I'm vacationing at Purcell Lodge in B.C. this August and I need a comfortable boot that will give enough support for the Canadian Rockies. I will only carry a light day pack. I have twisted one ankle and even broken my foot (not a hiking-related accident) so I definitely need stability. Thank you for your help; it is greatly appreciated! Leigh Ann Arlington, TX

What size pack would you recommend I use to do thru hike the Appalachian Trail? What brand would you recommend? Bob Page Salisbury, NC

I spent a week hiking rugged trails in the Great Smokies, where conditions and socks were wet. After three days I developed blisters and raw sores on the tops of my middle toes on both feet. Never had that happen before. Can you help me avoid this in the future? My boots are a few years old and I use them regularly; my socks are good quality wool hikers, liners CoolMax synthetic. Guy Columbia, South Carolina

Which multi-day backpack do you recommend for a vertically challenged (four-foot-eleven), large-chested female backpacker? Lori Chula Vista, California

Which hiking boots are the coolest for hiking the Copper Canyon in Mexico? We're going in August. Would trail sandals be OK? We will be taking a day excursion with less than ten pounds per pack. Susie Kansas City, Missouri

Any advice on which packs will help transfer as much weight as possible off my shoulder while backpacking? I broke my collarbone a few years back and the newly formed peak in the bone is right where the shoulder strap lands. After a few hours with a fully loaded pack my arm seems to go a bit numb, and quitting isn't really an option. Matt es, Iowa

I just bought a pair of Asolo 535 non-Gore-Tex hiking boots. I planning on hiking the John Muir Trail in early August, and I'm trying to determine if I really need boots or if I can just use running shoes. My pack weight will be right around 30 pounds. Spencer Denton, Texas

I'll be on a 28-day outdoor survival course in southern Utah shortly and I looking for a pair of light, quick-drying shoes that can last over 500 miles of rough terrain and provide good traction. My current choice is a pair of Salomon XA Raid 3D's, but I'm having second thoughts as the ordeal approaches. Pierre Ardeche, France

I recently bought a pair of Vasque Zephyr boots (not the Gore-Tex model) from an outdoor store, but the boot salesman was, shall we say, underwhelming. They were very comfortable, but I think he might have overestimated the weight limit on them. I regularly backpack with 40-pound loads. How do you think these boots will hold up? Frank Wayland, Iowa

Help me, Obi-Wan-Gear-Nobi! My three-year-old Zberlan GT's tore me a new one (heel blister, that is) while hiking the Ouachita Trail this weekend. I haven't worn them since a canoe trip last summer when they got waterlogged during most portages. Question: After serious saturation do boots need to be broken in again? What would cause my friendly Zberlans to turn on me? Yours, Blistered in Dallas. Greg Dallas, Texas

I'm going to the Amazon and Machu Picchu in June. What pack would you recommend to carry cameras, binocs, books, and other personal items while sightseeing? John Santa Fe, New Mexico

Dear Gear Guy, I looking to replace my trusty Asolo AFX 535 backpacking boots after they got chewed on by marmots in the Tetons. I kid you not! I considering the Asolo Forclaz, but are there any other good leather boots out there that don't have a Gore-Tex liner? Joshua Baltimore, Maryland

I'm looking for the perfect 24-hour pack. I need it for my commute to work, a 25-mile bike ride plus hour's train ride, and want space to stow my laptop, pens, wallet, energy bars, cell phone, and so forth. I'd also want a hydration bladder. After work I'll either head to the local bouldering rocks, stop by the gym to pump some iron, or go on an evening hike. So for that I'll need somewhere to stash my gear, as I'd rather not transfer over the common supplies to a second pack. Greg Simi Valley, California

I'm going on a two-month trip to Micronesia, where I'll be taking weeklong trips away from the main islands to some outer islands. I'm after a suitable daypack that can withstand the salt-spray environment. We don't need tents or sleeping bags as we will be in thatched huts, but still want ple storage for food, water, fishing gear, and the like. Christian Mishawaka, Indiana

