Gear

Archive

Are there any high quality heated mittens on the market? My girlfriend suffers from Raynuad's and needs the warmest possible solution for skiing. You help is greatly appreciated! Chris Arlington, Massachusetts

Is there a proper way to save your tent, short of taking it down, in winds over 50 mph? I had one fail, and I wonder if it was because I kept tightening the guylines, and maybe even over-tightened them. Joe Midland, Texas

Are their any compressible synthetic sleeping bags that won't leave you shivering and suffering? I mildly allergic to down, and I often carry a ton of work-related gear, so the space I have in my pack for a sleeping bag is limited. What are the best, most-compressible bags in the 15- and 0-degree ranges? Ben Higginboth Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

As the years go by, my wife and I find ourselves looking for lighter and lighter hiking and camping equipment, especially in terms of our shelter which takes up a significant portion of our pack weight. What's the word on Henry Shires' Tarptents? Their Squall weighs only 24.5 ounces and offers two people a roomy 44 square feet of space. Could this be the lightweight remedy to aching backs and our three-season shelter needs? V. Tran Galveston, Texas

I've finally decided to buy a GPS unit. My problem? I don't know which one. Your last review that I can find is three years old, but obviously a lot has changed since then. Rick Lebanon, Tennessee

I'm so confused by the different possibilities and terminology when it comes to rain jackets for biking. I bought a "waterproof" one, but it wasn't and I got soaked. I bought another and sweated so much that I wished I had the previous jacket. What's a good lightweight jacket for cycling that will keep me dry in moderate rainstorms? Mary Itasca, Illinois

As a longtime reader of your column, you have helped me in the past. Now I need your advice again. I'm considering purchasing a canoe for family camping trips, something stable for small lakes and smooth rivers, nothing too extreme. What do you suggest in terms of size, length, and weight? Also, what type of carrying rack will I need for a shell-equipped Toyota pickup? John Springville, Utah

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

This may be a "gear-related question" with a "you don't need gear for that" answer, but I can't find help on this anywhere. I often hear that running on the beach is one of the most effective ways to boost strength and endurance in your legs. I want to start doing this on a daily basis, and I'm wondering what kind of shoe/sneaker I should you wear. Or do I need to wear anything at all? Mark Brick, New Jersey

I want to buy some new cross-country skis that I can use for both touring and downhill, maybe something along the lines of the Karhu Catounts. While these seem to work well for touring on ungroomed trails, would these also suit for telemarking on blue-square trails? Rusty Cresco, Pennsylvania

O Most Knowledgeable One, what wind pants should I get: the L.L. Bean Guide Pants, made of Schoeller Dryskin, or the Marmot DriClime Stretch Pants? Your pearls of wisdom about the differences in performance are sought. Bill Charlottesville, Virginia

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

My daughter is flying to Europe this fall and is looking for a good all-around pack for all travel essentials, plus a computer. She is small-fred, five-feet four-inches tall, and weighs 110 pounds. This is the only luggage she is taking and she plans on being there five months. The packs needs to be durable and easy to carry. What should she be looking for? Janet Boise, Idaho

I'm looking for a decent sleeping pad to use when backpacking. Cascade Designs' Therm-a-Rest seems a good buy, but I'm not sure. Does the three-quarter pad mean my legs will be hanging off the end? Does that even matter? What are the benefits of the larger, wider pads versus the ones that fold in half length-wise? Matt Albuquerque, New Mexico

I own a 1994 Isuzu Trooper SE that has a moon roof and a factory luggage rack. I looking for a roof rack system to carry bikes. I've looked through Thule and Yakima online, and wondered if I could use the existing luggage tracks and buy towers to go with them and then the bars. I really want something for the roof, not a tire or hitch mount. WD Ray Columbia, South Carolina

Are there any materials that can offer reasonable rain protection and still breathe well? I can't use Gore-Tex in anything but the coldest conditions without getting significantly dp. How does REI's Elements line stack up? Ken Johnson Hollister, California

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

Tent versus tarp? Scott Gillette San Jose, California

Can you recommend some easy ways to reduce condensation inside a tent? In what sort of conditions should I expect the most condensation? Carter Virginia

Up until now, I've been content with either picking a wilderness that allows backcountry campfires for cooking dinner, or eating cold food for the duration. Now I'm starting to feel like my choices are limited and/or my dinner sucks. What kind of backcountry stove should I be looking into, and what is the difference between the different fuels? For the stove, my most important prerequisites are that it's lightweight and reliable. Mark Brick, New Jersey

