You hear so much about rainjackets, but what about a good pair of rain pants? I'm open to both a lightweight pair like the Marmot PreCip or Sierra Designs Peak Bagger, or an expedition-worthy pant like the Arc'Teryx Beta AR. But what do you think, your gearliness? Jay Northwest Oregon

Do you have an opinion about panniers versus a B.O.B. Yak for long, self-supported bike touring? I ride a Gold Rush Replica LWB recumbent and planning a solo coast-to-coast ride. David Portland, Oregon

I have very narrow feet and even narrower heels. I have tried just about every boot; my heels slip too much in Lowa's Lady Sports, my feet swim in Vasque Sundowners. I currently trying L.L. Bean's Cresta Hikers, though the first order I made were too small so I'm awaiting larger sizes. But, do you have any other boot suggestions for very low-volume feet? Or are there other ways (other than insoles, thick socks, and lacing techniques) that may help in attaining a proper fit? Debbi New York City

I'm an improving intermediate skier who will ski practically everything on the mountain—though not always gracefully! I'm looking for a pair of skis that won't hinder me as I progress, but that won't be too advanced for my current skill level. What do you recommend? Joel Manhasset, New York

Four years ago I bought a pair of Limmer Light-Weights, assured by a local in the store that they'd last me 20. I have a habit, though, of wearing them in snow and on glaciers, which has caused the leather at the rand to separate from the midsole, effectively making the boots VERY permeable to water. I'm told that Limmer will fix this problem and resole the boots for $75. Should I fork out the cash or simply buy a new pair of boots? Jacob New York City

Sala, Gear Man! So, you've hooked me up with advice on altimeter watches (I'm very happy with my Suunto, by the way) and Pac NW raingear (which ce in handy when I got reassigned to Ft. Lewis). Now, however, I have a more pedestrian question. Socks, actually. It is rather warm here in the scenic Middle East and my feet are sweating like crazy. I started out with the basic, military-issue black wool socks and got fed up in a few weeks. I've tried the newer poly-something socks they gave us, and they weren't bad. The only problem was that they tended to stretch out over a few wearings (laundry opportunities can be few and far between here) and gave me blisters on long walking patrols. So, any advice? My feet are in your hands. Larry Somewhere hot, Iraq

I having ACL reconstruction surgery next week and thought I'd purchase an indoor bike trainer to supplement my rehabilitation. However, I'm confused by the different resistance mechanisms: magnets, wind, fluid, who knows what else. Are there particular advantages to one over another? Is there a particular make or model you'd recommend? Rob Calgary, Alberta

I seek your vast wisdom in selecting a small pack for the upcoming ski season; something comfy but lightweight that can pull double duty for lift-access skiing and limited backcountry use. I'd prefer a low profile pack under 1,800 cubic inches, with some sort of attachment point for skis as well as hydration-bladder compatibility. Also, do you think a panel loader would be better suited for this type of pack, thereby eliminating the need for a top pocket that might flop around when not completely filled? I asking for too much here? Joe Victor, New York

All I want for Christmas is a good headlp for winter use, but things have gotten complex. Voltage regulators, duo headlps, multiple settings, alkaline versus lithium batteries: these have all muddied what should have been a simple choice. Basically, what's the perfect headlp for an overnight or multi-day winter backpacking trip? Scott Maple Valley, Washington

I need some of your sage wisdom: As a pretty serious mountain biker and alpine skier looking to the approaching winter, I want to score a hard shell that will serve me both on the trails and the slopes. I've looked at Patagonia, Cloudveil, The North Face, and Lowe Alpine, but I'm lost in the many options. I want something that breathes well, keeps me dry in wet conditions. Insulation ain't important (got a great Patagonia fleece already). Please, point me in the right direction! Nathan Washington, D.C.

