Published

I have a Gregory Palisade pack and love it. A number of recent comments and reviews of the Dana Designs Terraplane pack have suggested it is the best pack on the market. However, I find the price of over $400 extreme. Is there something inherent in this pack that would suggest such a premium over the $200 to $300 internal fre packs in its category? David R. Eitemiller Colorado Springs, Colorado

I have been trying to decide between the PUR Guide water filter and the MSR MiniWorks, although I have heard that the MSR clogs less and is cleanable. However, the MiniWorks' high pump per liter ratio has turned me off, especially as the PUR Guide boasts a more efficient output. I will be using the filter mostly in high alpine areas where the water is fairly clear of mud and silt. What are your thoughts? Jim Huntsville, Utah

I know you get lots of questions about the best outdoor cameras, but can you recommend a camera that operates well at high altitudes (above 20,000 feet) and in extremely cold weather (around minus 50). I have heard that autofocus doesn't work above a certain elevation. I'm looking for a compact or SLR that is lightweight, resilient, with easily accessible batteries (for efficiency when changing them in the cold), and which will capture the highest-quality images at the top of the outdoor world. Sarah East Lansing, Michigan

Hailing from sunny California, this is my first year in college in Boston. Here's my situation: New England weather is windy, chilly, and often wet. I need a jacket that will get me through the winter but also look good around town. However, once I buy this jacket, I'll still need money to eat. What can you recommend that won't break the bank, i.e. as close to $100 as possible? Kyle Boston, Massachusetts

I'm getting back into backpacking after a 20 year hiatus and boggled by the array of different stuff they're making socks out of these days. Merino wool, acrylic, Coolmax, ultimax, wickdry??? What's the deal on fabrics for HOT weather hiking/backpacking for short-to-medium trips (one- to two-day) over varied terrain and carrying moderate loads? What's good, what's bad? Lew Atlanta, Georgia

I'm looking for a lightweight, compact "kitchen" for holding dishes and utensils while car camping. Can you recommend some sort of canvas or nylon box thingy? Vickey Freedonia, New York

I would like to buy a digital camera to bring on climbing, canoeing, and hiking trips. I had been planning to buy an SLR, but I've recently been tempted by digital cameras and their ability to make you impulsively take snapshots. What factors other then weight and picture quality should I consider? Any help you can give me would be much appreciated. Eric Winnipeg, Manitoba

I'm really getting into ultralight backpacking, and I hope to do a through-hike of the AT or PCT in the next few years. I do all of my backpacking in the summer, but my Marmot sleeping bag is too heavy (and warm). What choices are there for a light, compressible bag costing less than $100? If there are no bags in this range, would you recommend removing some of the down from my Marmot bag to make it lighter? Tom Bellevue, Washington

I interested in buying rappelling gear and I unsure as to what I need. Is there anywhere that I could find a list of must-haves for rappelling? Todd E. Clyde Hurricane, Utah

Do you have any recommendations for headlamps? I'm a casual camper intrigued by the new LED lights. The battery-/bulb-life is amazing, but are they bright enough to be worth the purchase? Michael J Ogden, Utah

What do you recommend for mountaineering in places such as Mount Rainier and Denali as far as headlps and bibs or pants? Would an LED light be better than a regular headlp? I know LED lights last much longer, but what about lighting up the trails? Also, are there any three-layer bibs that you would recommend that are warm, durable, and inexpensive? I like the description of the Marmot Alpinist but it's quite expensive. Are there any less expensive options? Charleton Churchill Pine Grove, California

I've recently been in some heated discussions with fellow campers over whether it's warmer to sleep naked in a sleeping bag or to wear some loose clothes. Logic would seem to suggest that more layers equal more insulation, but a surprising number of acquaintances swear they're warmer naked. Can you give me a definitive answer?

