Gear

Archive

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

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 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'm looking for an internal-fre backpack in the 4500- to 5500-cubic-inch range for less than $250. I need one with a torso length of at least 23 inches. Do you have any suggestions? Dennis McAllister Cleveland, Oklahoma

Not really a gear question, but can you tell me about all the pre-packaged trail food on the market? What have you tried? What's the best? Also, do you know of any Web sites with a good selection of trail recipes, especially vegetarian? Melissa Greenwood, Delaware

I'm gearing up for an ascent of Denali in May 2002. Could you advise for clothing and size of compression sacks appropriate to bring? I weigh 114 pounds so I want to minimize what I have to pack. Jeanne Stawiecki Charlton, Massachusetts

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's the best backpack for scrambling? I have taken to canyoneering, usually carrying trekking poles for balance, two ropes, other climbing gear, and occasionally a wetsuit. I'd like to know if there's a slim, lightweight, 3,000- to 3,500-cubic-inch pack that will hold the poles, a water bladder, and my climbing equipment without making it look like I'm tackling Everest. Ray Chicago, Illinois

What type of shoes should I wear for day hiking in the Costa Rican rainforest—sandals, trail runners, or water shoes? I will be going in November, historically one of the wettest months of the year. Dion San Francisco, California

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

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

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

I'm discovering that my late-fortyish feet are inexorably growing longer and wider, and the hiking boots that served me well two years ago are now giving me blisters and scrunched toenails. Companions on a recent Sierra backcountry hike were wearing low-cut trail shoes that looked only slightly more rugged than running shoes, and which allowed their wearers to pretty much dance over the rocks and scree without twisting ankles. For hiking relatively rugged trails without a backpack, what sort of characteristics should one look for in such shoes? And, while I'm here, can one backpack in 'em? Richard Truckee, California

I'm getting back into backpacking after a 20 year hiatus and boggled by the array of different stuff they're making socks out of these days. Merino wool, acrylic, Coolmax, ultimax, wickdry??? What's the deal on fabrics for HOT weather hiking/backpacking for short-to-medium trips (one- to two-day) over varied terrain and carrying moderate loads? What's good, what's bad? Lew Atlanta, Georgia

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 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

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

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

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

I'm breaking in a new pair of La Sportiva TRK hiking boots. I have no problem on flat terrain or when hiking uphill, but on the descent my toes will start to hurt and crp up, especially where they meet the base of my boot. I have high arches, so could this be the cause? Or is this just normal with new boots? BJ Guilderland, New York

I wear Levis to hike and cp in. (I'll pause here while you gasp in horror.) I'd cheerfully purchase better pants, but all the ones I've looked at feel like slacks. Slacks are for dress up, Levis are for work and play. This was drilled into my synapses many years ago and I'm too old to change. Is there a wool or synthetic pant out there that has the weight and feel of denim, which I can wear comfortably without offending the sensibilities of right-thinking outdoors folk everywhere?

I have gotten into section hiking the AT and whenever I go and carry a fair load (more than 30 pounds) I come home with strawberries (abrasions) on my hips from the waist belts. HELP ME! Jeff Hatcher Mcleansville, North Carolina

I'm looking for a boot that is automatic crampon compatible. Also, I'd like it to be a very well rounded boot—I need it to be able to go on extended backpacking trips and even some vertical ice climbing. What is my best choice? Dan Charlton, Massachusetts

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

Is DryLoft on a down sleeping bag worth it? I've noticed that it's not appearing as often as it used to on down winter sleeping bags. David Morlock St. Paul, Minnesota

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

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 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

My Boy Scout troop is planning to buy some rappelling gear, but we need some advice first. Eric Shelbyville, Indiana

I currently have an older version of the Tubbs Sierra snowshoes, but I find them to be too bulky and heavy for those trips where crampons are also required. How does the MSR Denali snowshoe compare to its competitors, and what is the "floatability" factor of the MSR snowshoes? It seems they're very narrow, so I'm curious if they will keep you from sinking in soft, deep snow. Scott Newmarket, New Hampshire

