Gear

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Your Gearness, I'm in desperate need of your expert advice. After two major knee surgeries involving saws, metal plates, and screws, I have suddenly become an advocate of trekking poles. I own a set of Master Kompressor poles with comfortable handles and a useful shock-absorber option. However, I've been tempted by a pair of Leki Ultralites, which are six ounces lighter but without the shock absorbers. At five-foot-one and about 120 pounds, do I really need poles with shock absorbers, or is it a waste of money for me? I have my sights set on the Grand Canyon this spring and would like to have time to "road test" a set of poles before then. Paula San Diego, California

What are the key factors one should take into account in purchasing a road/touring bike? Brent Ithaca, New York

I've been looking at water purifiers and have narrowed it down to two-the First Need Deluxe and the Sweet Water Guardian. I've read some on both and I've heard of the Guardian breaking on hiking trips and not being field serviceable. I haven't been able to get much info on the First Need Deluxe, only that is clogs. Which do you think is better and why? Kyle Waco, Texas

I'm considering purchasing a food dehydrator to help lighten things up on long hikes and bike rides. My research suggests that the best options are the erican Harvest or the Excalibur, but I have no idea of how these compare or if there is a better choice out there. I'm comfortable selecting the price and capacity of the model, but at a loss when it comes to the other nuts and bolts of the subject. Do you have any insights that can inform my decision? Chuck Freeport, Maine

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

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

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

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

I have just purchased a new road-racing bicycle and now searching the market for some pedals. As you know, pedals are extras on most models, but what to buy: Time, Look, Shimano, Cpagnolo? The choice is a little overwhelming. Do you have any suggestions on some good, reliable pedals that will last and not cost a fortune? Weight's not an issue, nor is the latest, greatest technology. Wayne Luleå, Sweden

Since my boyfriend is useless regarding backpacking info and only cares to remember such things as hockey stats, I come to you for advice on a pair of Kayland 1700s that I want for extended backpacking in the Canadian Rockies. These boots come with Proof, a factory waterproofing similar to Gore-Tex. Do I need to apply an after-market treatment like Nikwax to the boots, or will that inhibit the ability of the lining to do its job? Jessica Alberta

Which boot liner is better: leather or Gore-Tex? Personally, I've never had any Gore-Tex-lined shoes, but shop assistants keep raving about them. Some of my friends aren't so enthusiastic, though, complaining about getting sweaty feet on warm summer days. (I'm talking here about the "middle" category of mountain boots, like the Lowa Baffin.) Gerhard Innsbruck, Austria

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

Can I use a standard tarp as a footprint instead of the manufacturer's footprint? Are there any significant differences between the two options? Ne Withheld Bangkok, Thailand

I've been considering getting a helmet for downhill skiing. Given the expense, I was wondering if it was possible to buy one helmet to cover several outdoor activities, in addition to skiing. I do a fair bit of skiing in the winter, but in other seasons I also go bicycling, do a little rock climbing, and may try inline skating this summer. I've rented them in the past, but would like to save the money on rentals -- as well as the expense of buying a helmet for every sport. Is there truly a helmet for all seasons? Some years back a similar question was asked, and the answer was "no," though the Petzl Meteor was mentioned. Wondering if this is still the case. Shawn Vitt Portland, Oregon

For a four-week section hike on the Appalachian Trail in March, should I get a full-leather waterproof boot like the Hi-Tec Excursion, or the lighter Amazon that's also waterproof and made with both leather and nylon? Matt Chattanooga, Tennessee

I desperately trying to find a bright hand torch that does what the manufacturers claim—I've bought three torches this year all because they told me they were bright, only to discover, to my disgust, that they were hopelessly poor. Can you recommend a very bright hand torch that doesn't take six batteries like the Maglite and doesn't weigh a ton? Kevin England, United Kingdom

I'm looking for a new lighter tent as I'm going to be doing some extended backpacking this summer. I'd like one that is freestanding, has a vestibule, and has enough interior space for two people to sleep comfortably. What are the lightest tents in this category? Jim McCreary Cazenovia, New York

