Outdoors

Spring Into Action (and this gear will make it much easier)

The days are longer, the temperatures are warmer and the outdoors is calling. Now that spring and better weather have arrived, families are thinking of hiking, biking, camping, fishing, beach trips and more.

To help you prepare for the fun, we've got some suggestions — from high-tech toys to cheap ways to get off your feet — to help make your days more enjoyable and memorable.

STAND-UP PADDLE BOARD — If you're looking for a different way to have fun on the water, consider the Nalu. Made by Ocean Kayaks, the Nalu is 11 feet long and 31 inches wide. And when you get tired of standing, the Nalu doubles as a sit-on-top kayak.

"That sport really seems to be picking up steam," said Jason Mohr of Alpine Experience in Olympia, Wash. "I think it's just a fun way to get out. It's also a very good core workout. It really develops upper-body strength and coordination."

The Nalu retails for $599 at the store, but also will be available for rental this summer. Info: www.oceankayak.com.

TRAIL-A-BIKE — Bike-riding families with little ones might want to consider this option. Made by Adams, the Trail-A-Bike is a half bike that attaches to an adult's bike.

"It gives the person on the back quite a range. They don't have to do all the work," said Mike Brown, owner of a bike store in Tacoma, Wash.

It's much more efficient and safer than a kid's bike, Brown argues.

"The last thing you want to see when you're riding a bike path is a 5-year-old zigzagging back and forth and you're doing 20 mph and they're doing 6 mph," he said. "Also, an adult can tow back a spent child much easier this way."

Brown recommends a model with multiple gears. He said children quickly learn to twist the handle to shift gears, making it easier to keep up with the pedaling.

One model also folds for easier transportation, and sells for $290.

Info: www.trail-a-bike.com.

NODDER SLEEPING BAG — REI has introduced a new sleeping bag for children, the three-season Nodder.

Rated at 25 degrees, the bag is best suited for children ages 6 to 10 years old. Courtney Coe, a spokeswoman for REI, said the attached stuff sack doubles as a space adjuster, allowing you to shorten or lengthen the bag as the child grows. The bag will fit children up to 5 feet tall. It also features dual side zips combined with rip-and-stick closure tabs that allow the child's arms to be free for games or reading while resting inside the bag. The mummy-style bag comes only in mesa orange, and is available for $69.50.

Info: www.rei.com.

GO GREEN PATHFINDER — To make sure the gang doesn't get lost, consider this watch from Casio.

The PAG110C-3 model uses the company's Tough Solar Technology, which increases battery life. The watch includes functions such as a digital compass, altimeter, barometer and thermometer, five daily alarms, a stopwatch and world time in 30 cities.

The watch is part of Casio's "Go Green" spring collection of eco-friendly watches being released to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Part of the effort is to use recycled packaging.

If nothing else, all the functions would be fun to play with on a rainy day inside the tent. The PAG110C-3 is available only through Amazon.com at the suggested price of $250.

Info: www.pathfinder.casio.com.

CAMP CHEF COOKING GRILL — If car campers are leery of cooking in a campground fire ring, this over-the-fire grill from Cabela's might be an option. The grill surface is made of heavy, 14-gauge expanded steel that can be brushed clean like your grill at home. You just unfold the two legs and position the grill over the heat source to cook. It's also sturdy enough to hold a frying pan or coffeepot on top of its surface while you're cooking. The grill stands 8 inches high and comes in two sizes: 24 inches by 16 inches ($29.99) and 36 inches by 18 inches ($39.99). Info: www.cabelas.com.

EXPLORIST GC — Magellan next month will unveil eXplorist GC, a GPS device for geocaching that is ready to go out of the box. This would be an easy way for families to take up geocaching, a high-tech game of treasure hunting. People place boxes with simple items in them, and then record their GPS coordinates at www.geocaching.com. This unit allows users to begin looking for caches as soon as they turn on the GPS. The unit comes preloaded with 999 of the most popular of the nearly 1 million geocaches in the world, a color screen, maps and graphics, and an easy-to-use interface. A USB cord allows users to download more caches. The device can hold 10,000 cache locations. Magellan says two AA batteries will power the device for up to 18 hours. The suggested price is $199.99.

Info: www.magellangps.com/exploristgc.

BETTER BOTTLE — Camelbak's stainless steel water bottle should be a hit for those looking to avoid plastic water haulers, said Len Throop, an outdoors store owner. The 24-ounce Better Bottle features the company's Big Bite Valve. There also is a 16-ounce insulated model and 14-ounce children's model. The company, playing to those worried about the health risks of other bottles, touts the fact that the stainless bottles are BPA-free and do not have an inner liner or plastic coating like those found in aluminum bottles. Suggested price: $24.

Info: www.camelbak.com.

FIRE BAIT — While many lakes are already open, a lot of trout fishing families will be heading out later this month when trout season hits high gear.

One item they may want to have in their tackle box is a jar of Fire Bait from Pautzke Bait Co.

New for this year, Fire Bait comes in nine colors and is 90 percent biodegradable, according to the Ellensburg, Wash.-based company.

This is the company's latest foray with a trout-specific bait. It took 18 months to develop the right combination of color, scent and buoyancy, according to the company.

Sportco is selling Fire Bait for $3.59 for a 1.5-ounce bottle. It comes in red, pink, orange, natural, chartreuse, rainbow, peach, yellow, brown and white.

Info: www.pautzke.com.

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