Gear 101

May 19, 2009
Outside Magazine
Toyota Venza AWD

   Photo: Courtesy of Toyota


AWD is basically 4WD that goes on automatically the instant your tires begin to slip. That means fewer spin-outs, but the feature also adds weight, which can suppress gas mileage.

TENTS: Home Improvement
PREVENT CONDENSATION Crack one door at the bottom and the other at the top to create cross-ventilation. And make sure the fly isn't sagging onto the body of the tent.
TIGHTEN IT UP There's the old-fashioned way—a bowline and slipknot—and the easy way: Get some Taut-Tie Large Guyline Tensioners ($7 for a six-pack;, affix, and slide.
RESPECT THE FLOOR Consider buying the optional "footprint," which helps protect the tent body from punctures and abrasions. And no shoes inside the tent—ever.

SLEEPING BAGS: Don't Skimp on the Pad
THERM-A-REST NEOAIR: Under a pound, 2.5 inches thick, and it rolls down to the size of a Nalgene? Yup. Even better, thanks to a micro-thin layer of aluminized urethane, it reflects heat back to your body, making you that much more toasty. 20"x72"x2.5", 0.9 lbs, $150;
NEMO TUO LUXURY: The secret to this ultra-cushy pad is a dual air-chamber system: Blow up the bottom level completely to eliminate lumps from rocks; keep the top half partially inflated for a featherbed feel. 25"x76"x2.3", 3.6 lbs, $129;
PACIFIC OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT PEAK OYL LITE: This self-inflating pad isn't as thick as the others, but it's also not as prone to punctures. It's insulated with a (mostly) petroleum-free foam, and the shell is made from recycled nylon. 20"x72"x1", 1.3 lbs, $86;

BACKPACKS: If the Pack Fits…
STEP ONE Figure out your torso length. Grab a soft tape measure and have a friend follow the curve of your spine from your iliac crest (the top of your hip bones) to your C7 vertebra (the knobby bone at the base of your neck). Most adult torso lengths are between 16 and 22 inches.
STEP TWO Because many packs come with interchangeable hipbelts, you should also measure the circumference of your hips. Not your waist, but your hips, as a properly fitted hipbelt should ride over the center of your hip bones. Depending on your shape, your measurement might be smaller or larger than your waist.
STEP THREE Start shopping around. Try on a bunch of different models and, as many packs come with interchangeable shoulder straps, too, be sure to mix and match until you achieve the perfect fit.

PADDLING: Get Schooled
Ever wonder how outfitters turn soft-palmed college kids into "certified raft guides" in only a week? Guide school! You too can enroll and learn the basics of rowing, paddle-captaining, safety, and, of course, begging for tips.
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO'S KOKOPELLI RAFTING ADVENTURES runs two six-day camps, May 8 and 15. $450;
CANYON MARINE, based in SALIDA, COLORADO, hosts a 12-day class on the Arkansas River May 18. $350;
MAD RIVER BOAT TRIPS, OUT OF JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING, offers a five-day guide school starting May 11. $200;

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