Your Gear Excellence, What would be your recommendation for footwear to run in the rain? Living in Mii, and especially at this time of year, it's a pain to have to cancel my morning runs. However, I concerned that hitting the asphalt sidewalks under pouring rain with my regular Asics or New Balance running shoes will give me blisters. Are my concerns well founded? Do I need special footwear to run under the rain? Gotta go for my run. Andres Biernat Mii, Florida

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

I'm a student who's planning a summer road trip to visit some neighboring states and maybe even Canada. I hope to leave the truck for a few days at a time and do a little backpacking, so I'm looking for a pack. Remember, I'm a starving college student, so nothing too expensive please! Mike San Luis Obispo, California

I have a Gregory Palisade pack and love it. A number of recent comments and reviews of the Dana Designs Terraplane pack have suggested it is the best pack on the market. However, I find the price of over $400 extreme. Is there something inherent in this pack that would suggest such a premium over the $200 to $300 internal fre packs in its category? David R. Eitemiller Colorado Springs, Colorado

I'm in the market for a new sleeping bag and would like to give a down bag a try, mostly because of space and weight issues. I'd be using it primarily as my summer bag, so a 30-degree rating should be enough. Do you have any advice for a good down bag? Andy La Crosse, Wisconsin

I have recently begun rock climbing and have decided it is time to purchase climbing shoes (I sure that this isn't another phase for me like decorative soap making). I have been told and read that when purchasing climbing shoes to buy them one and a half sizes smaller than your regular shoe size. Will they really stretch one and a half sizes lengthwise to fit my foot, or will I just be inflicting some strange foot torture on myself? Thanks! Matthew Cpion New York, New York

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

Several years ago, I bought a pair of "funny-looking" Salomon Adventure 9 boots. They were virtually perfect, but are finally wearing out. Since there's no sign of a similar boot in today's U.S. Salomon line, can you think of an alternative? Ray Cleveland Heights, Ohio

On a recent winter excursion in the Adirondacks, my Whisperlite stove failed. The fuel was pressurizing, but it wasn't reaching the ignition wick due to a blockage in the fuel line. Why does this happen in cold weather (our temperature was in the single digits), and how can it be prevented? John Buffalo, New York

I have been backpacking and hiking for many years but I was recently told that for long hikes I should put on my liners, spread Vaseline on them, and then put on my hiking socks. Do you know anything about this or is this a joke? Joaquin Lira Oshkosh, Wisconsin

I've been shopping for a car-camping tent for our family (myself, my husband, two kids aged 14 and nine, plus one growing golden retriever puppy). I want a three-season tent that gives us a fair amount of space, maybe with dividers, but the mind boggles with all the choices: nylon, polyester, taffeta, fiberglass, aluminum, this D mesh, that D mesh. I feel like I need a degree in materials engineering to figure this out! Can you help? Tracey Irvine, California

I'm planning a through-hike of the Continental Divide Trail this summer, and I want to go ultra-light. What's the best tarp to use—the easiest to set up, the best in wind, and so on? Syd Seattle, Washington

I'm a big guy (six feet five, 270 pounds) who's interested in buying a hybrid bike for some urban biking and trail riding (nothing too extreme or competitive). So I need a bike that fits but doesn't cost a fortune. Also, can you explain mountain- and hybrid-bike sizing conventions, especially as there doesn't seem to be a standard way of measuring hybrid bikes?

