Four years ago I bought a pair of Limmer Light-Weights, assured by a local in the store that they'd last me 20. I have a habit, though, of wearing them in snow and on glaciers, which has caused the leather at the rand to separate from the midsole, effectively making the boots VERY permeable to water. I'm told that Limmer will fix this problem and resole the boots for $75. Should I fork out the cash or simply buy a new pair of boots? Jacob New York City

Sala, Gear Man! So, you've hooked me up with advice on altimeter watches (I'm very happy with my Suunto, by the way) and Pac NW raingear (which ce in handy when I got reassigned to Ft. Lewis). Now, however, I have a more pedestrian question. Socks, actually. It is rather warm here in the scenic Middle East and my feet are sweating like crazy. I started out with the basic, military-issue black wool socks and got fed up in a few weeks. I've tried the newer poly-something socks they gave us, and they weren't bad. The only problem was that they tended to stretch out over a few wearings (laundry opportunities can be few and far between here) and gave me blisters on long walking patrols. So, any advice? My feet are in your hands. Larry Somewhere hot, Iraq

I seek your vast wisdom in selecting a small pack for the upcoming ski season; something comfy but lightweight that can pull double duty for lift-access skiing and limited backcountry use. I'd prefer a low profile pack under 1,800 cubic inches, with some sort of attachment point for skis as well as hydration-bladder compatibility. Also, do you think a panel loader would be better suited for this type of pack, thereby eliminating the need for a top pocket that might flop around when not completely filled? I asking for too much here? Joe Victor, New York

Why display your ignorance on recumbent bikes? Everyone with first-hand experience on these now thinks of you as an ignorant fool. "Save your hate mail"? Well, quit displaying your obvious ignorance, basing your assessment on the experience of some third-party rider. And, if recumbents are really slower (according to your uninformed belief), how many upright bikes own land speed records? Have you seen many uprights hitting speeds of 81 mph on level terrain with no wind? I've only seen videos of recumbents doing that. Two of my six bikes are recumbents, so I know what I'm talking about. However, I don't own any airplanes, so I wouldn't try answering a question on airplanes. Bet you would. Brian Albuquerque, New Mexico

All I want for Christmas is a good headlp for winter use, but things have gotten complex. Voltage regulators, duo headlps, multiple settings, alkaline versus lithium batteries: these have all muddied what should have been a simple choice. Basically, what's the perfect headlp for an overnight or multi-day winter backpacking trip? Scott Maple Valley, Washington

I need some of your sage wisdom: As a pretty serious mountain biker and alpine skier looking to the approaching winter, I want to score a hard shell that will serve me both on the trails and the slopes. I've looked at Patagonia, Cloudveil, The North Face, and Lowe Alpine, but I'm lost in the many options. I want something that breathes well, keeps me dry in wet conditions. Insulation ain't important (got a great Patagonia fleece already). Please, point me in the right direction! Nathan Washington, D.C.

These days it seems pretty much everybody's wearing bike helmets. Why can't you say the se for skiing helmets? And, do you think it'd be wise to shell out on a ski helmet? I've just booked up for a one-week ski trip to Colorado next February. Not having done much skiing before, I want to enjoy myself but also stay safe! Andrew Charlottesville, Virginia

What do you think of the newer mountain bikes with 29-inch wheels? I'm thinking of upgrading my 1989 Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo for something more roadworthy, but that can still take the abuse of dirt trails. I was thinking of getting a cyclocross bike, but perhaps a 29-inch wheeler might be more suited to the kind of riding I want to do. Booker Kensington, California

I've seen quite a few hikers with two-way radios on the trail. What's your take: recreational gimmick or worthwhile piece of equipment? Our family of four hikes together a fair amount, so I can see their worth. But, then again, does trail etiquette mean this is akin to using a cell phone on the bus? Philip Burlington, Vermont

