I was recently in New Zealand and purchased some Merino wool (Icebreaker brand) shirts and tights. They seem to have the se properties as polypro but are more windproof and don't smell after hard work. Can you purchase this azing stuff in the U.S.? What is your take on it? Nick Kelly Omaha, Nebraska

My son returned from a Scout backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail just as we were loading the truck to move. In the midst of settling in the new home, we completely forgot about the tent and it sat in its dp stuff sack for weeks. What do we do with the tent now that it has mildewed? Is there any way to clean it without dage? Andy John Jacksonville, Florida

I'm hiking the Chilkoot Trail next fall with two companions. What's the lightest three-person tent available? Mike Doherty North Vancouver, British Columbia

Enlighten me, as I confused. We are planning a 12-month trip and I still looking for the "ideal" water filter. And I in doubt. Which to buy, the MSR Miniworks or the Katadyn Pocket Filter? Aside from the obvious differences (price, weight, flow rate, capacity), the carbon-core element of the MSR is the main difference. But why would I need a carbon-core element? Hans Janssen

Your Gearness, what boot do you think I would need for a four-month trek across the Indian Himalaya? I have a pair of Montrail Torre GTXs, but will these suffice? Tony Baltimore, Maryland

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 narrow feet. 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, to no avail. Can you help me? BJ Guilderland, New York

Recently, I bece aware of the cruel process of obtaining down feathers and I don't want to buy down products if I can help it. Please recommend a synthetic fill jacket that can keep me as warm as a regular down jacket does. Megan Singapore

What's the difference between Atlas Dual Trac snowshoes (they appear to cater to racing) and the all-purpose 10 Series that is designed for hiking? Can you use dual track shoes for hiking, or are they simply a high-performance marketing gimmick? Stephen Seattle, Washington

I'm someone who gets rather sweaty when doing anything active, like mountain biking, hiking, or snowshoeing. During warmer weather, it's not a big deal, but in cold weather it becomes an issue. Whatever combo of base layer, fleece, or shell I try, I still get really sweaty when on the move, especially on my back where the pack sits. Is there some other scenario or clothing combo that I should try to wick out extra moisture Keith Millwood, New York

Hopefully you can settle a debate regarding the use of climbing harness belay loops. When rappelling, a climbing guide said that the carabiner should be clipped through both the leg loop and waist belt where the rappel loop was threaded, not to the rappel loop itself. Others have told me that the 'biner should be clipped through the gear loop, not the leg loop and the waist belt. What's the correct answer? Tim Glastonbury, Connecticut

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

I'm interested in buying a new kayak for touring and open-water paddling, but one that could also take a little whitewater action once in a while. What would you recommend? Jeff Midland, Michigan

I guess this might be more of a biological or physiological question than a straight gear question, but I notice that when I sip water from a CelBak, I have to "go" less than if I take bigger yet less frequent gulps from a water bottle. It seems that even drinking a full 70 ounces from my CelBak, compared to a quart from a bottle, is easier on my bladder. I just imagining this? Does the body better optimize water that's sipped slowly? Bill Bedford, New Hampshire

I'm planning on through-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and would like to keep my pack weight as low as possible without sacrificing comfort. When I through-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1990, my pack weight was around 50 pounds, including food and water. I have heard that ultralight packs are not very comfortable with loads over 20 pounds. Can you recommend a lightweight backpack for my hike? Cliff Ashford, Alabama

I'm planning a trip to Tibet, and I'm looking for a bag in the zero to ten degrees Fahrenheit range. In addition to struggling with the age-old down versus synthetic issue, I'm also confused by the suitability of those Sierra Designs' down bags that include add-on top layers, such as their Buddy Rad. (They even suggest stuffing clothing in between the layers if it's cold.) Will this setup keep your whole body warm if the add-on layer only goes on top? Overall, I place great value on lightness and even more on compressibility, but I'm always wigged out about getting down wet. Matthew Boston, Massachusetts

I am looking for a tent that will repel dew, especially as I hate the damp feeling that comes from wet grass. Which tent do you recommend? I don't do much camping, but I do like to be comfortable when I do. Tara Bowler, Wisconsin

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

Are there any objective tests comparing the hard- and soft-shell products of different gear manufacturers? Yes, there's a huge ount of marketing hype easily available, but beyond XCR's assertion that it's "25 percent more breathable than standard Gore-Tex," there doesn't seem to be any hard numbers comparing materials. This is surprising when you consider how much consumers are prepared to pay for the latest and greatest. Jeff London, United Kingdom

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

I'm planning a mountaineering trip to Bolivia in June. I have a pair of Koflach Degre boots, which have been fine on Mount Hood and when winter climbing in New Hampshire. Will these be OK for climbing Bolivia's 19,000-foot peaks? Do I need Alveolite liners? Brian Augusta, Maine

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 just got through watching reruns of the Eco-Challenge, and was wondering what those competitors (and us less adventurous hikers) can do for very wet, muddy, and slushy hiking conditions? How about Gore-Tex socks and some strips of duct tape around each calf to keep the water out?"