From what I've read, your gear reviews are right-on, so I seek your help finding a hydration pack that can hold ultralight gear for overnighters, as well as up to 100 ounces of water. I hope to use such a pack for mountain biking treks as well, so it'll need to have a tight fit and good suspension system. It's proving difficult to find something to meet all these needs, although I noticed you recommended the Ultimate Direction SpeeDemon to a trail runner in January 2003. Is this pack suitable for mountain biking? What about other possibilities like the Ultimate Direction WarpSpeed or the CelBak Peak Bagger? Todd Alpharetta, Georgia

I wear prescription lenses in my sunglasses and want to get a similar custom-made pair of glasses for paddling at night. I've heard that a yellow tint on the lenses helps to bring out objects. Is this true? Is there anything else I should consider when ordering this pair of glasses? Dennis Milton, Florida

I'm planning a 14-day backpacking trip down Utah's Escalante River next month, and puzzled about the ideal footwear to pack. The route involves lots of wading, often over rough riverbeds, as well as slickrock hiking, all while lugging a big pack. Is there a boot out there that can provide good drainage as well as some serious support? David Grinnell, Iowa

My son and I need to purchase raingear for an eight-day canoe trek to Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area this July. Do I need to get a Gore-Tex parka like most people recommend, or are the newer, lighter styles like Marmot's PreCip enough for such a trip? David Wichita, Kansas

How do I wash the sweaty odor from my polypropylene toque? I used Wisk liquid detergent without success. The toque is clean but it still smells badly. I need help. Alexander Do Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I have an early-nineties GT mountain bike with a titanium fre. It's still a good-looking, lightweight bike, but its rear U-brake has no real power. Are there any compatible brakes with better grip, or are there any pads with magical powers? Andreas Reno, Nevada

What type of shoes should I wear for day hiking in the Costa Rican rainforest—sandals, trail runners, or water shoes? I will be going in November, historically one of the wettest months of the year. Dion San Francisco, California

I often ski and snowshoe in the Adirondacks backcountry, but my back always gets soaked under my pack whenever I'm going uphill. I have tried different layers to avoid the wetness, all to no avail. What do you recommend to keep my back comfortable? Ian Lake Placid, New York

I've been moving slowly into the lightweight crowd and trying to get my week-long, summertime load below 30 pounds (I live in the Midwest, so a good portion of that is DEET!). I can make it, except for the pack itself. Are there any good lightweight packs? Is this a good place to save weight? Most that I've tried may weigh less, but they make the load seem heavier to me. Tim Taylor South Bend, Indiana

I've recently started using the MSR Pocket Rocket, in place of my trusty Whisperlite, going through $25 worth of fuel in three weeks, compared to a gallon of white gas per season—a pricey switch, I'm sure you'll agree. Today I happened upon a Glowmaster fuel cartridge, almost half the cost of the Primus and MSR cartridges. Will it work as well as its more expensive cousins, and should I burn this instead of my greenbacks? Allen Tumwater, Washington

I need to find a tent for winter camping and mountaineering. Living in Oregon I intend to stay within the Cascades. I have narrowed my search to the Fusion 2 and the Fury 2, both made by MSR. They fall into the same weight/price/size category. The Fusion is a convertible tent while the fury appears to be a four-season tent. Given the conditions I'm expecting to face, which tent would be the ideal choice for me? Is the Fury too much tent, is the Fusion too little? Is there another tent that you would recommend? Kevin Portland, Oregon

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 have a narrow foot (11B), and find most hiking boots are D-width or wider. Any suggestions for boots that come in narrow widths? John W. Stafurik Los Alos, New Mexico

I have been told that Sierra Designs & MSR's new range of four-season tents (in particular SD's Tiros AST and Stretch Dome AST) have floors that are not suitably waterproof for Australia's wet and windy winters. Is this true? Can a waterproofing agent be applied? Also, do MSR's continuous pole sleeves allow adequate ventilation between canopy and fly? What's the verdict on these tents? Justin Trevorrow Darwin, Australia

I have been unsuccessfully combing the Internet for a pair of boots that possess a few specific features: full grain leather, a waterproof-breathable membrane (e.g. Gore-Tex), and a gusseted tongue. If you can help me find a pair of such boots for under $150 please tell me where! Lucas Mead, Washington

I'm looking for a sleeping bag to use mainly for summer backpacking in the Northeast, something that's less than two pounds with a temperature rating down to about 30 degrees; I'd also really like a full-length zipper, so I can unzip the bag on those warmer nights. I've always enjoyed your gear wisdom, so I'm looking forward to any suggestions you might have. Kevin Boston, Massachusetts

