I know this is a huge question, but I'm going on a six-month backpacking trip across Europe and was wondering if you could give me some suggestions for a good backpack, tent, and sleeping bag. I've been doing a lot of research on my own, but I would love to compare what you have to say with what I have found. Ricky Powder Springs, Georgia
For the pack, I should think something with 4,000 to 5,000 cubic inches would be fine. Because your pack will be such a part of this trip, I'd get a true backpacking pack rather than a travel pack (pack along a light duffel that the backpack can go in, if need be, for checking as luggage on planes or trains). Gregory's 4,700-cubic-inch Forester ($239; www.gregorypacks.com) is one good choicenot too big, good suspension, sturdy construction. Mountainsmith's Terra ($260; www.mountainsmith.com) is about the same size, differing mainly in its organizational approach (it has more outside pockets). Dana Design's Glacier ($299; www.danadesign.com) would be a high-end choice in this category, a little bigger and perhaps more rugged than the Forester or Terra.
For a tent, my first choice would be Mountain Hardwear's Waypoint 1 ($195; www.mountainhardwear.com), a two-pound waif that's adequately roomy and easy to pitch. I'd also take a look at Sierra Designs' Clip Flashlight ($169; www.sierradesigns.com), a classic lightweight two-person tent that might give you some much-appreciated extra room. And at less than four pounds, it's still packable for a solo hiker.
In sleeping bags, I'd suggest something in the 30- to 35-degree comfort range. The big choice here distills to down or synthetic fill. Down is more comfortable and slightly lighter; synthetics will dry faster if they get wet, plus they cost less. REI's Nooksack UL +35 ($159; www.rei.com) would be a good choice in a synthetic. It uses Primaloft as a fill, a material that's my favorite synthetic for its softness. In down, I remain a huge fan of the Marmot Arroyo ($259; www.marmot.com) a lightweight one-pound 14-ounce bag that's rated to 30 degrees.
Bon voyage! Give a thought to us poor sods who will be slugging away at our daily jobs while you munch roasted chestnuts on the Spanish Steps in Rome. Come to think of it, I hate you.
For more travel-specific advice, check out "The Essential Traveler" in Outside's 2004 Buyer's Guide.