Cautious or well-organised travellers may prefer to buy their travel aids in advance. Some items encourage relaxation, like a hammock that unfolds from a pocket-size pack, for swaying in while listening to the Test Match on a miniature radio. Others are designed with the opposite of relaxation in mind. A head torch, for hands-free operation while climbing or trekking, is for the seriously intrepid; a travel iron is for those addicted to domestic chores (why press shirts at home when you can do them on an Indonesian island?). A handful of items are really useful: a mini currency converter is inspired, while a water-resistant waist belt means you need never worry about leaving keys, credit cards or
cash unattended on the beach while you swim.
And for those people who really do travel with
everything but the kitchen sink, there's a bath plug
for hotel rooms that all too commonly come without one.
A PLUG FOR OUR SPONSOR
The frustration of trying to seal a plugless basin or bath with a T-shirt on holiday can be measured on the Richter scale. If you're staying off the beaten track, the answer is to take your own. With Go's Bathplugger (right) at pounds 2.99, there's no need to worry about size: the downward pressure of water holds the plug in place, so it can be used in baths and basins worldwide. Available from luggage departments of department stores, including Debenhams and House of Fraser. For stockists phone 0181-906 8505.
A YEN FOR MONEY CONVERSION
A miniature foreign currency converter (left) makes it easy to calculate how much your money is worth wherever you are in the world. This neat gadget is easy to use, following the instructions on its lid. It comes complete with a long-life battery and can be worn on a neck cord. It costs pounds 5.99 from major department stores. For local stockists phone 0181-805 1111.
THE PORTABLE CASUALTY WARD
Go's International Health Kit (right) is a zip-up PVC pouch with a first- aid kit (for cuts, wounds and minor accidents), a dental kit (for repair of lost fillings, broken teeth, dislodged crowns and bridges) and a sterile kit (needles, syringes and sutures for HIV and hepatitis-B protection in countries where hygiene is a problem). At pounds 16.99, it is available from department stores, including Debenhams and House of Fraser. For local stockists phone 0181-906 8505.
JUST HANGING AROUND
Five unusual ways to use a hammock: as a stretcher for casualties, an animal snare, an emergency rope, a dunking bag (for cooling food or drink in water) and for off-ground storage. You can, of course, use it for its more conventional purpose - snoozing and lazing around. This pocket hammock weighs 10oz, yet supports up to 16st. It is made of tough nylon, and measures 712ft x 4ft ring-to-ring. It costs pounds ll.50 plus pounds l.50 p&p, from Neal Street East in London's Covent Garden (0171-240 0135).
NOT FOR THE HARD-PRESSED
Crease-free holidays call for a compact, dual- voltage travel iron. One of the best is Remington's TL-216 (above). This steam/spray/dry iron weighs 1lb, with a 6ft flex. The folding handle houses a water tank while the spray nozzle evenly directs a mist over fabric. We found it coped well with lightweight shirts and T-shirts, less well with denim. It comes in a pouch and costs pounds 14.99 from Boots, Argos and electrical retailers. For stockists phone 01784 434343.
If vanity came into it, nobody would be seen dead wearing a head-torch. But Petzl's zoom headlamp (above) gives powerful hands-free illumination when camping, sailing, cycling or trekking in places where there is little or no light. Small enough to pop into a pocket, it comes with a spare bulb and can be powered by a longlife 4.5V battery (17 hours' life) or three standard AA batteries using an adapter. The torch costs pounds 21.99 (plus pounds 2.99 for longlife battery), spare bulbs 99p each (or pounds 4.20 for extra-bright halogen bulbs). Please add pounds 2.95 p&p. Contact SafariQuip on 01433 620320.
LIFE'S A BEACH, THEN YOU'RE ROBBED
How can you enjoy a dip in the sea when you're worried about having keys, credit cards and cash stolen from your beach bag? Peace of mind comes in the shape of Go's Aquasafe (below), a waterproof waist pouch that can be worn while swimming or surfing. Its triple seal is meant to keep the contents completely dry, though we found notes tended to get a bit soggy if the seals weren't well-closed. But it's a clever device, and can also be worn when hiking or sailing. It has an adjustable waist strap, comes in yellow/black, green/black or blue/black, and costs pounds 6.99 from most department stores, including Debenhams and House of Fraser. For local stockists telephone 0181-906 8505.
I'LL SCREEN AND SCREEN UNTIL I'M SICK
To stop you forgetting your sunblock, Explore Trader has an idea: hang it on a neck string. Dermatone's water-resistant Lips and Face factor 23 (below) protects against UV rays - though, as the British Medical Association recently reported, sunscreens with SPFs over 15 offer only slightly additional protection. It costs pounds 2.95 plus pounds 2.50 p&p (minimum order two tubes) from Explore Trader on 01252 316016.
A PROPER PUKKA PANAMA
The test of a fine Panama is whether it can be folded and passed through a wedding ring. The original had a full crown with a ridge running back- to-front, which helped with folding. It's still possible to buy a traditional folding version (left), stored in a lidded travel tube, from Ede & Ravenscroft - reputedly the world's oldest tailor. It is made of straw, hand-woven in Ecuador, and can be rolled into a long 10in x 3in sausage. It comes with a black band (a mark of respect following Queen Victoria's death) but MCC orange/yellow/orange and Guards Club burgundy/navy/ burgundy bands are also available. The Folder Panama costs pounds 49 complete with tube, from Ede & Ravenscroft, 93 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1DU (0171-405 3906), and its shops in Oxford (01865 242756) and Cambridge (01223 350048).
Whether you're after the cricket score or news of political shenanigans back home, a shortwave radio keeps you in touch. Sony's ICF-SW100E (right) is a neat black tuner with LCD display, and memory for 50 frequencies; FM stereo is obtainable via headphones. It is 110mm wide, 72mm deep and weighs 220g with batteries. With case and handbook, it costs pounds 219.99 from Sony stockists (0181-784 1144).
HATS OFF TO THE NORFOLK INTREPID
The Norfolk Intrepid (above) has proved its worth on expeditions, including a UK-led climb to Bhutan's Kararoram mountains. Made of cotton, its gauzed eyelets keep heads cool and bugs out of your hair. Available in bottle green, navy blue or natural, it costs pounds 28.50 plus pounds 1.45 p&p from Norfolk Headwear (0171-498 2099).
TIGHT, BRIGHT AND SAFE IN FLIGHT
A brightly-coloured security strap makes it easy to identify your luggage on airport carousels, and offers a belt-and-braces approach to keeping your belongings safe. Carlton's new Combination Safe-strap (below) has a locking buckle that allows a choice of personal combinations for extra security. The webbed fabric strap is about 2m long and fits all sizes of luggage. It costs pounds 6.99 from major department stores. For local stockists phone 0181-805 1111.
ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL OILS
Aromatherapist Daniele Ryman has come up with some fragrant solutions (left) for long-haul flights. A 10ml facial spray of rose oil and natural mineral water (pounds 12.50 for five) makes dry cabin atmosphere bearable. Non- sticky rehydration gel (pounds 8 for 50ml) is an effective moisturiser. Asleep essence (pounds 15 for a 10-day supply) is useful for anyone who has difficulty sleeping on-board or in foreign beds. Add pounds 3.50 p&p. Daniele Ryman, Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly, London WlY 8BX (0171-753 6708).Reuse content