Gear

Archive

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

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

I considering buying a pair of hiking shoes for day hikes with a light load (usually my 30-pound daughter in a child carrier). I have a pair of Merrell hiking boots and tennis shoes and I find both too warm (I don't know if its just me but I find tennis shoes very warm even though I don't have a tendency to sweat). Hence, I always end up using my Teva sandals, which don't give me enough support and don't protect my feet. Can you propose a closed hiking shoe that won't make me feel like my feet are in a furnace? Thanks in advance. Guillaume Frechette Columbus, Ohio

My ne is George, and I a Gearaholic. I know I have a problem, but I cannot control myself. Although I have eight packs, ranging from a Gregory Denali Pro to a Mountainsmith Ghost, I have the se dilemma with all of them. Though of average build, my hips are non-existent, causing my hipbelts to slide down my waist. This problem can be very bad in winter when lugging a heavy pack and wearing slippery Gore-Tex clothes. Are there any gripping solutions that can be applied, or is there another pack that can cure my problem? George Rochester, New York

I looking to buy a new tent for canoe tripping in the barrens of Canada's Northwest Territories. I expect lots of wind and rain so an expedition tent would be best. But what is an "expedition tent" anyway? Robert Guelph, Ontario

I camp in the desert in the winter when temperatures can range from zero to 90. My main concern is the wind, which can be downright chilling but also kick up sand. I'm looking for a tent that will shed wind and also not flap like the sail of a 12-meter yacht when it tacks. I'd really like to sleep without the noise. Can you suggest a suitable three- or two-person tent, preferably something on the roomier side? Chip Cairo, Egypt

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

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

With all the high-tech lenses out there, I'm looking for a pair or two that will provide good protection in a variety of situations. I would be using them for downhill skiing, water sports, motorcycle riding, driving, hiking, mountain biking, roller blading, etc. The three brands I considering are Revo, Oakley, and Serengeti. I was also told by someone a long time ago, that it is not a good idea to wear polarized lenses when riding a motorcycle, as they will hide oil spots on the road, causing a potential slide. Can you tell me if there is any truth to that? Tom Player Toronto, Ontario

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

I've been looking to buy a (first) sea kayak. I've tried a number of different models and types and have come up with a tentative short list: the Synergy by Northwest Kayaks, the Corona by Perception, the Sirocco by Current Designs, and the Cortez by Dagger. (I haven't tried the last one out yet but I've included it because of Outside's recommendation.) If you were a six-foot, 190-pond guy (and maybe you are) what boat would you consider to be the best value? I'm only considering plastic boats but I want to get the skinny on workmanship, materials, and design. Are these four companies equally regarded? Are the boats? Brian McCarthy Glendale, California

For multi-day trips to the Sierras, I've been using an REI Wonderland external-fre pack, 5,000 cubic inches of cavernous, organized, old-school pack. Everybody I see these days, though, has internal-fre packs that look so comfortable (maybe they're fooling me). I still living in the '80s with my Wonderland? Is it time for an internal-fre pack? If so, any suggestions? Alex Chino Hills, California

My wife has been using a pair of Asolo AFS Ridge boots for our backpacking trips, typically extended ones through rugged terrain. The Asolos blew out a se in front of the laces and need to be replaced. We are considering the Montrail Moraines or the Asolo 520 GTX boots. Is the Moraine too much boot? Is the Asolo 520 enough boot? Any other suggestions? Louis Oregon City, Oregon

I travel consistently for my job and like to hike and cp when I home. Could you recommend a digital camera that holds up to the abuse of travel and camping but still takes great pictures? I'm looking for something around the $500-mark. I have looked at some Nikon products, but what else would you recommend? Matt Minneapolis, Minnesota

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

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

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

Raichle's Mountain Trekker backpacking boot is the best boot I have ever owned, and I would like to purchase another pair. However, I can't find anyone that carries them anymore. Could you help me out with information on where I could get a pair? Trevor Calgary, Alberta

I'm planning a 14-day backpacking trip down Utah's Escalante River next month, and puzzled about the ideal footwear to pack. The route involves lots of wading, often over rough riverbeds, as well as slickrock hiking, all while lugging a big pack. Is there a boot out there that can provide good drainage as well as some serious support? David Grinnell, Iowa

Oh Gear Guide, you have failed us! Over and over I have heard you espouse the quality of the Yashica, so I decided that the T4 was the camera for me. Unfortunately, after hours of searching, I find out that the T4 has not been made for years! Just recently, you suggested the camera but didn't mention that it would be impossible to find. With the T4 no longer on the market, what kind of camera would you suggest? Mike Newark, Ohio

