Camping

Archive

I seem to be allergic to my Marmot Arroyo down sleeping bag. Is there anything I can do? Or should I just go back to my Kelty Quallofil bag? Kevin Silver Spring, Maryland

While camping near Havasu Falls, a rock fell from the side of the canyon, shattered, and bounced through my tent fly and the tent itself (and then bounced out), putting an eight-inch tear in each. My sleeping sister and I fortunately both escaped unharmed! Can the tent be repaired or shall I take my friends advice and frame it—and go buy a new one? If repaired, will the fly ever be truly waterproof? Meg Covington, Kentucky

This summer I'm taking my family of five to Alaska for three weeks of mostly car camping. Is there any way I can sufficiently clean my Coleman two-burner Powermax stove to fly with it? Is it easier to clean/travel with a propane canister stove? Is it worth trying to cook for the family with my two-burner expedition Powermax backpacking stove? Rayne Metairie, Louisiana

I'll be camping in Yosemite this summer and curious about bear-proof canisters. Any reviews or suggestions on what to buy? Stuart Houston, Texas

What reasonably priced, lightweight two-person tent would you recommend for backpacking on the AT? We usually hike during the off-peak months and rely heavily on the shelters, but this year we will be hiking during the peak season. Chris Anderson, Indiana

Now that my children are getting bigger, our three-man tent just isn't big enough after several days on the river. Can you recommend a good family tent? I'm looking for roominess, easy setup, and something that's not too heavy. What about those tents with inflatable bottoms—do they work? Michelle Steamboat Springs, Colorado

I'm thinking about lightening my load with a titanium cookset from MSR. But, when I'm camping where fires are allowed, I like to save fuel and cook on the fire. Can titanium take the heat? Is there any reason why I shouldn't use a titanium pot on an open fire? Karen Portland, Oregon

What kind of headlp is better for hiking in the dark: LED or halogen? Are lights that combine both LED and halogen bulbs worth buying? Art Chapel Hill, North Carolina

I'd like to do some lightweight backpacking without a tent. What type of sleeping system/setup would you recommend to keep me warm and dry? Matt Orem, Utah

What kinds of tents are there other than freestanding, and what is the difference between them all? I keep hearing "freestanding tent" and I don't know what that means, much less what the other kinds are. Charlie Easley, South Carolina

What's the best excuse to keep my wife from borrowing my expensive backpacking tent when she takes a group of teenagers to a four-day music festival this summer? Nick Maryville, Missouri

Gear Wizard, what's the best backpacking water filter on the market these days? If reliability, ease of use, speed, and size trump price, what's the best? Josh Denver, Colorado

What is the best camping stove to take while trekking in Patagonia? I'm thinking in particular about size, fuel, and reliability. Glenn Melbourne, Australia

Which is better, an insulated inflatable sleeping pad (such as the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core) or a self-inflating pad? I want to pack light, but I also want something durable and warm enough for three-season camping. Rick St. Louis, Missouri

I'm taking a trip to Moab in the spring, so I in the market for a one- or two-person three-season tent, around five pounds or so. I’m surprised by the number of tents comprised mostly of micro-mesh, like the MSR Hubba Hubba. As nice and ventilated as these tents are, I can't see them being well situated for use in a dusty, dry climate like Moab’s. I’ve also looked at Mountain Hardwear’s Hmerhead 2, which looks to have lots of ventilation, plus the ability to seal out dirt and dust. Is micro-mesh better at keeping dust and dirt out than one would think, or can you recommend some other tents to look at? Heather Dallas, Texas

I going to a three-day concert and will be sleeping in a tent. I have heard stories of people breaking into tents, so how can I protect mine from burglars? Are there lockable tents that are stab-proof? Chase Oxford, Georgia

Your Most Exalted Gearness: Please help me pick out a tent, ideally sub $200, that would be suitable for year-round solo backpacking in the Rockies. Do I really need a four-season tent, or are there some three-season models that might suffice? Or should I break the bank and get separate shelter systems for winter and three-season use (not something the wife is likely to accept without a fight)? I await your wisdom as the grass awaits the sun... Ben Pocatello, Idaho