I recently completed a fantastic trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, but unfortunately my stove was confiscated by airport security on the way home. I'd emptied the stove and attempted to air it out, but still wasn't allowed to travel with it because I'd used it less than 24 hours beforehand. Can you recommend a method or product to clean out a stove that will completely eliminate any fuel odors and make it safe for air travel? Additionally, I'm now in the market for a new stove. I had a Peak-1 Apex II, reliable as the dawn though maybe a little heavy. Can you recommend a lighter yet equally reliable replacement? Dave Boston, Massachusetts

When it comes to winter, downhill isn't the only direction

Every time I wake up in my new Marmot Swallow tent the condensation is so bad that my sleeping bag and clothes get wet, so much so that I'm considering taking the tent back and exchanging it for a Mountain Hardwear Skyview or MSR Fusion. I have searched the Internet and read many positive reviews about the Swallow, so is this just a common problem in three- to four-season tents, or did I just get the one defective tent in the batch?

The call came on Tuesday. A friend had to bail from a trip to the Bill Putnam Hut, a helicopter-accessed ski cabin of near-mythic fame in eastern British Columbia. The catch? I had to leave on Friday. DETAILS Reserve the BILL PUTNAM (FAIRY MEADOW) HUT and helicopter transportation through the…

Douglas Gantenbein, better known to many as the Gear Guy, has been hiking, biking, skiing, and climbing in Washington State and the West Coast for 25 years. During that time he’s endured leaking tents, back-breaking packs, balky stoves, and freeze-dried food so bad that even his always-hungry beagles would likely…

On and off the Slopes at Ten Top Ski Areas

As a teenage Jack London fan, I fantasized about mushing a dogsled. Grown-up city life derailed my Iditarod dreams until I came across a photograph of someone skijoring: two large, smiling malamutes towing a cross-country skier down a forested trail at breakneck speed. It appeared I could live out my…

We stopped at a boulder below the saddle of 10,229-foot Heyburn Mountain as early-May sunshine broke past the ridge and washed over us: three backcountry skiers on a mission to schuss the wild peaks of central Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, and me, a snowshoe loafer in search of serenity. As my…

There’s something immensely appealing about lacing up a pair of skates with long, thin blades and soaring so fast on ice that your snot freezes. I’m not alone in my feelings; participation in distance skating is growing, across open ponds and lakes and on manicured 400-meter outdoor ovals. The two…

View from the California Riding and Hiking Trail Q: Now that fall is here we’re thinking of taking a backpacking trip through the desert. Any hints on where we should go? What about day hikes? — Nicole Frisbee, Denver, Colorado Adventure Advisor:…

I own a long-sleeve Kodiak Light cycling jersey from Pearl Izumi. While nice, the jersey is too permeable to the wind, so I get chilled on colder days. Can I spray the front of the jersey's arms, shoulders, and chest with Scotchgard to improve its windproofing without trashing the piece? Or, is there some other spray-on product that would do the trick? D.J. Potomac, Maryland

I'm considering buying a recumbent bike for exercise on country roads, having had enough of the sore ass and shoulders I get when out riding my regular bike. What recommendations do you have about style and prices? Jerry Chpaign, Illinois

As an avid reader of your column, I knew I could come to you for advice. Does anyone make a waterproof backpack? I commute to work on my bike and need my stuff to stay dry. Specifically, I would really like to find a weatherproof pack that can carry my laptop. (And we get a lot of weather over here in Iceland.) I've seen courier bags from Timbuk2 and Chrome, but nothing really sings out to me. And, while we're at it, why doesn't anyone make a bag out of Gore-Tex XCR or something similar? Douglas Keflavík, Iceland

So, the winter snow will soon be upon us. As a snowboarder, my feet always seem to get extremely cold. I wear SmartWool socks, and I sometimes need to wear two pairs of socks (though not necessarily both SmartWool). Do you think my feet are just overly sensitive to the cold, or is there something else out there to keep my tootsies cozy?

