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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

I've read that good husbands buy gifts for their wives after the birth of a child. So, being a good husband, I'm thinking of getting a cyclocross bike—for me. Hear me out. Because of the recent arrival of our beautiful little miracle, I'm not going to mountain bike (that's one bike) or commute (that's another) as much as I used to, and probably won't be doing a whole lot of road riding (a third bike I was hoping to get), either. Plus, the missus would like me to pare down my belongings to make room for strollers and such. So, can I get by with one cross bike (sub $1,000)? I'm sure my wife will thank you. Michael Minneapolis, Minnesota

What do you think of the new mohair socks on the market? Are they as warm as wool socks? Are they itchy?" Alexander Do Toronto, Ontario

I'm completely new to backpacking and worried about buying gear from just anywhere. Here in Canada, MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) supposedly carries nothing short of the best quality equipment and the thought of going to just one place for all your needs sound really nice. Would you, with all your experience, trust MEC for all your needs as much as everyone here seems to? Or do I have to shop around for everything separately, looking for reviews and such, and then spend tons of money in U.S. stores due to the crappy exchange rate? Your answer is greatly appreciated. Tatiana Calgary, Alberta

My wife and I will be hiking in the Canadian Rockies this summer. We'd each like to carry a pair of compact binoculars for birding and the occasional vast vista that we might come upon. Without breaking the bank (we don't need waterproofed and rubber-armored), what would you recommend? As far as magnification goes, should we consider buying zoom binoculars or stick with a basic model? Also, how important is it to have the widest field of view possible? Byron Phoenix, Arizona

I enjoy weekend hiking and overseas travel. At the se time, I want to look good when I dress casually. Because of this, I spent $400 on a Patagonia XCR Gore-Tex jacket when Patagonia opened its first branch in Hong Kong last year. It's a very expensive outfit, but I do like it. However, after reading all your gear recommendations, it seems I could have bought something similar or even better. So, I'm now thinking of buying a fleece jacket for cold weather. Do you have any cheaper recommendations? June Hong Kong

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 have been searching for a backpack for extended trips, and it seems like all the local shops vacillate between Osprey and Dana Design packs. If you were going to buy a pack today, would you buy an Osprey Crescent or Dana Design Glacier? If so, why? Matt Albuquerque, New Mexico

All-knowing Gear Guru, I intrigued by Dana Gleason's concept of separating a backpack's suspension and pack into two separate components. Is this idea worthwhile? Also, Kelty is "the first licensee" of Gleason's Mystery Ranch System, and Kelty's line is significantly cheaper. Is there any difference? Dion San Francisco, California

On a recent spring trip to snowy Mount Whitney, I took a gble and wore my comfy Sundowners along with a pair of Wild Country gaiters, instead of plastic boots. But, the front part of the gaiters kept slipping up and my boots quickly got soaked with all the postholing. Do you think a regular boot and gaiter combo can replace plastics (too heavy and uncomfortable) for snow travel? I'm talking multi-day trips in the California Sierras here. Jake Irvine, California

There is a UK firm called Snugpak that makes equipment for both civilian and military use. Some of their sleeping bags are made with a Pertex shell and a special type of fill that is supposed to be both a good insulator and compress very well. They claim some of their sleeping bags (rated to minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit) will compress into a very small package and weigh only a few pounds. Is Pertex a good product and does Snugpak's down-fill live up to its promise? Are their products worth the money? Mark Tucson, Arizona

Is there a liquid-fuel stove that gives out good heat, but that is also quiet and compact? The MSR Dragonfly is fine heat wise, but it's incredibly loud. The Optimus 111C is hot and quiet, but it's too bulky. Bruce Oakville, Ontario

What's the difference between a bivy bag and a tent? Which would be a better investment (I'm thinking of room for two people here)? Noel Muscutt Louisville, Kentucky

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

Your Gearness, I planning to drive cross-country this summer, hiking and camping wherever the road takes me. For the driving portion, I was thinking of investing in a GPS system to help with the "figuring-out-where-the-heck-I-am" moments. Do you have any advice as to the value of GPS for this? (I will not need it for hiking, using the old-fashioned technique of map, compass, and trail blazes) Realistically, I'd like to stay under $300, but will go higher for an exceptional device—one that does the navigating, driving, AND laundry. Charles New York City, New York

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

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 trying to decide between a compact CelBak hydration system, with very little room to carry anything else, or a larger daypack-hydration system like Gregory's Scr. What are the pros and cons of these products? Justin Boise, Idaho

To me, one of the great mysteries of life has to do with load ratings on boots. For exple, some day hiking boots are rated to carry up to 30 pounds after which, the boots will fail. Now, what the heck is the difference between a 180-pound person carrying no load versus a 150-pound person with a 30-pond load wearing the se pair of boots? Your enlightenment will be eternally appreciated. Jake Kim Irvine, California

I need something to go over snow terrain in the most efficient way possible for a winter approach/ascent of Split Mountain in the Sierras. Instead of clunky snowshoes, what do you think about the Yupi Skishoes? Or the Salomon Meta Skis? Between the two for rough, snowy terrain, which would you recommend? By the way, I'm a VERY novice skier, so something easy to learn is important. Jake Kim Irvine, California