A friend and I are doing a cross-country bike trip from May to July this summer. What kind of sleeping bag would you recommend? Mary Hilton, New York

I know that you need to filter (or treat) water before drinking it, but what about the water I use to rinse my hands or clean my cookpot? How resilient are those nasty little giardia and cryptosporidia parasites? Do they die and go away when the water that carries them evaporates? Will an alcohol-based sanitizer kill the remains of them on my hands, or do I need to filter the water first? Bruce Cortland, New York

We do a reasonable amount of winter camping in both Adirondack lean-tos and in tents. Typically I use some combination of an emergency space blanket, a closed-cell pad, and an inflatable Therm-a-Rest pad. A couple years ago I had a hip replacement so padding comfort is a big factor. My question, then: Are the pricier down-filled sleeping pads like those from Exped really that much warmer? Jim Holland Patent, New York

As an all-over-the-place sleeper, I have a hard time sleeping in mummy-style bags. The stretchiness and light weight of the MontBell bags look great, but I also think I would like the NightCap feature on the Sierra Designs Flex bags, though these are much heavier. Do you think these "stretch" bags are just hype? Jeanette Tucson, Arizona

On a recent backpacking trip, the igniter on my otherwise trusty Snow Peak GigaPower stove stopped working. Luckily I had a lighter as a backup, but I thought that the igniter was essentially a mechanical device and shouldn't be affected by altitude (we were cped around 10,000 feet). What gives? Bill Columbus, Ohio

Can you help me, Gear Guy? I'm looking for a light, compact three-season down sleeping bag (rated between 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit). I've looked at the EMS Mountain Light 20 ($160 on sale), but I don't really know much about EMS bags. I've also been considering Feathered Friends bags, and like the idea of a foot vent. I'm a side sleeper so like to have a little extra legroom. My hope is to spend $200, but I would go higher in the pursuit of good gear. Josh Royalston, Massachusetts

I looking for a lightweight solo tent that is particularly well-suited for wet conditions. My budget extends to $150. Aaron South Shore, Kentucky

This theoretical question was inspired by the incredible courage of Aron Ralston. In his account of his ordeal, he mentions thinking that maybe he should save his urine for possible consumption when all his water had run out. My question, then: In the event of a life-threatening situation, could one use a water filter to filter the impurities out of one's urine, thereby rendering it fit to drink? I realize this is kind of a gross question, but the theoretical alternative (dying of thirst in the wilderness) is even grosser... Bill Charlottesville, Virginia

Is there such a thing as a battery-powered water-filtration system on the market? If you have ever spent long ounts of time and huge ounts of energy pumping water out of a lake or stre, you can see how carrying some small batteries to run such a system would be advantageous. Right now I use an MSR hand pump, which I just find is too labor-intensive. Carl Ellerslie, Georgia

The solo tent has become a roomy palace of personal space

My wife and I are going to Torres del Paine in March, and we're debating between bringing my Sierra Designs Orion (light, small, not strong), my SD Prelude (solid, roomy, very heavy), or buying something new like the SD Comet, MSR Fusion 3, or Walrus Warp. Do you think any of these tents are strong enough for the Patagonia winds, or do you have any other recommendations? Alexandre Toronto, Ontario

This is one of those "I want it all" questions. After sleeping uncomfortably in my Cat's Meow mummy bag while trekking the Inca Trail, I gave it to our Peruvian guide. I'm now looking for a sleeping bag that will work for a trek up the Gokyo Valley to Everest Base Cp next fall. So it needs to be roomy, light, and warm, without costing a fortune. Pipe dre? Craig Brooklyn, New York

The Gear Guy Reports from Outdoor Retailer 2004

I've been looking at some Big Agnes sleeping bags and interested in adding one of their REM sleep pads. Seems like a great idea (the pad inserts into a sleeve in the base of the bag), but I was wondering if this would be a mistake because the sleeping bag sacrifices insulation on its base. Should I go for the "system," or just drop for standalone sleeping bag and sleeping pad? Brad Durango, Colorado

