Gear

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I need a bike for commuting that I can use with panniers. Should I go with a traditional touring bike, or should I use one of the hybrids similar to a Trek 7700 FX? I'd like to spend less than $1,250 if possible. I have found some bike commuting pages, but they don't give much guidance on, of all things, bikes. I'm sure you have more than enough time in the saddle to offer some guidance as well as some personal preferences. Tim San Jose, California

I'm looking for the perfect sea-kayaking tent. Currently I'm using an older The North Face Geodesic three-person tent: it's great but is on the large size and tends to leak when not staked out. So, I'm looking for something that packs into a small size, can hold more than one person's gear, sets up easily, doesn't require much staking (sand doesn't hold stakes very well), and is very waterproof. Marshall Watkinsville, Georgia

I have been looking at jackets and vests from GoLite, and they all seem pretty cool. Logic tells me that their stuff probably doesn't keep one as warm as the heavier stuff other companies offer. Can you confirm that? Matthew Sattah Chattanooga, Tennessee

I've heard that deet will destroy nylon and nylon-blend materials such as tents and quick-drying garments. Is there an effective insect spray that can be used on these materials? Mike Tpa, Florida

I have been happily skiing and snowboarding in my Patagonia Nitro II pants for the past few years. However, having recently signed up for a mountaineering course, I was told they aren't designed for mountaineering because of their two-ply, mesh-lined material. I'm confused as to why pants perfectly fine in a skiing environment can't work for mountaineering. I don't want to shell out $300 on another pair of pants! Ken Toronto, Ontario

I looking to purchase a pair of snowshoes and wondering what length/style I should get. I'm five-foot, 11-inchess tall, and weigh about 180 pounds. I most likely will be using the shoes primarily for day hikes so I would probably be wearing a daypack and possibly carrying my skis. Scott Garvin Boston, Massachusetts

I'm planning to do some solo hiking this summer and would like to take along more than a bivy bag for shelter. I'm looking for a three-season tent that maximizes room (I'm six-feet tall) and minimizes weight. Perhaps a Walrus Microswift or the Sierra Designs Ultra Light Year? I'm not finding too much information or many reviews on the Net, and those that I do find are outdated. Any advice? Don Sherwood Park, Alberta

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

What do you think of OR's Pulsar Parka? I see the Outside Buyer's Guide gave it a "Drool" award. I ask because I can't find it for sale at any of the "big" outdoor retailers. I have hunted every major Web site that carries OR products and not one of them carries or even advertises this jacket. Was there some problem with them or why does no one carry them? Thank you for your response. Craig K. Noble Bliss, New York

I'm looking for a raincoat that is lightweight and very packable, while also being waterproof and fairly breathable. I travel internationally a lot and need something that will look decent while in a major city yet also work while on the trail the next day. I'd like a jacket that doesn't have huge zipper covers or too many excessive components. I want something simple in a neutral or dark color so I don't stand out in foreign countries as much. Any suggestions for a durable, multi-functional, and ultra-packable raincoat that is lightweight and not terribly expensive? Jonathan Achter Minnetonka, Minnesota

Oh great and powerful gear wizard, I've gone and done it now. I have mildew—the brown spots AND the powdery green stuff—on my Bibler tent and Marmot sleeping bag. Please tell me I didn't just sink $1,500 worth of gear in the course of one monster rainstorm. Is there anything I can do? Julie Collinsville, Connecticut

What's the best two-person tent for under $300? Tom Ireland

Man, I confused! I want to purchase a synthetic-fill jacket for an upcoming canoe trip in Big Bend National Park. But it seems that all the major brands employ a different type of fill, running the gut from Polarguard HV and 3-D to Heatshield and Primaloft. So, Doug, I turn to you for expert guidance. Which is the best synthetic fill for warmth and compressibility? If there is not a "best", then what are the advantages of each? Finally, what jacket would you take? Steve Hurst, Texas

