I've been looking for a zero- or minus five-degree sleeping bag for use in early spring, but found that nobody makes any quality down bags for women. What's up with that? All Western Mountaineering bags are huge, while Feathered Friends makes only two women-specific bags, but they're rated only for 10 and 20 degrees. I just wonder, does the outdoor industry think that every outdoorsperson is some huge guy with wide shoulders and skinny hips? That has got to change! Anyways, for the problem at hand: I'm five-foot-six and on the lean side. What's a quality down bag that won't require me to expend extra energy in order to heat up excess room inside the bag? Jennifer San Diego, California

I'm planning on through-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and would like to keep my pack weight as low as possible without sacrificing comfort. When I through-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1990, my pack weight was around 50 pounds, including food and water. I have heard that ultralight packs are not very comfortable with loads over 20 pounds. Can you recommend a lightweight backpack for my hike? Cliff Ashford, Alabama

I have been hearing about MSR's lightweight and very compact Pocket Rocket stove. But the fuel for it seems to weigh a lot more than the white gas that I use now for my MSR Whisperlite. Is the fuel for this new breed of stoves heavier than other fuels? And if so why does everyone think they are saving so much more weight when they are making up for it in the weight of the fuel? Justin Strasburg Lincoln, Nebraska

Do I need to replace my 1994 Oakley sunglasses? I wondering if the 100 percent UV protection in the lenses breaks down over the years with repeated exposure to the sun. If so, are glass and plastic lenses equally vulnerable? Joel Las Cruces, New Mexico

Do water bladders sweat inside a daypack? My daypack is big enough to hold a bladder, but I'm worried my other stuff will get soggy if I pack next to a bladder. I worrying for nothing? No Name Given

My wife and I will be hiking in the Canadian Rockies this summer. We'd each like to carry a pair of compact binoculars for birding and the occasional vast vista that we might come upon. Without breaking the bank (we don't need waterproofed and rubber-armored), what would you recommend? As far as magnification goes, should we consider buying zoom binoculars or stick with a basic model? Also, how important is it to have the widest field of view possible? Byron Phoenix, Arizona

I'm looking for a good underwater and above-water digital camera. Any suggestions for what I should look for? Margaret Hilo, Hawaii

I've been skiing for years and haven't needed to buy new thermal underwear in a long time. But now that I'm ready to replace it, several new materials are on the market. I know I don't want cotton, but what about silk? Wool? Or should I just stick with polyester? y Kuntz California

I have recently begun rock climbing and have decided it is time to purchase climbing shoes (I sure that this isn't another phase for me like decorative soap making). I have been told and read that when purchasing climbing shoes to buy them one and a half sizes smaller than your regular shoe size. Will they really stretch one and a half sizes lengthwise to fit my foot, or will I just be inflicting some strange foot torture on myself? Thanks! Matthew Cpion New York, New York

I'm hiking the Chilkoot Trail next fall with two companions. What's the lightest three-person tent available? Mike Doherty North Vancouver, British Columbia

You've helped me choose backpacking and mountaineering gear in the past and I'm counting on you again. I'm set to shop for a kayak this spring, and want some advice. My plans call for mostly day trips with some two- to three-night trips on mostly flat rivers, never more than class II/class II+ whitewater. I want a comfortable boat that tracks well, is maneuverable for those class II stretches, and that can hold me (six feet, 210 pounds) and my gear for those three-day trips. I'm thinking a boat in the 12-foot range. I'm hooked on Wilderness Systems Phase 3 seating, but open to suggestions Mike Baltimore, Maryland

Are there any leather boots that will hold up on the "big peaks" like Denali or Everest? I planning a trip to Denali and would really like to go with leather boots as I've never liked plastics. Any thoughts? Jeff Norfolk, Virginia

What are the best winter socks for snow skiing? When I ski, I rent boots and skis, but I find my feet always get cold. What socks should I get to make sure my feet stay warm? Should I use sock liners in addition to high quality wool socks? Brad Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Oh Gear Oracle, I have a problem with a build-up of moisture within my mittens, not from rain or snow, but from my own perspiration. This is especially true during snowshoeing trips. I was wondering if there are any shells that have little or no insulation, allowing me to layer them inside and increase the breathability of the mitten. Dennis Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Is it sometimes desirable to hang your stove, for cooking in your tent? If so, who makes the devices to do this, and is it specific to stove model or is there a generic one? I own a Peak Apex II. Ron Starrett Vernon, Connecticut

