Life on the trail just got a bit easier

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside Magazine, 1999 Annual Travel Guide

Gear to Go
Trekking Gadgets

Life on the trail just got a bit easier
By Robert Earle Howells

Bringing along your own sanitation department minimizes the risks of picking up some weird lingering bug from the hinterlands. Make a list of the funky things you might touch in a day of trekking (outhouse, yak, cute mang dog, grimy band notes ...) and that should be reason enough to keep a squeeze bottle of Eagle Creek's Waterless Hand Sanitizer ($5) in your pocket or daypack and use it constantly — the quick-drying gel zaps microbes on contact. Later, cart a Packtowl Combo ($22) to your shower/bath/stream/pond and you'll have a quick-drying (read: mildew-free) towel, a bottle of biodegradable Packsoap, and a lightweight case to carry them in. For sheer ease of use, the PentaPure Sport water purifier ($35) is ideal for trekking; no yucky-tasting iodine or time-consuming pumping. Just fill the bottle and squeeze. The water comes out it a trickle, but hey, it's free of microbes and viruses.

Princeton Tec Solo Headlamp Late-night forays to unfamiliar facilities require illumination — ideally, of the hands-free variety. The Princeton Tec Solo Headlamp ($32) wraps comfortably around forehead or cap and has interchangeable reflectors for focusing or broadening the beam. Most multitools are bulky overkill for a lightweight trek (when did you last need pliers and a wire crimper in the back of beyond?), but the pared-down Leatherman Micra ($25) packs usable essentials into a 1.75-ounce package. It has a knife blade, real scissors, tweezers, nail file, bottle opener, screwdrivers, and closes down to just 2.5 inches.

What's worth seeing is worth seeing well, but you don't want fussy optics where knocks and splashes are pretty sure bets on a a daily basis. The "ATB" in Nikon's 10 x 25 Mountaineer II ATB binoculars ($371; 15.9 ounces) stands for all-terrain binoculars — they're waterproof, fogproof, and armored against bumps — plus they deliver 10-power viewing, good for scoping out routes, and a 262-foot field of view.

Take it from a recent convert: Trekking without poles is like mountain biking without a suspension fork. Leki's Super Makalu CorTec PA collapsible poles ($130 per pair) are spring-loaded to ease the joint-pounding effect of a long rocky hike (particularly those long, killer downhills), and they serve as reassuring support across intimidating torrents.

Photographs by Gary Hush

Copyright 1998, Outside magazine

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