Tools & Tech


What’s the latest scoop on a very good pair of compact binoculars that can handle rough weather and hiking conditions? Jes Kailua, Hawaii

Think flash drive but with a headphone jack. Philips‘s matchbook-size 2GB GoGear player plugs right into your USB port ($50; Philips GoGear      …

Your audiophile brother who spent twice as much on his home theater system as you did on your bike? Ultrasone‘s velvet-lined, seventies-inspired HFI-2200 head­phones—the first cans to minimize eardrum pressure—are for him ($299; Untrasone HFI-2200 Headphones        …

Looking for more information than just your weight? Transparent electrodes on Tanita‘s BC573 Body Composition Monitor also measure body fat, water retention, and muscle mass ($109;

Armed with rust-proof everything (brackets, grille, hardware), Polk‘s outdoor-ready Atrium 45 speakers can weather salt water, rain, and sandstorms. And, yes, even your buddy’s homemade recordings ($240; Polk Atrium 45            …

Thanks to bendable rubber clips, the Airdrives Interactive Stereo Earphones stay put even when things get bumpy. And, because the buds rest just outside your ear canal, you can hear oncoming cars while you’re riding or running ($80; Airdrives Interactive Stereo Earphones        …

The 37-year-old Victor, Idaho, resident spends over 100 days a year in the field, often chasing the world's best skiers around in snowy ranges from Bolivia to Morocco. Here's what he usually takes along.

Forget theory. You want results. Our tutorial lays bare the tricks, techniques, and gear of our favorite photographers.

The tricks, techniques, and gear of our favorite photographers. PLUS: Your Best Shots!

Have you tested the SPOT satellite messenger, specifically the tracking function that adds extra cost? Do you think it’s worth it? Stephanie Providence, Utah

Uncle Sam's Presidential Fitness program was once a Herculean feat. Now it endorses video games. When did we go so soft?

Is there a backpack out there that will house fragile camera gear as well as all of the other essentials for camping? Or do you have any suggestions for packing it so it'll stay safe and is still easily accessible? Ara Wichita, Kansas

On road or trail, the best navigators do more than just keep you on track

The Best Gear, Tested

Eight ways to make the flight part of the vacation

1. BROOKS INFINITI JACKET The billboard-size logo on the back will make you feel like a pro during warm-ups, while reflective touches make it great for chilly dusk workouts. $100; The Goods: Road-Race Day 2. TRIGGER POINT PLANTAR FASCIITIS KIT The antidote to…

I can't find an accurate pedometer to take hiking with me. I've tried several different brands and have found them all unreliable when it comes to calculating mileage hiked. Any recommendations? Lori Grand Junction, Colorado

Your life needs a soundtrack. This go-anywhere gear lets you bring stereo-quality tunes wherever the adventure takes you.

I cycle long distances, run, backpack, use my bike trainer, etc. And I’d like some type of GPS that has it all so that I don’t have to use three or four different tools. I want something that can map a route whether I’m on my bike or hiking around Mt. Rainier. I want something that will show my cadence, heart rate, miles, elevation, average speed, and time, play my music, and set up tent (OK, not that last thing). Can you suggest a tool that does it all? Rich Spanaway, Washington

Cartier, Patek Philippe… Swiss Army? We were surprised, too. But the limited-edition VICTORINOX SWISS ARMY LEGACY RÉSERVE DE MARCHE PLATINE is an instant family heirloom. Encased in platinum, the watch has a unique design; it’s open on both sides, showcasing its remarkable engineering—a Valgranges self-winding movement, with a mechanical power-reserve…

The best new point-and-shoots, SLRs, and camcorders for the digital man

Tech toys are great. It's the people who don't know when to put them away that suck.

I was at a watch store today with the intention of buying a Suunto Vector for my backpacking trips. At the store they also had a St. Moritz Momentum VS-1. I've never heard of St. Moritz before, but the clerk told me it was a good company. What do you think of these two watches? Bryan Los Angeles, California

My son is a Geology major and is going on seven-week, field-study trip in Montana this summer. I saw the Bushnell outdoor camera and wondering what you know about it. My son is always climbing some mountain or going caving, so he needs a durable camera. Nicole Snellville, Georgia

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.