Now is the most popular time of year to take to the trails and campsites of America. Having the right gear will keep you outdoors in comfort and safety.
By Ted Alan Stedman
Everybody knows the "cotton kills"credo, stating that damp cotton refuses to dry in cool weather and can accelerate hypothermia. A footnote could be that heavy, nonbreathable nylon jackets can make you just as soaked and chilled to the core with your own perspiration. The newer generation of waterproof/breathable shell jackets are better at ventinghumid body heat to keep you drier, thanks to improved fabrics and strategic placement of zippered vents. These jackets aren't only better performers, but also have lost a considerable amount of bulk and weight, too.
The Marmot Cloudlight Jacket uses the company's MemBrain fabric for waterproof breathability, lightness, agile range of motion during movement and overall versatility. Underarm zippers extend down the side cut for more efficient venting during exercise, and a cinch hood and waist hem cord keep weather at bay. List Price: $275.
Constructed from elite Gore-Tex¬Æ Paclite fabric, the Mountain Hardwear Swift Jacket is the company's most breathable and durable superlight shell, weighing just 13 ounces and packing down to the size of a grapefruit. Welded (vs. stitched) seams, welded dual front pockets and welded underarm venting zippers give the jacket sophisticated detailing that's extremely waterproof. List Price: $260.
Unless you're navigating rock and ice with 50-pound-plus loads, midweight leather/fabric boots are up for most trail duty. You'll get a comfortable out-of-the-box fit with these lightweight hikers compared to clunky all-leather boots that need break-in mileage, and by the day's end, you'll have moved less weight and will be more refreshed. Fabric panels in key spots throughout uppers lighten boots and enable you to more easily flex during walking, and they vent humid air to reduce blister-causing moisture.
The freshly upgraded Lowa Renegade GTX Mid is geared to day hikes and lightweight backpacking. With uppers of water-resistant leather and using Gore-Tex¬Æ lining, the midcut boots are tough, breathable and able to handle wet, mucky trail conditions with solid footing provided by a beefy Vibram outsole. List Price: $180.
The Hi-Tec V-Lite Radar eVent makes use of a one-piece eVent soft-shell fabric upper with seamless construction to produce a super-lightweight boot that's comfortable and extremely waterproof/breathable. An exoskeletal foot-locking system provides support, while the rugged rubber outsole and protective triple-density midsole offer excellent traction and support. List Price: $115.
Handheld GPS units don't substitute for a reliable compass and map. But their convenience and accuracy are undeniable, and they just keep getting better, with expanded memory, improved mapping features and extended battery life. WAAS-enabled units have become the standard, offering accuracy to within meters. Most are waterproof or water-resistant and have internal memories or memory cards that accommodate detailed maps of selected areas. With features like backtracking, waypoints and an electronic compass and altimeter, GPS units add an extra level of route-finding security.
A MicroSD card slot gives the WAAS-enabled Garmin eTrex Venture Cx GPS the versatility of adding optional maps on the go. A 256-color, sunlight-readable display makes it easy to distinguish map details, and a longer battery life provides roughly 32 hours of use. List Price: $246.
Expandable memory with optional info and topo cards, plus 40 map zoom ranges from 0.2 to 4,000 miles, make the WAAS-enabled Brunton Atlas GPS an excellent tool for traveling the backcountry or the globe. At a touch, hikers can access 10 reversible routes, up to 100 savable/retraceable routes and store 1,000 waypoints. List Price: $199.