Why don't sleeping bag manufacturers make the outer shells on their bags from the se materials used in waterproof-breathable jackets? Thanks for your time and answer. Steve Youngsville, Louisiana

I'm planning a summit attempt on Mount Rainier this August and a possible bid for Denali in May 2004, so in the process of upgrading my gear, particularly boots and sleeping bag. My budget may not allow for separate gear for each climb. I've been looking at Millet's Everest Boot and the North Face Inferno bag as my options, but prices are steep! Do you have any other suggestions, and is this gear suitable, or even overkill, for both climbs? Michael Stoneh, Massachusetts

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

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 looking for a new lightweight backpack. I never carry over 30 pounds and had decided on the Gregory Reality until I found a new Mountainsmith backpack called the Mountain Guide at a local store. The salesperson told me it was brand new and can't find any information about it. She weighed it for me as the specs didn't include a weight and it ce out about two pounds lighter then the Reality. Does two pounds makes a huge difference in a pack? Kjaristy Salt Lake City, Utah

If I want to go mountaineering up here in the Northwest, is it enough to slap some crampons onto a pair of Scarpa Rios? I know Rios are great for just about everything else and that they stopped making the Edwardo climbing boot (why, I don't know). Or, should I try some other boot? Jim Trueworthy Coeur d'Alene, North Idaho

My family of five—myself, wife, and three decent-sized kids—plus the dog would like to go snow camping, and I think I've got everything covered except the tent. As for cost, we'd prefer to be comfortable and broke over rich, frozen, and miserable. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find a suitable five-person tent—MSR's StormKing comes close, but only allows 12 square feet per person. I have concerns about splitting the family into two tents in potentially nasty weather. Do you have any advice? Nathaniel Nevada City, California

Great Gear Guru: My hips hurt when sleeping on the ground, whether I've just humped a 60-pound pack or walked into my backyard. I currently use a Therm-a-Rest GuideLite sleeping pad. Do I need a new state-of-the-art pad, or should I just chalk it up to old age? Brad Sioux Falls, South Dakota

I own a Feathered Friends Swallow down sleeping bag with the regular nylon shell. I was wandering through the gear store the other day when I saw a product by Nikwax that was used to waterproof down garments, including sleeping bags. I would love to give my bag a waterproof treatment to keep the down perfectly dry, but I'm reluctant to do anything to my beloved bag in fear of daging it. What's your opinion of these products? Thanks Mike McLaughlin Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

We're searching for a pair of sunglasses with a protective nose shield for a friend who has reoccurring skin cancer. Can you help us out? Tmy Tarentum, Pennsylvania

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

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

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 looking for a two-way radio. I don't know much about them and need some advice on a dependable and weatherproof model for outdoor activities such as camping and boating. So it would need to be. I hear you need a license for anything that has range of over five miles and would like to avoid that. KJ San Diego, California

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

Where can I buy climbing/hiking knickers? I used to wear them in the '70s, but styles have unfortunately changed. Now I don't know of a single outfitter that carries them. Anything from European sources, perhaps? David West Monroe, New York

I've heard that under non-extreme conditions my hiking pole can be used as a self-arrest tool when crossing steeply inclined snowfields. As much as I would love to buy an ice axe and add it to the chaos of my gear closet, I don't want to purchase an item when an existing tool would work just as well. Should I indulge my gear habit or stick with what I've got? PG Hancock Littleton, Colorado

I have Scarpa T1 boots and have noticed that my ski edges are going to massacre my boots if I don't protect them. A solution I have heard of is to wear "supergaiters" with either Kevlar or other sturdy material on the instep to protect the inside of the boots. Unfortunately Black Diond (she on them) no longer makes a supergaiter and the Outdoor Research X-Gaiter is overkill in that it is expensive and so insulated that it will cook my feet. Any advise? Bill Hirshberg New York, New York

All-Knowing Gear Guy, I'm looking at buying a Marmot Pinnacle down sleeping bag and can't decide whether I should get it with the regular shell or with Dryloft. I enjoy sleeping outside (on a pad) when I can, and concerned about dpness if I were to do this over many days. Yet if I were to use it (unzipped!) in humid environments, I'm afraid a Dryloft shell might not provide enough breathability for the bag to stay dry and mildew-free over time. Any suggestions? Zach Isaacs Glendale, California

I bought a Marmot Massif XL sleeping bag because I'm somewhat claustrophobic and wanted a high-quality down bag with ple room. While it indeed has plenty of room, the extra space makes it far less heat efficient—it's rated at ten degrees and I'm barely warm enough at 25 degrees. What kind of liner would you recommend to add warmth for colder nights but not defeat the purpose of getting a larger bag? Neal Pratt Portland, Maine

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

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

I'm dumbfounded by all the choices with regard to heart rate monitors. Should I stick with the well-respected Polar or try other brands? Tracy Los Angeles, California

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