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How to Travel Like James Bond

Scottevest Expedition Jacket

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On January 11th, film studio MGM announced that Daniel Craig will make his third appearance as MI6 agent James Bond in the 23rd movie in the series, slated for release on November 9, 2012. The movie’s name – working title: “Bond 23” – remains uncertain, as does the future of MGM. Far more certain is our enduring fascination with 007 and spy culture.

“The public is intrigued by secrets, secret people, and secret undertakings” that “create the sense of an underground or hidden world,” says Peter Earnest, executive director of the International Spy Museum and a former CIA senior operations officer. He says Bond epitomizes that world, one in which the tools and techniques of the spy trade intrigue us just as much as the spies themselves.

“Indeed, some such cutting edge tools developed for espionage operations eventually made their way to the open market,” Earnest says. “The Internet, for example, was developed for intelligence use as were overhead reconnaissance satellites and early versions of the cell phone. Now we use them as part of our daily lives and no longer associate them the secret realm of spies and clandestine operations.” And part of our daily lives, of course, is travel.

And since Bond is arguably popular fiction’s coolest frequent business traveler, it follows that many of us, at least on some level, want to incorporate Bond-like gadgets and gear into our travels. And whether you buy that or not, here are a few things -- some cool, some practical, some not -- that’ll make you feel a little more 007ish on your next trip.

A place for your (secret) stuff

While aboard the Orient Express in “From Russia, With Love,” James Bond brought along an attaché case whose hidden compartments included a throwing knife, ammo, and 50 gold sovereigns. For good measure it also held a tear gas canister that detonated in the face of a bad guy who failed to open the case properly. Alas, the Swaine Adeney Brigg replica of the case that sells for a shade under $2,400 has no hidden compartments or tear gas, so it may not do it for you as much as, say, the Kata BJB-007 Undercover Video Bag ($185), a case equipped with a secret compartment that’ll hold a tiny camcorder, which will in turn shoot footage through a side panel. The bag will also hold other stuff, including your laptop. Speaking of which, if you prefer a bag more practical than clandestine, Magellan’s Dual-Access Rolling Computer Case ($95) won’t easily permit you to remove your laptop from the top of the bag once its under the airplane seat in front of you – hence the second, very discreet entry pocket on the side of the bag. As for secret side pockets, the Booq Taipan Shadow iPad Carrying Case ($79.95) has got one for your phone. I predict this bag will feel even more Bond-like by next November because really, isn’t it inevitable that Daniel Craig’s Bond is going to whip out an iPad on some hairpin turn or another?

Cameras for spies like us

“Dr. No” finds Bond slicking a hair from his head across the opening of his hotel closet and sprinkling talcum powder on his briefcase, precautions that lead him to discover later – when the hair and powder are disturbed – that someone has been pawing through his stuff.  Feel free to use these old-school methods next time you check in someplace, but if you prefer a technique more Daniel Craig than Sean Connery, you’ve got options. “For under $50 there are numerous video cameras the size and shape of a cigarette lighter or a ball point pen one can place in a hotel room that will record hours of video,” notes personal security and identity theft expert Robert Siciliano,” adding that “for under $100 there are video cameras that look like cigarettes, alarm clocks, or even a smoke detector that will stream live video to your laptop hundreds of feet or even miles away.”Splitting the difference at $75 is the Pen Camcorder 4G, which shoots and stores 80 minutes of audio and video and, via the pen top’s built in USB plug, the footage will play back on your laptop.

The International Spy Museum store naturally carries cameras hidden within wristwatches, neckties, sunglasses, and buttons, but the one I give them the most credit for stocking is the Minox Digital Spy Camera ($299), a version of which George Lazenby’s Bond used to snap critical info while he was blowing up Blofeld’s hideout in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” The present day Minox is palm-of-you-hand tiny at 3-3/8” x 1-3/16” x 7/8”but yields images up to five megapixels, has 128MB of internal memory, and is rechargeable.

Take a little breather

While in the Bahamas staking out SPECTRE bad guy Emlio Largo in “Thunderball,” Bond gets a couple uses out of his breather, a tiny tubular gadget with a mouthpiece that grants him about four minutes of air while he’s underwater. As scuba aficionados know, the real-life equivalent of Bond’s breather, Spare Air, was invented by Larry Williamson, who while lobster diving one night off Catalina Island realized at 140 feet that his scuba tank was out of air. He hastily swam to the surface and before blacking out -- a dive boat yanked him from the water -- he recalls wishing he had “one more breath.” The standard Spare Air model ($299) holds the equivalent of 57 surface breaths or 3.0 cubic feet of air, which at 3 to 5 minutes conceivably betters the time of Bond’s breather. The Spare Air canister can be refilled from a SCUBA tank in about a minute. And not for nothing, Williamson’s breather has saved lives, and if you’re inclined to slide one into your carry-on before your next flight, the company advises that “the regulator must be unscrewed from the cylinder so [the TSA] can be sure that it is empty” upon a visual inspection.

Spywear, from head to toe

A must for virtually any destination where you’ll be interacting with other humans is a pair of rearview sunglasses ($20), whose interior mirrored lens coating enables monitoring of anyone behind you. Commonplace these days are blazers with multiple pockets, some of them hidden. A sport coat by SCOTTEVEST has 24 pockets and comes in gray or black, but overall, because it feels more like a Craig-era Bond garment and likely would end up being more versatile, I’d go with the waterproof Expedition Jacket ($200) in its safari color. It’s got 37 pockets -- evidently a record for the manufacturer -- including an iPad pocket, which of course Craig’s Bond may need (you know I’m right about that). Should you find yourself in the middle of a parkour or free-running chase, as Craig’s 007 did in “Casino Royale” while he was in Madagascar (though the scene was shot in The Bahamas), consider picking up a pair of the sensible Converse Jack Purcell OTR mid-cut brown leather boots that Craig wore during the chase.

Finally, if you’re on a trip and need to extricate yourself from an awkward situation, you might be in need of a jetpack, which Bond used to escape a couple bad guys in “Thunderball.”If that’s the case, you’re out of luck -- for now.  The Martin Aircraft Company is deep into the process of developing a personal jetpack, which Martin expects will cost a cool $100,000 when it first hits the leisure market.