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These pocket-size compacts deliver impressive optical performance for such a small package. Serious birders might want more power and clarity, but amateurs won’t be disappointed—or burdened (they weigh just 11.8 ounces). 8×28; vortexoptics.com…

Get a video of your buddies skiing through the biggest storm of the season. This waterproof digital camcorder with image stabilizer won’t go kaput when covered in fat flakes. sanyodigital.com…

Loaded with backcountry tools like a digital compass, alti-meter, barometer, and ther-mometer, this chronograph does everything but radio search-and-rescue. origowatch.com…

This 63-piece collection has all the basics (hex wrenches, chain cleaner, cable cutter), plus enough advanced equipment (derailleur-alignment gauge, threadless saw guide, bearing-cup press) to open your own bike shop.

Why It’s CoolShall we begin with the puny footprint, 4.1-ounce weight, and 4.2-megapixel image resolution? » You get multi-mode metering like you’d find on more expensive models. For example, there’s “spot,” so you can read right off someone’s nose, and “multi-point,” which is best for trying to nail both the…

You Can Hear Me Now?! A godsend to anyone who’s accidentally water-skied with a phone in his pocket, the Brigade is the first messaging phone sold in the U.S. that’s shock-resistant and waterproof (to one meter, for 30 minutes). At 4.4 inches long and 5.5 ounces, this sideways-clamshell unit is…

Depress a button and the Griz’s handle folds open. Push another and the handle lengthens to twice the length. Now you’re digging. We like how quick and easy it is. And the solid D-shaped handle. And how the big, gently serrated blade bites into rock-hard snow. 28 oz;…

Face it: You’re too old for the PlayStation. Still, an all-business laptop would be pure drudgery. Lucky for you, Alienware—the Miami-based notebook-gaming powerhouse that custom-manufactures some of its systems with twice the computing oomph of an Xbox—has released a hybrid that can crank through the “Legendary” level of Halo 2…

If you thought real GPS navigation was beyond your budget, you haven’t seen the cell-phone-size 210. It’s not the only player in its price range, but it stands out for its internal 22MB memory—essential for digital mapping. The 210 ships with a built-in North American base map that shows…

THE BIG EASYWithin its minimalist design, the 5.1-megapixel R707 packs some sophisticated imaging features. The adaptive light setting helped bring out foreground details in tough-to-expose backlit situations. To wit: I nailed the “Hell, yeah!” expressions of my climbing buddies at the foot of a wall in Skaha Bluffs, B.C.—a detail…

DOUBLES AS A PHOTO ALBUM Sony has recognized the way people use digital cameras today—to show pictures, not just take them—and created a model well suited to the task. The DSC-N2 records each photo twice—once to the memory card and once, at a lower resolution, to an internal 26MB memory.

These two ounces of steel are all you need if you want to whittle or slice salami. Or snip Cubanos—there’s a built-in stogie slot. xikar.com…

This unit bangs out some of the best sound we’ve heard from a digital audio player. Sixty hours of playback per charge, FM, and voice recording only sweeten the deal. Mac or PC; cowonamerica.com…

FOLLOW THAT VOICE Calling HP’s Travel Companion a GPS unit just isn’t fair. The 4.3-inch screen is huge, and 3-D technology means maps can be viewed topographically or at street level—making for foolproof (and fun) navigation. On the road, mate it with a Bluetooth cell phone and it doubles…

With 75 preprogrammed beaches around the world, the 100-meter-depth-rated Tide 3.0 churns out high and low tide, direction, and wave height for any day in the next 15 years and features stopwatch, alarm, and dual zones. freestyleusa.com…

The confidence inspirer: All uncluttered TAG manliness, this sixties-inspired watch is water- resistant to 200 meters, with super­luminescent hands and a bezel coated with scratch-resistant titanium carbide, the stuff used on drill bits. tagheuer.com…

The Milestone Sunglasses powerhouse Rudy delves further into timepieces with its best watch yet, in an edition of 1,985 to mark 25 years in business. Like their shades, the Steelium is built to perform and endure, with a two-dial chronograph and 100-meter water resistance, while holding to a classic look.

