Olympus Stylus 300 Digital $399
Water and humidity have been the bane of digital cameras-until now. Why It's Cool: The Stylus is the first high-quality, high-resolution, weatherproof digital camera. Thanks to beefy rubber gaskets, this shooter will tolerate not just a few drops of rain but sustained spraying and even brief immersiontake it whitewater rafting. Less than four inches long and just under six ounces, with a round-cornered all-aluminum body, the camera is stylish and ultraportable. It stores images on xD-Picture Cards, a proprietary format that Olympus promises will eventually be available with a whopping one gigabyte of memory, room enough for 500 medium-quality shots. The Stylus comes with a fast charger. Hmmm... It takes a bit of practice to open and operate the clamshell cover with one hand. The tiny LCD monitor is muddy and hard to read, and many of its icons look alike. Kiss your existing collection of memory cards goodbye-you'll need to pony up for yet another proprietary storage format. Backpacks
Osprey Aether 75 $239
Here's a sweet blend of comfort and foolproof convenience. Why It's Cool: On a steep bushwhack through the Santa Monica Mountains, the Aether felt like a happy monkey on my back. A pair of long composite rods helps to spread the load away from the lumbar area and toward the sides of the hips. The bag is designed like a giant burrito. Grande load? The "tortilla" expands to handle 4,500 cubic inches. Poquito? The bag wraps tightly around. Cool open mesh swaddles the beautifully contoured, medium-firm foam of the hipbelt and broad back panel, keeping you cool. The lid includes a slot for a hydration reservoir and converts to a lumbar pack, so it's the best summit bag of the bunch. Hmmm... External compression straps were too short to secure my bulky sleeping pad on the side of the pack when the burrito was at full grande. There's no hole for the hydration hose.
The North Face Trek Light Leather GTX $150
TNF should have named these boots the Border Collies. Ask them to do anything and the answer is "Great! Let's go!" Why It's Cool: For the vast majority of wilderness foraysday trips and the occasional long-weekend jauntthis is all the boot you'll need. At just three pounds, the Trek Lights fit squarely into day-hiker territory, yet I felt comfortable and stable lacing 'em up, then hauling a 45-pound packthe steel shank adds just enough beef to the polyurethane midsole and nylon insole to carry the freight. The 2.2-millimeter-thick nubuck uppers looked handsome, stayed that way after several weeks of deliberately rude scuffing, and all the while kept my weakish ankles from misbehaving. The Eurosole lugged outsole offered great traction-and hey, it didn't track rocks into the house! A Gore-Tex Durakool membrane ensures waterproofness, yet breathes so well I couldn't tell it was there. A combination of snug heel pocket and roomy toe box is the right recipe for long, blister-free days. Hmmm... I'd love to see these with a one-piece upper to eliminate the extra stitching along the side.