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I'm going hiking on the West Coast Trail, and my boots have Vibr soles that are very slick on wood when it's wet. Since it constantly rains on the West Coast and I'll be traversing many wooden bridges and ladders, I was wondering if you could suggest a boot with a sole better suited to wet conditions. Dan Ottawa, Ontario

Hey Gear God, Help me find the perfect scrambling boots! I love my old Asolo backpacking boots. They never needed breaking in, and after years of conforming to my feet, they're about as close as you can get to slippers and still be boots. Alas, they don't edge worth a darn. I need a 3/4- or full-shank boot that is made for wide, high-volume feet and is crampon compatible for alpine scrambling. I bought a pair of Solomon Super Mountain 9s online because they were a great price. Dumb move! They perform great and are the right length but they squeeze my feet like sausage casings. Is there a happy medium between my slipper Asolos and those sadistic Solomons? Julie Busse Seattle, Washington

I just bought a pair of glacier glasses on eBay that don't have a brand, but they do have side shields and the lenses seem quite dark. However, I don't know how powerful they are at blocking ultraviolet light. Would these be suitable for a trip to Mexico's Pico de Orizaba? Eric Plymouth, New Hampshire

I a member of Vail Mountain Rescue Group and have been nominated the "gear girl" in charge of finding a good windstopper fleece jacket for our te. We are looking for something comfortable, flexible, and warm, but that's not too bulky and stands up well in the cold (one of our members complained that the Lowe Alpine version gets very stiff in the cold). Any suggestions? Leslie Vail, Colorado

What's the deal with waxed cotton raincoats manufactured by Barbour in England and Filson in Seattle? Although they don't breath well and would not work for high output activities, I have run into users who rave about their water repellency and durability, tempting me to buy one for around town and short hikes carrying minimal loads. Steve Albany, New York

I read a column you wrote last February on weatherproof digital cameras. Is there anything new that would fit the bombproof, sand-proof, waterproof category? We work as river guides so the cameras get some hard use. I also looking for a camera for my 11-year-old daughter, traditional or digital. Any recommendations? Peter Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

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

What's the best and most reliable lighter to take on a camping trip? The top candidates seem to be Colibri and Windmill lighters. Is there much of a difference? John New York City

I'm fairly well equipped for three-season travel with a Lowe pack, Merrell boots, a Sierra Designs down bag rated to -5, a 3/4-length Therm-a-Rest, and two tents: Mountain Hardware's Glacier and the Slickrock from The North Face. But on a recent June trip in the B.C. backcountry, I pitched the Slickrock on a snowfield and the down bag got wet. What do I do to remedy the situation? Buy a synthetic bag, or a down bag with at least a partial waterproof shell? Buy a full length Therm-a-Rest, which keeps the whole bag off the ground? Get a person four-season tent? Where do I throw my hard earned (and continually depleting) gear dollars? Scott Nelson Vancouver, British Columbia

I would like some advice on a permanent or removable roof rack, mainly for carrying several pairs of skis on my Isuzu Trooper. Isuzu sells a rack for around $350, but I'm sure I can find something better for the se money or even less. John Boise, Idaho

I have an opportunity to buy a Tempest 23 tent from The North Face (retail $675) for $400. It is brand new and it looks bombproof. I have asked all over and searched the net for info about this tent and have come up empty. I heading to Mount Shasta in June and would like a good mountaineering tent. On the other hand, I also need to upgrade my old duct-taped, three-season tent. I not sure what to do, buy this single-wall tent and buy a good three-season, or look into a convertible tent. I don't want to miss out on a good deal. Brian Holt Detroit, Michigan

I planning a trip to Belize this spring. I own a MSR Superfly and have already used it many times. Can I bring the stove—minus fuel canisters—on an airplane? I really don't want to purchase another stove. Brett Skraban Chicago, Illinois

What's a good trail-running/adventure-racing shoe for an over-pronating runner like myself? I need to buy a new pair of shoes quickly! Rob Indianapolis, Indiana

In September I'm headed to a lodge in the stey Amazonian rainforest, so I'm looking for a poncho or raincoat that will be light, packable, waterproof, breathable, and cool. But everything I've looked at so far has liners and seems more suited for warmth in mountain winds than for a humid rainforest. What's my best bet to stay both dry and cool? Patrick Jonesboro, Arkansas