Just wondering if you know of any companies that do any sort of maternity outdoor wear, the actual technical garb. I realize that a pregnancy only lasts so long and we already have to add to our wardrobe as it is, but it just so happens that my few biggest months will be the hiking season. I have tried on some of my other gear and think a few pieces will work, but is there a manufacturer who makes stuff that will actually let me and the baby hike comfortably? Charlotte Winnipeg, Manitoba

I have a five-and-a-half-year-old son who likes to hike with dad. Our problem is that we can't find good hiking boots for him. He has a pair of fine Salomon boots we purchased from Cor two years ago, but he has since outgrown them. His feet are a wide size two, which complicates our quest to outfit his feet. Bob Penfield, New York

What are the key factors one should take into account in purchasing a road/touring bike? Brent Ithaca, New York

As a frequent trail runner, I looking for a backpack designed with running in mind. I would like something with ple storage for additional layers and supplies, certainly larger than a lumbar pack. Any suggestions? Connor Ann Arbor, Michigan

After straining our eyes for years (and believe me, the years have gotten to me) my wife and I have decided to consider a spotting scope for our field trips. I new to scopes and confused at to the benefits between a straight versus angled lens and as to what optical power is most beneficial for nature viewing. Can you recommend a few bombproof spotting scopes (we take our fair share of spills and falls on the trail) with quality optics to view and appreciate nature with. Mr. Magoo Galveston, Texas

The principal of "one pound on your feet equals five on your back" seems to be treated as Gospel, but I don't buy it. I moving in the direction of an ultralight pack but loath to give up the fit and support of my heavy Limmer boots. Where do you stand on the matter? Steve Kennewick, Washington

I guessing that the tool that Bradford Hmar was looking for in a recent question is the Schrade I-Quip ( It has an altimeter, barometer, digital compass, watch, whistle, mirror, flashlight, lighter compartment, screwdriver, knife, corkscrew, saw, and scissors. Jason Grech Decatur, Georgia

I'm breaking in a new pair of La Sportiva TRK hiking boots. I have no problem on flat terrain or when hiking uphill, but on the descent my toes will start to hurt and crp up, especially where they meet the base of my boot. I have high arches, so could this be the cause? Or is this just normal with new boots? BJ Guilderland, New York

I do much of my hiking in northern California's poison oak-covered hills. Usually I can avoid getting oaked, but after a day of tromping through this toxic weed, just how long do its oils remain active on my boots, gaiters, and trekking poles? Has science determined a half-life for poison oak's poison? Carter Napa, California

You have mentioned in the past that you are lukewarm on single-wall tents as in some circumstances they are neither as warm (winter) or as cool (summer) as double-wall tents, and prone to condensation issues. But you have also recommended the single-wall Bibler Ahwahnee, especially when weight is an important factor. I'm also curious if single-wall tents make a similar two-way compromise to that of modern membrane clothing—neither letting perspiration out perfectly nor keeping very heavy rain out perfectly. You have mentioned half of the clothing equation as an issue with single-wall tents. What about the second half—do they also leak in very heavy rain? Stephen Piper Alexandria, Virginia

Are candle lanterns safe to use in tents for light? Obviously you'd want to keep an open fle away from the tent walls, but are they as safe as a battery-powered lantern? John Bergquist Corvallis, Oregon

Are there any one-person tents that you can combine to make into a two-person tent? Denise Centennial, Colorado

In search of the Golden Boot over the years, I've owned disappointing Danners, Limmer mid-weights that ate up my right heel, and a forgettable pair of Meridians. I have a fairly low-volume foot, and while my current boots—a pair of Vasque Sundowners (Gore-Tex old style)—work pretty well, my feet still get hot spots and ache after a 12-mile walk. What's the boot for me? Stephen Decatur, Alabama

Can you recommend some easy ways to reduce condensation inside a tent? In what sort of conditions should I expect the most condensation? Carter Virginia

Dr Gear Guy, please realize that you are completely indemnified from any liability as to the efficacy of your answer, but I'm wondering what gear you'd specifically recommend for a hiker who has undergone a total hip replacement and refuses to cast a deaf ear to the call of the wild? I have a pair of good trekking poles. Anything else come to mind? Keith Columbus, Ohio