My wife's extremities get very cold on winter backpacking and ice climbing trips. I'd like to get something to help her out. I was looking specifically at the Moonstone Sauvage Glove. Any other recommendations? Chris Ralph Mountain View, California

During the winter I run in the early morning hours when it's dark and cold. What do you recommend for a good reflective winter running outfit? Lance Delafield, Wisconsin

My husband and I are neophyte campers who need a tent that is reasonably priced, waterproof (Florida's thunderstorms are sudden and legendary), roomy, well ventilated (humidity here reaches 99 percent most of the year), and useful for both forest and beachside camping. Did I mention that we have only $150 to spend? Lynn Orlando, Florida

In case I get a big heel blister, what should I pack in my first-aid kit? Charity San Diego, California

Gear Guru, what eye gear do you recommend for cross-country skiing when it's windy and snowy? Every pair of goggles I own fog up when I cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Would glacier glasses solve this problem? Craig Portland, Oregon

Could you please tell me what you figure the efficiency of slicks versus knobby biking tires is? A local dealer says it is insignificant, and I figure it is ten to 15 percent. Bill Invermere, British Columbia

I starting to gear-up in preparation for climbs of Mount Baker and Mount Rainier this summer. I have an older Princeton Tec headlp that I use for backpacking, but can you recommend a good replacement? Are any of the newer LED headlps good enough to use when climbing? Kleet Renton, Washington

Last summer, I bought a Shan light touring kayak from Wilderness Systems (based largely on your recommendation, O Great and Wise One). After some great day trips, I'm now planning a multi-night river trip, so I'm looking for some packing advice. The boat has a rear bulkhead and an air bag up front for flotation. Should I pack my gear at the back with extra stuff lashed atop the stern, or can I replace the front flotation bag with a tapered dry bag? Zippo Baltimore, Maryland

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

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

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

I was thinking about combining my expandable Mountain Hardwear Galaxy SL sleeping bag with the maker's 40-degree Down Upgrade bag. What do you think about combining these two sleeping bags for a Denali summit attempt? Rob Boston, Massachusetts

A couple years ago I bought a Condor tent from The North Face, being informed by the salesperson that it was a four-season tent, although I have since discovered that may not be the case. I planning a June mountaineering course in the North Cascades that requires a four-season tent. Will my TNF tent suffice? I haven't used it for a while and lost the instructions, so do you know how I can contact them? Russ Frostburg, Maryland

I use a 1968 Pinarello road bike. So, I was on a nice ride when I heard this "boing" noise; before I knew it, the derailleur (I think it was the original) had tangled in the wheel. The derailleur is now in two pieces, so I need to replace it. Are there any brands or models you could recommend? Can I put new gears on such an old bike? Could this have been prevented? Anthony Green Bay, Wisconsin

I've been doing some research on altimeter watches and have come across a lot of bad reviews for watches that I thought were good. Which watch would you recommend between the Casio Triple Sensor Pathfinder, the Timex Helix Works, and the Suunto Vector (some guy told me the workmanship on this was terrible and it fell apart)? Nadav Jerusalem, Israel

In search of the Golden Boot over the years, I've owned disappointing Danners, Limmer mid-weights that ate up my right heel, and a forgettable pair of Meridians. I have a fairly low-volume foot, and while my current boots—a pair of Vasque Sundowners (Gore-Tex old style)—work pretty well, my feet still get hot spots and ache after a 12-mile walk. What's the boot for me? Stephen Decatur, Alabama

My Boy Scout troop is planning to buy some rappelling gear, but we need some advice first. Eric Shelbyville, Indiana

I currently have an older version of the Tubbs Sierra snowshoes, but I find them to be too bulky and heavy for those trips where crampons are also required. How does the MSR Denali snowshoe compare to its competitors, and what is the "floatability" factor of the MSR snowshoes? It seems they're very narrow, so I'm curious if they will keep you from sinking in soft, deep snow. Scott Newmarket, New Hampshire

I've got a Bibler Betid tarp, and looking for some extra protection for my Mountain Hardwear sleeping bag (down with Conduit SL shell). I don't want to carry the Betid's floor since it is a bit heavy, and doesn't offer the protection I want. Please suggest a sleeping bag cover or bivy that will allow my bag to breathe, yet shed any moisture from condensation or the occasional exposure to rain. I'd prefer not to break the bank on this, as well. Dennis Staley Englewood, Colorado