I recently saw The Seat from ERGO, LLC advertised. The makers claim that this seat does away with numb-butt syndrome and sexual dysfunction (real important). Can you confirm or deny these assertions? Dennis Hilton, New York

How can Limmer and other high-quality boot manufacturers send your boots to you sight-unseen, without ever seeing your "dogs," let alone sizing them? Jim Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

What's the best handheld altimeter for mountaineering? I have looked at the Suunto, Brunton, and Thommen models, but not sure which has the best features for high-altitude Alaskan climbing? Ron Toronto, Ontario

How do I get the nasty smell out of my old footwear? I like to buy quality boots and shoes that will last a long time, but inevitably, long before they are worn out, they start to stink (my feet tend to sweat a lot). Any suggestions as to removing the offensive odors and bringing these old friends back into service? Bill Charlottesville, Virginia

After straining our eyes for years (and believe me, the years have gotten to me) my wife and I have decided to consider a spotting scope for our field trips. I new to scopes and confused at to the benefits between a straight versus angled lens and as to what optical power is most beneficial for nature viewing. Can you recommend a few bombproof spotting scopes (we take our fair share of spills and falls on the trail) with quality optics to view and appreciate nature with. Mr. Magoo Galveston, Texas

Are soft shells for real, and can they adequately replace a 300-weight fleece as an insulating layer for mountaineering? Would they give me the benefits of a windproof, waterproof, and breathable layer before the hard shell is donned when the weather gets really nasty? Matt San Ron, California

A friend and I are planning an attempt to summit Mount Shasta this summer. Neither of us owns an ice ax or crampons and we plan to rent those items when we get to the area. But recently I've been looking at Kahtoolas, which are kind of "crampons light." They're aluminum with no front points and touted as compatible with everything from hiking boots to running shoes. Looks like they might be adequate for a trek up Mount Shasta. Also, I might get some use out of these in future winter hikes. But they are north of 100 bucks (in the same territory as some entry-level crampons). Do you have any experience/insights on Kahtoolas? Mitch Thompson Shaker Heights, Ohio

We know your favorite sub-$500 camera is the Yashica T4 Super. But, what are your favorite point-and-shoot cameras for $500 and above? Roy Boston, Massachusetts

What's a good internal-fre backpack for someone just getting into backpacking (two- to four-night trips)? I don't want to spend more than I need to, not knowing how much I'll end up liking backpacking. (I've strictly been a day hiker in the past.) However, I don't want to buy junk that won't work properly and will ruin my trip. Kris Newbury, Ohio

I'm in need of a bigger climbing backpack, but I'm facing two problems. First, I also need a bigger backpack for weeklong trips; my climbing partner says just get one huge bag, just don't fill it up. So, one bag or two? Second, how big? I a five-foot-six, 130-pound female, and I think I require at least 3,000 cubic inches for my climbing needs. Kendra Boise, Idaho

I'm in the market for a new sleeping bag and would like to give a down bag a try, mostly because of space and weight issues. I'd be using it primarily as my summer bag, so a 30-degree rating should be enough. Do you have any advice for a good down bag? Andy La Crosse, Wisconsin

I have a narrow foot (11B), and find most hiking boots are D-width or wider. Any suggestions for boots that come in narrow widths? John W. Stafurik Los Alos, New Mexico

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

Thanks to a little bicycling accident last fall—which resulted in four brain surgeries—I've decided to take up hiking. I'm considering a staff or trekking poles to help with my balance. I believe trekking poles would be overkill for me, and that a single staff would be fine, particularly since I'll be sticking pretty closely to trails. Do you agree, and if so, which staffs would you recommend? Roley Davidson, North Carolina

We have a cabin tent that leaks, mostly from the bottom corners and stake-out loops. I have sprayed the tent and sealed the ses, but it still leaks. Is there anything else I can do besides trash this store-brand tent? As for new tents, the Eureka Getaway 9 or Coleman Sasquatch both fit size-wise; I don't want to spend over $250, though. Lastly, why do air mattresses always deflate while you're sleeping? Do they have a low life expectancy? Sarah Granite City, Illinois

