Gear

Archive

What's the best audio device that I can clip onto a pair of shorts when running and doing other multisport activities? Ceron Christchurch, New Zealand

I'm a letter carrier looking for a quality rain jacket to keep me dry in spring showers or pouring storms, all through the New England seasons. Could you please point me in the right direction? Michael Springfield, Massachusetts

I'm beginning to think that today's trend toward Assos-esque padded cycling shorts—padding formerly being the saddle's job—has left me with more saddle sores. This bulky new style only serves to form a bulk of soggy material once the sweat soaks through, causing blisters and general discomfort. Does anyone make shorts or bibs with either minimal padding or something akin to the original chois style? Between the incontinence of infancy and agedness, I prefer not to wear a diaper while riding. Can you help? Clay Wimberley, Texas

I'm going trekking around Mont Blanc and have been told not to drink any glacial meltwater because it contains tiny sharp particles of rock, called talc, which can shred one's insides. I have an Aquira water bottle with a two-micron filter, which is supposed to remove microscopic pathogens. Will it stop talc? Hal Berkeley, California

Sage of swag, I'm in the market for a road bike, and looking for direction. Initially, I'll be using it for fitness riding, but I anticipate riding in local road races in the future. I'm a family man with a limited budget for recreational toys. That said, I want something that's going to stand up—a bike that I won't have to replace or extensively or upgrade as I get into the sport in a bigger way. Is a bike equipped with Shimano 105 group the "minimum" I should be looking at? Which models should I be considering, and at what price point? Greg Basky Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Great burning bush of the gear desert, Marmot Precip hat or urban sombrero? I want to buy a good waterproof hat; hoods are cool and all, but they're sometimes a pain in the fanny pack. I have read that you often prefer hats to hoods. So, would you choose the Marmot Precip Safari Hat, the Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero, or something different altogether? Please help me before I do something dumb—like ask someone else. Jay Eugene, Oregon

As a thrifty person with only occasional needs for real cold weather gear, I'm tempted by the down jacket that Land's End sells for $70. Pretty simple design, 650 fill, seems like something that's pretty tough to screw up. Any experience with how this jacket stands up to some of the pricier down parkas from the more traditional gear makers? I'd be using it for an around the cp and belay over-jacket in the Sierras. Raymond Tarto Oakland, California

I bought my first pair of snowshoes, and now I need to buy some snowshoe boots. What do you think of Columbia's Excellerator or Bugabootoo boots? Dan St. Louis, Missouri

I know you get lots of questions about the best outdoor cameras, but can you recommend a camera that operates well at high altitudes (above 20,000 feet) and in extremely cold weather (around minus 50). I have heard that autofocus doesn't work above a certain elevation. I'm looking for a compact or SLR that is lightweight, resilient, with easily accessible batteries (for efficiency when changing them in the cold), and which will capture the highest-quality images at the top of the outdoor world. Sarah East Lansing, Michigan

Oh Being of All Gear Wisdom, Following your sage advice, I've been looking for a Yashica T4 point-and-shoot to replace my partner's camera, which bit the Grand Canyon's dust on our last trip there. It appears that Yashica no longer makes the T4. Nor do they seem to have a successor model. What's your current recommendation for either a fixed or zoom lens 35mm P&S? Being a photographic troglodyte, no digital cameras allowed. Rob Brading Fairview, Oregon

I have never spent a night on the trail, sticking to day trips instead. However, it's something that I think I would like to get into. My hiking partner has the tent, stove, and first aid kit. I don't want to go out and buy all the other equipment (sleeping bag, pad, boots, etc.) until I certain that backcountry camping is for me. What would you suggest for my first trip? . Melissa Greenwood, Delaware

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

Hailing from sunny California, this is my first year in college in Boston. Here's my situation: New England weather is windy, chilly, and often wet. I need a jacket that will get me through the winter but also look good around town. However, once I buy this jacket, I'll still need money to eat. What can you recommend that won't break the bank, i.e. as close to $100 as possible? Kyle Boston, Massachusetts