I plan on doing some winter backpacking in New Hampshire's White Mountains for the first time. I need some help with sleeping bags—there are so many to choose from! Should I go for down or synthetic? What's a good temperature rating for this kind of trip? Mark Boston, Massachusetts

Outside‘s October 2003 Dispatch, “Back in the Crosshairs,” explores the raging controversy between environmentalists and ranchers over the proposed removal of the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list. Here, we discuss the delisting issue with wolf expert and former Yellowstone naturalist Gary Ferguson. Gray Wolf Forum…

It's every boy's dream: launching a do-it-yourself rocket that could not only put an eye out but could drill a hole through King Kong's forehead—and still make it to outer space. Meet Ky Michaelson, the sultan of thrust.

The gray wolf may lose federal protection. Will killing it become the law of the land?

In a world where everything has a rational explanation, nature still has the power to keep her secrets. These true stories of dark doings, loose ends, and unexplained terror keep us up at night, defy all reason, and scare the living daylights out of us.

Fall's new casual boots feature a tried-and-true friend: durable leather. X-Ray 'em, however, and you'll find athletic-shoe cushioning and the sole and support of a hiker. Because you know what they say: real beauty is more than skin-deep.

Armed with a revolutionary new tracking device, cave divers map threats to Florida's main water source

The brave new world is coming—fast. With sci-fi fantasy turning into performance-enhancing reality, we separate the hype from breakthroughs you can use.

Mountaineering's greatest debate—who reached the top of Everest first?—rages on

Was Michael Rockefeller eaten by cannibals?

Amy Bechtel was there, and then she simply wasn't

Like travel itself, the latest gear for the road is full of wild surprises

Escape urban gridlock in West Virginia, where country roads and mountain mamas are only a fraction of the attraction

In Outside‘s October 2003 cover story, “The O Files,” we explore the creepy side of adventure: murder, shocking disappearances, haunting riddles, and inexplicable creatures. But this isn’t the first time we’ve delved into nature’s dark enigmas—Outside has a history of delivering eerie tales of the outdoors. Below, we present some…

Winding a thousand miles from India to China, the Burma Road was built to defend China in World War II, but the atomic bomb made it irrelevant and the jungle reclaimed it. Mark Jenkins vowed to do what no one had done for nearly 60 years—travel the entire Burma Road—and discovered the madness of present-day Myanmar.

Radical Chic PR Lesson #127: Put a bunch of VIPs in a raft. Send them down the Futaleufú. Stop a dam. Sounds fun—and is!

The author's father traveled the world, shipped out on the last commercial sailing voyage around Cape Horn, and handed down a legacy of adventure. But his risk-taking spirit had a dark side—and its shadow fell across a final winter rendezvous in Aspen.

Eileen and Tom Lonergan went out for a day of scuba diving, and never came back. The story behind the movie Open Water.

Sure, the wilderness is beautiful. But it can also frighten you out of your mind.

I do quite a lot of bushwalking in the Japan Alps and have been carrying my Canon SLR with standard lens, and occasionally an extra telephoto lens—all told, a hefty load. I'm not such a serious photographer to need all that extra weight, but I would like better photos than a disposable or compact can produce. After some research I had decided to splurge on a Contax T3, but then I saw a new Pentax SLR—the "*ist"—that weighs only 335 grs (presumably that's the body only). So, with a matching lens, it still comes in at about half the weight of my current camera. I presume the optics are plastic, hence the low weight. Which would you choose? Excellent fixed lens or zoomable plastic? Dian Tokyo, Japan

If a guy was headed to Denali in May, and asked you to compare the Marmot 8000 Meter Parka with the Feathered Friends Rock & Ice Parka that you used, what would you say? And, since I very good-looking, would you like to use my photo at the head of your column and tell people it was you? Bob Reno, Nevada

Now that the venerable Patagonia Ice Nine ski bibs have been discontinued, what do you recommend in their place? I want something similar: waterproof-breathable, light but durable, great features. However, I've read not very complimentary things about The North Face's Gore-Tex XCR bibs. Richard Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Dear Gear Guru, I'm thinking about bringing my Labrador camping with me, but don't know if he needs special gear. I have a two-person tent, and there's no way my wife and I could fit him in there with us. I don't think he'll be satisfied sleeping in the tent's vestibule either. What should we do to make sure he's happy and safe? John Bloomington, Indiana