I'm looking to buy a fly-fishing rod for some of the smaller Rocky Mountain stres. Any suggestions on where I can get a decent rod that will break into small packable pieces? Matt Albuquerque, New Mexico

A friend suggested that I extend the life of my leather hiking boots by proactively applying se-grip to the stitching and the area where the upper meets the sole of the boot. Is this legitimate advice or have the petroleum distillates simply gone to his head? Chuck Freeport, Maine

As a longtime reader of your column, you have helped me in the past. Now I need your advice again. I'm considering purchasing a canoe for family camping trips, something stable for small lakes and smooth rivers, nothing too extreme. What do you suggest in terms of size, length, and weight? Also, what type of carrying rack will I need for a shell-equipped Toyota pickup? John Springville, Utah

I was out hiking in the west Texas desert a few months ago during a delicious spate of rainy summer weather. I was wearing a light pair of boots and found myself slipping and sliding all over the wet rocks. Crawling on my hands and knees over boulders is not my idea of fun, and it really ruined my week. I'm now in the market for a pair of light "day hikers," with soles that'll give me some traction on wet rock. Any suggestions? Paul San Antonio, Texas

I'm interested in buying a new kayak for touring and open-water paddling, but one that could also take a little whitewater action once in a while. What would you recommend? Jeff Midland, Michigan

I currently own a pair of Tecnica backpacking boots that should be well broken in after 200-plus miles of use. However unless I pre-treat my heals with second skin, I end up getting heal blisters. I think this maybe due to my high foot bridge and the boot's lacing system. Any recommendation on a boot that might work better for me? No Name Given

Please help! I recently bought a new lead climbing rope (Bluewater Accelerator 60m 10.5 mm) and I did what I have always done: mark the middle with a Sharpie marker. Then the other day someone told me this significantly weakens the rope at the marking, enough in fact to cause the rope to break in a relatively mild fall. I wasn't sure about this, because I thought it only marked the sheath and didn't affect the core of the rope. Should I throw the rope out? I would rather not due to the expense, but I will if it's gonna cost me my life! Mike Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Being from California, I do the majority of my hiking in the Sierra Nevada—"park bear" country. As bears become smarter, hanging food becomes exponentially less effective. I hate to carry those heavy canisters. Does anyone make a titanium canister, or an ultralight canister, being that Ursacks are not allowed in Yosemite or Sequoia National Parks? Michael Santa Clara, California

What's the scoop on Eureka's Zeus EXO line of single-wall backpacking tents? They're inexpensive, light for the square footage, and look to have the se super-quick setup as the larger Eurekas. Do you have any info on how well these tents vent? Bill Charlottesville, Virginia

I would like to buy shaped skis. I currently ski on straight 160s and 5-foot, 2-inches tall. I've gotten so many different opinions on how long my shaped skis should be. Help! Jacklyn Meriden, Connecticut

On a recent spring trip to snowy Mount Whitney, I took a gble and wore my comfy Sundowners along with a pair of Wild Country gaiters, instead of plastic boots. But, the front part of the gaiters kept slipping up and my boots quickly got soaked with all the postholing. Do you think a regular boot and gaiter combo can replace plastics (too heavy and uncomfortable) for snow travel? I'm talking multi-day trips in the California Sierras here. Jake Irvine, California

I bought a pair of leather Scarpa hiking boots, but I'm having trouble breaking them in. The soles feel too rigid and it hurts to wear them, even for a short hike. I think they are too sturdy for my weight of 116 pounds. Some people have told me to get them wet and then hike in them. What do you suggest? Janet Payson, Arizona

G'day Gear Guy, I off to Peru in June for some high altitude climbing and I love all my toes. I currently have Salomon Mountain Guide 8's leather boots. I not a fan of plastics and looking to see how I can upgrade the warmth of my Salomons. What would be your recommendation for gaiters/overboots? Would this be enough? Cheers, Greg Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

I having a very tough time finding hiking boots that are comfortable; they all seem to hurt somewhere. I did find a pair of comfortable trail runners, and I'm wondering if I'd have any trouble day hiking in Glacier National Park using these instead of hiking boots or shoes? How much of a difference is there? Laura Jefferson City, Missouri

What's the best car-camping tent for me, my wife, our daughter, and, if he's good, a dog? We prefer two doors and an aluminum frame, but we're flexible. Henry Davis Willisville, New York