I bought a Canon Rebel 2000 kit in July to take with me to Alaska. I fully expected the picture to be crystal sharp—you know, the azure sky with white clouds and glacier and stuff. But after I came back and got them developed, I was very disappointed. Seems like the pictures are pretty grainy (like those taken using an APS camera), especially those sky/clouds and glacier ones. I used 200 speed Kodak Gold and the weather was sunny, but not too bright. What can I do to make the pictures turn out better when I go to AK again next year? Should I change the lens, the film, or the camera? If so, could you make some affordable suggestions? I'd rather not change the camera, unless of course, it'll give me great advantage. Oh, I got them developed at Ritz Camera, if that helps. Maybe their equipment just can't handle it. Please help me out here, I'm desperate! No Name Given

I have a weakness for eggs. Love 'em. Don't care what they'll do to me, I have to have them. In the Navy, eggs are coated with a thin wax layer that will keep them fresh for about a month. Can I get these eggs somewhere, or can I do this myself? Also how long will a raw egg stay good when unrefrigerated? I would love to enjoy my eggs no matter how long I may be on the trail. Jes Russellville, Arkansas

When I was getting ready to apply mink oil to my two-year-old Asolo boots, I found the inside lining around both heels had split and the fo lining was coming through. These boots haven't seen extensive service, only being worn for school. The store where I bought them is out of business, so whom should I contact to get them fixed or replaced? Dennis Cedar City, Utah

I have been looking for a boot that can do it all. From aggressive summer day-hikes to light winter mountaineering in New England. I've been reading all your past articles and the Boreal Bulnes seem to be the ticket, though they seem not to be made anymore. I did manage to find an online retailer with the Bulnes at a great price but I now have a dilemma. How do I pick a size for a boot I can't try on? Since no stores currently carry this boot and the online retailers have questionable return policies, what would your Gearness do? If you wouldn't buy online, do you have any recommendations for similar boots? My anxious feet await your guidance! Matthew Mendonza Boston, Massachusetts

Can you recommend things to look for before purchasing a used bike? I interested in several Trek models and have found a couple of used bikes that appear in good shape. I would really love to save a few dollars by buying used and getting more bike for my buck. Carter Arlington, Virginia

I often ski and snowshoe in the Adirondacks backcountry, but my back always gets soaked under my pack whenever I'm going uphill. I have tried different layers to avoid the wetness, all to no avail. What do you recommend to keep my back comfortable? Ian Lake Placid, New York

This past summer I started running and now have continued into the winter. On the longer runs my privates get awful cold. Is there any underwear out there made of microfleece and/or windproof fabric? I run in tights and wear cotton briefs under them. The cotton is the problem. I don't like wind pants or wearing shorts over my tights, but are they the only answer? Tom Faherty Scituate, Massachusetts

I considering buying a pair of hiking shoes for day hikes with a light load (usually my 30-pound daughter in a child carrier). I have a pair of Merrell hiking boots and tennis shoes and I find both too warm (I don't know if its just me but I find tennis shoes very warm even though I don't have a tendency to sweat). Hence, I always end up using my Teva sandals, which don't give me enough support and don't protect my feet. Can you propose a closed hiking shoe that won't make me feel like my feet are in a furnace? Thanks in advance. Guillaume Frechette Columbus, Ohio

My ne is George, and I a Gearaholic. I know I have a problem, but I cannot control myself. Although I have eight packs, ranging from a Gregory Denali Pro to a Mountainsmith Ghost, I have the se dilemma with all of them. Though of average build, my hips are non-existent, causing my hipbelts to slide down my waist. This problem can be very bad in winter when lugging a heavy pack and wearing slippery Gore-Tex clothes. Are there any gripping solutions that can be applied, or is there another pack that can cure my problem? George Rochester, New York