I'm looking for a lightweight system with the largest-capacity bladder. I'll use it primarily for ultralight hiking, and long trail runs. My primary concern is that it doesn't slosh around against my back and hips, as I'd rather not have underarm chaffing. Any suggestions or places I might find this info on the Web? Larry Santa Monica, California

Four highly mobile gas grills fire up a moveable feast wherever you go

My friend and I plan to tour Nova Scotia by motorcycle this summer, and we're looking for the best lantern/backpacking stove. Whatever we end up buying will need to be compact and stable, powerful enough for easy cooking, and able to run off the se type of fuel canister. I've looked at a Primus multi-fuel stove, but will that run on any type of canister? Nedim New York City

I've been hearing a lot of talk about the best method of water purification: chemical (silver, iodine, chlorine dioxide) or filtration pumps. But isn't the least expensive and most effective way of purifying water simply to boil it for ten to fifteen minutes? Brice Rough and Ready, California

I've been looking into the new Superlight series of tents from Black Diond, specifically the Lighthouse. The listed weight is astonishing, but I have concerns with the merely "water-resistant" fabric and the long-term durability and water repellency of such a lightweight tent. What's your take? Would it be smarter to get something like Mountain Hardwear's Waypoint 2, which offers a similar weight while being waterproof? Bryan Manhattan, Kansas

Have you tried Henry Shires' Tarptents? I need to replace my old and heavy Eureka dome tent, and I find two-person tunnel tents to be a little crped, especially with my six-foot-one-inch boyfriend sharing the se space. I'm tempted by the ultralight weight of the Tarptent, in addition to its still-adequate rain and bug protection. But it seems just too good to be true. Do you have any other roomy yet lightweight tents to suggest? Carla Toronto, Ontario

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

I've been backpacking several times borrowing other people's equipment, but now I'm getting ready for a trip in the Adirondacks and need to get some more gear of my own. Is it true that viruses are primarily a problem in the water in other countries? What viruses are potentially problematic in the U.S., and what illness do they cause? Adina Syracuse, New York

Oh Great One, ne for me several tents that keep out the weather. I'm not talking a drizzle, but an almighty downpour of hail, sleet, and snow. The best waterproof tent I have ever owned is a Cabela's Alaskan—you could use it as a boat—but it's 18 pounds and has some design issues I don't like. So, please give me a list of backpacking tents that float. Jeff Moscow, Idaho

All-knowing gear guru, I need you to confirm or dismiss a rumor I've heard about how down-fill is determined. The claim is that gear manufacturers have rooms fitted with high-powered fans and markers at 600 feet, 800 feet, and 900 feet. These rooms are then filled with down, with the down-fill getting calculated by how close to each marker the material gets blown. OK, sounds a little unscientific and downright mythical, so I come to you for the truth. Alex Hayward, California

I interested in purchasing a Bibler Fitzroy tent. Do you know anything about this tent, or have any experience with it? Is a single-wall tent breathable enough so as to alleviate condensation? Is it as easy to set up as they say? Willi Sussex, New Jersey

I have looked all over the Web for the SafeWater Anywhere filter, with no luck. Are they out of business or did they change their ne? If so does anybody make inline filters with a bladder reservoir (rather than bottles) compatible with a CelBak, for exple? I'm not interested in pump filters. F.G. Azz Minneapolis, Minnesota

We are going beach camping for the first time. What do we need to bring that we probably don't already have? Ned Scotch Plains, New Jersey

Which is the better synthetic fill for sleeping bags and jackets: PrimaLoft or Polarguard? I plan on being in minus-five-degree-Celsius temps in dp to wet environments, as well as mountaineering in the snow. Mike Wellington, New Zealand

One of the principles of down sleeping bags is that they must breathe. So, how practical is it to use eVENT fabric in a down sleeping bag to make it waterproof and breathable? Or is it better to go with a water-resistant shell instead, which may be more breathable? Peter Würzburg, Germany