Is there a heart rate monitor watch that doesn't look like a HR monitor/watch. I am in the market for a new everyday watch and HR monitor and was wondering if I could kill two birds? –Craig (Pittsburgh, PA)

From game-changing new materials (like moisture-wicking cotton) to evolutionary leaps in engineering (like a rotating helmet for extreme crashes), the avant-garde of 21st-century gear has just one thing in common: a total disregard for the status quo.

I love going to Burning Man but the environment just destroys all my point-and-shoot cameras. Dust gets in there and after a few days the pictures start getting blurry and a few days after that the moving parts stop moving. The reason I have sacrificed these point-and-shoot cameras is because the best shots are at night, turning on the flash just lights up the dust in the air and not the environment, and I like keeping the camera in a pocket so if I'm running around its not flying all over the place. Do you know of an indestructible camera that takes awesome night shots, if not a moderately priced sacrificial camera that takes great night shots where fire and glow sticks are the main source of light? -Daniel Long Beach, CA

Eight watches that go from work to adventure with style.

These cameras can handle being dropped, wet or frozen—and still take great shots.

The Solar Impulse completed its first night flight at 7:00 A.M. GMT, Reuters reports. Andre Borschberg, the pilot, kept the solar-powered aircraft aloft for just over 26 hours before landing at an air base in Vaud, Switzerland.

A Solar Impulse model HB-SIA  airplane took off from Switzerland Wednesday morning in an attempt to be the first solar-powered plane to fly for 24 hours, according to CNET news. The plane is designed to fly at night with solar power stored…

WHERE TO USE IT: One glimpse of Longs Peak’s 1,500-foot vertical east face and you’ll know why you came: This 14,259-foot Colorado mountain is no mellow slag heap. The 15-mile round-trip hike gains 5,000 feet and demands an alpine start; afternoon lightning storms are a given. You can also tackle…

WHERE TO USE IT: Lake Winni­pesaukee, near New Hampshire’s White Mountains, is 72 square miles of tree-lined coves and some 300 sprawling islands—not to mentionwaterfront cabins with long wooden docks. Rent one on the quieter northor east side of the lake (from $1,000 per week; preferredrentals.com), then…

“Not just different. Better.” That tester’s observation sums up this 15-degree bag from Montbell, whose major tech innovation—spiraled baffles—made it the most comfortable and best-functioning bag we tested this year. Far from a gimmick, the spiral baffles drape more evenly over the body, creating…

Advice on finding the best gear—and tried-n-true methods for maintaining your gear for years to come.

Sleeping Bags Twenty-seven testers fanned out across the Pacific Northwest, bedding down for an accumulated 88 nights in 25 different sleeping bags. Trail Shoes Over five months, Jason Stevenson and his team of three testers evaluated 70 pairs of light hikers in six states—from Arizona…

The best new adventure-ready timepieces.

Proof that comfortable, travel-ready clothing need not scream, "I'm going on safari"? You're looking at it.

Five brilliant new devices for playing at home and traveling abroad.

Hardware to get you out of all kinds of jams.

Laptops and cell phones are merging. Here's the new range of options for connected travelers.

By Mary Catherine O'Connor Headed for the hills this weekend? Feeling bad about wheeling up in your A4 Wagon with nothing but your gear and Learn Cantonese audio books? You're in luck: new ride-share and resort-bound bus services have been cropping up, connecting drivers with…

I need a camera tough enough for whitewater kayaking and canyoneering (i.e., water- and shock-resistant), one that can handle expedition trips off the grid (i.e., takes AA batteries). Last year we did an 18-day trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and my boyfriend brought along a 12-pound solar power pack for recharging camera and camccorder batteries?no kidding! Problem is, it didn't work (long story). Oh, and if I could ask for one more thing, it would be a viewfinder in addition to the usual LCD screen. I've been looking in vain for this camera since my very old beloved Pentax Optio died. Does this camera exist, or I doomed to having only my memories to remember my adventures? Sharon Notre De, IN

Can you recommend a heart rate monitor? I'm looking for a do-it-all model, that a ten year old or adult can use. I want a model that constantly monitors heart rate, downloads to a computer, and doesn't cost a mint. Dave Sierra Vista, AZ

I’m planning a three-month trip to the Big Island and wanted to have some way to keep in contact with my travel companions. We are thinking about buying a set of walkie talkies. If we purchase these in Ontario will they work in Hawaii? Or do we need to purchase them in Hawaii? Can you suggest the best model to buy? Diane Ontario, Canada

