Monday, July 14, 2014
When this blog is posted we’ll be half-way through July. Last time I looked, that was summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Yet with all the rain, low temperatures, dark days and strong winds, it seems more like mid-autumn. I’m sure in a month’s time, I’ll be wishing for less heat and humidity, but for now I can’t help but hope that real summer decides to burst onto the scene. In the firm belief that we’ll soon be experiencing consistent heat and sun, I have a few suggestions to help families survive the summer tournaments and practices. Perhaps you’ll even be able to use these deep into autumn! I don’t mind the seasons shifting; I just want them to fully appear.
Finding foods that provide adequate nutrition without overfilling a young athlete’s tummy can be difficult. Our kids need good energy that doesn’t weigh them down, especially on hot days. Happy Family Organic Superfoods (happyfamilybrands.com) has a complete line of products that begin with babies and go through to adults. The kids and adult offerings range from a quick energy snack of dried fruit and veggie chips to vitamin infused drinks and yogurt. The manufacturer addresses issues such as allergies and nutritional needs to create products that are easy to pack in a cooler and pull out when needed. These can be bought on line at their website or at stores such as Whole Foods, Publix, Target, Walgreens and Meijer. They also have a nutritional shake, which is perfect to have an hour before a game or practice. If you’re the snack parent for the team, their individual snack packs are perfect for avoiding allergy concerns. I’ve been a big fan of Capri Sun pouches because I can freeze them, pop them in the cooler, and have an ice cold quencher for after the game for the kids. Most juice boxes are so full that if they freeze they explode. So I love the fact that the pouches not only freeze but add to the “cooling” effect of my bag. Even if I don’t have an insulated carrier, the pouches stay cold for several hours if not exposed to direct sun.
If you’re looking for a good insulated bag in which to store your eats and drinks, there are several options that I have found to be excellent. The main thing I hate is when ice melts and the bag leaks. Puddles on the floor of my car, damp blankets, and dripping bags I have to carry back to the car aren’t my idea of convenience. Maranda Enterprises (marandaenterprises.com) has two choices to avoid the drip, drip, drip of leaking carriers. They have coolers that are lined with “cubes” of plastic pouches filled with distilled water. The bags unzip and fold into a flat pack that can be placed in your freezer. Once frozen, the bags can be zipped up and filled with your goodies. The interior has a reflective lining that helps retain the cold for about eight hours depending on how much they are exposed to sun. They come in multiple sizes and have a carrying strap. If you don’t want to take up freezer space with the folded cooler, they also offer the sheets of “ice cubes” on their own to freeze. These are a great option if you already have a cooling bag you love, but don’t want melted ice soaking the products left in the bag. Even more conveniently, the sheets come in full and half sheets so you can select what works best for your needs. And if that’s not perfect enough, you can cut the sheets to fit. A win-win the entire way. The other nice thing about the sheets is that they are flexible so can be wrapped around any item or surface you choose. Outdoor Active Gear (outdooractivegear.com) has a backpack cooler that holds 20 cans and has a heat-seal liner that guarantees no leaks. The backpack style leaves your hands free to cart those chairs and clothes bags around. Using the freezer sheets in this cooler would insure no leaks as well. All of these products can also be ordered directly from the manufacturers or on Amazon.
Once you get to the fields, you know that you are at the mercy of the blazing sun. Shade trees don’t exist anywhere near the field. We can resort to our rain umbrellas, but then we have to hold them, and they aren’t made for blocking out the UV rays that are so dangerous. Maranda Enterprises has a free standing umbrella that blocks out more than 90% of UV. Given the rise in skin cancers in recent years, this protection is significant. The unit comes in two pieces — the stand and the umbrella — which fit in a carry bag the same size as any sports chair you have. The tripod stand is very steady, even in moderate winds, but comes with stakes to hold it down if the wind is strong. Unfortunately, sometimes the summer droughts leave the soil too dry to push a stake through, but I found that sliding the legs of the tripod under my chair steadies it. The umbrella can rise up to eight feet tall casting a wide shadow that protects up to three chairs, but on windy days I recommend keeping it lower despite its excellent wind design. It can also be tilted to further help in sun blockage. Two cup holders are provided to hook onto the stand as well as two additional “J” hooks to hold towels, jerseys, and light bags. Further versatility comes with a corkscrew on the end of the umbrella post so it can be driven into the sand at the beach. At the end of July a special limited edition in pink of the Wondershade will be offered with proceeds to help fund the fight against breast cancer. Otherwise, it comes in red and blue. You can order directly from the manufacturer’s website or from Amazon.
The chair you choose for sideline viewing can really affect how much you enjoy the event. Many chairs don’t offer the back support we need and can cut off circulation under the legs. If the canvas doesn’t breathe adequately, you may end up sitting in a sweaty wet seat. Coleman (coleman.com) has the Comfortsmart Suspension chair, which is mesh on an aluminum frame designed like a regular chair rather than a sling. The mesh allows for cool air to blow on your back. It has a carrying case and a cup holder. Brylanehome Camp Chair with Canopy (brylanehome.com) fits the regular sports chair category, but has a full canopy over it for shade. It is not coated, so only provides shade not UV protection. It has side “windows” which can be opened or closed at your discretion for a wider view or for breezes. Ming’s Mark (mingsmark.com) has a marine chair that has great back support and a padded head rest. It doesn’t have a cup holder but has solid armrests for comfort. It folds up like a lawn chair and weighs 9 pounds. All of these chairs can be bought directly from the manufacturers or from Amazon.
If you want to stay really cool especially when having to remain on tournament grounds for several hours there are some great devices and products for you. Water bottle fans really do provide great cooling using battery power. ShiningTek has a handheld cooler that can be powered by USB or AAA batteries. Its slick design makes it easy to use. Cool on the Go has a model that is hands free, but costs twice as much. However, it will clip on a stroller which is nice for our little ones who have to accompany us out in the heat to watch big brother or sister compete. O2 Cool Necklace Fan has a band that goes around your neck and sets the fan unit on your chest to blow up into your face. It can be a bit intrusive, but is hands free, which is a plus. Cool Off Citrus Ice Towelettes are a quick fix that can lower skin temperature 12 degrees for 60 minutes when rubbed on and come in packs of 12. For longer lasting heat relief, several brands of cooling cloths are available, all out of the same material, so you should go for lowest cost. Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad, Chill-Its Cooling Pad, and Coregear Chiller Evaporative Towel all offer the same benefits with a PVA cloth that retains water. You simply snap it occasionally to refresh the cool and place it around your neck, stomach, or wrist to get the cooling effect. All of the products mentioned are best purchased at Amazon rather than their websites because many of these sites are in Chinese, so they are a bit difficult to navigate.
Should true summer ever arrive, you’ll be glad you invested in some of these products. Costs for the chairs are around $40 to $60, the cooler bags run in the $20 to $40 range, and the umbrella is $40 to $50 depending on the web site. The ice cube packs are $7 to $15 depending on the size. The fans are in the $17-35 range and the cloths can be as inexpensive as $5. So the options for having a great summer at the field are numerous and affordable. The food items vary in price but most individual organic products cost around $3-5 and drink packs of 10 cost about the same. I highly recommend the organic foods, Capri Sun, and the umbrella as a wonderful triumvirate to conquer heat and hunger, but anything you can do to reduce the discomforts and step up the enjoyment will make the season not only tolerable but memorable.