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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

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 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

I just bought new ski boots and I love them. Next on my list is buying new skis. I a solid level-nine skier and can ski anything on the mountain (New England or Rockies), although not always as gracefully as I would like. I love moguls but don't want a ski that submarines in powder. I was looking at the Salomon X-scres but heard that their tails were too stiff and therefore a lot of work in the bumps. Do you have any recommendations for top-of-the-line skis? Will New York, New York

I'm wondering if you know the difference between all the soft-shell fabrics, specifically Power Shield and Schoeller Dryskin. Also, what's the deal with the ultralight rain shells like Patagonia's Microburst or Arc'Teryx's Sirrus SL? REI's Web site used to say that Sirrus SL is "truly an ultralight shell, thus should not be for everyday use." Are they suggesting the ultralight jackets are not that durable? Does it make sense to carry both a soft-shell and an ultralight rain shell on a long backpacking trip? Jenny San Diego, California

Last summer, I bought a Shan light touring kayak from Wilderness Systems (based largely on your recommendation, O Great and Wise One). After some great day trips, I'm now planning a multi-night river trip, so I'm looking for some packing advice. The boat has a rear bulkhead and an air bag up front for flotation. Should I pack my gear at the back with extra stuff lashed atop the stern, or can I replace the front flotation bag with a tapered dry bag? Zippo Baltimore, Maryland

From what I've read, your gear reviews are right-on, so I seek your help finding a hydration pack that can hold ultralight gear for overnighters, as well as up to 100 ounces of water. I hope to use such a pack for mountain biking treks as well, so it'll need to have a tight fit and good suspension system. It's proving difficult to find something to meet all these needs, although I noticed you recommended the Ultimate Direction SpeeDemon to a trail runner in January 2003. Is this pack suitable for mountain biking? What about other possibilities like the Ultimate Direction WarpSpeed or the CelBak Peak Bagger? Todd Alpharetta, Georgia

My girlfriend is hoping to go on a ten-day wilderness orientation trip for UC Santa Cruz put on by Outward Bound. The problem is that she has a bulging disk in her lower back. The sports medicine doc she's seeing says that she should be OK, but I'm not so sure. What are your recommendations for a pack? External-fre packs put more of the load over your hips, right? (She's five feet, three inches and weighs about 100 pounds) Colin Wood Colfax, California

Any recommendations for a two-person backpacking tent big enough for a six-foot, five-inch, 250-pound camper? I already have a Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight two and it seems a bit small for just one person (me), especially after more than two nights of foul weather. Jim McGowan Charlotte, North Carolina

I was thinking about combining my expandable Mountain Hardwear Galaxy SL sleeping bag with the maker's 40-degree Down Upgrade bag. What do you think about combining these two sleeping bags for a Denali summit attempt? Rob Boston, Massachusetts

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

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

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

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.

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…

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

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…

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…

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

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…

To film Valhalla, the cinemaniacs at Teton Gravity research went to great lengths—of rope, that is

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…

In our lifetime, the outdoors has been reinvented by visionaries who opened new worlds for explorers, athletes, travelers, and dreamers. And the adventure is just getting under way—so take a closer look at the bright minds creating the next frontier. Jake Burton, son Timmy, and Ruby the retriever at…

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

A History of Modern Gear, From 1875-2002

Backpacking's Upright Evolution

When outfitting yourself for desert or tropics, you no longer need to choose between protecting your epidermis and sweltering or going skimpy and inviting melanoma. New togs of tightly woven, highly sun-protective fabrics combined with built-in screen doors now reconcile coverage and comfort. RailRider’s Eco-Mesh Shirt Pants, and…

THE SNOW GEESE Art Brewer (The Surfer’s Journal, ), The second volume in the Masters of Surf Photography series, collects more than 30 years of this camera Kahuna’s Ultrasoulful Work—from action shots like this one of Dennis Pang, Marvin Foster, and the late Mar A Story…

Stay on the winning end of the high-stakes outerwear gamble

Twenty-seven specks of coral, lost in the Indian Ocean, 1,620 miles from Perth. And you thought Australia's interior was remote.

Innovations in synthetic insulation and a glut of high-quality down are making bags lighter and warmer than ever. We burrow into six of the best.

A paddle-perfect day on the Maine coast Q: I’m planning a kayaking trip to the Maine islands for a group of seven people. We would like to camp on one of the public islands for one night and paddle back the next day. Some of us have…

Bergelicious: ice soup off Chile’s Patagonian coast Q: Where are the best places to sea kayak in Chilean Patagonia? Also, do you know of any outfitters in Punta Arenas that provide good equipment without international prices? Thanks, — Patrick, Lima, Peru Adventure Advisor:…

Outside Essentials, To Go

IT WASN’T AS BIG as, say, finding a Lost Ark made of Jolly Ranchers, but the discovery last January of a vintage Hershey’s chocolate bar entombed in polar ice rocked the world of snack archaeology. Now, a year later, the company wants to know: How did the sweet get to…

Stomp into winter with the year's most versatile snowshoes

Somewhere at the bottom of the deepest canyon on earth flows the Cotahuasi—a long, roiling ribbon of whitewater, a river so old and dangerous that you never master it, you just surrender to it. And pay respect to its ghosts.

Who needs Santa? We've got 65 of the choicest gifts for all the good little adventurers in your life—right here.

Just be sure to share the load with one of this year's best backpacks

SUVS have been domesticated for Mom and Mr. Fixit, but the fact remains—these beasts are built for the boondocks, and their natural habitat is the rough, open road

Promote global cooling with the latest commuter bikes, clothing, and gear

Wildlife Wars: My Fight to Save Africa’s Natural Treasures, by Richard Leakey and Virginia Morell (St. Martin’s Press, $26). “Wildlife wars” is not an exaggeration. In 1989, when Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi named 45-year-old Richard Leakey the country’s wildlife director, Leakey launched a bloody guerrilla war…

The Proving Ground: The Inside Story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race, by G. Bruce Knecht (Little, Brown, $25). From Our Pages My Story as Told by Water: Confessions, Druidic Rants, Reflections, Bird-Watchings, Fish-Stalkings, Visions, Songs and Prayers, Refracting Light, From…

They're fast, they're feathery, they're superfly. The year's best lightweight hikers.

Hydration systems for guzzling on the go

How to navigate Vancouver Island's wild, wild edge.

Vancouver Island is just a short ferry ride away. It only feels like you've died and gone to heaven.

Any time now, the world's last Communist stronghold will be open for adventure. But for an overzealous kayaker, that's way too long to wait.

Superlative kayaks and accoutrements