The Other Stuff

Review, June 1997


The Other Stuff


Columbia Rogue Hydrotrainer

Columbia Rogue Hydrotrainer
While most of the new water shoes meet the need for footwear that drains like a sandal yet supports like a shoe, none works quite as well as Columbia Sportswear's Rouge Hydrotrainer ($70; 800-622-6953) for tromping from stream to shore. The sturdiest and most shoelike of this new breed of river wear, the Hydrotrainer is designed for seriously wet scrambling.

The secret is leather, and lots of it. An extra-wide band of treated nubuck encases the base of the upper, just below the mesh side panels, providing impressive support and abrasion resistance. Add to that a gummy rubber sole that wraps up higher than most models, lugs that grip even the slimiest of moss-covered rocks, and a cushiony foam midsole, and the Hydrotrainer begins to feel and work like an amphibious trail runner. Of course, the leather doesn't dry quite as fast as all-mesh would, but one-way heel drains and a giant mesh tongue helped keep my feet blissfully puddle-free after only a few minutes of squishing around on dry land.

Style-conscious river folk take note: You won't see J. Crew knocking off the Hydrotrainers for their outdoorsy appeal anytime soon. There's something about the no-nonsense design and thick, rubbery sole that says river function, not rugged fashion. Which is exactly what you need, anyway. — Jonathan Hanson

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Sidetrak Hang Dry
As popular as the new-style drinking bladders are among thirsty runners, bikers, and skiers, they might be even more favored by microbes. The interiors of such hydration systems are notoriously difficult to dry, and so they are often left damp post-outing, perfect for spawning all manner of mold, mildew, bacteria, even — echh — mosquito larvae. Enter the Hang Dry from Sidetrak (206-575-0335). It's a clever hanger with a football-shaped frame of FDA-approved polyethylene; slip it into the pouch and it expands to allow ventilation, and thus drying, between jaunts. More good news: It costs less than $10. — Dan Wildhirt

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Garmin GPS 12XL
The great annoyance with most handheld global positioning system (GPS) devices is that though they can locate you within 300 feet or less, they work to full potential only on open plains with nary a tree or mountain in sight, lest your signals be lost. Which makes them dandy for sailing but less so for backpacking through alpine forests. But Garmin's brainy new GPS 12XL ($386; 800-800-1020) has eliminated much of what was annoying.

Garmin GPS 12XL
Interacting with a "constellation" of 24 U.S. military satellites to calculate coordinates, most GPS units pull the three strongest signals from five satellites. Notably, the 12XL constantly roves among, yep, 12 satellite signals, pulling in seven or more — an advance that makes it far more effective in less-than-ideal conditions. I stashed the tiny, nine-ounce unit in my pocket for a hike on Washington's Bainbridge Island, and aside from a fleeting interruption by a hulking Douglas fir, the 12XL functioned flawlessly.

And though it uses a more complex system of navigation, the Garmin is just as easy to use as conventional GPS units. Plug up to 500 waypoints (GPS jargon for locations you want to remember) into the 12XL's memory, zoom into a bird's-eye map of where you are, and follow your return route, monitoring your speed and direction, on the easy-to-read 1.5-by-2.5-inch LCD screen. Best of all, perhaps, is Garmin's chunky rubber keypad, which makes one-handed operation a cinch.

While GPS units tend to be only as reliable as their AA batteries (you'll need four), I found the 12XL outlived its official 12-hour life. Nonetheless, it's a good idea to pack extra cells — along with a map and compass, just in case. — Gordon Black

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Simon Metals Ti Tent Stakes
Outdoor gear made from titanium is oft a hallmark of needless extravagance. Do you really need to spend $75 extra to shave a mere 1.2 ounces off your camp stove? The new titanium tent stakes from Simon Metals ($14 for six; 888-638-2599) are hardly extravagant, however, since they provide true utility: They're practically indestructible, a value you'll understand if you've ever pounded a tent stake into a rocky plat and watched it noodle into uselessness. Just for kicks, I hammered a Ti stake into a two-by-four and tried to bend it — to no avail. The wire design won't do in snow or sand, but if it's time to replace those ratty stakes that came with your tent, why not splurge? — Douglas Gantenbein

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