Why display your ignorance on recumbent bikes? Everyone with first-hand experience on these now thinks of you as an ignorant fool. "Save your hate mail"? Well, quit displaying your obvious ignorance, basing your assessment on the experience of some third-party rider. And, if recumbents are really slower (according to your uninformed belief), how many upright bikes own land speed records? Have you seen many uprights hitting speeds of 81 mph on level terrain with no wind? I've only seen videos of recumbents doing that. Two of my six bikes are recumbents, so I know what I'm talking about. However, I don't own any airplanes, so I wouldn't try answering a question on airplanes. Bet you would. Brian Albuquerque, New Mexico

These days it seems pretty much everybody's wearing bike helmets. Why can't you say the se for skiing helmets? And, do you think it'd be wise to shell out on a ski helmet? I've just booked up for a one-week ski trip to Colorado next February. Not having done much skiing before, I want to enjoy myself but also stay safe! Andrew Charlottesville, Virginia

What do you think of the newer mountain bikes with 29-inch wheels? I'm thinking of upgrading my 1989 Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo for something more roadworthy, but that can still take the abuse of dirt trails. I was thinking of getting a cyclocross bike, but perhaps a 29-inch wheeler might be more suited to the kind of riding I want to do. Booker Kensington, California

I've seen quite a few hikers with two-way radios on the trail. What's your take: recreational gimmick or worthwhile piece of equipment? Our family of four hikes together a fair amount, so I can see their worth. But, then again, does trail etiquette mean this is akin to using a cell phone on the bus? Philip Burlington, Vermont

I recently completed a fantastic trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, but unfortunately my stove was confiscated by airport security on the way home. I'd emptied the stove and attempted to air it out, but still wasn't allowed to travel with it because I'd used it less than 24 hours beforehand. Can you recommend a method or product to clean out a stove that will completely eliminate any fuel odors and make it safe for air travel? Additionally, I'm now in the market for a new stove. I had a Peak-1 Apex II, reliable as the dawn though maybe a little heavy. Can you recommend a lighter yet equally reliable replacement? Dave Boston, Massachusetts

Every time I wake up in my new Marmot Swallow tent the condensation is so bad that my sleeping bag and clothes get wet, so much so that I'm considering taking the tent back and exchanging it for a Mountain Hardwear Skyview or MSR Fusion. I have searched the Internet and read many positive reviews about the Swallow, so is this just a common problem in three- to four-season tents, or did I just get the one defective tent in the batch?

Douglas Gantenbein, better known to many as the Gear Guy, has been hiking, biking, skiing, and climbing in Washington State and the West Coast for 25 years. During that time he’s endured leaking tents, back-breaking packs, balky stoves, and freeze-dried food so bad that even his always-hungry beagles would likely…

I plan on doing some winter backpacking in New Hampshire's White Mountains for the first time. I need some help with sleeping bags—there are so many to choose from! Should I go for down or synthetic? What's a good temperature rating for this kind of trip? Mark Boston, Massachusetts

I own a long-sleeve Kodiak Light cycling jersey from Pearl Izumi. While nice, the jersey is too permeable to the wind, so I get chilled on colder days. Can I spray the front of the jersey's arms, shoulders, and chest with Scotchgard to improve its windproofing without trashing the piece? Or, is there some other spray-on product that would do the trick? D.J. Potomac, Maryland

I'm considering buying a recumbent bike for exercise on country roads, having had enough of the sore ass and shoulders I get when out riding my regular bike. What recommendations do you have about style and prices? Jerry Chpaign, Illinois

As an avid reader of your column, I knew I could come to you for advice. Does anyone make a waterproof backpack? I commute to work on my bike and need my stuff to stay dry. Specifically, I would really like to find a weatherproof pack that can carry my laptop. (And we get a lot of weather over here in Iceland.) I've seen courier bags from Timbuk2 and Chrome, but nothing really sings out to me. And, while we're at it, why doesn't anyone make a bag out of Gore-Tex XCR or something similar? Douglas Keflavík, Iceland

So, the winter snow will soon be upon us. As a snowboarder, my feet always seem to get extremely cold. I wear SmartWool socks, and I sometimes need to wear two pairs of socks (though not necessarily both SmartWool). Do you think my feet are just overly sensitive to the cold, or is there something else out there to keep my tootsies cozy?

Fall's new casual boots feature a tried-and-true friend: durable leather. X-Ray 'em, however, and you'll find athletic-shoe cushioning and the sole and support of a hiker. Because you know what they say: real beauty is more than skin-deep.

