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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'm looking for a sleeping bag to use mainly for summer backpacking in the Northeast, something that's less than two pounds with a temperature rating down to about 30 degrees; I'd also really like a full-length zipper, so I can unzip the bag on those warmer nights. I've always enjoyed your gear wisdom, so I'm looking forward to any suggestions you might have. Kevin Boston, Massachusetts

I know you're not supposed to store your sleeping bag stuffed, but I need something to contain it in while I not using it. Will a garbage bag work, or should I buy some kind of mesh bag for it? Sarah New Canaan, Connecticut

Can you recommend a good cross-country skiing package that's suitable for both groomed trails and backcountry use? John Duluth, Minnesota

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

What are the differences between the gas combinations of various isobutane canisters sold by different companies (MSR, Snowpeak, Brunton, Gaz, Primus)? And how do they affect the performance of various stoves and lanterns? Garrett Tempe, Arizona

I'm looking for a raincoat that is lightweight and very packable, while also being waterproof and fairly breathable. I travel internationally a lot and need something that will look decent while in a major city yet also work while on the trail the next day. I'd like a jacket that doesn't have huge zipper covers or too many excessive components. I want something simple in a neutral or dark color so I don't stand out in foreign countries as much. Any suggestions for a durable, multi-functional, and ultra-packable raincoat that is lightweight and not terribly expensive? Jonathan Achter Minnetonka, Minnesota

Oh great and powerful gear wizard, I've gone and done it now. I have mildew—the brown spots AND the powdery green stuff—on my Bibler tent and Marmot sleeping bag. Please tell me I didn't just sink $1,500 worth of gear in the course of one monster rainstorm. Is there anything I can do? Julie Collinsville, Connecticut

What's the best two-person tent for under $300? Tom Ireland

Man, I confused! I want to purchase a synthetic-fill jacket for an upcoming canoe trip in Big Bend National Park. But it seems that all the major brands employ a different type of fill, running the gut from Polarguard HV and 3-D to Heatshield and Primaloft. So, Doug, I turn to you for expert guidance. Which is the best synthetic fill for warmth and compressibility? If there is not a "best", then what are the advantages of each? Finally, what jacket would you take? Steve Hurst, Texas

I bought a Canon Rebel 2000 kit in July to take with me to Alaska. I fully expected the picture to be crystal sharp—you know, the azure sky with white clouds and glacier and stuff. But after I came back and got them developed, I was very disappointed. Seems like the pictures are pretty grainy (like those taken using an APS camera), especially those sky/clouds and glacier ones. I used 200 speed Kodak Gold and the weather was sunny, but not too bright. What can I do to make the pictures turn out better when I go to AK again next year? Should I change the lens, the film, or the camera? If so, could you make some affordable suggestions? I'd rather not change the camera, unless of course, it'll give me great advantage. Oh, I got them developed at Ritz Camera, if that helps. Maybe their equipment just can't handle it. Please help me out here, I'm desperate! No Name Given

I have a weakness for eggs. Love 'em. Don't care what they'll do to me, I have to have them. In the Navy, eggs are coated with a thin wax layer that will keep them fresh for about a month. Can I get these eggs somewhere, or can I do this myself? Also how long will a raw egg stay good when unrefrigerated? I would love to enjoy my eggs no matter how long I may be on the trail. Jes Russellville, Arkansas

When I was getting ready to apply mink oil to my two-year-old Asolo boots, I found the inside lining around both heels had split and the fo lining was coming through. These boots haven't seen extensive service, only being worn for school. The store where I bought them is out of business, so whom should I contact to get them fixed or replaced? Dennis Cedar City, Utah

I have been looking for a boot that can do it all. From aggressive summer day-hikes to light winter mountaineering in New England. I've been reading all your past articles and the Boreal Bulnes seem to be the ticket, though they seem not to be made anymore. I did manage to find an online retailer with the Bulnes at a great price but I now have a dilemma. How do I pick a size for a boot I can't try on? Since no stores currently carry this boot and the online retailers have questionable return policies, what would your Gearness do? If you wouldn't buy online, do you have any recommendations for similar boots? My anxious feet await your guidance! Matthew Mendonza Boston, Massachusetts

