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Desert Companion


Roadster speakerphoneGET IN GEAR

Send your special someone packing with this travel gear

Start shopping for the road-trippers on your gift list, and you’re practically guaranteed to come down with wanderlust yourself. Whether you end up wrapping them or keeping them for yourself, here are some let’s-hit-the-highway ideas for holiday giving.

Motorola’s Roadster 2 In-car Speakerphone ($64). Stream music and audio content from your smartphone or tablet through your vehicle’s speakers with this small but powerful portable device that also lets you answer your phone hands-free. Its built-in speaker comes in handy in motel rooms, too.

Base Camp Las VegasStreamlight Twin-Task flashlight ($39). Light up the night with this flashlight’s incandescent beam. Then, when you catch sight of a scorpion, switch to ultraviolet mode and watch the critter glow. The perfect gift for desert explorers.

Base Camp Las Vegas ($16) by Deborah Wall and Geologic Tours in the Las Vegas Area ($27) by Joseph Tingley. These two well-researched books inspire and guide exploration into our local scenic areas. Both have plenty of color photographs in addition to excellent and detailed descriptions and maps.

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Mini-Inverter with USB port ($20). From GPS receivers to laptops, electronic devices have become a vital part of road travel, but they’re nothing but paperweights when their batteries run out. A mini-inverter offers just enough wattage to charge up most devices using your vehicle’s power point.

CamelbakCamelback Hydration Pack ($50). Desert exploration rule 1: Carry water. Make things safer and more pleasant for your desert hiker with a hands-free hydration pack. This one has room for wallet and keys, too.

Motorola Talkabout MH230 ($45). With a range of up to 23 miles, a pair of these two-way radios is a perfect way to stay in touch while caravanning or on hikes. You can also get local and regional weather reports and alerts.

Sundancer UV Protective Hat ($38). For ladies who love the desert but don’t necessarily want to look like they’ve joined the French Foreign Legion, this chic “flap hat” with its generous brim and pleated “waterfall” neck drape is the stylish answer.

GameRoad Trip Game from Daddy-O Productions ($20). Packed in a tin box shaped like a vintage Airstream trailer, this easy-to-play game lets the entire family compete in wacky word challenges while “driving” a classic station wagon on a coast-to-coast adventure. -- Mark Sedenquist


Get in the pole position

Ski PolesHiking uphill is hard. Hiking downhill can be painful. Trekking poles (think ski poles without the skis … or snow), can help on both counts. Long popular in Europe, trekking poles are quickly gaining a following with the outdoors set stateside. For hikers who are carrying extra weight in a backpack or a spare tire, or anyone who wants to make hiking less taxing, poles distribute the burden away from the legs and lower back and make ascending easier. They also make a handy prop so hikers can lean over to rest instead of having to sit down. Going downhill, poles serve as an extra set of brakes and absorb some of the pounding usually reserved for the knees.

Trekking poles aren’t ideal for every situation, and can become a burden if hikers need to use their hands for things like scrambling over rocks, but on lung-busting climbs, they’re nearly indispensable. Add to that their usefulness in emergency situations for building a shelter, creating a splint, using as crutches — and even as defensive weapons — and it’s easy to see why the familiar click-clack of carbide tips on the trail is becoming more ubiquitous. My favorite brand: Black Diamond trekking poles, which are light but sturdy enough to take a beating from the toughest trails. — A.G.

Lake MeadArizona Hot Springs

It’s hot spring season! Thanks to the Hoover Dam Bypass, there’s a shiny new parking lot on the Arizona side of US-93 near mile marker four, where adventurers can find the trail that leads to the Arizona Hot Springs. Soak-seeking hikers will head downhill to the Colorado, turn left, and look for the National Park Service-installed ladder for a fairly scary climb up a flowing waterfall to a series of progressively warmer, sandbag-dammed hot springs. Good times and pruned hands! Difficulty: Medium to strenuous. — Alan Gegax