Do you know of any evidence that pepper spray is an effective defense against a mountain lion attack? Mike Rapid City, South Dakota

Where can I buy a hip belt to use as a harness for pulling my homemade gear sled? Bruce Easton, Pennsylvania

I would like to buy shaped skis. I currently ski on straight 160s and 5-foot, 2-inches tall. I've gotten so many different opinions on how long my shaped skis should be. Help! Jacklyn Meriden, Connecticut

I have a few trips planned in bug-infested territory. The problem is that I hate DEET. I just don't like using the stuff. And citronella-based products are useless. Is there anything new out there that is effective, safe to use, and won't melt plastic? Jake Santos Chicago, Illinois

After spending all my life camping in the mountains of the eastern United States, I've fallen in love with the southwest Texas desert, and I'm in the process of learning about those techniques and equipment that will work in that very different environment. No trees, blazing sun, the ground too hard to set stakes, fairly constant strong winds... The first problem to solve would be creating some shade... My Integral Designs Siltarp, which works great in the forests of Virginia, is useless as a sunshade, being almost transparent. Are there any tarps out there that would be suitable for sunshade duty, or is a piece of black six-mil poly my best bet? Bill Stell Charlottesville, VA

I know it's only August, but I have recently taken up running and looking ahead to the looming Ottawa winter. In preparing to outfit myself, I have been doing some reading about soft-shell jackets. The claim seems to be that I won't need to do the usual layering job with one of these—the soft shell can do it all. Is this right? Would a soft shell be the answer to a big part of my winter running wardrobe? Eric Ottawa, Ontario

I'm discovering that my late-fortyish feet are inexorably growing longer and wider, and the hiking boots that served me well two years ago are now giving me blisters and scrunched toenails. Companions on a recent Sierra backcountry hike were wearing low-cut trail shoes that looked only slightly more rugged than running shoes, and which allowed their wearers to pretty much dance over the rocks and scree without twisting ankles. For hiking relatively rugged trails without a backpack, what sort of characteristics should one look for in such shoes? And, while I'm here, can one backpack in 'em? Richard Truckee, California

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 to get a lightweight and compact pair of binoculars to carry with me on hikes. Do you have any general tips and some recommendations for good buys? Joe Voelcker Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In answering the question, "What's the lightest three-person tent available?" a few weeks ago, you missed by far the lightest candidate: the Stephenson WarmLite! It can weigh as little as 3.25 pounds and has 52 square feet of space! Dave SteinerNew York

I just read your reply in reference to a question about sleeping bags for a big guy, and I have similar question. I only five feet, ten inches tall, but I have broad shoulders. I trying to find a mummy bag that is roomy enough through the shoulder area to move in. Do you have any recommendations for good but not too expensive down bags like this? Tad C. Helms Tallahassee, Florida

Because of a small fire in our house I need to have three down sleeping bags, a jacket, and a vest cleaned. I need some suggestions of companies that will handle this operation and do it correctly. I may find other equipment and clothes as the clean up process progresses that need cleaning also. The smell smoke and soot of a house fire is not the se as that of a campfire! Gary Johnson Collegeville, Pennsylvania

I plan to buy a bike for my wife, a long-overdue birthday present, to be used mostly on backcountry roads (gravel, dirt, or tarmac) but not on trails. I'm looking for something that is good quality and will be comfortable for a 30-mile ride. A racing bike seems too fragile, while the ubiquitous mountain bike seems like overkill. Is a hybrid (whatever that is!) the way to go? I really require your guidance, as this gift is somewhat late. Steven Westmount, Quebec

I'm in the market for a decent down jacket but don't want to fork over the money for a Feathered Friends Rock & Ice Parka, as good as it is. What do you know about the Frobisher 700 Parka from Mountain Equipment Co-Op (a Canadian company)? It's stuffed with about 16.5 ounces of 700-fill down, has a Dryloft shell, and sells for about $285. It seems like deal to me! But I'm curious how it stacks up against Mountain Hardwear's Sub Zero SL Parka. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Michael Gebhardt Chattanooga, Tennessee

Raichle's Mountain Trekker backpacking boot is the best boot I have ever owned, and I would like to purchase another pair. However, I can't find anyone that carries them anymore. Could you help me out with information on where I could get a pair? Trevor Calgary, Alberta