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

Oh, Gauis Gear Guy (bet you haven't heard THAT one before), I have a multitudinous problem. I wrote to you years ago about detached toenails, and you delivered the goods shiningly. My problem is still with my feet. The last two trips I've taken in my Zberlans boots have left me hobbled, with huge Susan B. Anthony pus-bubbles on either heel. I went to a clinic and was informed that my feet were "problematic" and that I was wearing the wrong boot. My right foot while standing is about a quarter inch longer than the left. My feet are wide and low profile, with anemic arches and narrow heels. Oh yeah, I also have weak ankles. Now I have June trips planned in the Grand Canyon and the Sierra. I've bought the Superfeet shrink-to-your-dogs prosthetic insoles, but I need a new boot. What do you recommend, outside of foot-transplant surgery? Thanks, Thomas Perkins Alexandria, Virginia

Does anyone make a waterproof tight for inclement weather running/cycling? InSport used to make one, but I guess it went the way of Activent. A European company supposedly makes something called the RaidLight tight, but I can't seem to find anyone who carries it. Erin Skowran Belleville, Illinois

What have you heard about the new Eureka Zeus Exo1 single wall Tent? I a big Sierra Design Meteor Light CD fan but need a very lightweight tent for a solo through-hike this summer. Thanks for your help! Lora Cochran Cody, Wyoming

I'm planning a trip to the Bahas this summer and in the market for a reliable diving watch. Can you recommend something that won't implode after the first ten meters and won't shatter my bank balance? Alison Austin, Texas

I'll be going to England, Ireland, and Scotland soon and will spend most nights in my tent or in hostels. My question for you is: what kind of pants should I bring? I want them to look good (since I'll be touring museums and all that), but still be lightweight and durable, since I'll be using these on backpacking trips in the future. I think I've narrowed it down to two choices: Ex Officio Explorer Pants and Royal Robbins's Go Everywhere Pants, but I can be persuaded to change my mind. My girlfriend (who goes with me on many of my trips) thinks zip-off pants look completely dorky, so I'm not interested in those. Thanks for any information! Steve Bockhold Memphis, Tennessee

What are the best boots for snowshoeing? I've tried winter boots and cross-country ski boots, but none of these fit well enough in my snowshoes. Jean San Francisco, California

Would you recommend a waterproof poncho for backpacking? My friends and I are thinking of doing the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island this summer. I have heard that even the best Gore-Tex fails under the onslaught of seven days of heavy rain. Previous trail users have suggested carrying a waterproof poncho to cover you and your pack. What are your thoughts on this idea? Chris Barnes Silverdale, Washington

I looking for a winter jacket that some may call extreme. I bought a down jacket a few years back that was supposed to be good for -40 degrees Fahrenheit but whenever it is around below zero and a little windy I feel like I have a light fall jacket on. My dre coat would be a down jacket rated to -70 (then I might be warm when it is -10). To top it off I would also like it if it had a fleece liner for extra warmth that I could take in or out depending on the weather. Is there a place that either makes such a jacket or could custom make one? So, I too extreme? Glenn Mulno Needh, Massachussets

I was out hiking in the west Texas desert a few months ago during a delicious spate of rainy summer weather. I was wearing a light pair of boots and found myself slipping and sliding all over the wet rocks. Crawling on my hands and knees over boulders is not my idea of fun, and it really ruined my week. I'm now in the market for a pair of light "day hikers," with soles that'll give me some traction on wet rock. Any suggestions? Paul San Antonio, Texas

I recently started taking my dog with me while backpacking, and he loves it. But, should I worry about him drinking from lakes or stres? Should I filter his water for him? Kevin Mississauga, Ontario

Do you know of any fully waterproof/breathable gloves made of two- or three-ply Gore-Tex? I'm looking for a glove that I can use for mountain biking when it is 40 to 50 degrees outside and raining hard. I'm not looking for a full-blown expedition climbing-type glove because I won't be out when it's 0 degrees. I've seen the Seal Skinz waterproof gloves but the outside material will retain water pretty much like a sponge. Steven Fleisig Upper Montclair, New Jersey