I blew out a pair of much-loved, ten-year-old Asolo AFX 530 boots this past weekend. While hiking, the soles fell off and upon inspection I found dry rot. Contacted the company and they explained that there was something wrong with the engineering of that boot, so they offered to replace it at wholesale cost. I love hiking (schlepping about 40-pound loads) but finding that I'm not hiking the strenuous trails as much as I'd hoped to. Should I switch brands or look for a more moderate boot? Is the wholesale cost replacement a fair deal? Jack Nashville, Tennessee

I'm seeking a recommendation for backpacking boots that will provide support when carrying 60- to 80-pound loads in backcountry conditions. I'm after something that is not completely stiff like a mountaineering boot, but that promises comfort on multi-day trips, is waterproof, and is stiff enough to support strap-on crampons. Gary Seattle, Washington

Do you think The North Face Pivotal Suspension Pack is worth the extra weight? Ryan Leawood, Kansas

Are there hiking boots or shoes for the occasional hiker that do not require a break-in period? John Phoenix, Arizona

I going on a backpacking trip in mid-March to Buckskin Gulch, which is a slot canyon on the Utah-Arizona border. What type of footwear do I need? Zach Littleton, Colorado

I'm in the market for a pair of boots for fast springtime ascents of Mount Whitney and Shasta in summertime. I'm thinking Makalus or Glaciers from La Sportiva, but as I'm also planning a trip to Everest Base Cp next summer, I'd like something that's versatile. Justin Marina, California

What is the best multi-day backpack for a tall guy (1.97 meters)? Thanks! Deon Cape Town, South Africa

I signed up for a three-month mountaineering semester in the Canadian Rockies and having difficulty finding a pair of plastic mountaineering boots to fit my narrow feet. I need something very warm because I have bad circulation and have had minor frostbite in the past (that's why I have avoided leather boots). Melissa Victoria, British Columbia

I need a pair of solid backpacking boots. Is there really that much difference between a Lowa that sells for $200 and a Hi-Tec that sells for $100? I'll be hiking on occasionally rocky, steep terrain. Pela Pickens, South Carolina

I'm planning on climbing Argentina's Aconcagua in January '05 and could do with some advice on gear, particularly what sleeping bag and boots I will need. I've been considering getting a Superlight zero-degree down bag from The North Face, to be combined with a Thermalite sleeping pad. As for boots, I'm looking at the Scarpa Freney Pro GTX. (I'd like to stay away from the plastics unless absolutely necessary, as I unlikely to get much use of them again). Do you know how suitable this proposed gear setup will be for Aconcagua? Ciaran Dublin, Ireland

I'm wondering what type of setup I'll need for a through-hike of the Arizona Trail. The toughest things I can envisage are the varied climatic zones and terrain, plus the issue of no water for long stretches. It sounds like I will need two or three different gear setups to execute the trip successfully. But then I only have the dinero for one. Any ideas? Todd Scottsdale, Arizona

Would you be seen dead wearing a fanny pack on a day hike? Pack makers like JanSport do model bigger backpacks with detachable waist packs, but I'm not convinced that this would do my trail cred much good. However, I after some sort of compact, light daypack that will cover me for short yomps where my load isn't all that big. Any ideas? Aaron Salt Lake City, Utah

I'm planning a trip to Ecuador this December, where I'll spend a few days each of mountain biking, hiking in the Andes, and whitewater rafting. Last time I hiked in the Andes I just wore running shoes, without problems. I was thinking of getting a pair of Chaco-type sandals and a pair of trail runners, instead of full-on hiking boots, to cover the variety of activities as well as lighten my load. Any advice? Sarah Houston, Texas

Dear G-squared: Why are 90 percent of backpacks internal- as opposed to external-fre? Is their comfort and performance really that much superior to justify the price difference (yes, I cheap, but I try not to be stupid)? My son and I will be carrying about 50 pounds for ten days in the New Mexico mountains. Also, can you get a good fit on a pack you buy on the Internet, or is it better to deal with a local shop? W.B. Nako Cincinnati, Ohio

