Garmin NavTalk

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

Outside magazine, June 1999


Garmin NavTalk

From all-in-one survival tools to in-line skates that turn into around-town boots, combination devices are the over-burdened outdoorsman's newest friend. One of the most clever combos is Garmin International's NavTalk ($625; 800-800-1020), a cell phone and GPS unit in one. It resembles an ordinary cell phone, but its weight (a hefty 13.3 ounces) and oversize LCD screen are clues to its dual nature. Press a button to transform a ubiquitous urban accessory into a full-fledged GPS device with 12 channels—a feature that enhances reliability—and the capacity to store 20 routes and 250 waypoints. The NavTalk also houses an electronic map of the Western Hemisphere that shows highways, lakes, and waterways. You can zoom from a map with a scale of 5,000 miles down to 500 feet, though this feature is by no means a substitute for a paper topographic version—it doesn't show contour lines. As for the cell phone, the NavTalk is an analog unit, meaning that you have a better chance of getting a connection in remote areas than you would with a digital model, and it includes a phone directory that can be programmed with up to 100 names and numbers. All that versatility is wrapped in a rugged shell that's waterproof to one meter, which makes the NavTalk the only rainproof, pondproof, and klutzproof device of its kind. It's a marvel of versatility that's just as useful on Wall Street as it is in Wrangell–St. Elias. —BRENT HURTIG

Sierra Designs Sandman Sleeping Bag

LYING ON ONE'S back with arms folded neatly across one's chest is a position most folks try to avoid—unless, of course, they're tucked into a mummy-style sleeping bag and have no choice. And what choice has there been, really? None, until Sierra Designs came along with the 15-degree Sandman Flex bag ($199; 800-736-8592), which provides the warmth of a tapered design with the comfort of a boxier sack. The innovation is in the shar-peilike wrinkly skin: It's constructed with excess nylon and insulation (superlight Polarguard 3D) and gathered elastically along the bag's baffles, allowing the sack to expand and contract laterally. Pull your knees into the fetal position and the Sandman conforms to them. The squarish hood can be a bit claustrophobic when you're on your side, but it does have a short zipper opposite the main opening to let you peel back the covers. And you don't have to baby the zippers, thanks to thick strips of nylon that guard the shell from catching in the sliders. The 3.75-pound Sandman is also available in a shorter women's version with more insulation around the toes and torso, the assumption being that it's easier for women to get cold than men. All models have nifty loops for tying the bag to a sleeping pad, which will keep even the shiftiest of sleepers anchored in place. —GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

The North Face Sawtooth Ridge
We've seen plenty of attempts at crafting an approach shoe that lets you hike several miles out to the crag and then clamber partway up it. But few have been as successful as The North Face's Sawtooth Ridge ($95; 800-447-2333). Rather than grafting climbing features onto a hiking boot, TNF has toughened up a trail runner to create a light shoe (12.4 ounces) that's up to the job on middle-distance runs. A stiff heel cup braces your foot, smooth-gliding laces cinch the upper like a vise, and a thickly padded tongue keeps your circulation intact. Forget about marathon training: The toe box isn't roomy enough. But scramble up a scree slope and a scuff-proof strap hugs the Achilles area to keep your heel from escaping, or scale a 5.7 route and the stiff lugs hold any edge in sight. Though no shoe can do it all, the Sawtooth Ridge is an approach shoe that you can believe in. —ANDY DAPPEN

Pro-Knot Reference Cards
Remembering how to tie a bowline versus, say, a mooring hitch can tangle more than just the mind. So for the sailor, fisherman, climber, or backpacker who's rusty on such matters, there's now a handy set of shirt-pocket-size cards that illustrate how to rig all the most common knots. The Pro-Knot Fan Pack ($5; from J.E. Sherry Company, 800-809-0341) features 12 essential outdoor ties, from the sheet bend (a nautical twist used for binding two lines together) and the trucker's hitch (for lashing a canoe to the car roof) to the familiar yet often pesky square knot. The cards show the steps for each and provide tips as to its best use. Waterproof and durable, these plastic cheat sheets are riveted together in one corner so they can be fanned out for easy reference, no matter what your bind. —RHONDA MILLS

PHOTOS: Clay Ellis

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