Every summer, as thousands head for the water, a wave of new products designed to enhance the beachgoing experience washes up on shore. We put a few of these items through their paces over several 90-degree-plus days in Ocean City, Md. Heres how they fared:
How it works: Just push a button and this tiny (2-by-2 1/2 -inch) device measures ultraviolet ray intensity using the National Weather Services UV index scale.
Praises: In case of uncooperative kids (or husband), you can use this little gizmo as leverage to demand another slather of SPF 30 or a retreat from the beach.
Pans: Common sense may be just as effective. Before pushing the button, we routinely guessed the outcome accurately.
Buy or pass: Pass
How it works: You place the entire case and its contents, which include the two gel packs and a larger pack, in the freezer for at least 12 hours. Then throw it in a beach bag, and when the heat becomes too intense, remove a gel pack and rub it on your sweaty brow. When it thaws, place it back in the case against the larger gel pack and use the second one. Repeat.
Praises: We put this product through the ultimate test by pulling it out in 98-degree beachside heat. Unlike ice cubes, the pack feels dry to the touch and doesnt freeze the fingers.
Pans: It took only six minutes for the first pack to lose most of its coldness. By the time the second pack was similarly spent, the first pack hadnt had enough time to cool.
Buy or pass: Buy
Men $95, women $85 ($120 with bikini top); www.drydudz.com
How it works: This swimsuit system is made to dry quickly and wick water from the skin. On the mens version, liners that look like compression shorts hook via a Velcro-like system called QMS Quick Mount beneath a regular swimsuit. For women, a bikini-suit bottom hooks to board shorts.
Praises: Two 20-somethings and a 50-plus dad all found things to like about the mens version. The liner dries quickly and prevents chafing.
Pans: The extra-large mens suit, which allegedly has a 38-inch waist, barely fit a man who typically wears a 36. The womens styling is made for a woman younger than 30 with an athletic build.
Buy or pass: Buy the mens version; pass on the womens.
– Carol Sottili, Special to The Washington Post