Can you recommend things to look for before purchasing a used bike? I interested in several Trek models and have found a couple of used bikes that appear in good shape. I would really love to save a few dollars by buying used and getting more bike for my buck. Carter Arlington, Virginia

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

I'm planning on hiking Vermont's LT, and because of past knee problems I'm trying to pack as light as possible. I've been considering buying the Mountain Hardwear Phantom sleeping bag, but I'm concerned about its down fill. Any thoughts? How effective is the water-resistant coating used on the superlight bags? Neil Westport, Connecticut

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

I need a good solo tent in the $200 price range for winter mountain climbing trips. It seems that manufacturers have come out with many new solo tents, but I can't tell if any of them would work for winter camping. Mike Rapid City, South Dakota

This summer I plan on taking a backpacking trip to the Selway River or Kelly Creek in Idaho. I hope to do some fishing as well, which will require wading in the river. I do not want to take wading boots due to the weight. Do you have any recommendations for sandals or other footwear that can serve as both hiking sandals and water sandals? I need good sole support for hiking and walking over boulders while wading. I also require a non-slip surface that will grip wet rocks. I have found that hook-and-loops material does not work well when wet. Last summer, the hook-and-loop straps kept coming undone on my Tevas. Any help is greatly appreciated. J.L. Walker

What do you recommend for mountaineering in places such as Mount Rainier and Denali as far as headlps and bibs or pants? Would an LED light be better than a regular headlp? I know LED lights last much longer, but what about lighting up the trails? Also, are there any three-layer bibs that you would recommend that are warm, durable, and inexpensive? I like the description of the Marmot Alpinist but it's quite expensive. Are there any less expensive options? Charleton Churchill Pine Grove, California

For a few years I have been using a Macpac Microlight tent, perfect for me and my pack. However, I'm now looking for a slightly larger tent to also accommodate my dog. Finding that Macpacs are not sold in this country and mail order prices are exorbitant, I was wondering what you'd recommend that's comparable in durability, waterproofness, weight, and quality, hopefully for a more reasonable price. Jennifer Seattle, Washington

I'm planning to climb Aconcagua next year followed by Denali the year after, and I was wondering about layering for warmth using down sleeping bags and parkas. I want to avoid buying really specialized gear (like the Feathered Friends Rock & Ice Parka, or their Snowy Owl bag) that I can only use on the coldest peaks like Denali. Is it possible to achieve a comfortable temperature rating on this mountain using a combination of the Icefall Parka and the Widgeon bag? The reason I'm asking is I would like one bag for all my mountaineering endeavors (including the not-so-cold trainer mountains). John Toronto, Ontario

I'm going to Alaska's Denali in June, so are there any particular jackets out there that you would recommend? Would the Marmot Parbat Parka be sufficient on a breezy day atop Mount Denali? Eric Maryland

My son and I need to purchase raingear for an eight-day canoe trek to Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area this July. Do I need to get a Gore-Tex parka like most people recommend, or are the newer, lighter styles like Marmot's PreCip enough for such a trip? David Wichita, Kansas

I sweat a ridiculous ount and have no problem staying warm, having nordic skied in sub-zero temps wearing only a thin nylon T-shirt and XCR shell. So, I'm in search of the ideal base layer shirt. I like Patagonia's lightweight Capilene, but I'm still experimenting with various fabrics and manufacturers. I'm skeptical of Patagonia's silkweights as the stitching across the shoulders looks like it would be irritating with a big pack on. Do you have any wisdom to impart? Seyil Toronto, Ontario

I know nylon fabrics deteriorate from too much exposure to the sun, but does nylon lose its strength from old age? Is a sleeping bag that has been in storage for 20 years without seeing one ray of sunshine still "as good as new"? Are there both "good" and "bad" quality nylon fabrics, or are they all made equal? David Sparta, Michigan

Will a space blanket attract lightning? Jeff Santa Monica, California

My wife says that my regular reading of your column has cost us a fortune but I swear you've saved me money. Here's a chance to prove your worth, and much more importantly, prove me right. It's spring again, and my Mountain Hardwear Guide pants are suffering from a severe case of "glissade bottom." Are they totaled, or is there a way to economically repair this malady without tossing these wonderful but expensive pants in the trash heap? Secondly, I've tried to prevent "g.b." by pulling a pair of shorts over the pants, but to no avail. The shorts just ride up in to full wedgie mode, leaving me uncomfortable, and the pants largely exposed to the worst effects of snow abrasion. Is there some other method to avoid this in the first place, or should I just buy cheap pants for mountaineering? John Giles Carlsbad, California