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I interested in buying a pair of Limmer boots, and have heard that they are very comfortable and the best backpacking boots you can buy. However, some have warned me that the old-fashioned construction means less cushioning that could "rattle my brain," especially since I have a heavy footfall. Is there a significant difference between cement and stitch-down boots? Brad Essex Junction, Vermont

I going on a five-day trek in Bhutan at altitudes of around 12,000 to 13,000 feet. We won't be carrying our packs, just our daypacks. Should I be looking for lightweight hiking boots or middleweight boots for the five-day walk? The trek is rated 'A' for easy, but I will be going from sea level here to the higher Bhutan altitude. Cristy Deale, Maryland

Has Outside Online tested any jogging strollers lately, and where might I find the reviews? I'm looking for a jogging stroller to use mostly for hiking and walking (no running). Felicia Norwalk, Connecticut

I just got back from camping in Tennessee and Kentucky's Big South Fork NRA (which you should check out, by the way!) and had some fun pulling ticks off my legs the whole time. I'm letting the backpack air out, but how do I make sure it's 100 percent bug-free? Take it to the dry cleaner or just spray it down with agua? Incidentally, how'd you get such a cool job? Chris Loveland, Ohio

I climbing Rainier this July and instead of wearing my normal hiking boots up to Cp Muir, I was wondering if you thought a pair of trail-running shoes would work until we have to switch to plastic boots? What would be some good options for lightweight shoes that would still give you good support when wearing a pack? Mike Columbus, Ohio

I'm about to embark on a long, multi-city trip through the western U.S. and need a backpack both for trekking and city-hopping. Can you recommend one with an attached daypack? I've been looking at Osprey's Aether 60 plus Daylite daypack. I eventually want to use the pack for wilderness trips, but on this trip I'll be using it mostly for heavy, heavy books. I'm bewildered by all the options! Josh Cbridge, Massachusetts

I recently purchased a new pair of leather hiking boots and, after a ten-mile break-in hike, cleaned them and treated them with mink oil (I couldn't find Sno-Seal anywhere locally). Despite all my years of backpacking, I didn't realize this oil can over-soften the leather and affect the support. Have I ruined my boots for good or is there something I can do to save them? Mark Indianapolis, Indiana

I'm having only moderate success finding a daypack designed for women. I tested a JanSport at EMS and confirmed that the women's cut really is more comfortable (collarbone bruising has been an issue for me when carrying heavy loads in standard packs), but the capacity was a little small and it had no compression straps. I thought Kelty might be good, but their lumbar supports are unforgiving and aggravate a lower back problem of mine. Do you have any recommendations, either with or without internal fres? Diane Cortlandt Manor, New York

I will be leading groups of teens backpacking this summer and worried about keeping contact with base cp and being able to call for help, should the need arise. Any ideas for effective, durable communication devices? Is there a difference between satellite phones and walkie-talkies? Etan Los Angeles, California

Are waterproof hiking boots hotter to wear than non-waterproof hiking boots? And are they less breathable than regular boots? If I'm hiking through the desert, would waterproof, leather hiking boots be too hot? Suzie Johannesburg, South Africa

I would like to camp at some walk-in campsites but can't carry a heavy pack, having a history of back problems. Does someone make carts for camping that can be wheeled on a trail? Andy San Francisco, California

I pretty new to hiking and wondering about clothing. Is there a list of recommended clothing to take on a three-day hike up a mountain (e.g., Washington's Mount St. Helens or Mount Ads?). Mike Marysville, Washington

I'm planning to hike the Grand Canyon in June. Do I need a high-top hiking boot? I have very comfortable, worn-in low-tops but have read that high-top shoes are recommended. What do you think? Danielle Peoria, Illinois

Want to go from day tripper to trail ripper? Lose the weight, hit the throttle, and have a 21st-century blast.

