Retractable Canopy in nautical stripes or geometric pattern is about $100 at department stores. For a store near you, contact the manufacturer at (800) 233-5921.

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