What's the deal with "fly-only pitching" options with tents? My partner wants a roomy, comfortable double-wall tent for two (she likes The North Face's Roadrunner 2). However, I also want a lightweight single-wall tent that's easy to pitch for solo camping and just traveling light (something like a Bibler Megid or GoLite Den 2). Will a tent with fly-only pitching meet both needs? Jes Sydney, Australia

For the last five years, I've been lugging around a seven-pound Dana Design Stillwater pack. But recently, I've seen the "light" and have gone lightweight. Can you recommend a solid, 4,000-cubic-inch pack that weighs less than four pounds? I was looking at the Osprey Aether 60 and the Mountainsmith Auspex, but which would you recommend? Thanks for always being the "go to" guy when it comes to gear. Jake Irvine, California

During a week's hiking around the High Sierra Cps of Yosemite, my backpack began to reek! Even though I washed myself and my clothes regularly, my husband, who is normally a very sweet man, insisted I hike behind him so as not to be asphyxiated. How, oh how do I get the stench out of my backpack straps?

Lieber Ausrüstungmensch: Looking at the change of seasons and your report on the latest and greatest in the gear world, I'm trying to come up with a clothing strategy that maximizes economy of budget and weight. I'm a keen hiker currently living in Germany (near the Alps), but who will be moving back to the East Coast of the U.S. (Smoky Mountains!) soon. I want a system that will cover me when it's warm, cool, and wet. Should I go with a fleece-plus-shell combo, lugging around the deadweight when I'm not using it, or should I buy one of the do-it-all soft shells? Patrick Frankfurt Main, Germany

I recently completed a two-week, 96-mile trek in Alaska's Brooks Range. I thought that I was traveling as light as possible until I encountered a couple of wandering hikers who were carrying external-fre backpacks fashioned with titanium fres and Kevlar fabric. Their packs, from Cp Trails, weighed at least half of my Longbed pack, and mine was smaller. After returning to civilization I immediately visited the store where they told me such packs could be purchased, but the sales staff gave me that "what planet are you from?" look upon hearing my tale. Assuming they are the ones from another planet, can you help me find a super-lightweight pack weighing less than four-and-a-half pounds, with up to 6,500 cubic inches of capacity? Is there such a creature still being made out there? Fred Kodiak, Alaska

Which do you think would be better for a backcountry winter camping trip in Yosemite: snowshoes or a ski like the Karhu Morph (which looks like L.L. Bean's Boreal and features a built-in climbing skin)? Tom Marina del Rey, California

I'm headed to the Okavango Delta in Botswana for six months through a job with Conservation International. I not a very experienced photographer, so can you recommend a reasonably priced camera that'll take great wildlife photos? Todd Baltimore, Maryland

I have some questions about a backpacking trip around India, where weight will be a consideration. We need a unit for recharging digital camera batteries (possibly with surge protection), as well as a lightweight but intimidating-looking lock and chain to secure our packs to seats and poles on trains. One more thing: I'm looking for a multi-climate sleeping-bag liner. Thanks much! Sue Boston, Massachusetts

Last year I bought a Specialized Sirrus Sport hybrid for road biking, with which I'm very happy. My brother's looking for a new bike, so how does something like the Marin ALP line of bikes, particularly their Highway One, stand up against the likes of my Specialized Sirrus? A bike mechanic told me that Marin's star is waning, and that you are paying for their ne. Thanks for your insight. I've actually set up my Internet browser to open your column as my personal homepage, and have used your advice more times than I can remember! Patrick Chicago, Illinois

I planning a climbing trip to the Yosemite Valley in a few weeks, and I was wondering if you have any recommendations for a hydration pack I could use while climbing. I would use it to also carry a small headlp, rainjacket, and a few energy bars. I looking for something low profile that will not get in my way while climbing. Anything fit the bill? Alan Locust, New Jersey