For a very long time I've been looking for a camera to take backpacking. I messed around with digitals, but decided they were not practical and didn't have a good enough zoom for my purposes. So, now I'm looking to get an SLR. Do you have any recommendations on a good camera and some good lenses for an amateur not wanting to bother with tons of manual setup? Benjamin Tempe, Arizona

Is it necessary to waterproof Gore-Tex boots with something like Nikwax's Aqueous Wax Waterproofing? Mikebr>St. Paul, Minnesota

I have been hearing about MSR's lightweight and very compact Pocket Rocket stove. But the fuel for it seems to weigh a lot more than the white gas that I use now for my MSR Whisperlite. Is the fuel for this new breed of stoves heavier than other fuels? And if so why does everyone think they are saving so much more weight when they are making up for it in the weight of the fuel? Justin Strasburg Lincoln, Nebraska

Hola Señor Gear: After ten days of tromping in the Peruvian rainforest in borrowed rubber boots, my insteps are bruised from roots and stumps and my toes want to grip the inside of my shoes for stability. Yet, I'm convinced that rubber boots are the only way to go in jungle conditions. Are there rubber boots with hiking boot soles and at least a little support for the ankles? Bob St. Louis, Missouri

What's a good internal-fre backpack for someone just getting into backpacking (two- to four-night trips)? I don't want to spend more than I need to, not knowing how much I'll end up liking backpacking. (I've strictly been a day hiker in the past.) However, I don't want to buy junk that won't work properly and will ruin my trip. Kris Newbury, Ohio

I'm in need of a bigger climbing backpack, but I'm facing two problems. First, I also need a bigger backpack for weeklong trips; my climbing partner says just get one huge bag, just don't fill it up. So, one bag or two? Second, how big? I a five-foot-six, 130-pound female, and I think I require at least 3,000 cubic inches for my climbing needs. Kendra Boise, Idaho

My daughter is flying to Europe this fall and is looking for a good all-around pack for all travel essentials, plus a computer. She is small-fred, five-feet four-inches tall, and weighs 110 pounds. This is the only luggage she is taking and she plans on being there five months. The packs needs to be durable and easy to carry. What should she be looking for? Janet Boise, 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

I'm an Australian looking to travel in North America from December to February. Can you recommend a good trekking tent for the season that will house two to three people and their gear? I would like to use the tent year-round and for it to be fairly roomy. Rod Sydney, Australia

I bought a pair of leather Scarpa hiking boots, but I'm having trouble breaking them in. The soles feel too rigid and it hurts to wear them, even for a short hike. I think they are too sturdy for my weight of 116 pounds. Some people have told me to get them wet and then hike in them. What do you suggest? Janet Payson, Arizona

I'm trying to decide whether or not to shell out on a bunch of new equipment for a scuba diving course in Turkey this summer. What does the all-knowing Gear Guy say: buy all and be ready before I go, or rent equipment once I'm there? Grant Washington, D.C.

I have read that wool clothing is better than any synthetics made. Is that true? Smartwool is coming out with a 5.2-ounce lightweight shirt in August-could this be possibly the best shirt out there for backcountry travelers? Also, is there a pair of lightweight pants that perform well in a wide range of climates? I would prefer convertibles, but regular pants are okay as long as they breathe well. Peter Portola Valley, California

What are the pros and cons of jackets made with Ventile? Is this material worth the money? What about Nextec? Alex Strongsville, Ohio

I interested in purchasing a multi-functioning watch, such as the Suunto Vector, something with an altimeter, barometer, and the like. I'd be using it when hiking, camping, or mountaineering; I'd even like to swim with it on. Is Suunto the only company that makes these watches? Is there a hiking watch that can do it all, even when it's freezing and underwater? Tony Detroit, Michigan

I'm going to the Himalayas in March for a mountaineering course. I wear glasses and want to know what the best options are for eye protection. Prescription glacier glasses are a little expensive, and besides, I might need goggles at some point also, right? Apoorva Bethesda, Maryland

I need a thin, lightweight, and durable jacket to keep me warm over a Canadian winter. Problem is I hate fleece and cannot stand to wear anything heavy or puffy, ruling out any down-filled or fleece-lined jackets. I short, too, so no big and bulky jackets either. I know that this is a hard one, but this winter I really don't want to be shivering 99 percent of the time. Tracy Winnipeg, Manitoba

I need a very lightweight tent for extended hiking trips on the Appalachian Trail. I carried the Marmot X-Racer last week and ended up with knee problems, so I'd like to shave off three to four pounds if possible. Is there a single-walled tent weighing around three pounds that uses trekking poles for supports? Matt Chattanooga, Tennessee