I'm discovering that my late-fortyish feet are inexorably growing longer and wider, and the hiking boots that served me well two years ago are now giving me blisters and scrunched toenails. Companions on a recent Sierra backcountry hike were wearing low-cut trail shoes that looked only slightly more rugged than running shoes, and which allowed their wearers to pretty much dance over the rocks and scree without twisting ankles. For hiking relatively rugged trails without a backpack, what sort of characteristics should one look for in such shoes? And, while I'm here, can one backpack in 'em? Richard Truckee, California

What sort of cookware will I need on two- to four-night backpacking trips in the Appalachian backcountry? Kenny Birmingh, Alabama

My wife and I will travel overland from Vietn to Turkey in 2003. We cannot decide what sleeping bags to take, as it will be very hot and wet in Vietn during the monsoon season, but cooler and dry when we are in Central Asia. Space, weight, and price are all issues. What do you think? Is there a light, extremely compact bag that will work when hiking in the jungle and also keep us warm in colder, alpine conditions? For the record, the tent we plan to use is a 1.3-pound mosquito net, with a fly and pegs if things get a bit windier. Andrew Darwin, Australia

I'm so confused by the different possibilities and terminology when it comes to rain jackets for biking. I bought a "waterproof" one, but it wasn't and I got soaked. I bought another and sweated so much that I wished I had the previous jacket. What's a good lightweight jacket for cycling that will keep me dry in moderate rainstorms? Mary Itasca, Illinois

I'm a self-proclaimed "active" person striving to be at least mediocre at several "outside" activities, such as mountain biking, kayaking, backpacking, etc. I have a Ford Ranger truck, and finding it quite a challenge to figure out how to fit all my stuff on there -- with more than one person coming along, it gets really tricky! I'm wondering what the best way to transport kayaks on my truck would be. I have an aluminum truck box already taking up half of the bed (placed lengthwise on the driver side). I have mounts to put two bikes on the other side of the box in the bed. But how will I carry a kayak? Help! Owen Fennern San Jose, California

I would like some advice on a permanent or removable roof rack, mainly for carrying several pairs of skis on my Isuzu Trooper. Isuzu sells a rack for around $350, but I'm sure I can find something better for the se money or even less. John Boise, Idaho

We recently acquired a German shorthaired pointer who loves to swim in the ocean—not just play around in the surf, but really get out there and swim past the waves. Trouble is that with her short hair, she is freezing cold before she's tired out. We'd like to purchase a "doggie wetsuit," so to speak. Since we live in the self-proclaimed surf capital of the world, it seems a logical idea. Should we purchase one of those hunting-dog neoprene vests? Or are we just acting like overly-protective, wussy Californian dog owners? Thanks for not laughing too hard. Deb Encinitas, California

I desperately trying to find a bright hand torch that does what the manufacturers claim—I've bought three torches this year all because they told me they were bright, only to discover, to my disgust, that they were hopelessly poor. Can you recommend a very bright hand torch that doesn't take six batteries like the Maglite and doesn't weigh a ton? Kevin England, United Kingdom

I've been looking at water purifiers and have narrowed it down to two-the First Need Deluxe and the Sweet Water Guardian. I've read some on both and I've heard of the Guardian breaking on hiking trips and not being field serviceable. I haven't been able to get much info on the First Need Deluxe, only that is clogs. Which do you think is better and why? Kyle Waco, Texas

Hopefully you can settle a debate regarding the use of climbing harness belay loops. When rappelling, a climbing guide said that the carabiner should be clipped through both the leg loop and waist belt where the rappel loop was threaded, not to the rappel loop itself. Others have told me that the 'biner should be clipped through the gear loop, not the leg loop and the waist belt. What's the correct answer? Tim Glastonbury, Connecticut

How do you clean and wash boots? I have a pair of Asolo Cerro Torre's, and they are fairly light boots, but after a trip in the Never Summer Wilderness with lots of rain and mud, they feel heavy. The dried mud adds up, I guess. How can I make them light again? Thanks. Josh Wheeler Denver; CO

Last summer, U.S. wildfires cost $1.6 billion to stop and claimed the lives of 23 firefighters. The statistics were depressingly familiar, but the expense and sacrifice did nothing to solve the problems of overgrown forests, misguided government suppression policies, and misspent resources. Is there a way out? Maybe. But only if we get serious about rethinking

Dispatched to the annual Gearapalooza on the banks of the Great Salt Lake, our man returns with a vision of next year's swag.