I want to buy a bike to ride the two miles to work and head downtown on the weekends, about a 15-mile ride. Thing is, I have an attachment to big comfy handlebars, seats, and three-speed internal gears; I cringe at all the "touring" bikes with their rock-hard seats and hunched-over handlebars. I currently have a cruiser and walk it up hills. Can you recommend a bike that won't break the bank? Tiffany Santa Barbara, California

Man, do I need some bike advice. I have been riding mountain bikes exclusively for the last ten years. I now want to buy a road bike specifically for commuting and exercise. I would like something fun and comfortable to ride, but geared like a road bike for speed. I considering the Marin Tiburon and the Specialized Sirrus Pro, which are in my price range. What should I go for? Lawrence Elk Grove, California

I enjoy everything about my new digital camera except for the short battery life, which is especially annoying when on multi-day hikes when the battery might suddenly go dead. Are there any solar-powered products out there for recharging batteries while on the trail? John Swanton, Maryland

I want to take my video camera with me on a trip to the Colorado mountains and hoping I can buy a solar panel to charge the battery. There seems to be some difficulty with finding info. It's a 6-volt battery and I have the adapter that plugs into a car cigarette lighter. Can I buy a 5-watt solar panel that is advertised to charge a 12-volt car battery and use it? Can I just wire up the cigarette lighter receptor to the panel, and then plug the adapter into it? Seems to me that ought to work. But, we don't know much about solar panels other than expeditions use them to charge batteries. Jeannette Singleton

Yes, as an overpronate runner weighing in at 210 pounds, I probably should take up a less impact-prone sport. But I'm still running, so I need some shoes with torsional stability and impact-absorbing capability. For the past year, I have been running in a pair of Brooks Beasts, which have worked pretty well, but not perfectly (Spenco insoles helped some). Can you recommend several running shoes that are suited for a runner of my build? Charles New York City

Can you recommend a three-season tent that is well configured and roomy for two people and a dog? Tom Miller San Francisco, California

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

I new to whitewater kayaking and was wondering about a practical, fairly inexpensive way to get into the sport. Jimmy Cullowhee, North Carolina

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

What's your take on Backpacker's Pantry Outback Oven? Does the Outback Oven really bake well and also conserves fuel for cooking traditional grub? After a zillion meals of mac and cheese, ren, gorp, and dried fruits, the Ziplocs carrying the food start looking more appetizing then the food within. The idea of dining on hot cinnon rolls, fresh pita bread, pot pies, or (gasp!) brownies does make me wonder if the Outback Oven really works or if it's just another ravenous hikers delusions? Ed Beaudry Laurel, Maryland

My family and I enjoy car camping in Alaska's interior. However, as I get older, I'm finding that my back gets stiffer using my old sleeping pad and that my air mattress doesn't give enough insulation. What type of pad or combination of pad and air mattress do you recommend to minimize back pains, provide insulation, and allow for a comfortable night's sleep? Shane Juneau, Alaska

What do you think of OR's Pulsar Parka? I see the Outside Buyer's Guide gave it a "Drool" award. I ask because I can't find it for sale at any of the "big" outdoor retailers. I have hunted every major Web site that carries OR products and not one of them carries or even advertises this jacket. Was there some problem with them or why does no one carry them? Thank you for your response. Craig K. Noble Bliss, New York

Can you shed some light on headlps for a well-intentioned fanny-pack kisser? I'm after a good, bright headlp for hiking and backpacking. I have an old Princeton Tec Solo, but thinking of upgrading to a Black Diond Gemini or one of the Petzl models. And there I was thinking that the days of headgear obsessions ended with high school. Jay Eugene, Oregon

My husband and I frequently take our two dogs on our camping trips, in all sorts of weather. However, as much as I love them, after a day of hiking on muddy trails I'm often less than enthused about welcoming two balls of mud into our tent (one 20-pound beagle-ball, the other a 60-pound lab-type-ball). We have daydreamed about a lightweight pouch or lightly insulated sleep sack for our dogs. I ready to start experimenting with my sewing machine, but a friend told me there's a company that makes this stuff. Is this true? And if so, is this gear practical? Toni Schenectady, New York

Are there any leather boots that will hold up on the "big peaks" like Denali or Everest? I planning a trip to Denali and would really like to go with leather boots as I've never liked plastics. Any thoughts? Jeff Norfolk, Virginia

I going kayaking in two week's time to Big Bend. As I've never done it before, I'd like to know what gear is needed so that I don't freeze in the water. Luis San Antonio, Texas