So everyone I know agrees the Marmot Oracle is a fantastic storm protection jacket. But sometimes you have to take the advice of longtime friends... and throw it away because they are not the Gear Guy. I want an ultralight jacket to throw in my pack while hiking. I bought my wife the Marmot Oracle, which she loves, but what do you think about products using PacLite such as the GoLite Phantom Jacket, or the Marmot Osprey? I already have an Arc'teryx Beta AR, but is that light enough, or would PacLite be worth it? Jeremiah Eugene, Oregon

I was rock climbing in Australia earlier this year when I fell and wrecked a lumbar disc. I'm having surgery to decompress the spinal nerve in a couple of weeks (a lumbar microdiscectomy), and I'm itching to get back into trping (you call this "hiking") and climbing and so on. Since physiotherapists don't know much about backpacks, I'm wondering if you can help me: Is there a backpack that is better for your back (i.e., one that doesn't compress your lower back too much)? I currently use a fairly simple 60-liter New Zealand-made pack by Cactus Climbing. Karen Wellington, New Zealand

My husband and I are having an argument about our 20-year-old down sleeping bags. The bags in question are Blacks Icecap XL mummy bags. I've recently being doing some fall camping and find that I get quite cold some nights, leading me to surmise that these sleeping bags have reached the end of their days. My husband says it's just my age, as he doesn't find them cold. Now I know I shouldn't bother arguing with him and just go out and buy myself a new sleeping bag, but I want you to tell him that down sleeping bags do "die" eventually. Can you back me up? Carol Port Moody, British Columbia

I have a medical condition known as Raynaud's, which basically means that I have real problems staying warm in temperatures below 50 degrees. This past winter was a killer for me. Unfortunately I can't hole up inside during the winter as my 100-pound insulated dog needs to walk (and loves the cold). What do you think would work best for me? I assume down, but the women's down parkas don't seem to be that warm. Faith Reston, Virginia

What does one do when his hero lets him down? Last fall you spoke highly of the St. Moritz Pathfinder TI watch. Well, let me tell you, the Gear Guy is fallible. This watch has been a huge letdown. The "glow factor" of the numbers is terrible, the alarm is barely audible, and the service is less than acceptable. I sent it in for warranty repair for its water resistance, being sure to mention the other factors, and the service was very slow and they never even addressed my other concerns. I think you may have made an error! (I know, hard to believe.) Tim Moose, Wyoming

Thanks for asking the Gear Guy a question. Stay tuned to the Gear Guy’s column for your answer. He should get back to you in about a week. Of course, while he’d love to answer everyone’s questions, he’s so busy testing equipment that he…

Adventure porn, brought to you by the gurus of extreme video

What's the best way to clean my hands in the wilderness prior to handling contact lenses? My waterless hand sanitizer warns against eye contact and I don't want to use stream water.

What's your take on the soft-shell craze if the activities are both ascent and descent in nature? In other words, I very interested in the breathability for aerobic activities, but concerned about warmth for activities like downhill skiing. Question is, can I have my cake and eat it too? Second, if I can have it both ways, what is your first choice and why? Brad Peacock Medina, Ohio

Dear Gear Guy, I longtime winter outdoorsman, but a winter and alpine camping beginner. I bought a -5-degree Polarguard 3D bag that I've slept in at temperatures ranging from 15 to 30 degrees in high-quality tents and on a (cushy) RidgeRest/Therma-Rest combo, albeit on snow—and I always freeze, if not right away, then definitely by 3 A.M. I wear at least two layers, often my third, hat, etc. Short of wearing my outer layer (!!) or my belay jacket/pillow to bed, what gives? I just in kick-ass shape (no insulation layer) or just a total wimp who needs to buy a warmer, heavier bag? Or is there something about temperature ratings that I'm missing? Bill New York, New York

Dear Gear Guru, Each year I spend more and more time engaging in technically demanding backpacking, backcountry skiing, and mountaineering trips into the remote backcountry. Due to my exposure, the natural dangers of the mountains, and the probability of accidents, the need for a reliable and durable communications system has arisen. Do you know of a system that has long-range communication capabilities and can withstand the needs of being both portable and durable? Is a satellite phone the answer? As always, I look forward to the wisdom of your responses. Sean Constine