Like travel itself, the latest gear for the road is full of wild surprises

I planning a climbing trip to the Yosemite Valley in a few weeks, and I was wondering if you have any recommendations for a hydration pack I could use while climbing. I would use it to also carry a small headlp, rainjacket, and a few energy bars. I looking for something low profile that will not get in my way while climbing. Anything fit the bill? Alan Locust, New Jersey

Lieber Ausrüstungmensch: Looking at the change of seasons and your report on the latest and greatest in the gear world, I'm trying to come up with a clothing strategy that maximizes economy of budget and weight. I'm a keen hiker currently living in Germany (near the Alps), but who will be moving back to the East Coast of the U.S. (Smoky Mountains!) soon. I want a system that will cover me when it's warm, cool, and wet. Should I go with a fleece-plus-shell combo, lugging around the deadweight when I'm not using it, or should I buy one of the do-it-all soft shells? Patrick Frankfurt Main, Germany

I do quite a lot of bushwalking in the Japan Alps and have been carrying my Canon SLR with standard lens, and occasionally an extra telephoto lens—all told, a hefty load. I'm not such a serious photographer to need all that extra weight, but I would like better photos than a disposable or compact can produce. After some research I had decided to splurge on a Contax T3, but then I saw a new Pentax SLR—the "*ist"—that weighs only 335 grs (presumably that's the body only). So, with a matching lens, it still comes in at about half the weight of my current camera. I presume the optics are plastic, hence the low weight. Which would you choose? Excellent fixed lens or zoomable plastic? Dian Tokyo, Japan

If a guy was headed to Denali in May, and asked you to compare the Marmot 8000 Meter Parka with the Feathered Friends Rock & Ice Parka that you used, what would you say? And, since I very good-looking, would you like to use my photo at the head of your column and tell people it was you? Bob Reno, Nevada

For the last five years, I've been lugging around a seven-pound Dana Design Stillwater pack. But recently, I've seen the "light" and have gone lightweight. Can you recommend a solid, 4,000-cubic-inch pack that weighs less than four pounds? I was looking at the Osprey Aether 60 and the Mountainsmith Auspex, but which would you recommend? Thanks for always being the "go to" guy when it comes to gear. Jake Irvine, California

What's the deal with "fly-only pitching" options with tents? My partner wants a roomy, comfortable double-wall tent for two (she likes The North Face's Roadrunner 2). However, I also want a lightweight single-wall tent that's easy to pitch for solo camping and just traveling light (something like a Bibler Megid or GoLite Den 2). Will a tent with fly-only pitching meet both needs? Jes Sydney, Australia

During a week's hiking around the High Sierra Cps of Yosemite, my backpack began to reek! Even though I washed myself and my clothes regularly, my husband, who is normally a very sweet man, insisted I hike behind him so as not to be asphyxiated. How, oh how do I get the stench out of my backpack straps?

Dear Gear Guru, I'm thinking about bringing my Labrador camping with me, but don't know if he needs special gear. I have a two-person tent, and there's no way my wife and I could fit him in there with us. I don't think he'll be satisfied sleeping in the tent's vestibule either. What should we do to make sure he's happy and safe? John Bloomington, Indiana

I'm headed to the Okavango Delta in Botswana for six months through a job with Conservation International. I not a very experienced photographer, so can you recommend a reasonably priced camera that'll take great wildlife photos? Todd Baltimore, Maryland

I recently completed a two-week, 96-mile trek in Alaska's Brooks Range. I thought that I was traveling as light as possible until I encountered a couple of wandering hikers who were carrying external-fre backpacks fashioned with titanium fres and Kevlar fabric. Their packs, from Cp Trails, weighed at least half of my Longbed pack, and mine was smaller. After returning to civilization I immediately visited the store where they told me such packs could be purchased, but the sales staff gave me that "what planet are you from?" look upon hearing my tale. Assuming they are the ones from another planet, can you help me find a super-lightweight pack weighing less than four-and-a-half pounds, with up to 6,500 cubic inches of capacity? Is there such a creature still being made out there? Fred Kodiak, Alaska

Now that the venerable Patagonia Ice Nine ski bibs have been discontinued, what do you recommend in their place? I want something similar: waterproof-breathable, light but durable, great features. However, I've read not very complimentary things about The North Face's Gore-Tex XCR bibs. Richard Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Last year I bought a Specialized Sirrus Sport hybrid for road biking, with which I'm very happy. My brother's looking for a new bike, so how does something like the Marin ALP line of bikes, particularly their Highway One, stand up against the likes of my Specialized Sirrus? A bike mechanic told me that Marin's star is waning, and that you are paying for their ne. Thanks for your insight. I've actually set up my Internet browser to open your column as my personal homepage, and have used your advice more times than I can remember! Patrick Chicago, Illinois

I have some questions about a backpacking trip around India, where weight will be a consideration. We need a unit for recharging digital camera batteries (possibly with surge protection), as well as a lightweight but intimidating-looking lock and chain to secure our packs to seats and poles on trains. One more thing: I'm looking for a multi-climate sleeping-bag liner. Thanks much! Sue Boston, Massachusetts