What's the ultimate car-camping tent for a family of four? The wife and kids aren't really up to the deprivation (wife's word) of experiencing (my word) the glories (my word again) of the backcountry through backpacking. Appropriate models, size-wise, from Sierra Designs and The North Face seem more like base-camp tents—stoop to enter and exit, no standing room for adults. L.L. Bean and Eureka!, on the other hand, have real mammoth numbers with standing room and porches. If the 4Runner is doing the carrying, what does the weight matter, right? Kirk San Diego, California

My son loves his waterproof shell, my rickety knees love my hiking poles, my feet love my boots, and we eat well using our stove, all of which you've helped educate us about... Now what about tarps for two? We mostly do cool-weather camping along the AT, so bugs aren't too big a problem. Are there any moderately priced models that you recommend? One other question: Back in the Middle Ages, when tarps were called pup tents, we trenched them to stay dry in the rain. Is this still standard practice in these enlightened times? J.P. Raleigh, North Carolina

My wife and I love snow-camping in the Teanaway in spring, and would like to reduce the bulk and weight of packing both a self-inflated and closed-cell mattress. I have heard about new, Primaloft-equipped products from the likes of Therm-a-Rest, Big Agnes, and InsulMat that insulate with Primaloft, and they all seem much lighter and less bulky. But would they do the job without also having to carry closed-cell foam? Scott Maple Valley, Washington

My son and I went backpacking with our brand-new down sleeping bags over the weekend to help us get in shape for a longer trip this spring. It had rained for several days earlier, so things were pretty wet and humid. During the day we stuffed our down bags into plastic zip-type bags in case it rained more, but I guess the bags were a little dp from all the moisture in the air. Anyway, when we got home and unpacked, our bags stank of mildew. I can't imagine what they would smell like after ten-days on the trail. Is this common for down bags, and is there a way to prevent this? Kevin Omaha, Nebraska

How do they test temperature ratings for sleeping bags? I have never owned a 30-degree bag that I would actually use in 30-degree weather. Justin Santee, California

I have a good-quality down sleeping bag that includes a nylon taffeta shell, and I'm looking into ways of improving its water repellency so that it's more effective in very humid conditions (for exple, Tasmania's temperate rainforests). I have considered Nikwax Downproof, but have heard that it can reduce the bag's overall thermal efficiency. What do you think of other treatment options? Of course, another approach, albeit heavier, might be to get a light, breathable bivy for the bag. Hannah Perth, Australia

I looking to upgrade my sleeping bag so I can get more versatility over a range of temps. In particular, a light bag that would be suitable from 50 degrees down to about 25. I have seen ads for bags with detachable covers that offer flexibility over a wider variety of conditions, which seem like a good option for multiday trips. What do you think about this kind of bag? Worthy innovation or a gimmick? Any ideas for some good bags like this in the $125 to $175 range? David Boulder, Colorado

My 16-year-old daughter's Venture Scout troop is doing an eight-day horseback trek in northeastern New Mexico this July. They have to store all their gear in a large stuff sack (and two midget saddle bags), so she needs a lightweight, compressible sleeping bag to maximize space in the stuff sack. They'll be sleeping in tents at altitudes up to 12,000 feet, so the bag needs to be rated to around 30 degrees—and affordable. Easy, right? Lou Oak Hill, Virginia

I'm in search of a three-season sleeping bag for under $350 that is down-filled, is rated to about 15 degrees, weighs under three pounds, has a durable weatherproof shell, and includes a full-length zipper. I was going to buy the REI Sub Kilo but all the reviews say it rips easily. I've been considering the Mountainsmith Vision, the Mountain Hardwear Spectre SL, and the Marmot Hydrogen, too, but can you help me narrow the field? Philip Berkley, Massachusetts

Many years ago there were companies that took your old down-filled articles, reclaimed the down, and made you a new sleeping bag. I have an old army two-piece down bag and a down parka that I'd like to reconstitute into a new sleeping bag. I hate to throw away this good down, so do you know of any company that does this kind of work? Keil Endwell, Maine