I have one of the new MSR MiniWorks EX water filters, my first, and it works great. One of my buddies tells me to filter water from a still pool, but another says to filter from fast-moving water: Do you think it matters much? Personally, I just try and go for the clearest water I can find. Mike Eldorado, Illinois

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

In the piece on Sno-Seal you said, "I'm confident it's the only product to appear in both the 1943 and the 2003 REI catalogs." I wonder if that's true. I think it would be really cool to see a listing of the items that were in the first REI catalog that are still in the current one, and the price differences. Don Denver, Colorado

After a few cold nights at high elevation I interested in investing in a 0-degree bag. My research has directed me towards a down bag, possibly with a Pertex or DryLoft shell. I have been considering the Feathered Friends Tern, but know little about the company. I've also looked into the Mountain Hardware Universe SL, but don't know the effectiveness of the shell. I would greatly appreciate your input. Carissa Colorado Springs, Colorado

One quick question—how do I pick the right length for an ice axe? Thanks, you're the man! Paul Anacortes, Washington

What's a good bike light to buy for my boyfriend so that he can mountain bike at night? Something inexpensive but good quality, which will probably get used once or twice a week in good weather. Julie Boulder, Colorado

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

Hello Mr. Gear, I'm going to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge late August/early September this year. Since the place is beyond the Arctic Circle and the timing is going to be late, I wonder if my insulating jacket—a Wild Things primaloft sweater—is going to be warm enough. Also, what's the difference between a three- and a four-season tent? We're trying to decide on a tent to take along, but I wonder if I should take a four-season tent. Last year we took a Sierra Designs Meteor Light to Alaska, but it really didn't perform under the gusty conditions. And this year, we're expecting very very windy conditions as well. Is there any three-season tents that can live up to gale force winds, or I'm just stuck w/ the dead weight of a four-season tent? Blanche Ingr Brisbane, Australia

I new to whitewater kayaking and was wondering about a practical, fairly inexpensive way to get into the sport. Jimmy Cullowhee, North Carolina

I'm a 40-year-old dad planning to be a mule for my young family of five (wife, two daughters, ten and 12 years old, and seven-year-old son). I'm looking for a large capacity (6,000-plus-cubic-inch) backpack. I'm currently looking at the Osprey Crescent 110, Dana Designs Terraplane, and Arc'Teryx Bora 95. I realize pack comfort will differ based on individual size and body shape. Of these three I mention, and possibly others I haven't, which carries the heaviest loads and provides the most comfort. Frank Hahn Chula Vista, California

This summer, I will be traveling in Peru and concerned about thieves cutting into my pack. What do you recommend to protect my belongings? Pat Harlingen, Texas

What's your take on Backpacker's Pantry Outback Oven? Does the Outback Oven really bake well and also conserves fuel for cooking traditional grub? After a zillion meals of mac and cheese, ren, gorp, and dried fruits, the Ziplocs carrying the food start looking more appetizing then the food within. The idea of dining on hot cinnon rolls, fresh pita bread, pot pies, or (gasp!) brownies does make me wonder if the Outback Oven really works or if it's just another ravenous hikers delusions? Ed Beaudry Laurel, Maryland

My family and I enjoy car camping in Alaska's interior. However, as I get older, I'm finding that my back gets stiffer using my old sleeping pad and that my air mattress doesn't give enough insulation. What type of pad or combination of pad and air mattress do you recommend to minimize back pains, provide insulation, and allow for a comfortable night's sleep? Shane Juneau, Alaska

What are the best winter socks for snow skiing? When I ski, I rent boots and skis, but I find my feet always get cold. What socks should I get to make sure my feet stay warm? Should I use sock liners in addition to high quality wool socks? Brad Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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

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 wondering what binoculars you'd recommend for ge viewing in Africa. This will be for use on open plains and in thick bush, both when I'm on the go and standing still. I'm considering either the Leica Duovid 8+12x42's or Swarovski EL 8.5x42's. Bertus Calgary, Alberta