Hello, I'm looking to make a winter ascent of Mount Rainier. I need an altimeter. I'm not sure if I should get an altimeter watch (like the Casio Pathfinder) or a GPS (Garmin Oregon 400T, Oregon 300, or Dakota 20). I don't have to worry about the battery problem with the watch. Then again, it's nice to have a GPS, but they only get 14 hours of battery life. The Dakota gets 20. In sub-zero temps, I would need to carry everything in my pockets. Any ideas? Brett Highland Lakes, NJ

Not exactly. But your iPhone can get you halfway there. Mariah Power, which creates residential wind turbines, has teamed up with the software developer Create with Context for an app that will measure…

I was wondering if you knew of any high-def cameras that can zoom in to a six-foot-by-six-foot square on earth's surface from 60,000 feet and attached to a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle)? Paul Long Beach, CA

I will be spending time hiking in Patagonia, climbing Mt. Vinson, and cross-country skiing in Antarctica. It seems a valuable piece of gear would be a satellite phone, but I don't see any reviews on Outside Online. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Chuck Sonoma, CA

I have been trying to find a good pack for packing camera gear. Although there are camera backpacks out there, they do not allow me to carry personal stuff, and they don't seem to be that well made. My question is...without hiring a sherpa, what company makes a "real" backpack that would allow me to carry both. I have looked at the Deuter Futura Pro 42, and would make the bottom compartment into the camera storage. I will go out for a day, maybe a day and night. Thanks a lot! Daryl Wheat Ridge, CO

The tools and gadgets that made the cut for our second annual celebration of the best in design and technology.

The iPhone as all-knowing, all-seeing guide to adventure.

Associate editor Justin Nyberg shows off some radical new products.

National Geographic photographer and editor at large Michael “Nick” Nichols has spent the past 20 years doing a job that—let’s face it—we’ve all wanted at one point. Nichols is best known for his photographs of biologist Michael Fay’s 1999 crossing of the Congo, as well as for his use of…

From Everest to El Capitan, climbing photographer Jimmy Chin shoots in some of the most demanding terrain on earth. This is the gear he brings.

Whether you’re looking for a compact point-and-shoot or a high-end SLR, we’ve selected a sharp shooter for every photographer and budget. : Sony DSC-HX1 $500 (Photograph by Shana Novak) The cake: Ten frames per second, with a 28–560mm optical zoom and HD video. The icing? A sweep mode—for automatically spliced,…

From Joel Lipovetsky

This summer's coolest timepieces share a slick dark palette and sport an array of new features.

Choose the right camera and taking great photos will never be a hassle.

I have been doing extensive research and can't seem to find a watch that functions as both a pedometer and altimeter. I want one watch that will measure distance and calories on runs and hikes as well as vertical distance (per run and cumulative for the day) when I ski. I spend equal time running and skiing, so I'd like one watch that can serve both sports. The Suunto X10 comes close (no calories, though), but the reviews from users do not sound like it's worth the $550. Katie San Francisco, CA

My son will leave for Iraq or Afghanistan to serve in the army sometime this fall. What camera would be best for him to take along? He'll be carrying far more in his rucksack than you or I would on a month-long backwoods trip, so it must be compact and lightweight. Electricity is a problem on long patrols, so AA batteries are a must. And ruggedness? There is nothing more physically challenging than combat. Muted-color case would help (no pink or lime green!), and waterproof would be a plus. And of course good photo capability is a must. William Pittsburgh, PA

Rick Allred, September 27 to October 2, 2009

Jerry Courvoisier, September 4-6, 2009

Our esteemed gear editors offer the insight and advice you need to find the right gear for you.

Rolex's lineage is luxurious but there has always been a legit adventure timepiece in the mix. Meet the Deepsea.