What is your opinion of two-way radios for climbing and skiing? What features should I look out for when selecting one? Tjaard Breeuwer Eindhoven, Holland

I have a new Dana Design Shortbed pack, but after packin' for a long ten miles, I noticed that my hands and fingers were swollen. Was this just a bad pack fit, or was it too much weight for the long haul? Ray Kuna, Idaho

I have a simple question. I dried my jacket on a high temperature in the dryer. Everybody tells me I shouldn't have done this, but how will it affect my jacket? Adrien Lancaster, United Kingdom

I recently saw The Seat from ERGO, LLC advertised. The makers claim that this seat does away with numb-butt syndrome and sexual dysfunction (real important). Can you confirm or deny these assertions? Dennis Hilton, New York

I'm going hiking on the West Coast Trail, and my boots have Vibr soles that are very slick on wood when it's wet. Since it constantly rains on the West Coast and I'll be traversing many wooden bridges and ladders, I was wondering if you could suggest a boot with a sole better suited to wet conditions. Dan Ottawa, Ontario

I work in the movies, and I need to find a good photo of a crevice ladder and then purchase one in Canada. Can you help me? The Props Guy Whitehorse, Yukon

What gear do I need to climb K2? Just kidding! With winter fast approaching, I'm thinking about backcountry skiing again. I take avalanche safety VERY seriously and therefore take every necessary precaution. That said, accidents do happen, so I'm looking to buy an avalanche beacon just in case. I'm interested in the Tracker DTS, but how does digital technology fare in cold environments? I've also heard that earlier Tracker DTS beacons had problems with the unit switching to "receive" mode if the wearer's body pushed up against the toggle switch. Is the Ortovox F1 Focus a better, more reliable choice? Michael Vancouver, British Columbia

Is it necessary to waterproof Gore-Tex boots with something like Nikwax's Aqueous Wax Waterproofing? Mikebr>St. Paul, Minnesota

I'm looking for a pair of waterproof, breathable pants that will keep me dry and also withstand the rigors of off-trail bushwhacking (K-9 search-and-rescue work). The cheaper the better, ideally less than $200. Durability is key and full-side zips would be nice. I'll be using gaiters, so built-in gaiters on the pants aren't necessary. Thanks for your insight, Gear Guru. Eric Portland, Oregon

Now that hikers are supposed to filter/purify all the water they consume, I'm curious if ANY contact with untreated wilderness water is safe? Is it OK to splash water from a clear stre on my face and arms to cool off? Is it OK to jump in a clear lake for a swim? Would doing these things expose me to infection through ears, eyes, nose, ETC.? What about canoeists and kayakers who are in and around untreated water all the time? Mark Her Fullerton, California

I'm dumbfounded by all the choices with regard to heart rate monitors. Should I stick with the well-respected Polar or try other brands? Tracy Los Angeles, California

Can you recommend a three-season tent that is well configured and roomy for two people and a dog? Tom Miller San Francisco, California

Great Gear Guru: My hips hurt when sleeping on the ground, whether I've just humped a 60-pound pack or walked into my backyard. I currently use a Therm-a-Rest GuideLite sleeping pad. Do I need a new state-of-the-art pad, or should I just chalk it up to old age? Brad Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Any recommendations for a two-person backpacking tent big enough for a six-foot, five-inch, 250-pound camper? I already have a Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight two and it seems a bit small for just one person (me), especially after more than two nights of foul weather. Jim McGowan Charlotte, North Carolina

What is meant by the minimum weight on tent specifications? S Weatherley Birmingh, United Kingdom

What is the stiffest material that a road-racing bike can be made of? Also, what's a good compromise between a really stiff bike and a really light bike? Justin Seattle, Washington

What's the best and most reliable lighter to take on a camping trip? The top candidates seem to be Colibri and Windmill lighters. Is there much of a difference? John New York City