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

Have I got an expensive proposition! I'm planning a trip to Italy and thinking it might be the perfect time to buy a new road bike straight from the factory, say Pinarello, De Rosa, or Colnago. Are there any advantages to doing this, such as incredible savings, or seeing the bike in progress and test riding it in the mountains? Are there drawbacks, such as duties, taxes, exchange rates, warranties and language that would make this way more trouble than it's worth? Thanks for your wisdom! Bob Foster St. Louis, Missouri

What are the differences between the gas combinations of various isobutane canisters sold by different companies (MSR, Snowpeak, Brunton, Gaz, Primus)? And how do they affect the performance of various stoves and lanterns? Garrett Tempe, Arizona

For a few years I have been using a Macpac Microlight tent, perfect for me and my pack. However, I'm now looking for a slightly larger tent to also accommodate my dog. Finding that Macpacs are not sold in this country and mail order prices are exorbitant, I was wondering what you'd recommend that's comparable in durability, waterproofness, weight, and quality, hopefully for a more reasonable price. Jennifer Seattle, Washington

I'm planning to climb Aconcagua next year followed by Denali the year after, and I was wondering about layering for warmth using down sleeping bags and parkas. I want to avoid buying really specialized gear (like the Feathered Friends Rock & Ice Parka, or their Snowy Owl bag) that I can only use on the coldest peaks like Denali. Is it possible to achieve a comfortable temperature rating on this mountain using a combination of the Icefall Parka and the Widgeon bag? The reason I'm asking is I would like one bag for all my mountaineering endeavors (including the not-so-cold trainer mountains). John Toronto, Ontario

I'm going to Alaska's Denali in June, so are there any particular jackets out there that you would recommend? Would the Marmot Parbat Parka be sufficient on a breezy day atop Mount Denali? Eric Maryland

My son and I need to purchase raingear for an eight-day canoe trek to Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area this July. Do I need to get a Gore-Tex parka like most people recommend, or are the newer, lighter styles like Marmot's PreCip enough for such a trip? David Wichita, Kansas

I sweat a ridiculous ount and have no problem staying warm, having nordic skied in sub-zero temps wearing only a thin nylon T-shirt and XCR shell. So, I'm in search of the ideal base layer shirt. I like Patagonia's lightweight Capilene, but I'm still experimenting with various fabrics and manufacturers. I'm skeptical of Patagonia's silkweights as the stitching across the shoulders looks like it would be irritating with a big pack on. Do you have any wisdom to impart? Seyil Toronto, Ontario

I know nylon fabrics deteriorate from too much exposure to the sun, but does nylon lose its strength from old age? Is a sleeping bag that has been in storage for 20 years without seeing one ray of sunshine still "as good as new"? Are there both "good" and "bad" quality nylon fabrics, or are they all made equal? David Sparta, Michigan

Will a space blanket attract lightning? Jeff Santa Monica, California

My wife says that my regular reading of your column has cost us a fortune but I swear you've saved me money. Here's a chance to prove your worth, and much more importantly, prove me right. It's spring again, and my Mountain Hardwear Guide pants are suffering from a severe case of "glissade bottom." Are they totaled, or is there a way to economically repair this malady without tossing these wonderful but expensive pants in the trash heap? Secondly, I've tried to prevent "g.b." by pulling a pair of shorts over the pants, but to no avail. The shorts just ride up in to full wedgie mode, leaving me uncomfortable, and the pants largely exposed to the worst effects of snow abrasion. Is there some other method to avoid this in the first place, or should I just buy cheap pants for mountaineering? John Giles Carlsbad, California

I guessing that the tool that Bradford Hmar was looking for in a recent question is the Schrade I-Quip (http://www.schradeknives.com). It has an altimeter, barometer, digital compass, watch, whistle, mirror, flashlight, lighter compartment, screwdriver, knife, corkscrew, saw, and scissors. Jason Grech Decatur, Georgia