Which do you think would be better for a backcountry winter camping trip in Yosemite: snowshoes or a ski like the Karhu Morph (which looks like L.L. Bean's Boreal and features a built-in climbing skin)? Tom Marina del Rey, California

So everyone I know agrees the Marmot Oracle is a fantastic storm protection jacket. But sometimes you have to take the advice of longtime friends... and throw it away because they are not the Gear Guy. I want an ultralight jacket to throw in my pack while hiking. I bought my wife the Marmot Oracle, which she loves, but what do you think about products using PacLite such as the GoLite Phantom Jacket, or the Marmot Osprey? I already have an Arc'teryx Beta AR, but is that light enough, or would PacLite be worth it? Jeremiah Eugene, Oregon

I have a medical condition known as Raynaud's, which basically means that I have real problems staying warm in temperatures below 50 degrees. This past winter was a killer for me. Unfortunately I can't hole up inside during the winter as my 100-pound insulated dog needs to walk (and loves the cold). What do you think would work best for me? I assume down, but the women's down parkas don't seem to be that warm. Faith Reston, Virginia

What does one do when his hero lets him down? Last fall you spoke highly of the St. Moritz Pathfinder TI watch. Well, let me tell you, the Gear Guy is fallible. This watch has been a huge letdown. The "glow factor" of the numbers is terrible, the alarm is barely audible, and the service is less than acceptable. I sent it in for warranty repair for its water resistance, being sure to mention the other factors, and the service was very slow and they never even addressed my other concerns. I think you may have made an error! (I know, hard to believe.) Tim Moose, Wyoming

Thanks for asking the Gear Guy a question. Stay tuned to the Gear Guy’s column for your answer. He should get back to you in about a week. Of course, while he’d love to answer everyone’s questions, he’s so busy testing equipment that he…

I was rock climbing in Australia earlier this year when I fell and wrecked a lumbar disc. I'm having surgery to decompress the spinal nerve in a couple of weeks (a lumbar microdiscectomy), and I'm itching to get back into trping (you call this "hiking") and climbing and so on. Since physiotherapists don't know much about backpacks, I'm wondering if you can help me: Is there a backpack that is better for your back (i.e., one that doesn't compress your lower back too much)? I currently use a fairly simple 60-liter New Zealand-made pack by Cactus Climbing. Karen Wellington, New Zealand

My husband and I are having an argument about our 20-year-old down sleeping bags. The bags in question are Blacks Icecap XL mummy bags. I've recently being doing some fall camping and find that I get quite cold some nights, leading me to surmise that these sleeping bags have reached the end of their days. My husband says it's just my age, as he doesn't find them cold. Now I know I shouldn't bother arguing with him and just go out and buy myself a new sleeping bag, but I want you to tell him that down sleeping bags do "die" eventually. Can you back me up? Carol Port Moody, British Columbia

What's the best car-camping tent for me, my wife, our daughter, and, if he's good, a dog? We prefer two doors and an aluminum frame, but we're flexible. Henry Davis Willisville, New York

What type of sleeping bag gives better value-for-money, down or synthetic? Norm Cpbell River, British Columbia

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

I interested in buying rappelling gear and I unsure as to what I need. Is there anywhere that I could find a list of must-haves for rappelling? Todd E. Clyde Hurricane, Utah

I have been unsuccessfully combing the Internet for a pair of boots that possess a few specific features: full grain leather, a waterproof-breathable membrane (e.g. Gore-Tex), and a gusseted tongue. If you can help me find a pair of such boots for under $150 please tell me where! Lucas Mead, Washington

I've recently been in some heated discussions with fellow campers over whether it's warmer to sleep naked in a sleeping bag or to wear some loose clothes. Logic would seem to suggest that more layers equal more insulation, but a surprising number of acquaintances swear they're warmer naked. Can you give me a definitive answer?

