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Backpack & Camping Gear Buyer's Guide - Buyers Guide

Roughing It in the Internet Age Is a Whole New Ball Game

It's funny how technology makes some words obsolete. Take the term "roughing it," what we used to call heading out into the great outdoors for a few days.

Remember having to lug a half-pound of USGS surveys along to map your route? That was roughing it. Remember fumbling, map in hand, to get a compass reading? How about going without hiking poles because you thought they weighed too much, or chucking your knife because it got too rusty, or having to unzip your tent to look outside, or stopping for ten minutes to filter water? Remember the time you were stuck a mile from the campsite because it got too dark to see? Yeah, that was roughing it.

And now, that's history.

Today, you can get on the Internet and print out a custom map of your route for free. You can read a compass hands-free, buy Feather-weight titanium hiking poles, rust-proof knives, tents with built-in windows, and water purifiers you can dip and immediately, sip. You can carry them all with a backpack, sleeping bag, and pad that weigh less than 5 lbs. total. And last but not least, you can buy binoculars and attachments that can not only let you see animals on a moonless night, but record them all on videotape.

For the year 2000, as you'll see in these reviews, the stuff that takes you into the wild is more civilized than ever-allowing you to fully concentrate on the adventure. So what's the "roughest" part about backpacking today? Deciding what to buy.

PACKS

1. DANA DESIGN New World pack $199

"Keep It Simple" is the theme of Dana's new Day Tech family of four day packs designed to help you carry awkward loads--books, groceries, rocks--in comfort. The New World, biggest at 3,000 cu. in., shares all the same features: HDPE framesheet with Spinal Axis Shape Stay, Zephyr "C" Curve Shoulder Pads, Cranium Rod, and a modular OSL belt with breathable matrix foam body panels, It also has Dana's trademark twin zips and lid closure. 888-357-3262; www.danadesign.com

2. CAMELBAK Peak Bagger $110

As the big boy of Camelbak's new Ascent series of hydration packs for hiking/scrambling/adventure racing, the Peak Bagger is loaded: 2,300 cu, in, capacity, 100-oz. bladder, and oodles of convenience. Features include a Big Bite Valve that doubles the flow, Ergo Angle, an elbow that positions the tube for hands-free drinking, a wide-mouth screw cap for easy filling, and a high-riding, body-hugging profile to keep it secure at high speeds. 800-767-8725; www.camelbak.com

ACCESSORIES

3. LEKI Ultralite Ti hiking poles $89

It's getting harder and harder to use weight as a reason not to buy hiking poles, These telescoping, 3-section titanium-aluminum poles weigh just 1 lb. for the pair, 20% less than Leki's classic model, The Ti includes a carbide tip and dome basket, and extends to 130 cm (52 in.) and compacts to 59 cm (23 in.). An angled-handle model runs $129, 800-255-9982; www.leki.com

4. SILVA Landmark compass $25

Until they invent a projection compass that displays direction on your sunglasses, the next best thing is the Landmark. the world's first hands-free compass. With a locking pin and a cover that rotates 270 degrees, it can be clipped to your shirt for viewing at a glance, 800-661-9086; www.silvacompass.com

5. NIKWAX

GloveProoF wax $7.95

Water just beads up and rolls off outdoor, skiing, and climbing gloves treated with Nikwax's new GloveProof wax, Designed to prevent outer membranes from getting soaked without compromising grip, it can be used with Gore-Tex and all leather/fabric combinations, but not with Polar Proof or fleece, Like other NikWax products, it can be used to restore waterproofing when the factory-applied treatment wears off 800-577-2700: www.nikwax-usa.com

6. SEATTLE SPORTS Cyclone dry bags $38, $43 and $48

Tired of stuffing big and bulky gear bags into your watercraft? Now you can literally shrink-wrap your down sleeping bags and fleece pullovers with Seattle Sports' unique Autopurge, a welded-in, one-way valve that automatically releases air when you roll the bag up. The valve is durable and waterproof to 3 p.s.i. It is found on four dry bags, all of which also feature a three-roll closure, radio-frequency welded seams, and heavy duty fabrics, The Cyclone, made with 500 denier Cordura, comes in 21-, 41-, and 52-liter sizes. 800-632-6163: www.seattlesportsco.com