I've got a Bibler Betid tarp, and looking for some extra protection for my Mountain Hardwear sleeping bag (down with Conduit SL shell). I don't want to carry the Betid's floor since it is a bit heavy, and doesn't offer the protection I want. Please suggest a sleeping bag cover or bivy that will allow my bag to breathe, yet shed any moisture from condensation or the occasional exposure to rain. I'd prefer not to break the bank on this, as well. Dennis Staley Englewood, Colorado

Do you know of any evidence that pepper spray is an effective defense against a mountain lion attack? Mike Rapid City, South Dakota

Where can I buy a hip belt to use as a harness for pulling my homemade gear sled? Bruce Easton, Pennsylvania

I have a few trips planned in bug-infested territory. The problem is that I hate DEET. I just don't like using the stuff. And citronella-based products are useless. Is there anything new out there that is effective, safe to use, and won't melt plastic? Jake Santos Chicago, Illinois

After spending all my life camping in the mountains of the eastern United States, I've fallen in love with the southwest Texas desert, and I'm in the process of learning about those techniques and equipment that will work in that very different environment. No trees, blazing sun, the ground too hard to set stakes, fairly constant strong winds... The first problem to solve would be creating some shade... My Integral Designs Siltarp, which works great in the forests of Virginia, is useless as a sunshade, being almost transparent. Are there any tarps out there that would be suitable for sunshade duty, or is a piece of black six-mil poly my best bet? Bill Stell Charlottesville, VA

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

I having a very tough time finding hiking boots that are comfortable; they all seem to hurt somewhere. I did find a pair of comfortable trail runners, and I'm wondering if I'd have any trouble day hiking in Glacier National Park using these instead of hiking boots or shoes? How much of a difference is there? Laura Jefferson City, Missouri

While preparing for a recent overnight backpacking trip in the Adirondacks, I was surprised at the weight of my loaded pack. Despite having modern "lightweight" gear such as a Western Mountaineering down sleeping bag and the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight CD, my pack probably weighed 50 pounds. The pack itself, an Arc'Teryx Bora 80, is somewhat heavy, but I needed its size to fit all my gear, including a bear food canister. Do you have any advice for reducing the weight of my pack for an overnight trip?

I need a big family tent that's not too expensive but rugged enough to last many camping trips. I've compared Cabela's, Eureka, Coleman, and Wenzel. What is the best tent for the money and durability? Curt Woodward, Oklahoma

I looking for information on free-standing tents before heading into the Everglades, where I'll be sleeping in the chickee huts along the waterway. Can you point me to some particular manufacturers or Web sites? Jeff Naples, Florida

Because of a small fire in our house I need to have three down sleeping bags, a jacket, and a vest cleaned. I need some suggestions of companies that will handle this operation and do it correctly. I may find other equipment and clothes as the clean up process progresses that need cleaning also. The smell smoke and soot of a house fire is not the se as that of a campfire! Gary Johnson Collegeville, Pennsylvania

I plan to buy a bike for my wife, a long-overdue birthday present, to be used mostly on backcountry roads (gravel, dirt, or tarmac) but not on trails. I'm looking for something that is good quality and will be comfortable for a 30-mile ride. A racing bike seems too fragile, while the ubiquitous mountain bike seems like overkill. Is a hybrid (whatever that is!) the way to go? I really require your guidance, as this gift is somewhat late. Steven Westmount, Quebec

I'm in the market for a decent down jacket but don't want to fork over the money for a Feathered Friends Rock & Ice Parka, as good as it is. What do you know about the Frobisher 700 Parka from Mountain Equipment Co-Op (a Canadian company)? It's stuffed with about 16.5 ounces of 700-fill down, has a Dryloft shell, and sells for about $285. It seems like deal to me! But I'm curious how it stacks up against Mountain Hardwear's Sub Zero SL Parka. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Michael Gebhardt Chattanooga, Tennessee