I just recently got into mountaineering and assing all the gear needed to pursue my different interests. I have a lot of the basics and now its time to get some boots. I need a four-season boot for both general mountain travel and technical ice. In the grand scheme of accruing mountain gear, boots account for a pretty hefty chunk of change—especially if you buy three pair of boots: one for three-season mountain travel, another for winter mountain travel, and the third for technical ice. Much more appealing would be a single pair of boots that could do all three. Does such a boot exist? If not, can I get away with two pairs of boots? I'm just looking for a way to escape throwing down $1000 on boots. Josh Hattan Lincoln, Nebraska

I need a bike for commuting that I can use with panniers. Should I go with a traditional touring bike, or should I use one of the hybrids similar to a Trek 7700 FX? I'd like to spend less than $1,250 if possible. I have found some bike commuting pages, but they don't give much guidance on, of all things, bikes. I'm sure you have more than enough time in the saddle to offer some guidance as well as some personal preferences. Tim San Jose, California

I'm looking for the perfect sea-kayaking tent. Currently I'm using an older The North Face Geodesic three-person tent: it's great but is on the large size and tends to leak when not staked out. So, I'm looking for something that packs into a small size, can hold more than one person's gear, sets up easily, doesn't require much staking (sand doesn't hold stakes very well), and is very waterproof. Marshall Watkinsville, Georgia

I have been looking at jackets and vests from GoLite, and they all seem pretty cool. Logic tells me that their stuff probably doesn't keep one as warm as the heavier stuff other companies offer. Can you confirm that? Matthew Sattah Chattanooga, Tennessee

I've heard that deet will destroy nylon and nylon-blend materials such as tents and quick-drying garments. Is there an effective insect spray that can be used on these materials? Mike Tpa, Florida

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 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

Greetings, greetings, greetings. I have a five-year-old down-filled North Face sleeping bag. I think it's called the blue moon. I've used it over 100 nights so far and I haven't washed it yet (I know). Anyway, I wanted to know two things. First, what is the best way to wash it? The inside is starting to get, um, for lack of a better word, crusty. I want to wash it myself as I don't trust dry-cleaners. My second question involves the fill. This bag is rated to 20 degrees, so there isn't too much fill to begin with, but now there are some "empty spots" on the bottom. Is there a way to move the fill around? Jeff Dobozy Lake Tahoe, California

I've been reading your archived responses regarding water-resistant sleeping bag shells with great interest as I'm trying to decide between down bags from several of the companies. After your initial (and maybe continued) ambivalence about Dryloft, I was surprised by your negative view of Epic. Especially since many manufacturers seem to have jumped on the Epic bandwagon as having better breathability. On what basis do you believe that Epic is "a condensation trap" in sleeping bags, and why do you think so many are suddenly using it if indeed it doesn't breathe well? Is it just a fad, too early to tell, or should I stick with Dryloft? I look forward to your reply, if you care to go another round on this topic. No Name Given

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

Have I got an expensive proposition! I'm planning a trip to Italy and thinking it might be the perfect time to buy a new road bike straight from the factory, say Pinarello, De Rosa, or Colnago. Are there any advantages to doing this, such as incredible savings, or seeing the bike in progress and test riding it in the mountains? Are there drawbacks, such as duties, taxes, exchange rates, warranties and language that would make this way more trouble than it's worth? Thanks for your wisdom! Bob Foster St. Louis, Missouri

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

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

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

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

My wife and I will travel overland from Vietn to Turkey in 2003. We cannot decide what sleeping bags to take, as it will be very hot and wet in Vietn during the monsoon season, but cooler and dry when we are in Central Asia. Space, weight, and price are all issues. What do you think? Is there a light, extremely compact bag that will work when hiking in the jungle and also keep us warm in colder, alpine conditions? For the record, the tent we plan to use is a 1.3-pound mosquito net, with a fly and pegs if things get a bit windier. Andrew Darwin, Australia

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

We know your favorite sub-$500 camera is the Yashica T4 Super. But, what are your favorite point-and-shoot cameras for $500 and above? Roy Boston, Massachusetts

I 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

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