Tools & Tech


I'm after a ccorder to film snowboarding flicks and don't have a clue what to buy. HDD, MiniDV, DVD? What is your opinion? S

I need a GPS system for the Coast to Coast Walk in England. I know nothing about them, but get the impression they operate only within specific areas. Can I purchase one here in Canada to use in the U.K. and Europe? Hilary Edmonton, Alberta

What camera can take the abuse of an Everest expedition and a 10-foot dive at the local snorkeling spot? I would prefer a digital (maybe even a digital SLR). Osvaldo Mii, Florida

What would work better for “predicting” sudden weather changes in the mountains: a cheap weather radio, or an all-in-one watch like the Suunto Core? I'm not sure if the weather radio will work in the mountains. On the other hand, the watch is pretty expensive. Steve Redmond, Washington

I recently saw an ad for a pair of $450 Vanguard USA binoculars that claim they are as good as Bushnell Elite, which goes for more than $900. The Vanguard’s even have a lifetime warranty. Is this too good to be true? Jim Grosse Pointe, Michigan

This year, at least two new quasi Personal Locator Beacons are coming out. One is called TracMe and the other is SPOT. Being a known gear junkie (the first step is to admit you have a problem), I'm getting hit up by my associates to get the low down on these critters. So, can you help us out and do a side by side comparison on these new products? Ranger Randy Grand Junction, Colorado

I want a waterproof digital camera that has a viewfinder. Any suggestions? Ashleigh Austin, Texas

Call it trickle-up technology. In the past 30 years, adventure-centric products have moved from the margins to the mainstream. Here's drool-inducing proof that today's top manufacturers are on our side.

My boyfriend is stationed in Iraq and he needs an extremely durable digital watch that is water resistant (due to extreme heat and sweating) and has 24-hour time format, compass, barometer, timer, etc. What would you suggest in the $200 range? Loree Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I’m considering buying two-way radios for group bicycling outings. What features should I look for? Jes Atlanta, Georgia

Why we love gadgets: a crushproof camera, a portable weather station, and more

I’m looking for a camera mount that can be attached to my kayak and used for camcorders and/or digital cameras. Any ideas? Mark Hamburg, New York

I need a camera that’s water resistant (or waterproof), can withstand being banged around a bit, has a bit of zoom, and can be charged using a 12V solar power system. Lots of cameras out there seem to have a couple of these features, but not all of them. Do you have any suggestions? Rachael Springtown, Pennsylvania

I'm looking for an affordable, very compact solar charger that will charge AA, AAA, C, D, and 9V batteries. I'm planning on mountain climbing with it, so size and weight are an issue. What suggestions do you have? Linda Bloomfield, Indiana

Do you have any suggestions for a digital video camera that I can mount to a bike for some amateur film making? Jeryl Carpinteria, California

When I turn 40, I'm going to hike the AT. I would like to take a GPS unit, and my wife would like a way to keep track of my progress. Is there anything out there that can meet the need? Glenn New York, New York

Cords, schmords. Bluetooth—God love it—has finally arrived in high-fidelity stereo. Available in June, Samsung’s sleek little T9B is a flash-based audio-video unit with FM and voice recording, 30 hours of music playback per charge, and the aforementioned streaming capability. Pair it with wireless earbuds for 21st-century headbanging: Coming in at…

In a 2000 column, you said that you prefer a traditional needle-based compass over a digital compass. Is that still your advice? Why or why not? Marshall Atlanta, Georgia

I need a backpack to safely hold my camera, lenses, and other gear. My hard or soft camera cases are fine for short trips but not for real travel, as they attract the wrong attention. And a backpack would be a lot more convenient for hiking, long day trips, etc. Any thoughts? Tanya Chilliwack, British Columbia

I need to purchase two-way radios for a group of missionaries working in Guyana. Obviously, things such as maximum range and durability are of great importance. Much more important than price, actually. Can you recommend something? Randall Decatur, Alabama

My wife just had a bypass and wants a heart monitor to put on her wrist; she does not want a strap attached to her chest. Can you recommend a monitor that is self-contained on the wrist and has no other attachments? Tim Puyallup, Washington

Strap on one of these classy timekeepers and see your wrist in a whole new light

I’d like to buy one knife for all my outdoor activities (camping, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and kayaking). What would you pick? Bob Lexington, Kentucky

The smartest new gadgets put grand ideas in the palm of your hand

Runners who want to know pace, distance, and calorie output (and nothing more), take note: Silva’s TECH40 Accelerator pedometer watches are accurate and inexpensive. $59; Tech 40 Full Suspension Granted, insoles are the least sexy piece of gear on the shelf. But…

Will a high-range two-way radio work in deep canyons? I ask because my father, who is 77, likes to "trp around the backcountry," which has a lot of large canyons. This worries my mother sick, as he gets no cell phone signal there. Any ideas? John Genoa City, Wisconsin

With the latest iPod evolution, our human guinea pig turns on, tunes in, and...drops out?

