What to buy the biker/runner/swimmer/backpacker/kayaker/skier who already has all the sport-specific toys he/she will ever need? Preferably something that's functional, has a cool design, is so new that no one's heard of it and, of course, is small enough to slip into a stocking.
-- Roy M. Wallack
Control your iPod
Timex Ironman iControl: Sports watch that can remotely control an iPod, letting you tuck it away in a pocket as you run, paddle or ski.
Likes: Ends the hassle of fiddling with an iPod while on the move, athletically or otherwise. Just tap buttons on the watch to pause/play, change volume and scroll up and down your playlist. Winter-friendly buttons are easier to use with gloves than the iPod's control wheel. Small, lightweight, water-resistant watch includes regular sports functions such as a 50-lap memory, training log, countdown timer, two interval timers, three alarms and night light. Easy assembly; works immediately without set up by plugging a transmitter into the bottom of recent-generation iPods or iPhone.
Dislikes: Has no heart-rate monitor capability and crowds out the Nike Plus speed/distance system (since its transmitter takes up the iPod's sole docking port). Also, the watch cannot shut off the iPod).
Nite Ize Figure 9: Instant rope securing/tightening device with an attached carabiner.
Likes: Quick way to secure recreational items without tying knots or using stretch cords. Handy for pitching tents/tarps and strapping kayaks and surfboards to truck beds and roof racks. Just clip the carabiner to a fixed point, wrap the rope around the other end and pull tight. (Instructions are etched into the device.) The large Figure 9 secures loads to 150 pounds and can clip to a standard roof or bike rack. The small version can hold 50 pounds.
Price: $3.99 (small), $5.95 (large). (800) 678-6483; www.niteize.com
Spri Xercuff Plus: A strength-resistance device made of a loop of industrial latex stretch-cord tubing with two attached cushioned Velcro handles.
Likes: Simple but effective all-body resistance in a 4-ounce package. Although originally designed for leg-resistance exercises to be used by kickboxers (the cuffs can strap around your ankles), it does a surprisingly good job on upper body muscles too, such as pec flies and one-arm rows. Many other exercises available on instruction chart and on several 30-second tutorials on the website. Five color-keyed resistance levels available.
Price: $20.95. (800) 222-7774; www.spriproducts.com.
Sportline ThinQ: Credit-card sized pedometer, touted as the world's thinnest, at three-sixteenths of an inch wide, that can stay hidden in pants or pocket.
Likes: Dream-come-true for stealth fitness walkers and people on the cutting edge. Sleek, 2-ounce design, made possible by a new measuring system, records steps, distance, calories.
Dislikes: No built-in clip for traditionalists (there is a corner key chain loop). No night light.
Price: $29.95. (800) 338-6337; www.sportline.com.
Irvine-based Roy M. Wallack, an endurance cyclist and runner, can be reached at email@example.com.