Do water bladders sweat inside a daypack? My daypack is big enough to hold a bladder, but I'm worried my other stuff will get soggy if I pack next to a bladder. I worrying for nothing? No Name Given

My wife and I are going bike camping this summer. Are there any light two-person sleeping bags, or single bags that zip together? We need the bag(s)—preferably down-filled—to also fold down as small as possible. The cheapest we've found is about $500 for two. Do you have any better suggestions? Harvey Davis, California

I planning a weeklong sea kayaking trip in northern Quebec. I (and my backside) would appreciate any of your thoughts on a decent portable sleeping pad. Is inflatable the way to go? And what about length? We anxiously await your deliberation. Nicholas B. Westmount, Quebec

Gear Guy, dress me for kayaking in the marshes of the lower Connecticut River this winter. It's prime roosting territory for Bald Eagles through late February. David Hadd, Connecticut

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

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

I'm looking for a hydration pack that I can use for cycling. But, I also want to be able to stick the bladder in my Gregory backpack for extended hiking trips, thereby knocking out two birds with one bladder. I have looked at products from CelBak and Gregory, but what do you recommend? Ronald Cookeville, Tennessee

When out hiking, I'm tired of getting my good-quality boots soaking wet when crossing knee-high stres. Worse still, repeatedly taking off my boots and putting on sneakers or water shoes is a drag, not to mention time consuming. So what's the solution, gear sage? Are there any "water boots" that are sturdy enough to handle trail hiking with a 25 to 35 pound pack, but that can also withstand multiple stre crossings and total immersion? Surely I'm not the only soggy hiker out there. Mitchell Fountain Valley, California

What is the absolute cheapest sleeping bag that the Gear Guy would recommend for summer backpacking? Some of us have several thousand dollars to spend on our gear—the rest of us are in college. Doug Chicago, Illinois

What clothes should you sleep in when backpacking? I mostly go in southern California during spring or fall, so temps can dip to 30 degrees at night, but not much lower. Generally, I wear whatever I change into once we make cp, but I've begun to wonder if I should dress more warmly to bed and rely less on a heavy sleeping bag. Christopher Simi Valley, California

I need to find a tent for winter camping and mountaineering. Living in Oregon I intend to stay within the Cascades. I have narrowed my search to the Fusion 2 and the Fury 2, both made by MSR. They fall into the same weight/price/size category. The Fusion is a convertible tent while the fury appears to be a four-season tent. Given the conditions I'm expecting to face, which tent would be the ideal choice for me? Is the Fury too much tent, is the Fusion too little? Is there another tent that you would recommend? Kevin Portland, Oregon

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

My husband and I just got a camera with a timer and remote control. We have a regular tripod, but need a good, compact tripod for hiking and backpacking. We've seen some that fold down to about cigarette-pack size, but are they any good? It's just a regular 35mm point and shoot camera, any recommendations? Linda Neve Incline Village, Nevada

When it comes to packing a backpack, I get lots of varying answers. What's correct, the weight at the top of the pack or at the bottom? Kristen San Diego, California

Can you help me pick out the best-value sleeping pad? I'm new to backpacking and need my comfort while sleeping. Heck, I'd take my electric blanket along if I could. I want to find a pad that will be worth the money, but will last a long time too. I can't decide between a less expensive closed-cell pad and one of the inflatable ones. Are the inflatable kind that much better to justify the extra cost? Please help this confused backpacking novice! Kendra North Ogden, Utah

I've been looking for a zero- or minus five-degree sleeping bag for use in early spring, but found that nobody makes any quality down bags for women. What's up with that? All Western Mountaineering bags are huge, while Feathered Friends makes only two women-specific bags, but they're rated only for 10 and 20 degrees. I just wonder, does the outdoor industry think that every outdoorsperson is some huge guy with wide shoulders and skinny hips? That has got to change! Anyways, for the problem at hand: I'm five-foot-six and on the lean side. What's a quality down bag that won't require me to expend extra energy in order to heat up excess room inside the bag? Jennifer San Diego, California

I have been told that Sierra Designs & MSR's new range of four-season tents (in particular SD's Tiros AST and Stretch Dome AST) have floors that are not suitably waterproof for Australia's wet and windy winters. Is this true? Can a waterproofing agent be applied? Also, do MSR's continuous pole sleeves allow adequate ventilation between canopy and fly? What's the verdict on these tents? Justin Trevorrow Darwin, Australia

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

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

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

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 looking for a boot that can do just about everything, including hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, as well as a little bit of climbing and bouldering. I would also prefer a crampon-compatible boot that can handle the snow and cold. Any suggestions, besides going out and buying five different pairs of boots? Jeff Midland, Michigan

How do you clean and wash boots? I have a pair of Asolo Cerro Torre's, and they are fairly light boots, but after a trip in the Never Summer Wilderness with lots of rain and mud, they feel heavy. The dried mud adds up, I guess. How can I make them light again? Thanks. Josh Wheeler Denver; CO