What's the best crampon for the LaSportiva K3 boot? Can I use semi-rigid crampons with them to climb vertical ice? I need crampons for that and glacier approaches but am afraid that if I get a fully rigid crampon I will get to much balling-up effect with the snow. Joe Roop Prescott, Arizona

I have a 15-year-old Peak 1 stove that still works great. I was wondering if I could use cheaper unleaded gasoline (about half the price of Coleman fuel) without blowing me or my friends up. Or do I need to get a newer model made for both white gas and gasoline? J. D. Craft Lancaster, Ohio

OK, call me a masochist, but I love winter camping. However, when I try to convince some members of my family to go with me, the answer is always the same: "Too cold." So I spy the Zodi Hot Vent II ($135), which uses a propane cylinder to provide heat to the tent. This could be just the ticket! But does it work, and is it safe? Only the great Gear Guru knows for sure. Jeff Minneapolis, Minnesota

How do I get Christmas-tree pitch out of a Gore-Tex jacket? Karen Gresh, Oregon

I just recently got into mountaineering and assing all the gear needed to pursue my different interests. I have a lot of the basics and now its time to get some boots. I need a four-season boot for both general mountain travel and technical ice. In the grand scheme of accruing mountain gear, boots account for a pretty hefty chunk of change—especially if you buy three pair of boots: one for three-season mountain travel, another for winter mountain travel, and the third for technical ice. Much more appealing would be a single pair of boots that could do all three. Does such a boot exist? If not, can I get away with two pairs of boots? I'm just looking for a way to escape throwing down $1000 on boots. Josh Hattan Lincoln, Nebraska

I'm wondering if you know the difference between all the soft-shell fabrics, specifically Power Shield and Schoeller Dryskin. Also, what's the deal with the ultralight rain shells like Patagonia's Microburst or Arc'Teryx's Sirrus SL? REI's Web site used to say that Sirrus SL is "truly an ultralight shell, thus should not be for everyday use." Are they suggesting the ultralight jackets are not that durable? Does it make sense to carry both a soft-shell and an ultralight rain shell on a long backpacking trip? Jenny San Diego, California

My family and I enjoy car camping in Alaska's interior. However, as I get older, I'm finding that my back gets stiffer using my old sleeping pad and that my air mattress doesn't give enough insulation. What type of pad or combination of pad and air mattress do you recommend to minimize back pains, provide insulation, and allow for a comfortable night's sleep? Shane Juneau, Alaska

I was out hiking in the west Texas desert a few months ago during a delicious spate of rainy summer weather. I was wearing a light pair of boots and found myself slipping and sliding all over the wet rocks. Crawling on my hands and knees over boulders is not my idea of fun, and it really ruined my week. I'm now in the market for a pair of light "day hikers," with soles that'll give me some traction on wet rock. Any suggestions? Paul San Antonio, Texas

My ne is George, and I a Gearaholic. I know I have a problem, but I cannot control myself. Although I have eight packs, ranging from a Gregory Denali Pro to a Mountainsmith Ghost, I have the se dilemma with all of them. Though of average build, my hips are non-existent, causing my hipbelts to slide down my waist. This problem can be very bad in winter when lugging a heavy pack and wearing slippery Gore-Tex clothes. Are there any gripping solutions that can be applied, or is there another pack that can cure my problem? George Rochester, New York

I'm fairly well equipped for three-season travel with a Lowe pack, Merrell boots, a Sierra Designs down bag rated to -5, a 3/4-length Therm-a-Rest, and two tents: Mountain Hardware's Glacier and the Slickrock from The North Face. But on a recent June trip in the B.C. backcountry, I pitched the Slickrock on a snowfield and the down bag got wet. What do I do to remedy the situation? Buy a synthetic bag, or a down bag with at least a partial waterproof shell? Buy a full length Therm-a-Rest, which keeps the whole bag off the ground? Get a person four-season tent? Where do I throw my hard earned (and continually depleting) gear dollars? Scott Nelson Vancouver, British Columbia

Do you know of any fully waterproof/breathable gloves made of two- or three-ply Gore-Tex? I'm looking for a glove that I can use for mountain biking when it is 40 to 50 degrees outside and raining hard. I'm not looking for a full-blown expedition climbing-type glove because I won't be out when it's 0 degrees. I've seen the Seal Skinz waterproof gloves but the outside material will retain water pretty much like a sponge. Steven Fleisig Upper Montclair, New Jersey

