Dear Gear Guy, I longtime winter outdoorsman, but a winter and alpine camping beginner. I bought a -5-degree Polarguard 3D bag that I've slept in at temperatures ranging from 15 to 30 degrees in high-quality tents and on a (cushy) RidgeRest/Therma-Rest combo, albeit on snow—and I always freeze, if not right away, then definitely by 3 A.M. I wear at least two layers, often my third, hat, etc. Short of wearing my outer layer (!!) or my belay jacket/pillow to bed, what gives? I just in kick-ass shape (no insulation layer) or just a total wimp who needs to buy a warmer, heavier bag? Or is there something about temperature ratings that I'm missing? Bill New York, New York

I looking for a parka for winter camping in New Hampshire. I have narrowed it down to the Feathered Friends Frontpoint and the Wild Things Belay Jacket. How does the warmth of the Belay compare to a high-quality down piece such as the Frontpoint? Which would you recommend for New Hampshire winters? S Portsmouth, New Hampshire

I looking for a cold weather running jacket that is extremely breathable and wind-resistant (waterproofness is not a necessity). I've been using Lowe Alpine's Adrenaline jacket, which is great for hiking but stes up quickly when I running hard. I usually buy The North Face and Patagonia products but I not sure that they make the best stuff for running. What do you think? Nick Kogevinas Washington, D.C.

I own a 1994 Isuzu Trooper SE that has a moon roof and a factory luggage rack. I looking for a roof rack system to carry bikes. I've looked through Thule and Yakima online, and wondered if I could use the existing luggage tracks and buy towers to go with them and then the bars. I really want something for the roof, not a tire or hitch mount. WD Ray Columbia, South Carolina

I have been looking for a three-season alternative to my mountain tent, which has proven bulletproof for backpacking and climbing expeditions in mild conditions. The North Face Tadpole 23 seems to be a lightweight, good-looking choice, and since it's from The North Face, I have no questions on quality. What do you think? Christian San Diego, California

My sweetie and I are going to Everest's Khumbu Icefall this December, where it's likely to be numbingly cold. I'd like to buy her a toasty parka for this trip and have homed in on Feathered Friends' Icefall and MEC's Frobisher. But will those jackets be significantly warmer than our current 550-fill REI parkas? Should I pay for the 800-fill down or Nextec Epic (apparently the best thing since somebody figured out how to shear a sheep) if I go with Feathered Friends? Or should I be looking at other parkas? Robert Fairview, Oregon

Long time reader, first time questioner: I have long been a fan of liquid-fuel stoves, but recently read your advice about the difficulty in obtaining white gas products abroad ["Do they sell white gas for stoves in Europe?"]. I about to head out on a nine-month round-the-world trip, so would like to take along a reliable canister stove. Do you have any information on which canister stoves will mate with the multitude of international propane canisters that I'm likely to find? Europe and Oceania are my probable destinations. Aaron Green Bay, Wisconsin

Do you have any tips for taking a dog on trail? I'm taking my dog on her first trip and want to protect my gear without constantly worrying about it. Are those packs dogs wear a good idea? Will she dage the inside of my tent? Kieran Hosey Frankfort, Kentucky

I recently unpacked my tent to be hit by a powerful smell of chemicals and mold, so bad that it gives me headaches and I can't sleep in the tent. Could I just wash it with some mild soap to get rid of the stink? I believe that the ses were sprayed with some sort of leakproof sealant, so I think that's why it smells. Janie Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

How do I wash the sweaty odor from my polypropylene toque? I used Wisk liquid detergent without success. The toque is clean but it still smells badly. I need help. Alexander Do Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I have an early-nineties GT mountain bike with a titanium fre. It's still a good-looking, lightweight bike, but its rear U-brake has no real power. Are there any compatible brakes with better grip, or are there any pads with magical powers? Andreas Reno, Nevada

Why did Sno-Seal fall out of favor? I kept a pair of heavy hiking boots alive for years with some welt dressing and this stuff. Joe Midland, Texas

I have been searching online for the past few hours for piece of equipment that I believe I saw in some gear magazine (the mail order kind). I will describe it: digital watch, with a compass, stopwatch, etc., and a lighter, signal mirror, and small knife blade with various other attachments. It hung from a lanyard and cost around $100.00 or so. Can you help me find a name for this product or where I might be able to order one? Thanks for the help. Bradford Hammar Charleston, West Virginia

Where can I find a waterproof video camera, for filming surfing and other stuff? Luke Ft. Myers, Florida

I have a 2001 Honda Civic coupe and will be making a cross-country trip. I looking into a cargo rack to outfit my Civic but I'm not sure how much to spend and which brand to go with (Thule, Yakima, or Saris.) The rack will probably only be used for a rooftop storage bag. If you could suggest a rack model I would greatly appreciate your help. Pete Lptey Fairfax, Virginia