Most highly exalted Gearness, I humbly bow and await your faultless advice. In February of 2002 I will be attempting Mount Whitney via the Mountaineers route. My group will be using snowshoes and 12-point step-in crampons. My old boots just won't cut it anymore, and I in dire need of replacements. I plagued with the age-old question of plastic versus leather. I will need plastic mountaineering boots within the next two years, but would they be overkill on Mount Whitney in February and Mount Rainier in September of 2002? I've looked at every brand and model available, and can't sift through them all. Your expertise on this matter would be a lifesaver! I have size 13 feet and weigh 170 pounds. Benjamin Kennedy Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

I just recently returned from a failed Mount Rainier attempt feeling deflated because my Koflach boots chewed up my feet before we even got to Cp Muir! I've been reading about the Asolo AFS Guide boots and they sound great. Where can I purchase these and will they work with a smaller, narrower woman's foot? (Living in North Carolina, I will have to play mail order.) I also tried some Lowas to no avail. I'm going back for another Rainier attempt next summer and would hate to fork out another $800 and not even make it to base cp. Karla Greensboro, North Carolina

Long time read, first time question. I'm a skinny guy. I love to ski, mostly at resorts but a little OB. My question, then: Is there a jacket-shell combo, or maybe just a jacket, that would keep me warm when it's zero degrees and windy, breathe when it's not that cold, and not make me feel like the Marshmallow Man? Timothy Rockaway, New Jersey

Is it sometimes desirable to hang your stove, for cooking in your tent? If so, who makes the devices to do this, and is it specific to stove model or is there a generic one? I own a Peak Apex II. Ron Starrett Vernon, Connecticut

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

I'm going to a mountainous part of New Mexico this summer. On a previous six-day trip I took a pair of Asolo 535s, but this time I'll be trekking for about 12 days, in addition to a couple of shorter hikes to get acclimated. Since my old pair will need to be put to pasture (they deserve it), I'm wondering if the Asolo 535 will be tough enough for a longer trek, and also whether a pair of thicker Montrail Vercors boots might get too hot in New Mexico. Dave Charlotte, North Carolina

What do you think of the Yashica T4 Zoom camera? In the past, you often recommended the now-discontinued non-zoom Yashica T4 Super; the T4 Zoom is advertised as its replacement. What is your verdict on the T4 Zoom? Worthy successor to the T4 Super, or an imposter with a trendy zoom lens that has unfairly appropriated the respected T4 moniker? Jock Washington, DC

Do suspension seatposts significantly alter the seatpost height? I currently own a 1997 Cannondale hardtail and I would really like to prevent my spine from someday poking through the top of my helmet. But I'm worried about altering that sweet-spot seat height that has so graciously prevented knee pain thus far during long rides. Preston Fall Vancouver, British Columbia

The principal of "one pound on your feet equals five on your back" seems to be treated as Gospel, but I don't buy it. I moving in the direction of an ultralight pack but loath to give up the fit and support of my heavy Limmer boots. Where do you stand on the matter? Steve Kennewick, Washington

Not yet having gone digital, I have a standard 35mm camera with extra lenses, a detachable flash, and the requisite rolls of film and cleaning cloths. So, I'm looking for a backpack-style camera case with plenty separate compartments and padding. Ideally, it'll be sling-style, with small compartments on the front for ease in changing films, lenses, and so forth. I've already checked the local stores and a few large Internet sites, but they seem to make bags only for digital cameras now. Any suggestions? Sarah Tulsa, Oklahoma

I planning a two-day, one-night hiking trip along the Appalachian Trail and looking for a gear list. Could you suggest what to pack and a couple of menus (with per person measurements)? The last time I took a trip, my girlfriend and I lugged so much food we could have fed five. Seth New York City

I would like to buy a digital camera to bring on climbing, canoeing, and hiking trips. I had been planning to buy an SLR, but I've recently been tempted by digital cameras and their ability to make you impulsively take snapshots. What factors other then weight and picture quality should I consider? Any help you can give me would be much appreciated. Eric Winnipeg, Manitoba

Most high-end down sleeping bag manufacturers state that THEIR shell material is the best for both breathability and water and wind resistance. After reading the specs on all the different shell-fabric brands, I'm left feeling dizzy. A friend says that Gore DryLoft is best, but then other reputable companies say Conduit, Hyvent, G3, Pertex, or Epic is better. Help! Which one would you choose? David Sparta, Michigan

I'm a snowshoer and snowboarder. I wear hard-shell snowboarding boots and I have the step-in type bindings on my board. I would love to find some snowshoes that also have a step-in type binding that would work with my boarding boots so that I could do some backcountry boarding and only need to haul one pair of boots. Any suggestions? Ryan J. Richmond Boise, Idaho