I can’t find a camera-gear pack that includes hydration system capability. Any help from within your deep “bag” of experience? Clay Wimberley, Texas

Take your eyes off digital photography for six months and high-tech image making reinvents itself—again. Just in time for the holidays, we bring you the latest revolution in digicams, camcorders, printers, solar chargers, and more.

I tend to hike off-trail, but I've also gotten myself lost at times. Is there a GPS unit than can help me get back to my car after bushwhacking or taking a trail that isn't marked on any map? Even better if it could help me navigate back roads and trails on my bike, too. Karin Glendale, Arizona

I’m thinking of renting or purchasing a personal locator beacon (PLB) for winter backpacking trips as an added safety measure. What’s your opinion of PLBs? Bill Billerica, Massachusetts

I'd like to get a new pocket knife but recoil at the price tags I've recently witnessed. Is there a good reason to buy a $200 pocket knife? Scott Kingston, Ontario

Safety First The Bottom Line Guidelines to make the most of winter: » If people start debating skiing vs. snowboarding, walk away. » Ski in La Grave, France, at least once. » Much better in theory than in practice: getting drunk midmountain. » In your pockets: ID, credit…

I’m looking for a digital, waterproof camera that will perform well while I’m white-water kayaking. What’s your take on the Pentax Optio W20 and the Olympus 725SW? Michael Melbourne, Victoria, AUS

My husband and I are traveling to Alaska and want to buy binoculars for viewing calving glaciers, wildlife, and general scenery. Which binoculars would you suggest, preferably under $150? Would the zoom function be useful? Anchita Dallas, Texas

Are there any digital cameras that operate normally at temperatures below freezing? Besides just keeping the camera warm next to the body, can you recommend any equipment or techniques for using digitals below freezing? Hugh Santa Monica, California

Three body-boosting tech toys bring superhero speed, flight, and strength to the mortal masses

Is it legal to use U.S.-bought family /general mobile radios in Italy for staying in touch with people from our party? Do I need a special Italian license? If so, how do I get one? Howard Phoenix, Arizona

In the last two years, a lot of new altimeter watches with a lot of new features have hit the market. So in terms of value, what’s your pick for the best altimeter watch for under $100? How about for under $200? Cliff Aspen, Colorado

My wife and I want to upgrade from our Canon PowerShot G5 to a more hiker-friendly digital camera. We’d like one that focuses quickly in a variety of lighting conditions, is capable of taking multiple exposures in rapid succession, allows for fast scroll between images taken, and is both lightweight and durable. Any suggestions would be appreciated! Devin Glen Allen, Virginia

The 4.9-ounce SONY CYBER-SHOT DSC T-30 boils 7.2 megapixels of blur-reducing digital muscle down to the size and weight of a deck of cards. You won’t notice it until you need it. $500; Sony Cybershot DSC T-30 Sony Cybershot DSC T-30…

I've recently taken up sailing, and a GPS unit would sure come in handy during those fogs in the San Francisco Bay. But I'm bewildered by the variety of GPS units offered, with prices ranging from less than $100 to more than $500. What features will keep me from a watery grave and what's just nice to have? Jeff Fremont, California

I’m in the market for new binoculars that are waterproof, rubber coated, and show excellent contrast and light-gathering ability in low-light conditions (like when viewing sbur deer in the Victorian high country in winter). I have considered Browning 8x42s and Nikon Monarch 8x42s. Any advice? Bryan Point Cook, Victoria, Australia

Give your wrist an upgrade with one of these eight luxe watches

The latest headphones deliver wireless freedom and truer sound for discerning listeners on the go

I'm an avid cyclist and want to upgrade my dated bike computer to something with more features. A model with gearing and cadence information plus a heart-rate monitor is ideal. What’s my best bet for such a computer that’s compatible with my bike’s Cpy components? Brian Madison, Wisconsin

My husband and I would like to be able to communicate while riding our bikes. What would you suggest for a hands-free experience? Dotty Boulder, Colorado

Can you recommend a digital camera that is durable enough to survive the rigors of an extended trip covering a variety of terrain and weather conditions, is small enough to fit into a pocket, yet will still produce high-quality pictures of everything from landscapes to wildlife to action shots? All for $500 or less. Ryan Winnipeg, Manitoba

Cut the rope or a rug with the same knife. The VICTORINOX S. BEAT integrates a one-gig audio player in the classic blade-scissors-tweezers-file model. The 1.1-ounce unit comes encased in stainless steel, and the player detaches for air travel. $200; Victorinox S. Beat Victorinox S. Beat…

I do a lot of trail running and hiking and need a watch with an altitude function, but the faces of all the ones I've found are larger than my wrist, which is very uncomfortable for running. Is there an altimeter watch designed for the slimmer wrists of women? Killaine Vancouver, British Columbia

The new road-warrior electronics embrace the adventurer's creed: Do more with less. From a pocket cinema to an MP3 watch, these ten ultra-portable gadgets let you get lost in style.