I guessing that the tool that Bradford Hmar was looking for in a recent question is the Schrade I-Quip (http://www.schradeknives.com). It has an altimeter, barometer, digital compass, watch, whistle, mirror, flashlight, lighter compartment, screwdriver, knife, corkscrew, saw, and scissors. Jason Grech Decatur, Georgia

Dear Gear Guru, Each year I spend more and more time engaging in technically demanding backpacking, backcountry skiing, and mountaineering trips into the remote backcountry. Due to my exposure, the natural dangers of the mountains, and the probability of accidents, the need for a reliable and durable communications system has arisen. Do you know of a system that has long-range communication capabilities and can withstand the needs of being both portable and durable? Is a satellite phone the answer? As always, I look forward to the wisdom of your responses. Sean Constine

I live near North Carolina's Outer Banks and want to purchase a kayak for island hopping. What boat would you recommend for a beginner paddler? Jie Beaufort, North Carolina

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

This July I climbing Mount Rainer. My climbing partners have told me that a synthetic bag is necessary because of the rain. They recommended a 25- to 40-degree bag. We are going light and fast, and plan on using open-air bivys, so I think a bag with a microfiber shell would be a good thing. Unfortunately, I not having any luck in my search for the perfect bag. I have stumbled on only a few bags that are synthetic and have microfiber shells. Integral designs makes one, but it uses Primaloft2 as its insulation material. I have been warned to stay away from short-staple fibers because the bags don't last very long. Do you have any suggestions? Mike Ads Newark, Ohio

What type of bag would you recommend for climbing Denali? Down or Polarguard insulation? What specific bag would you recommend? What about as far as clothing—layers, brands, models etc.? Would you recommend a full down suit? Or a down jacket and either down pants or a shell with layers? Bob Grish Boise, Idaho

Dear Gear Guy, can I extend the life of running shoes by using Dr. Scholl's gel insoles? Will they improve the comfort of hiking boots? By the way, I use orthotics. Gary Goins Denver, CO

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

When the mercury heads south, the original performance fabrics—durable suede, denim, wool, and heavy cotton—will carry you through in comfort

Cousteau To Go and Fastpacking Paparazzi

With the right armor—either built in or as a high-tech housing—the new digital cameras can take the hits and keep your vision alive

Drift off under the stars in a featherweight sleeper designed for balmy summertime escapes

Sea kayaking along the Eastern Seaboard

The latest road runners fit better, feel faster, and work almost as hard as you do

Paddling a Norwegian river may be a walk in the park for explorer Børge Ousland, but it's a major triumph for his son

We know at least one sponsored paddler who was so smitten with the new RIOT AIR 45 that he defected to the company. And why not? The six-foot Air uses its surfboard-like bow and two removable inch-long fins along its hull to generate more speed on waves and, therefore, more…

Expedition: Kayaking Nepal ONLINE SLIDESHOW For more photos and an audio interview with Sean Glaccum, CLICK HERE The Bhote Kosi Team: Sean Glaccum, Joe Carberry, Andy Sommer Location: The Khumbu Region of Northeast Nepal Objective: Kayak the Bhote Kosi and Imja Khola Duration:…

Sean Glaccum discusses fast water and first descents in the Himalayas

The year's most intriguing guided adventures

The dream is a brand-new river route through a vast, primordial, wildlife-rich wonderland on the verge of environmental salvation. The reality is what happens when a small band of marginally prepared adventurers attempts the 400-mile first descent of Mozambique's mighty Lugenda—a journey past kayak-eating crocs, out-of-nowhere waterfalls, and a multitude

Have mountain-bike designers finally solved the riddle of the perfect ride?