There is a well known canoe camping writer that advocates using a plastic ground cloth on the INSIDE of your tent. He says that not only will you be drier in a downpour, but that it will protect the tent floor just as well as if it is placed underneath the tent. What are your thoughts on this subject? Dave Cbridge, Minnesota

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

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

Do I need to replace my 1994 Oakley sunglasses? I wondering if the 100 percent UV protection in the lenses breaks down over the years with repeated exposure to the sun. If so, are glass and plastic lenses equally vulnerable? Joel Las Cruces, New Mexico

Where can I find a waterproof video camera, for filming surfing and other stuff? Luke Ft. Myers, Florida

Is it 100 percent necessary to dry a tent in the sun after a few days of camping with heavy mildew? Miles Rowland Adelaide, South Australia

I moving to Switzerland for two years, and I want to buy a stove. I've heard that white gas cannot be found in Europe. Then again, if I buy a canister stove, how can I be sure I can buy the right type of canisters? I have considered getting the MSR Superfly because it's compatible with almost every type of canister. What's your take on my situation? Jay Springfield, Massachusetts

Are Galibier boots still made? If so, where can you get them? No Name Given

It is better to have a full-suspension mountain bike or will a hard-tail with a suspension seat post be sufficient enough for a smoother ride? Paul G. Fort Wayne, Indiana

I recently purchased an Annapurna tent from Mountain Hardwear, because I'd like to start getting outdoors on more than day trips. However, the guy at the shop was reluctant to sell it to me, saying it was "junk" because it's a single-wall tent. What's the difference, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of this style tent? Lucas Denver, Colorado

I'm so frustrated by how much boot sizes vary, even within the se model! I'm a woman, narrowing my options to begin with, and I'm a woman with a narrow foot. I've tried several different La Sportiva and Salomon models, but still can't find the perfect fit. I don't have the option of trying boots on in stores as nobody around here has anything in women's sizes, so I've been mail ordering. Can you help me? BJ Guilderland, New York

Because I sweat at a moderate activity level in cold temperatures, my insulation gets dp and looses it effectiveness. Layering and reducing exertion does not eliminate the problem. I a human fire hydrant. I have heard that vapor barriers could really help. Any suggestions on what to look for and brands? Ed Eugene, Oregon

I have a Gore-Tex Mocha jacket, which is about seven years old and seems to repeatedly lose its water repellency. I have treated it with Gore Revive-X several times, but there are only a few areas on the coat where water beads up, and even then not for long. As a result, I often feel clmy if it's raining hard, although I don't think I'm actually getting wet from the outside. Does Gore-Tex have a lifespan, after which it's not that great even if you keep treating it? Basically, is it time for the old Mocha to be replaced? Karen Wellington, New Zealand

So, what exactly is Scotchgard, and can I spray it on fleece? Terry New Kingston, New York

I'm looking for a fleece that is both windproof and breathable, for use when cycling, hiking, and maybe skiing. What fleece would you recommend for someone who has just had all his stuff stolen on a bike trip through Poland (meaning: my budget is limited)? Matti Kiel, Germany

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 for an ultra-lightweight three- to four-season ski touring tent for spring in the Sierra, though it'd be nice if it could handle some winter weather also. I HATE carrying a lot of weight ski touring. Any ideas? David Hunn Long Beach, California

I looking for a cold weather running jacket that is extremely breathable and wind-resistant (waterproofness is not a necessity). I've been using Lowe Alpine's Adrenaline jacket, which is great for hiking but stes up quickly when I running hard. I usually buy The North Face and Patagonia products but I not sure that they make the best stuff for running. What do you think? Nick Kogevinas Washington, D.C.