I recently purchased an Integral Designs Endurance Bivy made of Pertex Endurance fabric, as I wanted a lightweight bivy sack to protect my down sleeping bag from drips and condensation in tents, tarps, and snow cave situations. So I've used my bivy sack in humid Pacific Northwest conditions inside a tent with temperatures in the 30s and 40s, and each time have been disappointed to find my sleeping bag glistening from head to toe with condensation. My question, then: Does Pertex Endurance live up to its hype as a highly breathable waterproof fabric? My experience suggests that it doesn't, but I'm curious to know what others think about this fabric. John Seattle, Washington

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

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

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

I looking for a parka for winter camping in New Hampshire. I have narrowed it down to the Feathered Friends Frontpoint and the Wild Things Belay Jacket. How does the warmth of the Belay compare to a high-quality down piece such as the Frontpoint? Which would you recommend for New Hampshire winters? S Portsmouth, New Hampshire

I'm planning a trip to Tibet, and I'm looking for a bag in the zero to ten degrees Fahrenheit range. In addition to struggling with the age-old down versus synthetic issue, I'm also confused by the suitability of those Sierra Designs' down bags that include add-on top layers, such as their Buddy Rad. (They even suggest stuffing clothing in between the layers if it's cold.) Will this setup keep your whole body warm if the add-on layer only goes on top? Overall, I place great value on lightness and even more on compressibility, but I'm always wigged out about getting down wet. Matthew Boston, Massachusetts

I am looking for a tent that will repel dew, especially as I hate the damp feeling that comes from wet grass. Which tent do you recommend? I don't do much camping, but I do like to be comfortable when I do. Tara Bowler, Wisconsin

My wife and I are going bike camping this summer. Are there any light two-person sleeping bags, or single bags that zip together? We need the bag(s)—preferably down-filled—to also fold down as small as possible. The cheapest we've found is about $500 for two. Do you have any better suggestions? Harvey Davis, California

I planning a weeklong sea kayaking trip in northern Quebec. I (and my backside) would appreciate any of your thoughts on a decent portable sleeping pad. Is inflatable the way to go? And what about length? We anxiously await your deliberation. Nicholas B. Westmount, Quebec

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

What clothes should you sleep in when backpacking? I mostly go in southern California during spring or fall, so temps can dip to 30 degrees at night, but not much lower. Generally, I wear whatever I change into once we make cp, but I've begun to wonder if I should dress more warmly to bed and rely less on a heavy sleeping bag. Christopher Simi Valley, California

Can you help me pick out the best-value sleeping pad? I'm new to backpacking and need my comfort while sleeping. Heck, I'd take my electric blanket along if I could. I want to find a pad that will be worth the money, but will last a long time too. I can't decide between a less expensive closed-cell pad and one of the inflatable ones. Are the inflatable kind that much better to justify the extra cost? Please help this confused backpacking novice! Kendra North Ogden, Utah

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

My wife and I are going bike camping this summer. Are there any light two-person sleeping bags, or single bags that zip together? We need the bag(s)—preferably down filled—to also fold down as small as possible. The cheapest we've found is about $500 for two. Do you have any better suggestions? Harvey Davis, California

Is DryLoft on a down sleeping bag worth it? I've noticed that it's not appearing as often as it used to on down winter sleeping bags. David Morlock St. Paul, Minnesota

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 looking for information on free-standing tents before heading into the Everglades, where I'll be sleeping in the chickee huts along the waterway. Can you point me to some particular manufacturers or Web sites? Jeff Naples, Florida

To revisit the sleeping naked debate [June 12, 2003: "Is it true that it's warmer to sleep naked?"], I'd like to point out that while sleeping with a lot of clothes on should generally be warmer than sleeping naked, too much clothing might compress the sleeping bag's insulation and somewhat impede blood flow, resulting in a colder sleep. Wouldn't you agree? Stephen Calgary, Alberta

I accidentally burnt a hole, about one and a half inches in dieter, in my Western Mountaineering Dakota sleeping bag. I'm having trouble finding a place to repair it, and I don't want to do it myself because a brand new bag with a 30-year life span should not have some junky patch on it for the remainder of its working days. Ross Reading, California

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