I've recently signed up to do the San Francisco to Los Angeles Aids Lifecycle in May. I have done some mountain biking in my past (novice level) and taken spinning classes for years, but road biking is new to me. I decided to buy clipless pedals and tried out my shoes (Sidi) in a spinning class a few days ago. I was in pain—my calves crped to a point where I thought I would have to putate—and the outer side of my left foot was aching. What is going on? Are the shoes too small/narrow? How should I go about finding the right pair without wasting a ton of money? I really need advice. Joe Ashleigh San Francisco, California

I would like your opinion on the Grigna 2800 trekking boots by an Italian company ned Armond. My main concern is the long-term quality of the boots since Armond is not a well-known brand and their boots cost about a third less than those made by more popular companies. I intend to trek to the top of Kilimanjaro this year. Ngoc Dung Phung Montreal, Quebec

Will salt water break down Gore-Tex and other waterproof-breathable fabrics? (I've heard tales of salt spray drying in the fabric and grinding away at it from the inside like tiny saws.) Is there a better choice in outerwear for kayaking and sailing on the Maine coast? Stephanie South Thomaston, Maine

Is there a watch out there that is a dive watch and also an altimeter watch for skydiving? Ryan St. Petersburg, Florida

Do you know where I can buy one of those Mountain Hardwear sleds? Who else makes sleds for hauling gear? Thom Salt Lake City, Utah

I work in the movies, and I need to find a good photo of a crevice ladder and then purchase one in Canada. Can you help me? The Props Guy Whitehorse, Yukon

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

Help, Guru King! What's the best trail running shoe I can use when wearing a 30 pound pack and covering around 20 miles a day, on and off trail? I use Vitesse shoes right now, but the bottom of my feet get sore from traveling on rocky terrain. I have been looking at a number of brands and have tried calling their product develoent divisions—but it's hard to contact those folk! Peter Belmont, California

For the man who has every item of biking gear imaginable (judging from the mountain bikes, panniers, and lights littering our garage), what's the perfect Christmas gift for my husband, one that will even have Santa's elves guessing? I'm looking to spend up to $100. Janet Atlanta, Georgia

I'm a middle-aged backpacker trying to lighten my load. I'll will be "climbing" Mount Shucksan in Washington this summer with a guide. A member of our group maintains that Stubai makes a pair of multi-purpose, lightweight crampons that are great for any boot. I'm wearing Asolo Fusion 95 GTX, which I really like, and these crampons are supposed to be okay for these boots. At best, I'll only be doing one climbing trip per year, but would like a pair of lightweight crampons for crossing the occasional snowfield in the Northwest. What are your thoughts about the adequacy of these crampons (and boots) for a non-technical climb such as the one on Mount Shuksan? Don Uslan Seattle, Washington

While hiking I've noticed that many hikers are now using alcohol stoves. Is this a better way to travel? Also do you know where I could find instructions to make my own alcohol burning stove? Chris Smithsburg, Maryland

What is the best hat for summer backpacking? Cotton baseball hats are too hot, too sweaty; synthetic caps are a little cooler. But how about a straw hat? In particular, the L.L. Bean Summer Straw Hat that supposedly folds up and packs easily? By the way, your reviews are probably more useful and readable than all the others. Congratulations, and thanks! Marshall Atlanta, Georgia

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

I've been moving slowly into the lightweight crowd and trying to get my week-long, summertime load below 30 pounds (I live in the Midwest, so a good portion of that is DEET!). I can make it, except for the pack itself. Are there any good lightweight packs? Is this a good place to save weight? Most that I've tried may weigh less, but they make the load seem heavier to me. Tim Taylor South Bend, Indiana

I in urgent need of a warm sleeping bag for use on an upcoming desert running race I entered in, the Marathon des Sables in Morocco. Although this conjures up visions of heat and sleeping under wispy silk fabric whilst warm winds blow, the reality is that at night, temperatures can plummet to freezing. I'm not too concerned about cost and need a bag which is at least good for about 32 degrees, and most importantly, LIGHT!! It has to be carried and raced with for over seven days. Please recommend waterproof varieties or appropriate techniques as it can pour. Dio Wong Hong Kong, China

My wife and I like to share a cozy sleeping bag while kayak camping, but we both own "pre-marriage" bags that don't zip together. What we want is one bag wide enough for two, made from synthetic material (since it might get wet), and with a temperature rating of about 20 degrees. Also, as we're both about five-foot-five, it would need to be on the short side. Is our only choice to have a bag custom-made? Andy Kirkland, Washington