We are going to climb Mount Whitney in preparation for a Mount Kilimanjaro bid next year. I'm five-foot-nine and 140 pounds, my husband's six-foot-five and 240 pounds. We're wondering if we'd be happier with internal- or external-fre backpacks, and what sizes we should be looking at. We were planning on going to REI and then I read your column and decided to ask you. Jan Federal Way, Washington

Gear Guy, I badly need your advice before I drop $200 on a new pair of boots for hiking Rainier's Wonderland Trail. Though the trip is in August, I will also use the boots throughout the spring/summer hiking season. I'm probably looking for something tailored to a low-volume foot, with or without Gore-Tex. Will Richmond, Missouri

Can you recommend a mid-sized backpack? I have been looking at the new Arc'Teryx Bora 65, which is nice but really expensive! Is there a comparable backpack for less? Petter Boulder, Colorado

I bought a pair of Asolo FSN 95 GTX boots for hiking Mount Rainier's Wonderland Trail. They felt very comfortable in the store and needed very little breaking in, but I had to stop wearing them by the third day on the trail as they sorely aggravated bone spurs in my heel. Can you suggest a pair of hiking boots with soft inner heels that won't slide around too much? Marc Silver Spring, Maryland

Where do you think things are going in terms of backpack innovation? I looking to buy a bag for base-cp-style backpacking, but I don't want one that is outdated or poorly designed. I want cutting edge. It seems everyone focuses on weight, but in my mind accessibility is equally important. Zachary Milwaukee, Wisconsin

This question may seem dumb, but an old dog needs to learn new tricks! Having used external-fre packs since the late '60s, I've made the switch to an internal-fre one. I've studied all the diagrs about the best way to load internal-fres, but I'm still none the wiser. Bearing in mind I carry a fairly standard gear list, how should I pack for a five- to seven-day trip? Charles Cape Girardeau, Missouri

I want to buy a new pack for my husband for Christmas. Is it possible to use his measurements to find the right size without taking him with me, or is this the sort of thing he has to try out for himself? Any recommendations on a good pack to take out on weekend backpacking trips? Sally Athens, Ohio

I want to buy a new pack for my husband for Christmas. Is it possible to use his measurements to find the right size without taking him with me, or is this the sort of thing he has to try out for himself? Any recommendations on a good pack to take out on weekend backpacking trips? Sally Athens, Ohio

Way back in the late '70s, like many of my generation, I put aside my trusty old Kelty pack in favor of one of those newfangled internal-fre packs: first a Lowe, later a Gregory, and currently a Dana ArcLight. But as geezerhood creeps up on me and I spend more time on trails than off, I'd like to return to my roots and enjoy the better weight transfer and coolness of an external-fre again. My choice is between the Kelty 50th Anniversary Pack and the Dana Loadmaster Terrafre, discontinued but still available on closeout on the Web. Price is not an issue. There's no way I can try them side by side—if you've used them both, which did you think was the better pack? David Portland, Oregon

Last year I separated my left shoulder while taking a test run on my son's mountain bike (after "fixing" his front brakes). The physical therapist said I could only use an external-fre backpack in the future. Other friends, and some outfitters, disagree. What's your opinion on the external- versus internal-fre issue? Any specific packs of either ilk that will help keep the weight off my injured shoulder? Michael Front Royal, Virginia

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?

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

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

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

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

My girlfriend is hoping to go on a ten-day wilderness orientation trip for UC Santa Cruz put on by Outward Bound. The problem is that she has a bulging disk in her lower back. The sports medicine doc she's seeing says that she should be OK, but I'm not so sure. What are your recommendations for a pack? External-fre packs put more of the load over your hips, right? (She's five feet, three inches and weighs about 100 pounds) Colin Wood Colfax, California

Dr Gear Guy, please realize that you are completely indemnified from any liability as to the efficacy of your answer, but I'm wondering what gear you'd specifically recommend for a hiker who has undergone a total hip replacement and refuses to cast a deaf ear to the call of the wild? I have a pair of good trekking poles. Anything else come to mind? Keith Columbus, Ohio