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

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

What do you know about the "Stealth Can" and its effectiveness? From what I read, it's impenetrable to bears and seals in odors to throw animals off the scent. I like the idea of pre-empting animals from entering cp, rather than "teasing" them with food they can smell but not reach. Mark Ewing, New Jersey

Are candle lanterns safe to use in tents for light? Obviously you'd want to keep an open fle away from the tent walls, but are they as safe as a battery-powered lantern? John Bergquist Corvallis, Oregon

What's the best crampon for the LaSportiva K3 boot? Can I use semi-rigid crampons with them to climb vertical ice? I need crampons for that and glacier approaches but am afraid that if I get a fully rigid crampon I will get to much balling-up effect with the snow. Joe Roop Prescott, Arizona

I have a simple question. I dried my jacket on a high temperature in the dryer. Everybody tells me I shouldn't have done this, but how will it affect my jacket? Adrien Lancaster, United Kingdom

Oh Gear Oracle, I have a problem with a build-up of moisture within my mittens, not from rain or snow, but from my own perspiration. This is especially true during snowshoeing trips. I was wondering if there are any shells that have little or no insulation, allowing me to layer them inside and increase the breathability of the mitten. Dennis Portsmouth, New Hampshire

At what point, if ever, should your boots be replaced? Is it a question of mileage, time, or condition? I've had my boots (L.L. Bean Knife Edge, leather) for a number of years. They are well maintained and comfortable. Is there a point where the boot does not perform its support function and the trade off between comfort and support (in favor of comfort) is not worth it? Jim Comerford Wyncote, Pennsylvania

I have been trying to decide between the PUR Guide water filter and the MSR MiniWorks, although I have heard that the MSR clogs less and is cleanable. However, the MiniWorks' high pump per liter ratio has turned me off, especially as the PUR Guide boasts a more efficient output. I will be using the filter mostly in high alpine areas where the water is fairly clear of mud and silt. What are your thoughts? Jim Huntsville, Utah

I want a chest pack to carry my Pentax 67II camera and its lens. It will need to have padded shoulder straps and a strap to hold it tight around my waist. Any ideas? Kiim Clackas, Oregon

Is it better to roll or stuff a tent? Kye Eugene, Oregon

I want to upgrade from a cheap pair of compact binoculars. Assuming I had a pile of money burning its way out of my pocket, would I see much difference between a pair of Nikon Travelites and Leica Trinovids? Also, are there any other models I should look at (through)? Joe Lawrenceville, Georgia

Why are mountaineering leather double boots such as the Boreal G1 or Vasque Vertical such a niche product? They are supposed to provide as much warmth as plastic double boots, without any the discomfort of wearing something fit for Frankenstein. These boots have summited Denali and Everest, yet event the "experts" at specialty gear stores frequently don't know about them. What's the catch? Andy Veres Alexandria, Virginia

"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

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 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've collected the very best ensemble of outdoor gear, but I still require one last item: sunglasses! Price is no object, but quality is. I need the best all-purpose outdoor fres that are compatible with prescription lenses. Cebe comes to mind, but do you have any other suggestions? Paul Boulder, Colorado

I've been skiing for years and haven't needed to buy new thermal underwear in a long time. But now that I'm ready to replace it, several new materials are on the market. I know I don't want cotton, but what about silk? Wool? Or should I just stick with polyester? y Kuntz California

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

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

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

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 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

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

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

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

My wife and I will be hiking in the Canadian Rockies this summer. We'd each like to carry a pair of compact binoculars for birding and the occasional vast vista that we might come upon. Without breaking the bank (we don't need waterproofed and rubber-armored), what would you recommend? As far as magnification goes, should we consider buying zoom binoculars or stick with a basic model? Also, how important is it to have the widest field of view possible? Byron Phoenix, Arizona

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'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 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

My family of five—myself, wife, and three decent-sized kids—plus the dog would like to go snow camping, and I think I've got everything covered except the tent. As for cost, we'd prefer to be comfortable and broke over rich, frozen, and miserable. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find a suitable five-person tent—MSR's StormKing comes close, but only allows 12 square feet per person. I have concerns about splitting the family into two tents in potentially nasty weather. Do you have any advice? Nathaniel Nevada City, California

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 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

Your Gearness, I planning to drive cross-country this summer, hiking and camping wherever the road takes me. For the driving portion, I was thinking of investing in a GPS system to help with the "figuring-out-where-the-heck-I-am" moments. Do you have any advice as to the value of GPS for this? (I will not need it for hiking, using the old-fashioned technique of map, compass, and trail blazes) Realistically, I'd like to stay under $300, but will go higher for an exceptional device—one that does the navigating, driving, AND laundry. Charles New York City, New York