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

Oh Gear Guide, you have failed us! Over and over I have heard you espouse the quality of the Yashica, so I decided that the T4 was the camera for me. Unfortunately, after hours of searching, I find out that the T4 has not been made for years! Just recently, you suggested the camera but didn't mention that it would be impossible to find. With the T4 no longer on the market, what kind of camera would you suggest? Mike Newark, Ohio

For a very long time I've been looking for a camera to take backpacking. I messed around with digitals, but decided they were not practical and didn't have a good enough zoom for my purposes. So, now I'm looking to get an SLR. Do you have any recommendations on a good camera and some good lenses for an amateur not wanting to bother with tons of manual setup? Benjamin Tempe, Arizona

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

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

Are there poles that could do double duty for downhill skiing and trekking? Or is that too much to ask from a set of poles for around $100? Dan Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Hola Señor Gear: After ten days of tromping in the Peruvian rainforest in borrowed rubber boots, my insteps are bruised from roots and stumps and my toes want to grip the inside of my shoes for stability. Yet, I'm convinced that rubber boots are the only way to go in jungle conditions. Are there rubber boots with hiking boot soles and at least a little support for the ankles? Bob St. Louis, Missouri

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 wear Levis to hike and cp in. (I'll pause here while you gasp in horror.) I'd cheerfully purchase better pants, but all the ones I've looked at feel like slacks. Slacks are for dress up, Levis are for work and play. This was drilled into my synapses many years ago and I'm too old to change. Is there a wool or synthetic pant out there that has the weight and feel of denim, which I can wear comfortably without offending the sensibilities of right-thinking outdoors folk everywhere?

I have gotten into section hiking the AT and whenever I go and carry a fair load (more than 30 pounds) I come home with strawberries (abrasions) on my hips from the waist belts. HELP ME! Jeff Hatcher Mcleansville, North Carolina

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

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 bought a pair of leather Scarpa hiking boots, but I'm having trouble breaking them in. The soles feel too rigid and it hurts to wear them, even for a short hike. I think they are too sturdy for my weight of 116 pounds. Some people have told me to get them wet and then hike in them. What do you suggest? Janet Payson, Arizona

I'm trying to decide whether or not to shell out on a bunch of new equipment for a scuba diving course in Turkey this summer. What does the all-knowing Gear Guy say: buy all and be ready before I go, or rent equipment once I'm there? Grant Washington, D.C.

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

What are the pros and cons of jackets made with Ventile? Is this material worth the money? What about Nextec? Alex Strongsville, Ohio

I interested in purchasing a multi-functioning watch, such as the Suunto Vector, something with an altimeter, barometer, and the like. I'd be using it when hiking, camping, or mountaineering; I'd even like to swim with it on. Is Suunto the only company that makes these watches? Is there a hiking watch that can do it all, even when it's freezing and underwater? Tony Detroit, Michigan

I'm going to the Himalayas in March for a mountaineering course. I wear glasses and want to know what the best options are for eye protection. Prescription glacier glasses are a little expensive, and besides, I might need goggles at some point also, right? Apoorva Bethesda, Maryland

I need a thin, lightweight, and durable jacket to keep me warm over a Canadian winter. Problem is I hate fleece and cannot stand to wear anything heavy or puffy, ruling out any down-filled or fleece-lined jackets. I short, too, so no big and bulky jackets either. I know that this is a hard one, but this winter I really don't want to be shivering 99 percent of the time. Tracy Winnipeg, Manitoba

I need a very lightweight tent for extended hiking trips on the Appalachian Trail. I carried the Marmot X-Racer last week and ended up with knee problems, so I'd like to shave off three to four pounds if possible. Is there a single-walled tent weighing around three pounds that uses trekking poles for supports? Matt Chattanooga, Tennessee

Do you know where I can get a bike rack for a Montero 2002 SUV? I don't want it place it on the roof and need it to carry two kid bikes and a mountain bike. Alvin Joaquino Parlin, New Jersey

I'm staring down the barrel of a long, cold, wet winter, which will put a crimp on my outdoor bicycling. Now, I can't afford a house big enough to install a velodrome, so I'll need to purchase either a trainer or rollers to ride my bike inside. Should I fear the rollers? Will I need to put fo padding all around them? Will true believers mock me if I buy a trainer instead? Glen Novato, California

Being from California, I do the majority of my hiking in the Sierra Nevada—"park bear" country. As bears become smarter, hanging food becomes exponentially less effective. I hate to carry those heavy canisters. Does anyone make a titanium canister, or an ultralight canister, being that Ursacks are not allowed in Yosemite or Sequoia National Parks? Michael Santa Clara, California