My wife has been using a pair of Asolo AFS Ridge boots for our backpacking trips, typically extended ones through rugged terrain. The Asolos blew out a se in front of the laces and need to be replaced. We are considering the Montrail Moraines or the Asolo 520 GTX boots. Is the Moraine too much boot? Is the Asolo 520 enough boot? Any other suggestions? Louis Oregon City, Oregon

To me, one of the great mysteries of life has to do with load ratings on boots. For exple, some day hiking boots are rated to carry up to 30 pounds after which, the boots will fail. Now, what the heck is the difference between a 180-pound person carrying no load versus a 150-pound person with a 30-pond load wearing the se pair of boots? Your enlightenment will be eternally appreciated. Jake Kim Irvine, California

I'm breaking in a new pair of La Sportiva TRK hiking boots. I have no problem on flat terrain or when hiking uphill, but on the descent my toes will start to hurt and crp up, especially where they meet the base of my boot. I have high arches, so could this be the cause? Or is this just normal with new boots? BJ Guilderland, New York

I recently heard about a new water bottle for hikers that doesn't slosh. I can't remember who advertised it. It was a bottle with a baffle type device inside it. I called everywhere, and searched the Internet, but couldn't find it. Can you help? Dean Willis Boise, Idaho

I'm going hiking on the West Coast Trail and I have boots with Vibr soles. They are very slick on wood in wet weather. Since it constantly rains on the West Coast and you have to traverse many wooden bridges, ladders etc., I was wondering if you could suggest a boot with a more water-friendly sole. Dan Anstey Ottawa, Ontario

I have logged many air miles with my MSR Whisperlite AND empty fuel bottles. I have never been given any problems (including post 9-11 from New York area airports) having them packed in my luggage. I do, however, take a couple of precautions. These include calling the airline before hand and getting the name and customer service ID of the person I talked to, keeping the fuel bottle clean and uncapped (leave some soap residue inside so it will smell clean), and always checking in at the counter so you can tell the attendant that that the thing that looks like a bomb is a stove and bottles. Most of the time the attendant checks the equipment and that is all (sometimes they mark my luggage with a weird tag). I have on other occasions had an attendant repackage the stove in the airline's special box. I feel that if you are up front about it and take a little care, things will go smoother. However be prepared for the guy who is a hard nose as you may still lose your stove. Jonathan Cushing New York, New York

After a long hiatus (scared off by all the stories of cycling-induced impotence), I getting back into road biking. I own, and love, the all-purpose Leatherman Wave multi-tool, so would like to get a similar device for my bike; which, if any, do you recommend? Your acolyte in Albany. Steve Albany, New York

Years ago you recommended The North Face Snowshoe sleeping bag to me, just the ticket for a dp 58 hours in Lapland's freezing rain! Since your record is one for one, I seek your advice again for a compact, light sleeping bag (down is out due to allergies) to use when backpacking in Croatia in August. We'll be sleeping hut-to-hut while walking in the countryside, while also spending some time in cities. Do you think Design Salt's silk liner is good enough for such a trip, or do we need an ultralight sleeping bag? Jan Helsinki, Finland

In September I'm headed to a lodge in the stey Amazonian rainforest, so I'm looking for a poncho or raincoat that will be light, packable, waterproof, breathable, and cool. But everything I've looked at so far has liners and seems more suited for warmth in mountain winds than for a humid rainforest. What's my best bet to stay both dry and cool? Patrick Jonesboro, Arkansas

G'day Gear Guru, I've noticed a couple of innovative water-purifiers that incorporate the filter mechanism directly into the cap of a light, convenient, and squeezable water bottle. Models by Orinoco and SafeWater Anywhere make lofty claims of filtering and purifying the nasties better than traditional pump-style filters; the SafeWater model even has a filter cap that fits onto Nalgene bottles. Is there any point to lugging around our old pump filters anymore? Lange Sydney, Australia

