Our esteemed gear editors offer the insight and advice you need to find the right gear for you.
RUNNING SHOES: Yes, Your Socks Matter
RACING: Thin and cool, Nike’s nylon Dri-Fit Elite Vent Running Socks fit like another layer of skin, with heat-venting holes on top. They’re best for snug shoes, warm weather, or racing. $12; nikerunning.com
TRAINING: We love socks built specifically for right and left feet, like the flat-seamed, mostly polyester PowerSox APF Performance Lo-Cut, because a better fit means less bunching around your toes. $11; powersox.com
COLD DAYS: Merino-wool socks, like Icebreaker’s Bike/Run Lite Micro, are warmer than synthetics when wet but breathe so well you won’t even notice them in midsummer. $14; icebreaker.com
LONG RUNS: Thorlos’s Experia socks are hybrids—the heel and toes, where your feet take the most abuse, are heavily padded, while the rest of this CoolMax sock is gauzy thin to release heat. $14; thorlos.com
CAMERAS: Choice Extras
EYE-FI SHARE Insert this 2GB SD card and connect instantly to your network, then wirelessly upload photos to your PC, blog, or social-network site (supports Flickr, Facebook, and many others). $60; eye.fi
3M MPRO110 Pack this iPod-size digital projector along for a serious visual punch. Connected to a laptop or multimedia device, it can project photos and video up to 50 inches tall. $360; 3m.com
GOPRO HELMET HERO WIDE A wearable camera equipped with a 170-degree lens and a five-meg sensor. Available mounts include those for helmet, ski, surfboard, and body. Press the shutter and it films in 30-frames-per-second video. Or set it to take a photo every two or five seconds. $190; goprocamera.com
CANON PIXMA IP2600 Tiny ink nozzles in this ridiculously cheap unit make large-format prints with superfine detail. $50; canonusa.com
EPSON ARTISAN 800 This Wi-Fi printer lets you connect from anywhere in the house. $300; epson.com
SUNGLASSES: Lenses 101
Safer, lighter POLYCARBONATE (plastic) lenses are best for high-impact sports. Otherwise, go with optically superior GLASS.
Sport-specific TINTS: Best all-around performers, for road, trail, and water, are some shade of BROWN, a.k.a. COPPER or AMBER, warmish tints that amp depth and contrast without doing violence to natural colors. For low light, especially in fog or mist, choose YELLOW. Where light is flat, such as snow under clouds, ROSE and VIOLET put depth back into the picture. Good old GRAY and GREEN-GRAY remain faves, because there’s no color shift, but while these cool, neutral hues are good for water and pavement, they flatten out the view. Warmer is better for action sports.
Always solid investments: POLARIZED lenses, which reduce glare and are indispensable on the water, and PHOTOCHROMIC lenses, which adjust to conditions, darkening or lightening the tint. Many lenses feature both options.
MOBILE DEVICES: Amp It Up
iPhone accessories abound: Two of our favorites are the GRIFFIN CLARIFI ($35; griffintechnology.com), a protective case with a built-in macro lens that lets the camera focus as close as four inches (as opposed to the normal 18), and the INCASE POWER SLIDER ($100; goincase.com), a hard shell/auxiliary charger that doubles the battery life.
THE BLACKBERRY REMOTE STEREO GATEWAY ($90; blackberry.com) connects to your home stereo so you can wirelessly stream music to your speakers via Bluetooth.
When traveling, your music only sounds as good as your headphones. For sweet highs and full-bodied lows, check out the SHURE SE115 sound-isolating earbuds ($120; shure.com). They block out external noise much better than stock earphones, so you don’t turn up your tunes too loud, which is good for your eardrums.
DETAILSAWD is basically 4WD that goes on automatically the instant your tires begin to slip. That means fewer spin-outs, but the feature also adds weight, which can suppress gas mileage.
TENTS: Home Improvement
PREVENT CONDENSATION Crack one door at the bottom and the other at the top to create cross-ventilation. And make sure the fly isn’t sagging onto the body of the tent.
TIGHTEN IT UP There’s the old-fashioned way—a bowline and slipknot—and the easy way: Get some Taut-Tie Large Guyline Tensioners ($7 for a six-pack; rei.com), affix, and slide.
RESPECT THE FLOOR Consider buying the optional “footprint,” which helps protect the tent body from punctures and abrasions. And no shoes inside the tent—ever.
SLEEPING BAGS: Don’t Skimp on the Pad
THERM-A-REST NEOAIR: Under a pound, 2.5 inches thick, and it rolls down to the size of a Nalgene? Yup. Even better, thanks to a micro-thin layer of aluminized urethane, it reflects heat back to your body, making you that much more toasty. 20″x72″x2.5″, 0.9 lbs, $150; thermarest.com
NEMO TUO LUXURY: The secret to this ultra-cushy pad is a dual air-chamber system: Blow up the bottom level completely to eliminate lumps from rocks; keep the top half partially inflated for a featherbed feel. 25″x76″x2.3″, 3.6 lbs, $129; nemoequipment.com
PACIFIC OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT PEAK OYL LITE: This self-inflating pad isn’t as thick as the others, but it’s also not as prone to punctures. It’s insulated with a (mostly) petroleum-free foam, and the shell is made from recycled nylon. 20″x72″x1″, 1.3 lbs, $86; pacoutdoor.com
BACKPACKS: If the Pack Fits…
STEP ONE Figure out your torso length. Grab a soft tape measure and have a friend follow the curve of your spine from your iliac crest (the top of your hip bones) to your C7 vertebra (the knobby bone at the base of your neck). Most adult torso lengths are between 16 and 22 inches.
STEP TWO Because many packs come with interchangeable hipbelts, you should also measure the circumference of your hips. Not your waist, but your hips, as a properly fitted hipbelt should ride over the center of your hip bones. Depending on your shape, your measurement might be smaller or larger than your waist.
STEP THREE Start shopping around. Try on a bunch of different models and, as many packs come with interchangeable shoulder straps, too, be sure to mix and match until you achieve the perfect fit.
PADDLING: Get Schooled
Ever wonder how outfitters turn soft-palmed college kids into “certified raft guides” in only a week? Guide school! You too can enroll and learn the basics of rowing, paddle-captaining, safety, and, of course, begging for tips.
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO’S KOKOPELLI RAFTING ADVENTURES runs two six-day camps, May 8 and 15. $450; kokopelliraft.com
CANYON MARINE, based in SALIDA, COLORADO, hosts a 12-day class on the Arkansas River May 18. $350; canyonmarine.com
MAD RIVER BOAT TRIPS, OUT OF JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING, offers a five-day guide school starting May 11. $200; mad-river.com