I interested in buying a quality set of boots and skis, primarily for Vermont and New England skiing. Problem is, I wear a two-centimeter orthotic insert in my right shoe that corrects a leg length problem and heavy over-pronation. Can I get this custom built into ski boots? Any other options? Also, what's your opinion on the softer boots like the Atomic Beta Ride 10.50? Are they worth the $600? What is the best ski for varying New England snow conditions (i.e. one day powder, next day ice)? Walt McMann Hden, Connecticut

I'm wondering if you know the difference between all the soft-shell fabrics, specifically Power Shield and Schoeller Dryskin. Also, what's the deal with the ultralight rain shells like Patagonia's Microburst or Arc'Teryx's Sirrus SL? REI's Web site used to say that Sirrus SL is "truly an ultralight shell, thus should not be for everyday use." Are they suggesting the ultralight jackets are not that durable? Does it make sense to carry both a soft-shell and an ultralight rain shell on a long backpacking trip? Jenny San Diego, California

For multi-day trips to the Sierras, I've been using an REI Wonderland external-fre pack, 5,000 cubic inches of cavernous, organized, old-school pack. Everybody I see these days, though, has internal-fre packs that look so comfortable (maybe they're fooling me). I still living in the '80s with my Wonderland? Is it time for an internal-fre pack? If so, any suggestions? Alex Chino Hills, California

My wife has been using a pair of Asolo AFS Ridge boots for our backpacking trips, typically extended ones through rugged terrain. The Asolos blew out a se in front of the laces and need to be replaced. We are considering the Montrail Moraines or the Asolo 520 GTX boots. Is the Moraine too much boot? Is the Asolo 520 enough boot? Any other suggestions? Louis Oregon City, Oregon

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

What's the scoop on Eureka's Zeus EXO line of single-wall backpacking tents? They're inexpensive, light for the square footage, and look to have the se super-quick setup as the larger Eurekas. Do you have any info on how well these tents vent? Bill Charlottesville, Virginia

What is your opinion of two-way radios for climbing and skiing? What features should I look out for when selecting one? Tjaard Breeuwer Eindhoven, Holland

I need a good solo tent in the $200 price range for winter mountain climbing trips. It seems that manufacturers have come out with many new solo tents, but I can't tell if any of them would work for winter camping. Mike Rapid City, South Dakota

This summer I plan on taking a backpacking trip to the Selway River or Kelly Creek in Idaho. I hope to do some fishing as well, which will require wading in the river. I do not want to take wading boots due to the weight. Do you have any recommendations for sandals or other footwear that can serve as both hiking sandals and water sandals? I need good sole support for hiking and walking over boulders while wading. I also require a non-slip surface that will grip wet rocks. I have found that hook-and-loops material does not work well when wet. Last summer, the hook-and-loop straps kept coming undone on my Tevas. Any help is greatly appreciated. J.L. Walker

With the right armor—either built in or as a high-tech housing—the new digital cameras can take the hits and keep your vision alive

When the mercury heads south, the original performance fabrics—durable suede, denim, wool, and heavy cotton—will carry you through in comfort

Cousteau To Go and Fastpacking Paparazzi

Drift off under the stars in a featherweight sleeper designed for balmy summertime escapes

Sea kayaking along the Eastern Seaboard

The latest road runners fit better, feel faster, and work almost as hard as you do

Paddling a Norwegian river may be a walk in the park for explorer Børge Ousland, but it's a major triumph for his son

We know at least one sponsored paddler who was so smitten with the new RIOT AIR 45 that he defected to the company. And why not? The six-foot Air uses its surfboard-like bow and two removable inch-long fins along its hull to generate more speed on waves and, therefore, more…

Expedition: Kayaking Nepal ONLINE SLIDESHOW For more photos and an audio interview with Sean Glaccum, CLICK HERE The Bhote Kosi Team: Sean Glaccum, Joe Carberry, Andy Sommer Location: The Khumbu Region of Northeast Nepal Objective: Kayak the Bhote Kosi and Imja Khola Duration:…

Sean Glaccum discusses fast water and first descents in the Himalayas

The year's most intriguing guided adventures

The dream is a brand-new river route through a vast, primordial, wildlife-rich wonderland on the verge of environmental salvation. The reality is what happens when a small band of marginally prepared adventurers attempts the 400-mile first descent of Mozambique's mighty Lugenda—a journey past kayak-eating crocs, out-of-nowhere waterfalls, and a multitude

Have mountain-bike designers finally solved the riddle of the perfect ride?

