Health & Fitness

For hiking, an easier camera bag, a faster water filter and more

For hikers and photography buffs, a backpack with a rotating camera bag can save that shot
Hiker's delights: Reviews of a speedy filtration system, mini-speaker and large-brimmed hat

To go out for a good all-day hike nowadays, everyone pretty much knows that you need a backpack, poles, a hydration system and a mapping device. But what about the luxuries that aren't really luxuries anymore? The stuff you always realize you need after you've missed one too many wild animal photos, had your neck burned to a crisp or stayed out so long that you used up your water and had to take a chance on an iffy stream? Here's the hiking gear that, once you know about it, you may not be able to live without.

Photographer's delight

MindShift rotation180° Panorama: This backpack allows instant access to your fancy DSLR camera equipment, binoculars and other essentials. It has an integrated three-section camera belt bag that ingeniously slides out of a port in the lower portion of the pack and can rotate to the front of your body. The camera bag can be worn separately.

Likes: It works. When you see an albino antelope, you won't have to stop, dig into your backpack for your camera and end up missing the shot. Reaching back with your right hand, simultaneously slide off a simple vertical-format buckle with your thumb and pull the waist belt with your left hand. In a second, the camera bag is rotated into position in front of you. The backpack includes a top zippered external pocket for smaller items, a fold-away tripod pocket on the back, a 13-inch-long zippered left-side pocket that is designed for a hydration bladder (a suck-hose window is built in, but a hydration bladder is not included) and a cargo compartment in the main pack above the camera-bag port.

Dislikes: I could never get the camera bag to slide into the backpack port as easily as it slid out. Also, there's not much cargo room in the 10-by-4-by-9-inch compartment above the camera-bag port. And because the water bladder is on the side, not in the center, it makes the pack feel unbalanced when filled with water.

Price: $199.99. www.mindshiftgear.com

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Drink up safely

Platypus Gravityworks 2.0L: The water filtration system cleans 99.99% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa by using gravity to force water through the filter rather than standard filters' pumping or squeezing.

Likes: The convenience of faster filtering and less effort than a pump filter. Just scoop the 2-liter bladder through the river or lake and raise it above the receiving bottle or bag, either by hanging it on a branch or holding it. Filtering at a rate of 1.5 liters per minute, an entire 2-liter (70-ounce) bag of dirty water is clean in 80 seconds. Although more commonly found at campsites, Gravityworks' large volume and compact size when packed in its zippered pouch (9 by 5 inches; 10 to 13 ounces) make it effective for groups or long treks. "Dirty" and "clean" bladder, hoses and filter included.

Dislikes: None

Price: $99.95 www.cascadedesigns.com/platypus

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Hiking to the music

Boombot REX: The compact, light (8 ounces; 3.3 by 3.1 by 1.8 inches) water-resistant ABS plastic speaker has a built-in clip for affixing to a backpack, bike or clothing. It's Bluetooth-enabled for wireless connection to your phone or iPod.

Likes: The smallest, loudest portable speaker we've run across. Great sound quality that the company attributes to a bass woofer and the "dual driver" design, which supposedly doubles the power. No worries over it falling off, as the tight 2-inch clip stays where you put it. Includes a micro-USB charge cord, an auxiliary cable for wire connection to any sound source with a standard 3.5-millimeter port and AUX out-port to connect to other speakers, and internal rechargeable battery rated at eight hours on a full charge. Sound volume, pause and power on/off can be controlled via buttons on the speaker. I loved that you can answer your phone calls through the speaker by pressing the play button when you hear the ring, leaving the phone untouched in your pack.

Dislikes: Not completely waterproof. The buttons are not tactile enough, and the USB and AUX port cover flaps seem flimsy.

Price: $99.99. boombotix.com

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Hats off to SPF

SunDay Afternoons Adventure Hat: This large-brimmed hat (4 inches) with 7.5-inch neck cape is designed to keep neck, face and ears sunburn free; ultraviolet protection is rated at UPF 50+.

Likes: It keeps the sun's rays off your neck far better than a typical broad-brimmed hat (which leaves you exposed downhill and when the sun is at an angle). Includes a lockable chin strap, mesh ventilation side panels, a floatable foam core brim with dark underside coloring for eye comfort and a stylish tribal graphic accent band on the front. Weight: 3 ounces. The lighter (2.2 ounces) SunDayAfternoons Sporthat model ($35) has a still-effective 5-inch neck cape and a ponytail port.

Dislikes: None.

Price: $38; www.sundayafternoons.com

Wallack is coauthor, with Santa Monica physical therapist Robert Forster, of "Healthy Running Step by Step." roywallack@aol.com

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