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

I want to upgrade from a cheap pair of compact binoculars. Assuming I had a pile of money burning its way out of my pocket, would I see much difference between a pair of Nikon Travelites and Leica Trinovids? Also, are there any other models I should look at (through)? Joe Lawrenceville, Georgia

In southern California the sun is out and the hills are green. Yes, it's almost spring, the time when a young man's fancy turns to...cycling. My helmet is several years old, and I think it's time to retire it. Thumbing through a number of catalogs, I can't believe the wide range of prices. Just what the heck does $200 buy me that $40 doesn't? Larry Long Beach, California

I'm looking for a women's pair of insulated, waterproof or Gore-Tex, crampon-compatible hiking boots. I'm not climbing Mount Everest—what I'm looking for is a boot to get me through the winter when I don't need snowshoes, but it's freezing out and I may need crampons. (Specifically, in the High Peaks area of New York.) I'll be using them for long hikes on paths and over rocks. I don't seem to be able to find the perfect combo as most options seem to be heavy-duty mountaineering types. BJ Guilderland, New York

I live in the city and looking for a bike that I can ride to my local bike trail via city streets (approximately three miles). The trail is dirt and gravel, but I'll also need front suspension because of reckless drivers who sometimes force you onto a sidewalk. I have been to several bike stores and really confused by all the options: Raleigh C500, Cannondale, Giant Cypress LX, Trek? One store advised me to wait until mid-August for the 2004 models to arrive in stores. My budget is $500 to $600. Chris Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I wear prescription lenses in my sunglasses and want to get a similar custom-made pair of glasses for paddling at night. I've heard that a yellow tint on the lenses helps to bring out objects. Is this true? Is there anything else I should consider when ordering this pair of glasses? Dennis Milton, Florida

How do you know when it's time to replace your running shoes? I have been road running on a pair of New Balance 804s for about a year. I weigh 200 pounds and run about two to three miles five days a week. Any suggestions for new shoes? Craig Portland, Oregon

A friend suggested that I extend the life of my leather hiking boots by proactively applying se-grip to the stitching and the area where the upper meets the sole of the boot. Is this legitimate advice or have the petroleum distillates simply gone to his head? Chuck Freeport, Maine

Can you help me choose a boot for a trip to Argentina's Mount Aconcagua? I have summited several fourteeners in my La Sportiva Makalus without a hiccup, but I'm afraid Aconcagua is too much mountain for these boots. We plan on tackling the Polish Glacier route, and I was leaning towards a plastic double boot like Koflach or Scarpa. But, as usual, your input could sway me! Eric Palmetto, Georgia

OK, so jogging on the trail with a baby isn't safe. But, I would like to go backpacking after our baby is born. Are there any all-terrain strollers suitable for trails? I know there are baby carriers to wear, but dad still has to carry the rest of the gear, doesn't he? M. Dittman Cleveland, Tennessee

Now that hikers are supposed to filter/purify all the water they consume, I'm curious if ANY contact with untreated wilderness water is safe? Is it OK to splash water from a clear stre on my face and arms to cool off? Is it OK to jump in a clear lake for a swim? Would doing these things expose me to infection through ears, eyes, nose, ETC.? What about canoeists and kayakers who are in and around untreated water all the time? Mark Her Fullerton, California

Airlines have regulations prohibiting travel with fuel bottles and stoves, even if they're empty and purged. How can you fly to backpacking destinations with white gas stoves and fuel bottles? Do the rules make such equipment obsolete for travel where flights are involved? Fun Walled Lake, Michigan

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

Can you recommend a good cross-country skiing package that's suitable for both groomed trails and backcountry use? John Duluth, Minnesota

I'm going on a climbing expedition where we'll be ascending into increasingly colder temps. I'm planning to take two sleeping bags, transitioning to the warmer one as we ascend, then using both at high altitude. Are there any drawbacks or cautions to doing this? How can I estimate the temperature rating of the two bags combined? Vincent Salem, Oregon