7. PEAK 1 Xcursion lantern $40

Talk about a light touch! Not only does the brand-new Xcursion lantern weigh only 14 oz., Dut it's just slightly bigger than a soft-drink can (6,5 in, tall with a 2.75-in. diameter), and super convenient, 1 is refillable--a patent-pending industry first--via a plug-in Coleman Powermax fuel cartridge, the identical self-sealing, recyclable model used by Peak I's X-stoves (so you can share). It takes 20 seconds to fill the tank with this blend of butane and propane, providing up to six hours of strong illumination that is equivalent to 10 candle lanterns, It also features a stringless push-on mantle, quality fuel metering, sliding case panels to protect it in your backpack and an easy-to-hang, three-position bail handle. 800-835-3278: www.coleman.com

OUTDOOR WEB SITES

8. TOPOZONE.COM

Hikers, kneel and give thanks--the days of buying dozens of $7 USGS topographical maps are over, The first-ever seamless USGS map of the entire country is now on the Net. giving you the ability to research and print out routes with a mouse click--free, Topozone. online since November, includes al trails marked on USGS maps and eventually will include overlays of boat launch sites and. for a fee, let you download, annotate, and record your own routes, www.topozone.com

9. PLANETOUTDOORS.COM

One of the hot, new. on-line stores specializing En outdoor sports gear, PlanetOutdoors.com stands out from the crowd by offering 24-hour "Live Interactive" customer service to provide the most minute details about the gear you crave. Departments include: Best Deals. Adventure Travel. Apparel, Camping, Climbing, Cycling, Footwear, Hiking, Snowsports. Tents & Bags, Trail Running, and Women's. www.PlanetOutdoors.com

KNIVES

10. SOG X42 AutoClip knives $60 and $50 "X-42" refers to BG-42, a superhard and durable steel, used for years in bail bearings and capable of holding a knife edge forever. "AutoClip" refers to a patented SOG clip-on device that locks onto any thickness of material with the turn of a thumb wheel, Put 'em together and you have folding knives that won't fall from your belt or pocket, are ideal for cutting everything from fruit to rope, and are among the few knives with BG42 steel blades priced under $100. Models come with lightweight Zytel handles, a reinforced blade up, and choice of serrated or straight edge, and blade lengths of 3.6 in. ($60) or 2.9 in. ($50), 888-405-6433: www.sogknives.com

11. BOKER USA X15 knives $83

If "X15" sounds high-tech, that's because it is, This steel from which the blades of the straight-edge Gemini Angler and serrated Gemini Skipper fishing knives are made, has been previously used only in surgical tools and jet engines--never knives, its advantage? it is virtually rust- and corrosion-proof, therefore ideal for aquatic uses. Made by replacing some of the carbon used in me melting process with nitrogen, X15 will purportedly stain less than stainless and wear out long after you do. 303-462-0662: www.bokeruso.com

TENTS

12. MOSS Astral Dome tent $519

The top-end of Moss' midrange Alpine Series, the Astral Dome is a 3-person, 4-season tent designed for above-the-treeline conditions where you need a lot of protection, Unlike Moss Summit Senes tents, which are designed for extreme conditions, the Astral comes loaded with convenience features such as secure and airy Breaux Clips pole attachment technology, a clear vestibule window. four skylights, and several internal pockets, 800-550-8368: www.mosstents.com

13. EUREKA! Aurora tent $300

Loaded with functional features but still value-priced, the 3+ season Aurora performance tent can keep three people cool in the summer and well-protected in harsh conditions. Ventilation is provided by a drop-down front door, a high-low back Odor, two side panels, and a controllable roof vent, all with "no-see-em" netting, Other features include a hooded front vestibule. multiple storm loops, and an easy-attach fly, 800-572-8822; www.eurekotent.com

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