I've been looking for a lightweight, water-resistant jacket for hiking and mountain biking. I've been looking at the Patagonia Dragonfly Pullover, which is advertised as water-resistant, very light (3 oz), and compact. It is also rather expensive ($135). Is this jacket worth the money? Are there any other jackets this category that you would recommend? Chris Newark, New York

Not yet having gone digital, I have a standard 35mm camera with extra lenses, a detachable flash, and the requisite rolls of film and cleaning cloths. So, I'm looking for a backpack-style camera case with plenty separate compartments and padding. Ideally, it'll be sling-style, with small compartments on the front for ease in changing films, lenses, and so forth. I've already checked the local stores and a few large Internet sites, but they seem to make bags only for digital cameras now. Any suggestions? Sarah Tulsa, Oklahoma

I planning a two-day, one-night hiking trip along the Appalachian Trail and looking for a gear list. Could you suggest what to pack and a couple of menus (with per person measurements)? The last time I took a trip, my girlfriend and I lugged so much food we could have fed five. Seth New York City

What is the best hat for summer backpacking? Cotton baseball hats are too hot, too sweaty; synthetic caps are a little cooler. But how about a straw hat? In particular, the L.L. Bean Summer Straw Hat that supposedly folds up and packs easily? By the way, your reviews are probably more useful and readable than all the others. Congratulations, and thanks! Marshall Atlanta, Georgia

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

So, after a year or so of ultra-light backpacking, my wife and I are starting to bring my son along, which means I need a huge pack to haul accommodation for three. Should I splurge and get a high-volume expedition pack like a Bora 95 or Gregory Denali, or are one of the new generation of external-fre packs (like Kelty's 50th anniversary edition) better value? We'll be mostly on trail, but I'm not sure if the lower-priced packs will provide enough comfort over a few days. Robert Granada Hills, California

I'm curious to hear your opinion about Osprey's line of Ariel backpacks, particularly their Ariel 75. I can't seem to find any reviews on anything other than the Aether 60. I loved the Osprey Luna 75, but I'm looking for something slightly lighter. My main concern is whether the suspension of this smaller pack will hold up under a 40-pound load. I don't want to sacrifice good load transfer and stability simply for the sake of a lighter pack. Erica Boston, Massachusetts

I'm planning an Appalachian Trail through-hike for 2003. I've poured over all the gear columns/ratings/etc. And with a bit of your wisdom have narrowed down most of my gear. But...I'm thinking of going stoveless. What's your opinion and do you know any recipes for easy/light/nutritious stoveless meals? Tim Moose, Wyoming

I looking for an internal fre pack that will handle solo weekends, and group week-long outings, but most importantly, comfortably fit my petite (105-pound), feminine fre without breaking the bank. What do you suggest? y Walsh Tallahassee, Florida

I'm looking for a recommendation for hydration packs as Christmas gifts for my brother and his girlfriend. They live in the Bay Area and do a lot of outdoor activities such as trail biking, hiking, and climbing. Would you recommend the se model for each of them, or different ones? Verna Washington, DC

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

Can you recommend a sturdy sack that will protect a backpack (with tent and sleeping pad strapped on) when it's checked as luggage on an airplane? David Oakland, California

I'm looking for an internal-fre backpack in the 4500- to 5500-cubic-inch range for less than $250. I need one with a torso length of at least 23 inches. Do you have any suggestions? Dennis McAllister Cleveland, Oklahoma

Not really a gear question, but can you tell me about all the pre-packaged trail food on the market? What have you tried? What's the best? Also, do you know of any Web sites with a good selection of trail recipes, especially vegetarian? Melissa Greenwood, Delaware

I'm gearing up for an ascent of Denali in May 2002. Could you advise for clothing and size of compression sacks appropriate to bring? I weigh 114 pounds so I want to minimize what I have to pack. Jeanne Stawiecki Charlton, Massachusetts

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