Long overshadowed by poly-based pile, a more athlete-friendly, itch-free wool is back-and everywhere

Drawn to the backcountry? With the new wave of alpine touring gear, freedom is just beyond the ropes

A look at the shimmering swag of tomorrow

Salomon's Moto Jacket and Tommy Hilfiger's Anchor Bonded Cotton Jacket

The next wave of night-vision and sports-lighting systems equips you to explore more—and sleep less

Ever since Chanel models toted ice axes down the Paris runways last year, fashionistas have been looking to the REI racks for inspiration. And while this latest crop of haute outerwear may not suffice on a Chugach Range overnighter, it'll certainly keep you sleek and toasty for a brisk stroll this fall—while giving your fleece a well-deserved rest.

Kayaking, biking, hiking and gawking along the wild west's farthest shores

Dispatched to the annual Gearapalooza on the banks of the Great Salt Lake, our man returns with a vision of next year's swag.

Thanks to smart design and engineering, today's tents deliver high-altitude performance at a low-elevation price

DOWN TO EARTH MUSIC: IT'S A HIGH, LONESOME WORLD COMPILED FOR the International Year of the Mountains, the ROUGH GUIDE TO THE MUSIC OF THE ALPS, together with companion CDs from the Himalayas and the Appalachians (World Music Network, each), are the first to finally unite Krishna Das…

230 Miles, 28 days, countless castles, and a giant snag—one family's transformative journey by kayak down the Guadalquivir River

The tumultuous, rolling waters off british columbia's haida gwaii lead to eerie totems of the past

Most families plan one big blowout vacation each summer—which still leaves a lot of summer left to enjoy. Our advice: Think weekends. Our seven getaways are active enough to keep older kids entertained, yet won’t be daunting for the younger ones. And they’re close to major cities, so you won’t…

Up a creek? Find the right trip—raft, sea kayak, or canoe—and the right adventure level for your family.

REMEMBER WHEN SUNGLASSES served only to dial back the squint? Today’s featherweight specs perform a veritable OSHA list of functions: they reduce eyestrain; protect against ultraviolet, infrared, and wind; fend off dust, debris, and bugs; and block out glare. Alas, no single pair of shades will save you from all…

To sort through this season's trail-runner bounty, mix equal parts rugged design and motivational psychology

THE LAST AMERICAN MAN BY ELIZABETH GILBERT (Viking, $25) TO MEET EUSTACE CONWAY is to be dazzled. Here’s a man who stalked, killed, and dressed the deer whose skin he wears as pants; who rode a horse clear across America; who dines on roadkill and sleeps…

Love, War, and Circuses The Age-Old Relationship Between Elephants and Humans BY ERIC SCIGLIANO (Houghton Mifflin, $24) THERE ARE LOTS of elephant books out there, ranging from the cute to the clinical, but Eric Scigliano’s is the first to take a careful look at the human-elephant…

Spread brilliant images of your adventures across the wide-open spaces on your walls with the latest generation of photography's technological wonders

The Cadence of Grass by Thomas McGuane (Knopf, $24) A HEARTY WELCOME-HOME: After a decadelong foray into nonfiction, Thomas McGuane returns to Storyville with a tale of familial strife and kidney theft played out against Montana’s sweetgrass valleys. The Cadence of Grass, McGuane’s first…