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May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

Our man chooses his favorite toys for the next thousand years of outdoor adventures

So lo and behold, the world didn't end when the clocks rolled over to 01/01/2000 after all. There's still an Internet to surf, mountains to climb, adventures to be had, and gear to covet. Herewith, a list of the ten items I'm using to carry out all my outdoors new millennium resolutions:

1. A tent for any millennium: What's the best tent around? My vote goes to the Marmot Equinox ($289), a three-season, two-person tent that has as good a design as I've seen. It's sturdy, well made, reasonably light (5 pounds 13 ounces) and has plenty of ventilation. Two doors make it a snap to get out of the tent for midnight stargazing, and a little door at the very front of the tent gives Milo the retriever a portal of his own. Truly beautifully made.
2. A pack for the global era: In the Internet age, there are no geographic boundaries. And whether you're trekking in Nepal or admiring the Duomo in Florence, you can carry what you need in comfort with Lowe Alpine's Voyageur APS 65 pack ($249). On the train from London to Paris, the Voyageur's straps stuff neatly out of the way. But when that rude French cabdriver dumps you a mile from the hotel, it carries like a good backpacking pack. And of course that also means it will work just dandy when you reach the trekking paths of Nepal. Features such as a detachable daypack, a security pocket in the hip belt, and three internal organizer pockets simplify gear packing and help you find what you need.
3. If global-warming alarmists are right: You'll need a shirt that can stand up to the heat. Something like the Ex-Officio Airstrip Shirt ($76), made of a breathable, light and wrinkle-fighting blend of nylon and polyester. An open shoulder yoke adjusts to let in more or less air, and the long sleeves roll up and stay put under buttoned tabs. For cool desert nights, pair it with Patagonia's Micro D-Luxe Pullover ($90), an amazingly lightweight and stuffable microfleece piece that steps up as a dressy sweater when needed.
4. If global-warming alarmists are wrong: Feathered Friends' ultra light Volant Jacket with a water-resistant PTFE-Lite shell ($295) packs an astonishing amount of warmth into a package that weighs a mere one pounds six ounces and stuffs down to the size of a softball. It's filled with high-quality 750-fill down, and like all Feathered Friends' products is superbly built. The Volant is THE parka to have for a climb on Mount Rainier. Or for walking the dogs when it's 20 degrees out and you've been lounging around next to the wood stove in a T-shirt and jeans.
5. Boots for post-modern hiking: Tecnica's Voyager boot ($150) is not your ordinary cowhide boot. It's made of light, modern materials such as Keprotec, a super-tough fabric woven from Kevlar and Dynafil. It's combined with specially tanned leather to make the Voyager light (3 pounds per pair) and tough. Plus kinda cool looking. I've used this boot for day hikes, and for long backpack trips. Comfortable right out of the box, with good ankle support and grippy Vibram soles.
6. The anything fixer: The Leatherman Crunch ($80) is to multi-tools what a chainsaw is to a pocketknife--serious tool power for any late date Y2K disasters that roughen your path. Fold-out locking pliers have a vise-grip adjustment for securing anything from a broken bike derailleur to a blown pack grommet. It also has a serrated blade, three standard screwdrivers, a Phillips-head driver, wire cutters and more. Oh, of course a wine opener as well.
7. A bag for all seasons: Who makes The World's Best Sleeping Bags is an open question, but more than a few votes would go to those from Western Mountaineering. That company's estimable Apache Super Dryloft ($400) is a bag God might choose to sleep in, boys and girls. It's light (two pounds 14 ounces), rated to 15 degrees, and has a Dryloft shell to fight off snowflakes and the rainwater your tent mate drags in after a call of nature. And oh-so-soft 775-fill down. I don't rest in this bag, I instantly fall into a deep sleep. It's like a warm hug.
8. Say, are you taking my picture?: Canon's minuscule Elph 2 ($250) is so tiny it's hard to say. This little wonder uses APS film, and takes full advantage of that film type's compact cassette. Features include a built-in flash with red-eye reduction; a 2:1 zoom lens and a spiffy stainless-steel case. It fits neatly in a shirt pocket, and weighs a mere six ounces. With an Elph around, there's never an excuse for not having a camera handy. I recently got one for Mrs. Gear, who is not camera-inclined. Now I can't get it away from her to take my own pictures.
9. Earth to...anyone: Go downhill skiing with more than two people, and it's as certain as rain in Seattle in December that you'll be split up within an hour. Get the glue that keeps ski parties together: Motorola's SLK 280 Talk-About 2-way radio ($130 each). This handy little gadget has 14 channels and 38 "privacy" codes to all but ensure you'll have a channel to yourself. It has a range of two miles (line of sight) and weighs only six ounces. Three AAA batteries let you talk all day. Also good for group bike tours and hikes.
10. By golly, the lights ARE out!: Sometimes low-tech really IS high-tech. And UCO's Candelier ($32) is the perfect low-tech light source. The Candelier burns three candles at once, and has a high-quality reflector design that throws out so much light, Abe Lincoln could have read TWICE the books he did as a kid. It's terrific for camping, for romantic evenings on the deck, or for the garden-variety power outages that could still come our way this Y2K...

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