Dear Knowledgable one, I have a Twister 270 HPX backpacking stove that uses a butane canister for fuel. I've used it several times and quite pleased with its cooking ability. However, when I place it on uneven ground, I have to go through a balancing act to keep from dumping out my dinner. Is there is a tripod attachment or some other system that would help keep my canister level during cooking? Richard Kipphut Cheshire, Connecticut

Much of my clothing made with high-performance fabrics, such as Coolmax, states that you should not use fabric softeners or dryer sheets. Why is that? If they are accidentally dried with a dryer sheet will they return to normal after the next wash or are the performance aspects ruined? Joe Helm Canal Winchester, Ohio

My son is travelling to Costa Rica. He wants to take a small camping stove with him. Do you know what kind of fuel is available in Costa Rica and can you recommend a particular stove? Debbie Walker Vancouver, British Columbia

I looking to buy my first mountain bike and the more I look, the more frustrated I get. I've read some reviews in biking magazines, as well as Outside's March 2003 review of full-suspension bikes. Anyway, I'm looking for a full-suspension model with smart or rear-suspension lockout and good components (disc brakes would be a plus). Here's the kicker though: I looking to spend around $1,000, give or take a few hundred. I don't think that's unreasonable, so do you have any suggestions? Alex Hayward, California

Help. After a winter of commuting by bike, my helmet stinks. I wear a helmet cover in the cold so sweat tends to accumulate and my head sweats a lot. I have tried washing it with antibacterial soap, but that only helps a little. I afraid of spraying Febreeze or other chemicals on the helmet's interior because I don't know if they would effect the safety of the helmet. And now my wife says that my head is beginning to smell as bad as my helmet. Before I either have to get a new helmet or sleep in the garage, is there anything I can do to get the smell out? Kevin Dalton Calgary, Alberta

I'm a woman with very small wrists and have had great difficulty locating an altimeter watch that I can actually wear. Are there any smaller altimeter watches out there designed for women? Tally Rockford, Illinois

What sort of cookware will I need on two- to four-night backpacking trips in the Appalachian backcountry? Kenny Birmingh, Alabama

Is Gortex XCR a form of Activent that has been taped and se-sealed? Activent is a great product, totally windproof and highly water resistant, but wouldn't this have been waterproof too if it had been se-sealed? Herb Morganville, New Jersey

Dear Gear Guru, Here is a question that no one ever talks about: the dreaded first aid kit. Of course, you'd never get injured, but in case you did, what do you recommend packing in the way of first aid for weeklong wilderness trips? I have looked around and can't find a pre-packed kit that seems very comprehensive. Andrew L. Salt Lake City, Utah

I was out hiking in the west Texas desert a few months ago during a delicious spate of rainy summer weather. I was wearing a light pair of boots and found myself slipping and sliding all over the wet rocks. Crawling on my hands and knees over boulders is not my idea of fun, and it really ruined my week. I'm now in the market for a pair of light "day hikers," with soles that'll give me some traction on wet rock. Any suggestions? Paul San Antonio, Texas

I'm looking for a pair of waterproof, breathable pants that will keep me dry and also withstand the rigors of off-trail bushwhacking (K-9 search-and-rescue work). The cheaper the better, ideally less than $200. Durability is key and full-side zips would be nice. I'll be using gaiters, so built-in gaiters on the pants aren't necessary. Thanks for your insight, Gear Guru. Eric Portland, Oregon

Please help! I recently bought a new lead climbing rope (Bluewater Accelerator 60m 10.5 mm) and I did what I have always done: mark the middle with a Sharpie marker. Then the other day someone told me this significantly weakens the rope at the marking, enough in fact to cause the rope to break in a relatively mild fall. I wasn't sure about this, because I thought it only marked the sheath and didn't affect the core of the rope. Should I throw the rope out? I would rather not due to the expense, but I will if it's gonna cost me my life! Mike Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

I want to buy new liner socks to use for backpacking. Since my last purchase of these, many more choices of fabric type and combinations have become available. What have you found to be the best buy? Dennis Bender Hilton, New York