This past summer I started running and now have continued into the winter. On the longer runs my privates get awful cold. Is there any underwear out there made of microfleece and/or windproof fabric? I run in tights and wear cotton briefs under them. The cotton is the problem. I don't like wind pants or wearing shorts over my tights, but are they the only answer? Tom Faherty Scituate, Massachusetts

What is the absolute cheapest sleeping bag that the Gear Guy would recommend for summer backpacking? Some of us have several thousand dollars to spend on our gear—the rest of us are in college. Doug Chicago, Illinois

I need a big family tent that's not too expensive but rugged enough to last many camping trips. I've compared Cabela's, Eureka, Coleman, and Wenzel. What is the best tent for the money and durability? Curt Woodward, Oklahoma

I was thinking about buying a pair of convertible pants following a trip to Mount Washington on which the weather went from warm to pretty cold. With a three-day trip planned to the Presidentials this summer, I thought convertible pants might be a good option for any varied weather. What are your thoughts? Scott Cbridge, Massachusetts

I would like to buy shaped skis. I currently ski on straight 160s and 5-foot, 2-inches tall. I've gotten so many different opinions on how long my shaped skis should be. Help! Jacklyn Meriden, Connecticut

I'm a snowshoer and snowboarder. I wear hard-shell snowboarding boots and I have the step-in type bindings on my board. I would love to find some snowshoes that also have a step-in type binding that would work with my boarding boots so that I could do some backcountry boarding and only need to haul one pair of boots. Any suggestions? Ryan J. Richmond Boise, Idaho

Oh, Gauis Gear Guy (bet you haven't heard THAT one before), I have a multitudinous problem. I wrote to you years ago about detached toenails, and you delivered the goods shiningly. My problem is still with my feet. The last two trips I've taken in my Zberlans boots have left me hobbled, with huge Susan B. Anthony pus-bubbles on either heel. I went to a clinic and was informed that my feet were "problematic" and that I was wearing the wrong boot. My right foot while standing is about a quarter inch longer than the left. My feet are wide and low profile, with anemic arches and narrow heels. Oh yeah, I also have weak ankles. Now I have June trips planned in the Grand Canyon and the Sierra. I've bought the Superfeet shrink-to-your-dogs prosthetic insoles, but I need a new boot. What do you recommend, outside of foot-transplant surgery? Thanks, Thomas Perkins Alexandria, Virginia

I just bought new ski boots and I love them. Next on my list is buying new skis. I a solid level-nine skier and can ski anything on the mountain (New England or Rockies), although not always as gracefully as I would like. I love moguls but don't want a ski that submarines in powder. I was looking at the Salomon X-scres but heard that their tails were too stiff and therefore a lot of work in the bumps. Do you have any recommendations for top-of-the-line skis? Will New York, New York

I own a 1994 Isuzu Trooper SE that has a moon roof and a factory luggage rack. I looking for a roof rack system to carry bikes. I've looked through Thule and Yakima online, and wondered if I could use the existing luggage tracks and buy towers to go with them and then the bars. I really want something for the roof, not a tire or hitch mount. WD Ray Columbia, South Carolina

Much of my clothing made with high-performance fabrics, such as Coolmax, states that you should not use fabric softeners or dryer sheets. Why is that? If they are accidentally dried with a dryer sheet will they return to normal after the next wash or are the performance aspects ruined? Joe Helm Canal Winchester, Ohio

Where can I find a waterproof video camera, for filming surfing and other stuff? Luke Ft. Myers, Florida

I'm going on a climbing expedition where we'll be ascending into increasingly colder temps. I'm planning to take two sleeping bags, transitioning to the warmer one as we ascend, then using both at high altitude. Are there any drawbacks or cautions to doing this? How can I estimate the temperature rating of the two bags combined? Vincent Salem, Oregon