Recently a couple friends and I attempted a 14-mile backpacking trip alongside a Class II-III river, with 90 percent of our time spent boulder-hopping, the remaining 10 percent waterborne. Unfortunately, we only managed to go three miles before the small recreational rafts we had to transport our packs got ripped up by the rocks and all the bushwhacking. In light of this, do you know of any companies who sell floating backpacks? Or is there some kind of easy-to-pack inflatable for transporting gear through water. We'd like to complete the se trek next year, but need a better way to float our backpacks. Travis Roseville, California

I have a bit of a problem. I must have put my pack away a little wet after a spring backcountry ski trip and now all the waterproof coating is coming off the inside of the pack. I have a siliconized nylon pack cover that I will probably use for an upcoming Sierra trip and sprayed the outside of the pack with Nikwax. I also always use a garbage bag inside of the pack to protect my gear. Do you think the pack is done and I need to bite the bullet and buy another? Or do you have any suggestions of ways to fix it? Tim Newport Beach, California

Greetings, greetings, greetings. I have a five-year-old down-filled North Face sleeping bag. I think it's called the blue moon. I've used it over 100 nights so far and I haven't washed it yet (I know). Anyway, I wanted to know two things. First, what is the best way to wash it? The inside is starting to get, um, for lack of a better word, crusty. I want to wash it myself as I don't trust dry-cleaners. My second question involves the fill. This bag is rated to 20 degrees, so there isn't too much fill to begin with, but now there are some "empty spots" on the bottom. Is there a way to move the fill around? Jeff Dobozy Lake Tahoe, California

I've been reading your archived responses regarding water-resistant sleeping bag shells with great interest as I'm trying to decide between down bags from several of the companies. After your initial (and maybe continued) ambivalence about Dryloft, I was surprised by your negative view of Epic. Especially since many manufacturers seem to have jumped on the Epic bandwagon as having better breathability. On what basis do you believe that Epic is "a condensation trap" in sleeping bags, and why do you think so many are suddenly using it if indeed it doesn't breathe well? Is it just a fad, too early to tell, or should I stick with Dryloft? I look forward to your reply, if you care to go another round on this topic. No Name Given

What gear do I need to climb K2? Just kidding! With winter fast approaching, I'm thinking about backcountry skiing again. I take avalanche safety VERY seriously and therefore take every necessary precaution. That said, accidents do happen, so I'm looking to buy an avalanche beacon just in case. I'm interested in the Tracker DTS, but how does digital technology fare in cold environments? I've also heard that earlier Tracker DTS beacons had problems with the unit switching to "receive" mode if the wearer's body pushed up against the toggle switch. Is the Ortovox F1 Focus a better, more reliable choice? Michael Vancouver, British Columbia

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

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

I'm a student who's planning a summer road trip to visit some neighboring states and maybe even Canada. I hope to leave the truck for a few days at a time and do a little backpacking, so I'm looking for a pack. Remember, I'm a starving college student, so nothing too expensive please! Mike San Luis Obispo, California

I have a Gregory Palisade pack and love it. A number of recent comments and reviews of the Dana Designs Terraplane pack have suggested it is the best pack on the market. However, I find the price of over $400 extreme. Is there something inherent in this pack that would suggest such a premium over the $200 to $300 internal fre packs in its category? David R. Eitemiller Colorado Springs, Colorado

My wife and I will travel overland from Vietn to Turkey in 2003. We cannot decide what sleeping bags to take, as it will be very hot and wet in Vietn during the monsoon season, but cooler and dry when we are in Central Asia. Space, weight, and price are all issues. What do you think? Is there a light, extremely compact bag that will work when hiking in the jungle and also keep us warm in colder, alpine conditions? For the record, the tent we plan to use is a 1.3-pound mosquito net, with a fly and pegs if things get a bit windier. Andrew Darwin, Australia

What's your take on the soft-shell craze if the activities are both ascent and descent in nature? In other words, I very interested in the breathability for aerobic activities, but concerned about warmth for activities like downhill skiing. Question is, can I have my cake and eat it too? Second, if I can have it both ways, what is your first choice and why? Brad Peacock Medina, Ohio

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've collected the very best ensemble of outdoor gear, but I still require one last item: sunglasses! Price is no object, but quality is. I need the best all-purpose outdoor fres that are compatible with prescription lenses. Cebe comes to mind, but do you have any other suggestions? Paul Boulder, Colorado

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