What's the best point-and-shoot film camera? I entering the Peace Corps in a few months and know that I will be in rural Africa. I need a small camera that will have a long battery life, will be durable enough to withstand life on the continent, and will take high-quality pictures. I usually use Nikon digital cameras and at a loss as to which point-and-shoot to choose. Katie Chico, California

I'm getting into photography for the first time and need a decent camera for taking wildlife shots. Can you point me in the right direction? Warren Portsmouth, United Kingdom

How do I find the best GPS receiver for my needs? I looking for a GPS that can provide detailed trail information as well as city information. I want something reasonably priced but flexible enough for long-term use. Do I need one with a PC connection or SD card compatibility? I going to the Grand Canyon later this year and want a unit that will help us safely navigate the trails. Grant Chicago, Illinois

Readers may have recently come across my thoughts on some of the more offbeat reader questions. One was: "What three or four skills should a true outdoorsman be able to do with a knife?" I had to admit—I was stumped. I use a knife to make shavings for a fire or for various gear-repair chores, but despite many years of hiking and camping, I'm not much of a knifesman. So I asked readers for help, and got some! Sue Duncan in Billings, Montana, read my plea, and responded with a detailed note. I thought her advice so good that it was worth posting.

I'm going to track and observe wolves in Yellowstone in March with a group of biologists. Do you recommend binoculars and/or a spotting scope? What models? My budget is mid-range, from $250 to $750. Kristy Hudson, Illinois

I recently purchased a Canon GL1 and I would like to be able to take it skiing with me this year. I concerned about moisture getting into the camera and killing my baby. Is that actually an issue, or would I be safe so long as I didn't drop it in the snow? I was thinking about getting a watertight case. Good idea or not? Kyle Salem, Oregon

I need a waterproof backpack for my digital SLR on canoe trips—something that won't leak at all! I've checked REI and other outdoor websites and stores, but couldn't find anything. Do you have any suggestions? Brandon Hilton, Ontario

After a disappointing performance on Mount Rainier, I have decided to retire my point-and-shoot and start carrying an SLR into the mountains with me. But what kind? Should I choose a pro-level for toughness and control? A compact for its light weight and portability? A manual focus for both light weight and durability? Or are digital SLRs now reliable enough for the cold and exposure in the mountains? Nick Los Angeles, California

Boost performance and play in perfect comfort by investing in innovative made-to-order gear

I going peacock bass fishing in Brazil's Amazon this November. While there are four of us, we're going deep into the forest, so I would like to take a GPS unit with me for backup. Equally, I wouldn't mind taking along a personal communicator. Is there a GPS unit (with or without communicator) that has detailed Amazon maps available? John Dallas, Texas

I a runner and cyclist looking for a watch that tracks distance as well as elevation. Can you tell me the difference between GPS-based watches such as the Garmin Forerunners/Timex Body Link versus watches with the footpod attached to the shoe (Nike Triax CV10 or Polar S625X)? I'm leaning towards the Polar one since it's got a heart-rate monitor in addition to the cycling add-ons. Your thoughts? Mauro Sunnyvale, California

You've never let me down, Gear Guy, and I know you won't this time either. My entry-level GPS (Garmin eTrex) seems unable to see the sky if there is a tree within 50 feet. On a recent Sierra backpack it did well above timberline but not in forest, even with big clear gaps in the canopy. Would a more expensive GPS do better? Help me, I need my waypoints! Frank Sacrento, California

The gear world's global Big Tent returns to Salt Lake, and things get dirty. The Gear Guy reports.

My wife and I (non-glasses wearers) are going whale-watching in Canada. We don't want to spend more than $150 for binoculars, and we'd like something with a little durability. What can you recommend? J. Sweinberg New York City

My wife and I will be backpacking in Denali as a 25th wedding anniversary getaway in late August. The Nikon 10x25 Premier LX L binoculars were recommended an ideal way to see the wildlife. However, Nikon's own 10x25 ProStaff Waterproof ATB's seem to be spec'd identically to the LX L's, except for weight (which we could live with) and, oh yeah, they cost a third as much. We don't want to use inferior binoculars on the trip of a lifetime, but that's a big dollar difference. What's your take? John San Diego, California

I going on a seven-day backpacking trip to Yosemite and would like to take along my Nikon D70 camera. What is the best pack or way to carry this camera so it is easily accessible but protected from the elements? Paul Elizabeth, New Jersey

Last March you were not enthused about weatherproof digital cameras. Pentax's OptioWP looks promising. What are your thoughts? Tom Normandy Park, Washington

Which is the best solar charger for backpacking? For years, I have taken along my Canon Elph film camera on my adventures, mostly because I don't have to worry about battery life while on extended trips. Well, now I have the digital Canon SD20, so I need a way to charge its proprietary batteries with the sun. Rob Cambridge, Massachusetts

If you want to chase tornadoes and the thunderheads that spawn them, you need adventure-tested tech and gear that can weather any tempest

It's time to leave the nerd herd behind