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|| News Item: Posted 1999-12-23

Travel Tips: Christmas Toys for Photographers
By Captain Ron

Toys for good girls and boys (mostly boys).

Ho, Ho, Ho.

Last minute shopping making you crazy? Hate fighting the crowds at the Mall? Sit back and relax while Capt. Ron regales you with his toy shopping wisdom.Remember the Cold War? One of the basic tenets was a principal called M.A.D. (mutually assured destruction) If one side launches missiles then the other side will retaliate, and wammo! Everybody gets wacked. Well Christmas giving is a lot like that.

* Did I get a gift from them last year?
* Did I give them a gift last year?
* How much did I spend on their gift?
* How much did they spend on my gift?
* Did they buy me gift this year?
* Hells bells, I'm having dinner with them tonight, I'd better buy them a gift just to cover my ass. Then you leave it in the car just in case they do bring you a present, so you can retaliate in a timely fashion.

I'm one of those people that you can't shop for, you know the type, already got every cool toy or tool. Sharper Image can't come up with new stuff fast enough for me. My philosophy is "why wait till the holidays or your birthday, hoping that you'll get what you want?" just go out and get it yourself.

With that in mind, you can understand that over the years, I've managed to amass a selection of tried and true products, which would make wonderful gifts for you or others.


The North Face, Mountain Light Jacket, $369.95 list at most sporting goods retailers (REI, EMS, North Face Stores, ect) Savvy Sports Shooter readers can find the SAME jacket for $199.97 at Don't wait long cause this is an overstock sale price. If they are out of stock try they have a pretty good inventory at $241.50.

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Without a doubt the most versatile jacket I have ever owned. A medium length cut, LIGHTWEIGHT Gore-Tex shell with double slider armpit zips for ventilation. It also features a second set of inner zippers in the front, so you can add fleece, down or synthetic, liners, to adjust the temperature range of this jacket. I've spent weeks wandering around the Arctic Circle. Countless days huddled on a World Cup racecourse with winds gusting to 60 knots, waiting out course holds. Endured hours of torrential downpours at football games, and not once has this jacket failed me. It folds into it's own little pocket stuff sack and weighs around 25 oz.

ExOfficio, Adventurer shirt, $72.00 list at most sporting goods retailers (REI, EMS, etc) but if you go to and look up Super Special Deals they have them marked down to $29.97!

I like a shirt with lots of pockets when I travel. Pockets that are deep enough to put my airline tickets in, pockets for my eyeglasses, earplugs, pager and phone. I want long sleeves that rolls up or down to suit the weather. It should look presentable after being cramped in a coach class seat for hours on end and easy to care for. (Can I wash it in the hotel sink, after scarfing down a chili dog at the Varsity?)

The Adventurer has all these qualities and then some. Made from a nice cotton/ poly blend, it's comfortable and dries quickly after washing (or a quick dunking while flyfishing.)

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Patagonia, River shorts, $49.00 list, but nobody pays list except those who bought DCS 520's for $14,995.00 (now marked down to $7995.00) You can buy these shorts at most Patagonia OUTLET stores for 50% to 60% off. ($7,000.00 of PROFIT, man that's a lot of shorts.)

When you're on the road a lot, you learn to travel as light as possible. That means your clothes need to do double duty. River shorts can be used as underwear or outerwear. They have a nice mesh brief liner, which is cool and comfortable, and it does a nice job of keeping the family jewels from swaying in the wind. The pockets have mesh corners for quick drainage in case you take a swim. Best of all, these shorts have a web belt sewn in,
along with an elastic waistband. After about 50 gazillion washing and drying cycles, the elastic will croak, that's when the web belt saves the day.


Victorinox Cybertool, $79.95 list price in every catalog I've seen, BUT if you call 310-545-5718 and ask for Stan, you can get it for a paltry $59.95!

I own several Swiss Army knives from the mongo supersized "Swisschamp" to the key chain sized "Classic".

The "Cybertool" fits in right in the middle, with the usual array of accoutrements, PLUS several tools designed for the computer age.

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* 2 3/4 inch fully extended bit wrench
* Eight different bits including:
* Torx bits (just the right size for tightening the screws on a Viper card)
* Phillip heads
* Pozi drives
* Hex bits
* Mini flat head screwdriver
* Can opener with small screwdriver
* Bottle opener, large screwdriver, and wire stripper
* Scissors
* Pliers with wire cutter (great for freeing stuck PCMCIA cards from your PowerBook)
* Large blade
* Small blade
* Reamer with sewing eye (perfect for punching dribble holes in cups, below the lip)
* Corkscrew
* Hook / crochet
* Mini screwdriver (perfect for tightening those tiny damn screws on eyeglasses)
* Ball point pen
* Straight pin (handy for poking paparazzi or opening the damn CD drive in the powerbook)
* Key ring
* Toothpick / dip switch pin tool
* Tweezers

All encased in way cool clear red handles, giving it an iMac cachet.

