I love to sleep outside without a tent in the winter (I don't have to worry about rattlesnakes crawling in my bag or being bothered by insects!), but I notice a lot of dew and frost on my sleeping bag in the mornings. Any tips or tricks? I've never tried hanging my bag in sub-freezing temps, but I doubt it would dry if it's freezing outside. Jesse Dickinson, North Dakota

In response to the devastating earthquake in Kashmir, we are looking to donate two truckloads of heavy-duty family-sized tents and sub-zero-rated sleeping bags. Could you suggest some reasonably priced gear that we can buy directly from the manufacturer? This is very urgent. Irfan Hornell, New York

I do a lot of winter camping in New England. What synthetic bag would you recommend that has at least a zero-degree rating? Ty Wayland, Maryland

Do I need to buy a freestanding tent for above-timberline and desert conditions? I currently own a solo MSR Zoid and a Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight, which pitch well in nice forest soil. I have had some problems pitching these on rocky, soggy, or sandy terrain. These tents also get crowded if I pack for colder weather or if I bring my girlfriend (which is more often nowadays). What additional tent would make life complete for me and my significant other? Harry El Paso, Texas

I need a tent that's very easy to assemble. I camping alone in Alaska next summer and need to put it up myself with no experience! Linda Indianapolis, Indiana

For someone who doesn't do extreme camping, or really much camping at all, and might be in a tent during a Michigan winter, do you have an "if you only own one bag, this is it" suggestion? Shelley Ann Arbor, Michigan

Are polycarbonate water bottles safe? Rumors are floating around the Internet that certain chemicals leached from polycarbonate water bottles may increase the risk of miscarriage and cause birth defects. Should I throw away all my Nalgenes, or is this just typical Web fear-mongering? Randal Canmore, Alberta

Is there such a thing as a mini-tent for gear storage? Jim Roswell, Georgia

I on a quest to build my own tent, but where to begin and where to buy all the doodads? Nicole Fort Wayne, Indiana

Oh Gear Guy, please open my eyes and show me who makes the best bags in the biz. Is it Western Mountaineering or Feathered Friends? I'm further confused with reports of two other excellent manufacturers, Integral Designs and newcomer Valandré. David Los Angeles, California

I'm off trekking in the Italian Dolomites and want to know which stove to take. Self-sealing butane/propane canisters are convenient and light but can be difficult to buy in some areas, and guidebooks never give much advice about which fuel type is most easily available. Ashley Falmouth, United Kingdom

Do I need a pump or chemical purifier for a trip to the Boundary Waters next summer? On past trips I have used Polar Pure, but I know that you sing the praises of pump filters. Will I waste time pumping versus doing some fishing while waiting for chemicals to work? Help me decide, Oh Knowledgeable One! Brad Chapel Hill, North Carolina

My girlfriend and I are planning a yearlong trip to South erica, and we're looking for two extremely durable, sub-two-pound down sleeping bags with opposite zippers that will zip together. We have two heavier Sierra Designs bags that already fit this mold, but they're old and way too big for the trip. Can you help us? Landon Rifle, Colorado

I'm considering getting the Outback Oven for baking on the trail this summer, but other folks have the Bakepacker. Have you had an opportunity to check both out? What is your opinion? I know the Bakepacker basically "stes" the food, instead of baking, but what other differences are there? Gigi Concord, California

I'm sure that you don't have this problem, but some of us are a bit bigger around than most sleeping bag manufacturers think we should be. I've seen expanders that claim to add six to ten inches to a bag's girth. Do they work, or should I just hunt till I find a bag that fits out of the box (so to speak)? Joe Raleigh, North Carolina

My husband and I have five kids, so we need a large waterproof tent with standing room. We're so tired of having to take back tents that leak after mild, short rains, especially through the flooring. What would you suggest we try? Tina Kingston, Tennessee

Can you give me some insight on the Jetboil stove, plus on the pros and cons of boiling water versus water-purification tablets? Should I use both methods? How much iodine/water mix should you ingest? Liver failure on a camping trip would most righteously suck! Scott Lexington, Kentucky

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