Hot stuff: Your summer gadget guide

Devices to help you get the most out of your summer

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The WaveBox Portable Microwave

A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, a portable microwave for nuking real food, and thou.

The Frank Group's $199 WaveBox plugs into your car's battery or cigarette lighter with a super long cord. It's also got a retractable AC cord for campsites with electrical hookups.

WaveBox
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WaveBox Portable Microwave

But it's not just a microwave with an outdoorsy electrical plug. It's ruggedized, weather-resistant, miniaturized and quiet (for making midnight snacks in the woods without attracting bears). Rubber grips make it perfect for boats and off-road, 4-wheel-drive cooking.

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Two-Way Radio Life Vest

 
Two-Way Radio Life Vest
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Two-Way Radio Life Vest

Summer means sailing, kayaking and other watery adventures. But nothing can spoil the fun like becoming a "man overboard." We hate that. Fortunately, gadgets aren't just for fun -- they can also save your life.

Hammacher Schlemmer's $130 Two-Way Radio Life Vest keeps your head above the water and gives you someone to talk to, namely the Coast Guard. The vest's built-in 14-channel radio lets you call someone who cares, and lets them confirm they know where you are.

The two-way radio has big buttons for use even when wearing wetsuit gloves, and is waterproof up to 3 feet deep.

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Canon PowerShot SD800 IS Digital ELPH

Canon's ELPH SD800 is one of our favorite digicams because it is lightweight and produces high-quality photographs in a variety of lighting conditions.

This 7.1-megapixel camera resides in the ultracompact category, which is a fancy way of saying that it isn't big or heavy. The SD800 is 3.5 inches wide, 2.3 in. high and 1 in. thick. It weighs only a third of a pound, making it ideal for toting along on vacations and trips.

ELPH SD800
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Canon PowerShot SD800 IS Digital ELPH
 

This point-and-shoot camera features a wide-angle 3.8x zoom lens (equivalent to 28mm-105mm) and excellent movie capture modes. The built-in image stabilizer has a noticeably positive impact on pictures. A bright 2.5-in. LCD screen is on the back.

One other nice touch is the presence of face-detection technology, which forces the camera to focus on a face (or faces) rather than objects in the foreground or background. That's very handy for group photos.

Most important, however, is the battery life. The SD800 is capable of shooting more than 250 photographs on a single battery charge. (Like most ultracompact digicams, this camera uses a proprietary rechargeable battery instead of AA.)

You'll find the SD800 for around $315 to $340 online, or use Canon's store locator to find a retailer near you.

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PV-GS320
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Panasonic PV-GS320 Mini DV Video Camera
 

Panasonic PV-GS320 Mini DV Video Camera Panasonic's newest tape-based video camera is the perfect carry-along for summer vacations because it boasts tremendously high image quality, courtesy of the camera's three 800,000-pixel CCD chips. This lightweight video camera provides top-notch color reproduction and excellent still photographs (captured at 2,048 by 1,512 resolution -- perfect for 4- by 6-in. photos) in both indoor and outdoor environments.

The PV-GS320 provides a wide range of features that should satisfy all but the most demanding consumers. Extremely steady optical image stabilization is capable of taming the shakiest hands. A large 2.7-in. LCD screen allows easy viewing of the subject matter. And the 10x zoom works very well.

One of the camera's nicest attributes, however, is its extremely affordable price. It's listed at $500 but widely available for $450 or less, making it a must-have for summer and beyond.

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ATC2K Waterproof Action Camera

Oregon Scientific's underwater video camera is a perfect fit for today's record-everything society. Waterproof to a depth of 10 feet, the ATC2K captures moving images at 30 frames per second in VGA (640 by 480) resolution.

ATC2K
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ATC2K Waterproof Action Camera
 

Hands-free digital recording options and several different mounting options allow the videographer to place, mount or strap on the half-pound ATC2K anywhere (within reason). It works seamlessly with most video-editing software suites, including Windows Movie Maker, iLife and Final Cut. What's best, however, is the price: At $130, it's an outright steal.

Throw this gadget into the swimming pool with your kids and they'll be occupied all summer. At the very least, it could give you some great blackmail material for later in life.

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Mike Elgan is a technology writer and former editor of Windows Magazine. George Jones is the editorial director of IDG Entertainment.

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Hot stuff: Your summer gadget guide

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  • Take a trip

    The coolest smart phone, the cutest MP3 player, games and media to go, a car sun visor that plays DVDs, more
 
  • Explore the great outdoors

    GPS for hikers and bikers, a surfboard that lights up, a microwave for camping, cameras to capture the action, more
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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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