Gear Guy

Is it true Marin bikes are not as good as they used to be?

Is it true Marin bikes are not as good as they used to be?

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

What's the best ultralight jacket for the money?

What's the best ultralight jacket for the money?

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

Do lighter camera components detract from performance?

Do lighter camera components detract from performance?

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

Is there a pack that's better for your spine?

Is there a pack that's better for your spine?

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

What's the lifespan of a down sleeping bag?

What's the lifespan of a down sleeping bag?

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

As a Raynaud's sufferer, how can I beat the cold?

As a Raynaud's sufferer, how can I beat the cold?

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

Why do you rate St. Moritz watches so highly?

Why do you rate St. Moritz watches so highly?

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

Any recommendations for top-of-the-line skis?

Any recommendations for top-of-the-line skis?

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

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