I an experienced outdoorsman but I now deaf w/bad balance. I still love to explore Sierra rivers for fishing and swimming and can't always get wife/kids/buddies to get up that early. I would love to have some combo of text message-capable GPS or distress beacon that could talk to the family when they too are off the grid. Is there a cheaper option than a pair of full on satellite phones? Bob San Francisco, CA

From African safaris to Indian trekking to Brazilian backpacking, the right gear will make the trip

When you're charting a new course, these gadgets will keep you on track

I'm going on a four-day hike to Machu Picchu in May. I plan on taking my Canon Rebel XS digital SLR camera with me as well as a zoom lens. I'll be wearing a multi-day backpack for the hike. What would you recommend I use to carry the DSLR so that it is protected and still readily available for photos? I was considering a belt pack but was unsure how that would affect the backpack's belt straps. Rachel Newark, NJ

Red's Scarlet and Epic launch a new photo age

Upgrade your armory with the coolest knives and multitools out there

Dont’t want to lug around a large camera? Carrying the 14.5-megapixal Nikon Coolpix S710 is like having a full-size DSLR in your chest pocket ($380; nikonusa.com) Nikon Coolpix S710    …

Rado first introduced its oblong-cased Original line in 1962, and the new Split-Second Chronograph stays true to its Mod Squad style. A crystal back allows you to view the automatic movement, and its steel-and-titanium bracelet and sapphire crystal will withstand years of abuse ($6,200; rado.com). Rado…

The self-winding automatic movement of the 300-meter-rated limited-edition Omega Seamaster James Bond 007 ensures perfect timekeeping up to two days after you last wore it. Plus it’s a “certified chronometer,” i.e., it’s undergone 15 days of rigorous independent testing, in temperatures from zero to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, to ensure unmatched…

Luminescent hands on TAG Heuer‘s F1 Chronograph sweep over three traditional chrono functions and an easy-to-read date window. And being forged almost entirely from scratch-resistant titanium carbide and brushed stainless steel, this one’s as tough as it is sleek ($1,350; tagheuer.com). TAG Heuer F1 Chronograph    …

It may look like a classic chronograph, but Breitling‘s Avenger Seawolf Chrono is a revolutionary dive watch. Even at the max depth of 1,000 meters, you can use the chrono functions without risking a breach, via a magnetic system engaged with the push of a button ($4,380;…

Not a Tom Cruise fan? Don’t fret: The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition Top Gun is named after the real deal, the elite U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School. And, yes, it can handle some serious G’s: The ceramic case and titanium movement are ultra-tough, and the reinforced crystal won’t dislodge…

The Epson P-7000 Multimedia Photo Viewer packs 160GB of storage and a four-inch, hi-def LCD screen for easy field vetting ($800; epson.com). Leica D-Lux 4          …

Waterproof (to five feet) and shock-resistant, Panasonic‘s SDR-SW20S can capture footage in conditions that would ruin other camcorders ($400; panasonic.com). Olympus Stylus 1050SW    …

The waterproof TX 770 Fly-Back Chronograph is even more functional than it appears, with an electronic compass and old-school features like a tachymeter and a fly-back chronograph, which resets at the press of a button and marks time from a fifth of a second to four hours ($425;…

Olympus‘s waterproof and shock-proof 10.1-megapixel Stylus 1050 SW can take a beating. And a dunking. And a freezing. Plus all major functions can be accessed by tapping the housing, even with gloves on ($300; olympusamerica.com). Epson P-7000 Multimedia Photo Viewer…

Thanks to its upgraded f/2–2.8 aperture, 10.1-megapixel sensor, and mount for both flashes and a viewfinder, the D-Lux 4 puts a pro-quality Leica in the palm of your hand ($800; leica-camera.com). Panasonic SDR-SW205 Video Camera…

Most adventure-sport watches look out of place anywhere but in the wild. Not so the rugged Sector Mountain Master, which features abundant gadgetry—a digital compass, altimeter, thermometer, and barometer—but is stylish enough for everyday wear ($595; sectornolimits.eu). Sector Mountain Master      …

Top-tier lenses and a moisture-repellent coating mean Leica‘s 8×50 Ultravid HD binoculars provide greater clarity in low light and poor weather ($2,525; us.leica-camera.com).      …

Not only is Motorola‘s Talk­about EM1000 two-way radio the first with features like an emergency-alert siren and NOAA weather channels; it also has a range of 20 miles and a hands-free function ($70; hellomoto.com). Motorola Talkabout EM1000 Radio          …

Odometer, altimeter, barometer, compass—the water-resistant Suunto X10 watch (with improved GPS and battery life) is an instrument panel for your wrist ($600; suunto.com). Suunto X10 Watch    …