I've collected the very best ensemble of outdoor gear, but I still require one last item: sunglasses! Price is no object, but quality is. I need the best all-purpose outdoor fres that are compatible with prescription lenses. Cebe comes to mind, but do you have any other suggestions? Paul Boulder, Colorado

As a thrifty person with only occasional needs for real cold weather gear, I'm tempted by the down jacket that Land's End sells for $70. Pretty simple design, 650 fill, seems like something that's pretty tough to screw up. Any experience with how this jacket stands up to some of the pricier down parkas from the more traditional gear makers? I'd be using it for an around the cp and belay over-jacket in the Sierras. Raymond Tarto Oakland, California

What's the best audio device that I can clip onto a pair of shorts when running and doing other multisport activities? Ceron Christchurch, New Zealand

I've been looking for a zero- or minus five-degree sleeping bag for use in early spring, but found that nobody makes any quality down bags for women. What's up with that? All Western Mountaineering bags are huge, while Feathered Friends makes only two women-specific bags, but they're rated only for 10 and 20 degrees. I just wonder, does the outdoor industry think that every outdoorsperson is some huge guy with wide shoulders and skinny hips? That has got to change! Anyways, for the problem at hand: I'm five-foot-six and on the lean side. What's a quality down bag that won't require me to expend extra energy in order to heat up excess room inside the bag? Jennifer San Diego, California

I'm planning on through-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and would like to keep my pack weight as low as possible without sacrificing comfort. When I through-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1990, my pack weight was around 50 pounds, including food and water. I have heard that ultralight packs are not very comfortable with loads over 20 pounds. Can you recommend a lightweight backpack for my hike? Cliff Ashford, Alabama

I have been hearing about MSR's lightweight and very compact Pocket Rocket stove. But the fuel for it seems to weigh a lot more than the white gas that I use now for my MSR Whisperlite. Is the fuel for this new breed of stoves heavier than other fuels? And if so why does everyone think they are saving so much more weight when they are making up for it in the weight of the fuel? Justin Strasburg Lincoln, Nebraska

Do I need to replace my 1994 Oakley sunglasses? I wondering if the 100 percent UV protection in the lenses breaks down over the years with repeated exposure to the sun. If so, are glass and plastic lenses equally vulnerable? Joel Las Cruces, New Mexico

Do water bladders sweat inside a daypack? My daypack is big enough to hold a bladder, but I'm worried my other stuff will get soggy if I pack next to a bladder. I worrying for nothing? No Name Given

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 looking to purchase a pair of snowshoes and wondering what length/style I should get. I'm five-foot, 11-inchess tall, and weigh about 180 pounds. I most likely will be using the shoes primarily for day hikes so I would probably be wearing a daypack and possibly carrying my skis. Scott Garvin Boston, Massachusetts

Are there any objective tests comparing the hard- and soft-shell products of different gear manufacturers? Yes, there's a huge ount of marketing hype easily available, but beyond XCR's assertion that it's "25 percent more breathable than standard Gore-Tex," there doesn't seem to be any hard numbers comparing materials. This is surprising when you consider how much consumers are prepared to pay for the latest and greatest. Jeff London, United Kingdom

I read a column you wrote last February on weatherproof digital cameras. Is there anything new that would fit the bombproof, sand-proof, waterproof category? We work as river guides so the cameras get some hard use. I also looking for a camera for my 11-year-old daughter, traditional or digital. Any recommendations? Peter Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

What's the best backpack for scrambling? I have taken to canyoneering, usually carrying trekking poles for balance, two ropes, other climbing gear, and occasionally a wetsuit. I'd like to know if there's a slim, lightweight, 3,000- to 3,500-cubic-inch pack that will hold the poles, a water bladder, and my climbing equipment without making it look like I'm tackling Everest. Ray Chicago, Illinois

I have read that wool clothing is better than any synthetics made. Is that true? Smartwool is coming out with a 5.2-ounce lightweight shirt in August-could this be possibly the best shirt out there for backcountry travelers? Also, is there a pair of lightweight pants that perform well in a wide range of climates? I would prefer convertibles, but regular pants are okay as long as they breathe well. Peter Portola Valley, California