Do you know where I can get a bike rack for a Montero 2002 SUV? I don't want it place it on the roof and need it to carry two kid bikes and a mountain bike. Alvin Joaquino Parlin, New Jersey

Being from California, I do the majority of my hiking in the Sierra Nevada—"park bear" country. As bears become smarter, hanging food becomes exponentially less effective. I hate to carry those heavy canisters. Does anyone make a titanium canister, or an ultralight canister, being that Ursacks are not allowed in Yosemite or Sequoia National Parks? Michael Santa Clara, California

As a bowman on a racing sailboat crew, I called upon to climb various things. The usual practice is to wear a climbing harness rather than use a bosun's chair as it saves time on the racecourse. My problem is that salt water is corrosive, and our usual sailing area off the south coast of the U.K. is particularly so. I'm not too comfortable going up the mast wearing a harness where the buckles are showing signs of corrosion. Is there a harness with buckles made of stainless steel? Or what other solution could you suggest? Edward London, England

I'm a 40-year-old dad planning to be a mule for my young family of five (wife, two daughters, ten and 12 years old, and seven-year-old son). I'm looking for a large capacity (6,000-plus-cubic-inch) backpack. I'm currently looking at the Osprey Crescent 110, Dana Designs Terraplane, and Arc'Teryx Bora 95. I realize pack comfort will differ based on individual size and body shape. Of these three I mention, and possibly others I haven't, which carries the heaviest loads and provides the most comfort. Frank Hahn Chula Vista, California

This summer, I will be traveling in Peru and concerned about thieves cutting into my pack. What do you recommend to protect my belongings? Pat Harlingen, Texas

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

Can three-season tents be used in the snow? Is it necessary to have a "mountain" tent for snow camping? With a full cover fly, what is wrong with using a three-season tent for occasional snow camping? Lyn Greenhill Roseville, California

I'm going overseas for approximately two years. Unfortunately, there'll be no camping opportunities the whole time. Before finding out I was off, I purchased a new tent, sleeping bag, and backpack. What's the best way to store this gear so it's as good as new when I get back? Gil Beaumont, Texas

Will boiling or adding chlorine dioxide to water neutralize all organic chemicals (i.e., industrial waste)? Also, should you filter water after using iodine or chlorine dioxide to purify it? Does ViralStop (from SweetWater) kill anything other than viruses? Basically, what's the simplest, lightest way of neutralizing EVERYTHING? Seyil Toronto, Ontario

I've noticed a strange paradox in my personality. When I go out to the woods, sitting in some remote beautiful locale I often in want of one thing: a margarita. I've often theorized different devices that I could construct to make a blender but nothing ever made sense. And then I found the GSI hand-cranking Vortex Blender. While I would never take this backpacking (OK, maybe on a day trip to be fancy in front of my exhausted friends) I would definitely be interested in it for kayak camping and car camping—so long as the ice lasts. But does the thing actually work? Or is this really a doomed fantasy of mine? I'm skeptical about the amount of effort this thing would take to crunch up ice. I'd love to pop this out and be a hero. Brian McCarthy Glendale, California

I'm interested in testing the triathlon "waters." Can you suggest any good bikes for a beginner triathlon biker, say, for under $1,000? Gary Quito, Ecuador

I'm looking for a pair of Gore-Tex mountaineering pants that I can use snowboarding in the Alps, climbing in rainy Scotland, or cross-country skiing in Norway—all without maxing out my credit card. Any suggestions? Jakob London, United Kingdom

I have been contemplating hiking the Appalachian Trail. Having spoken to a number of through-hikers, I'm told that many are using homemade alcohol stoves made from soda cans. Can you give me your take on alcohol stoves? Have you had any dealings with an alcohol stove known as the Trangia? Mark New York City

On extended backpacking trips, does it make sense to pack both a soft shell and a waterproof jacket? Or just take along the rain jacket? Also, since I come from Europe, I'm a little bit confused about what exactly cross-country skiing is. I know what telemarking is (those graceful people on the piste) and also langlauf (with the thin skis), but what is cross-country? Karl Cottenie Leuven, Belgium

Just wondering if you know of any companies that do any sort of maternity outdoor wear, the actual technical garb. I realize that a pregnancy only lasts so long and we already have to add to our wardrobe as it is, but it just so happens that my few biggest months will be the hiking season. I have tried on some of my other gear and think a few pieces will work, but is there a manufacturer who makes stuff that will actually let me and the baby hike comfortably? Charlotte Winnipeg, Manitoba

