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Some Travel Essentials With Some New Twists
December 23, 1994 -- Travel changes constantly: Airlines come and go, hotel chains disappear and are replaced and even destinations are in a constant state of flux.

But some of the basics--a good blazer or a great rolling suitcase--are eternal. Still, though, a tweak or two will do wonders. Here's what's new in four very basic--and very essential travel categories.

THE BASIC BLUE BLAZER
Nothing travels better than the navy blue blazer. It wears well as natty casual attire, but can be dressed up for more formal occasions, too. It also serves as a handy place to store keys, plane tickets and passports, pens, sunglasses and cash. And it's sure to keep you warm when the restaurant is overly air-conditioned or the aircraft cabin is chilly.

The Orvis Travel Blazer (800-541-3541), manufactured in both men's and woman's styles, is the answer to a traveler's prayer. The poly/wool worsted hopsack woman's version ($165) is fully lined and features single-button, unvented styling. There are three outer pockets (two with flaps, one with an inner change pocket), two inside buttoned pockets and an inside pen pocket. The two-button, brushed cotton men's version ($155) is nylon lined. It offers four inside pockets (one buttoned and one zippered) and four outside pockets (two with flaps, and one sized for airline ticket envelopes).

If you're a Bean loyalist, the L.L. Bean Worsterlon Travelers' Jacket (800-221-4221) for men ($135) features solid brass buttons, three exterior pockets and two interior pockets (one with zipper). Bean's wool/cashmere blazer ($140) for women has two double-welt outer pockets and single-button styling.

EMERGENCY SMOKE HOODS
One of the lethal dangers of being in a plane crash or a hotel fire is that you inhale smoke and other noxious gases while trying to escape. But now you can buy a measure of personal safety in the form of a "smoke hood," a lightweight portable filtration device that fits over your head and filters out poisonous gases.

The Plus 10 Filter Breathing Unit can be donned in just 20 seconds and is small enough and light enough (about one pound) to slip into your carry-on bag. The hood filters out a multitude of toxins--including those produced by burning jet fuels, plastics and fabrics--and provides breathable oxygen for up to 10 minutes. Essex PB&R (800-296-7587) manufactures and sells the Plus 10 by mail for $195. The Provita smoke hood costs much less ($59.95), but the savings come at some risk. This device does not protect against carbon monoxide, a toxic gas found in many fires. The Provita is available from the Magellan's catalog (800-962-4943).

But be warned: Smoke hoods are not oxygen masks and do not contain independent supplies of oxygen. They are intended to be used as an emergency filter, not a self-contained breathing apparatus.

ROLLING LUGGAGE
The Travelpro Rollaboard isn't just the preferred carry-on bag of many airline flight crews, it was actually designed by a pilot. Roomy enough to hold a long weekend's worth of clothes, the soft-sided Rollaboard is still slim enough to negotiate narrow aircraft aisles and compact enough to slide under most airline seats. It also has built-in wheels and a retractable handle so it can double as a trolley to carry additional luggage. Imitations sell at discount stores for less than $100, but an original black Rollaboard costs $139.99 at Altman Luggage (800-372-3377).

L.L. Bean's version is called the Rolling Pullman and boasts several improvements: more durable Cordura nylon fabric, a choice of five popular colors and mesh pockets inside the case. It sells for $149 in the L.L. Bean catalog (800-221-4221).

If you prefer hard-sided luggage, consider the Lark Permaflex EZ Wheeler. It combines the best features of a Rollaboard and a hard suitcase and Lark claims a new construction method makes the EZ Wheeler 25 percent lighter than hard-sided bags. Available in black or green, it sells for about $250 in department stores and luggage shops.

DISPOSABLE CAMERAS
"Single-use" cameras are so popular that more than a dozen firms now produce competing models. There's also a bewildering variety of choices: indoor or outdoor types, waterproof and talking models, and even single-use cameras with telephoto and panoramic lenses.

No matter how fancy or expensive, however, all disposables are essentially point-and-shoot plastic cameras loaded with all-purpose 35-millimeter film. So keep it simple and cheap when you buy one as an emergency substitute for your regular camera. Basic disposables with 15 exposures for outdoor use can cost as little as $5. Flash models cost a few dollars more, but don't spend the extra money unless you want to shoot indoors.

Some travelers are reluctant to use expensive cameras at the beach or in inclement weather. That's when disposables like the 27-exposure Fujicolor Quicksnap Waterproof Plus ($16.95) make excellent stand-ins. It is water-resistant up to 10 feet and virtually indestructible.

Disposables also afford travelers inexpensive access to special photographic processes. The Kodak Fun Saver with a panoramic lens, for example, makes dramatic, wide-angle photographs that measure 3.5-by-10 inches. It is loaded with 15 exposures and sells for as little as $8.

This column originally appeared in Travel Holiday magazine.

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