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Photon key chain light, $16.95 at

Super bright LED technology, in a teeny tiny little package. Take 3 nickels and stack'em together and you get the idea. So small, you can use this light hands free just by clenching it between your teeth! (Ever try that with a mini maglight?) Comes in a rainbow of colors. Red is best, because it preserves your night vision.


JABRA headset, $39.95 list at

You see it everywhere, people driving with one hand and a cell phone in the other hand. Weaving back and forth across lanes, running red lights, just driving like gerbils with diarrhea. It's an accident waiting to happen.

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Don't be a gerbil, get a hands free headset!

I've tried a half a dozen different headsets for my cellular phone and most are crap. The microphones pick up road noise and rumble, or it sounds like you're calling from inside a can. The earpiece sounds tinny or you can barely hear anything at all.

The JABRA EarSet is different! Both the earpiece and microphone are all in (1) small hearing aid size unit so there's no microphone dangling and banging around. A near custom fit comes from the (6) ear gels, 3 right, 3 left, in small, medium, and large.

The sound quality is OUTSTANDING!

It connects to the 2.5-millimeter plug on many analog and digital wireless phone models. They also offer adapters for phone models that don't have a built-in communications jack.

Kenwood Freetalk FRS radios, $149.95 list, but you can find them on the web for as little as $74.95.

You may recognize the body of this text, if you've been a Sports Shooter regular, cause it is shamelessly lifted from an earlier Sports shooter v4.1 extra (go to Hey, It's 4:23am and the Chief (Hanashiro) is screaming bloody murder about deadlines.

Travel Tips. By Capt. Ron.
You're at the big game, it's the middle of the 4th quarter and it's close. The film runner has just picked up film and you're switching to Digital so you can make AM deadlines. You pop off a few frames...

The camera dies.

You franticly search through all your pockets, looking for a spare battery but to no avail. It dawns upon you that there's a spare upstairs in the xmitter case! Reaching for your trusty cell phone, you try desperately to remember the phone number in the darkroom. Looking at the back of your credential, you rejoice, cause you had the foresight to scribble the number down with a sharpie. You punch in the number and hit the SEND key

SYSTEM BUSY flashes across your screen.

Hit the redial button...

Fast busy signal, DAMMIT, your compatriot is transmitting pictures back to paper, and he's on line.

You are SCREWED!

It's 4:00; you're pulling into DFW to pickup your photo editor who's just landed. You know he's coming in on American, so you've arranged to meet him curbside. Following the signs into the airport, you discover that American has gates spread across 2 terminals almost half a mile apart.

You are SCREWED!

Life would be a lot simpler if we had that little communicator badge gizmo
like they use on Star Trek.

The next best thing for the real world is called Family Radio Service (FRS) it's a new, personal, short range 2-way radio band (462.5625 to 467.7125) for you and your buddies to keep in touch WITHOUT the burden and bureaucracy of FCC licenses, radio knowledge, or monthly fees.

You've seen them advertised in all the adult toy catalogs, Sharper Image, Herrington's Brookstone, etc. Mostly it's the Motorola "Talk About" you see, (big advertising co-op dollars) but keep in mind that there are lot of other manufactures, Kenwood, Radio shack, Whistler, just to name a few.

The transceivers we're interested in, are very small, about the size of pack of cigarettes, (if you've never smoked, then you're not a real photographer. Use a deck of playing cards for size reference. If you've never seen a deck of cards, then there's no way you could be a sports photographer) 18 channels, with 38 sub channels, gives you 684 possible combinations. They run off of (3) AA batteries and have a range of about 2 miles, line of sight. The sound quality is very good, none of that static or hiss you normally associate with handheld radios.

Capt. Ron has played, err um, tested them all. Now I could go on a tirade about the crappy quality of the accessories for the Motorola, or about the lack of a channel display on the Whistlers. Or I could draw a fancy table showing the different features and comparisons, but since this newsletter is done in a simple text format, I just can't import a table from EXCEL. (Actually I'm on a deadline, with Hanashiro breathing down my back).
(Flashback to the future.)

The only unit that gets the Capt. Ron seal of approval (that means I actually bought one, and got the staffers at USATODAY to buy'em too) is the KENWOOD UBZ-LF14, (also know as the "Freetalk") These babies rock for the following reasons:

* Control layout is good
* Controls can be locked
* ILLUMINATED digital channel display
* REMOVEABLE pocket clip
* Vertical or Horizontal carrying positions
* Features a true channel SCRAMBLER
* Automatic power off
* Battery voltage check
* 4 different CALL TONES
* Channel monitoring
* Speaker mike is first rate and has a separate volume control and channel scanning, plus a provision for a separate earpiece.

For more technical information and to check out the killer accessories, go check out

(This is the final installment of Cpt. Ron's Travel Tips. Cpt. Ron has retired to northern Ontario, Canada to work as a flyfishing guide and continue his research in the paranormal.)

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Wanna see some cool golf shots me! ::..