I've read your praise for the Yashica T4 point-and-shoot camera and was attempting to locate a refurbished unit on the web, when, lo and behold, up pops the new Yashica T4 Zoom with a Carl Zeiss Lens (28mm to 70mm). In the wilderness, I've always managed to catch more pictures than fish, and would appreciate your thoughts on a lightweight point-and-shoot for my arduous outdoor adventures. Scott Maple Valley, Washington

I'd like to buy my dad a comfortable bike for exercise and recreation. He doesn't like to be hunched over a bike because he has a temperental back. He also needs a comfortable seat. Is there anything for $800 or less? Joe Edison, New Jersey

For the second year in a row, we have just returned from our annual spring camping trip in southern Utah, and because of blowing dust, the zippers on the tent are EXTREMELY difficult to operate. Are there any methods for treating "dust-laden" zippers in the field? Also, now that we're back, we've washed the tents, sprayed silicon on the zippers—they're better, but still not like they used to be. Any suggestions? I've been told to buy some "zipper wax" to carry camping next time, but no one here seems to carry it. Thanks! Kirk Astroth Belgrade, Montana

I just returned from Mount Rainier with a rope I had bought specifically for this trip but with the intention of using it for rock climbing. I hate to think of the number of times I saw it go under foot. None of my ropemates put a crampon into it, but I sure don't see myself taking a lead fall with it now, especially 100 feet up. But what about glacier travel? Certainly the guides on Rainier leading newbie mountaineers don't replace their ropes after every trip. Is there anything I can do to physically check the condition of my rope and feel comfortable using it for glacier travel? I truly hate to toss a rope after one trip.

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

Recently a couple friends and I attempted a 14-mile backpacking trip alongside a Class II-III river, with 90 percent of our time spent boulder-hopping, the remaining 10 percent waterborne. Unfortunately, we only managed to go three miles before the small recreational rafts we had to transport our packs got ripped up by the rocks and all the bushwhacking. In light of this, do you know of any companies who sell floating backpacks? Or is there some kind of easy-to-pack inflatable for transporting gear through water. We'd like to complete the se trek next year, but need a better way to float our backpacks. Travis Roseville, California

I have a bit of a problem. I must have put my pack away a little wet after a spring backcountry ski trip and now all the waterproof coating is coming off the inside of the pack. I have a siliconized nylon pack cover that I will probably use for an upcoming Sierra trip and sprayed the outside of the pack with Nikwax. I also always use a garbage bag inside of the pack to protect my gear. Do you think the pack is done and I need to bite the bullet and buy another? Or do you have any suggestions of ways to fix it? Tim Newport Beach, California

I'm looking to get a lightweight and compact pair of binoculars to carry with me on hikes. Do you have any general tips and some recommendations for good buys? Joe Voelcker Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What's the best and most reliable lighter to take on a camping trip? The top candidates seem to be Colibri and Windmill lighters. Is there much of a difference? John New York City

I'm fairly well equipped for three-season travel with a Lowe pack, Merrell boots, a Sierra Designs down bag rated to -5, a 3/4-length Therm-a-Rest, and two tents: Mountain Hardware's Glacier and the Slickrock from The North Face. But on a recent June trip in the B.C. backcountry, I pitched the Slickrock on a snowfield and the down bag got wet. What do I do to remedy the situation? Buy a synthetic bag, or a down bag with at least a partial waterproof shell? Buy a full length Therm-a-Rest, which keeps the whole bag off the ground? Get a person four-season tent? Where do I throw my hard earned (and continually depleting) gear dollars? Scott Nelson Vancouver, British Columbia

What tools do I need, and how do I build a good snow cave for winter camping in the Colorado Rockies? Daniel Denver, Colorado

Oh Great Gear Voice of the Heavens, What's a nice, dry, two-person, three-season tent with two doors and vestibules? My current tent is a Sierra Designs Orion AST. It's a very well built tent and stayed completely dry in a very wet trip to Deer Lake in Olympic National Park. I like being able to use only the rain fly and ground sheet as well as the window in the fly. The problem is that the very slanted door lets stuff collect in the tent entrance and makes zipping and unzipping tough. It also makes the vestibule useless for anything but boots. I hope to get a new tent with two doors that are straight up and down, but don't want to lose the high quality and rain-proofness. I willing to give up a little in weight if I could get a ground sheet that covers the floors of the vestibule as well. Chris Barnes Bremerton, Washington

I'm looking for a mountaineering boot for tackling some of the Lower 48's fourteeners. I've reviewed the Koflach Degre and the Asolo Guide, but I'm also interested in some of the newer leather boots, like the Scarpa Cerro Torre Thermo. Have the new insulated leathers finally become an acceptable solution, or should I stick with doubles? Matt San Ron, California