Long overshadowed by poly-based pile, a more athlete-friendly, itch-free wool is back-and everywhere

Drawn to the backcountry? With the new wave of alpine touring gear, freedom is just beyond the ropes

A look at the shimmering swag of tomorrow

Salomon's Moto Jacket and Tommy Hilfiger's Anchor Bonded Cotton Jacket

The next wave of night-vision and sports-lighting systems equips you to explore more—and sleep less

Ever since Chanel models toted ice axes down the Paris runways last year, fashionistas have been looking to the REI racks for inspiration. And while this latest crop of haute outerwear may not suffice on a Chugach Range overnighter, it'll certainly keep you sleek and toasty for a brisk stroll this fall—while giving your fleece a well-deserved rest.

Kayaking, biking, hiking and gawking along the wild west's farthest shores

Thanks to smart design and engineering, today's tents deliver high-altitude performance at a low-elevation price

Dispatched to the annual Gearapalooza on the banks of the Great Salt Lake, our man returns with a vision of next year's swag.

DOWN TO EARTH MUSIC: IT'S A HIGH, LONESOME WORLD COMPILED FOR the International Year of the Mountains, the ROUGH GUIDE TO THE MUSIC OF THE ALPS, together with companion CDs from the Himalayas and the Appalachians (World Music Network, each), are the first to finally unite Krishna Das…

230 Miles, 28 days, countless castles, and a giant snag—one family's transformative journey by kayak down the Guadalquivir River

REMEMBER WHEN SUNGLASSES served only to dial back the squint? Today’s featherweight specs perform a veritable OSHA list of functions: they reduce eyestrain; protect against ultraviolet, infrared, and wind; fend off dust, debris, and bugs; and block out glare. Alas, no single pair of shades will save you from all…

To sort through this season's trail-runner bounty, mix equal parts rugged design and motivational psychology

The tumultuous, rolling waters off british columbia's haida gwaii lead to eerie totems of the past

Most families plan one big blowout vacation each summer—which still leaves a lot of summer left to enjoy. Our advice: Think weekends. Our seven getaways are active enough to keep older kids entertained, yet won’t be daunting for the younger ones. And they’re close to major cities, so you won’t…

Up a creek? Find the right trip—raft, sea kayak, or canoe—and the right adventure level for your family.

THE LAST AMERICAN MAN BY ELIZABETH GILBERT (Viking, $25) TO MEET EUSTACE CONWAY is to be dazzled. Here’s a man who stalked, killed, and dressed the deer whose skin he wears as pants; who rode a horse clear across America; who dines on roadkill and sleeps…

Love, War, and Circuses The Age-Old Relationship Between Elephants and Humans BY ERIC SCIGLIANO (Houghton Mifflin, $24) THERE ARE LOTS of elephant books out there, ranging from the cute to the clinical, but Eric Scigliano’s is the first to take a careful look at the human-elephant…

Spread brilliant images of your adventures across the wide-open spaces on your walls with the latest generation of photography's technological wonders

The Cadence of Grass by Thomas McGuane (Knopf, $24) A HEARTY WELCOME-HOME: After a decadelong foray into nonfiction, Thomas McGuane returns to Storyville with a tale of familial strife and kidney theft played out against Montana’s sweetgrass valleys. The Cadence of Grass, McGuane’s first…

Gear up withe year's fasted bikes for the buck

ONCE THERE WAS A WORLD WITHOUT SNOWBOARDING. A world where mountain biking was a strange and obscure cult, kayaking fiendishly inaccessible. A world without fleece vests, single-walled mountaineering tents, down sleeping bags, or GPS. In fact, until the late seventies—around the time this magazine was born—the universe of outdoor recreation…

Camp overnight or camp all week. We've got the gear to let you go fast and light under blue skies or gray.

Hop on (HUH?), rev up (WHAT?!), and take a trip (I can't HEAR YOU!) deep into the hillbilly heart of West Virginia, where gas-huffin' ATV motorheads churn through the Hatfield-McCoy Recreation Area—a private preserve devoted to the joys and sorrows of four-wheeling. (ARRRRGHHH!)

CHERRY Poets on the Peaks: Gary Snyder, Phillip Whalen and Jack Kerouac in the Cascades, by Jon Suiter (Counterpoint Press, ) illuminates these beats’ little-documented time tending fire lookouts in the north Cascades—summer pockets of productive A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard BY SARA WHEELER (Random…