Hot stuff: Your summer gadget guide

Devices to help you get the most out of your summer

The surprise is not that it happens every year, but that we're surprised every year when it happens: the mad dash for summer. Productivity and stress soar in the scramble to accomplish some form of meaningful fiscal planning for 2008 before everything shuts down from late June through Labor Day.

Then, in the weeks before our own vacation time, we scramble again -- to square away tickets, hotel accommodations, itineraries, dog sitters and emergency contacts.

And let's not forget the prevacation shopping. This is a moment of limitless potential, the chance to test your mettle (and your luck) at finding the ideal MP3 player, the best digicam, the doohickey that makes your vacation easier, better and more entertaining. It's no exaggeration: The perfect gadget can become the feel-good story of an entire summer.

This year you have help. Whether your summer plans involve hiking, lounging by the pool, hitting the road or doing absolutely nothing, we hope you have a chance to enjoy at least one of the devices listed here.

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Your summer gadget guide

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Become one with your backyard

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We salute the crafty veteran vacationer who spends a chunk of his time off every summer going nowhere and doing nothing but hanging out with his friends, kids, dogs, cats, garden, whatever.

If you plan on spending a week or several long weekends puttering around the house, some of these devices will likely make that seven-day respite exquisite.

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EGO Waterproof iPod Case

IPod speaker docks and accessories abound. But how many let you take your iPod safely into the pool? Atlantic's EGO Waterproof Sound Case for iPod ($150) protects your iPod from water -- or even shock damage -- while blasting your tunes all over the backyard or boat through its built-in, waterproof speakers.

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EGO Waterproof Sound Case for iPod

The case is small, just 9.8 by 6.5 by 1.8 in. Rubber bumpers keep your precious gadget safe from damage. The EGO's dock is made to fit iPod video, photo 4G, Mini and Nano models snugly, but the 3.5mm speaker jack works with any iPod -- or any standard, non-iPod MP3 player, for that matter. So if you have a tiny player that fits in the empty space, you can plug it in and it will play through the speakers.

 
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George Foreman iGrill
 

An included shoulder strap lets you carry the case to the beach and back. A "kickstand" props up the case. Four AA batteries are required to power the speakers for 30 hours.

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George Foreman iGrill

As an April Fool's joke last year, the popular online catalog ThinkGeek pretended to offer a product it called the George Foreman iGrill, which it said was a grill powered by USB.

Now, a real George Foreman iGrill has been unveiled by eSalton and it's no joke this time. The $150 indoor/outdoor electric barbecue grill features a 200-sq.-in. nonstick grilling surface. Best of all, it doubles as an iPod dock and blasts your tunes through its built-in 10-watt speakers.

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Waterproof Floating Phone
 

Waterproof Floating Phone Who wants to get out of the pool to answer the phone? (Or even the shower, for that matter?)

Hammacher Schlemmer sells an $80 cordless phone built with waterproof plastic and rubber grips. If you drop it in the water, it floats and keeps on working.

The phone has all the standard features of any conventional wireless landline phone, including an LCD and 10-number speed dial, support for call waiting and Caller ID, 20-channel autoscan and operation on the 5.8-GHz frequency. Buttons are backlit, so it's easy to use in the dark.

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Remote-Controlled Robotic Hammerhead Shark

Remote-controlled boats are for sissies. If you really want to make your barbecue guests run screaming from the water (and, after all, who doesn't?), bring on the $100 Remote-Controlled Robotic Hammerhead Shark from Hammacher Schlemmer.

 
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Remote-Controlled Robotic Hammerhead Shark
 

The RC swimming pool killer of the deep is 23 in. long and swims just like a real shark as far as 40 feet from the RC unit, and up to 9 feet deep. Best of all, the RC unit is submersible, so you can swim with your shark, controlling it underwater. And because each shark operates on its own frequency, you can play with more than one for your own private feeding frenzy.

The RC shark swims for 15 minutes on a one-hour charge. It's great at night, too -- the shark's eyes light up. The shark is blue with orange or green highlights.

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