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Ask the Gear Guy

Not sure which gear to buy? Need tips for maintaining your equipment? Ask the Gear Guy for help.

Stuff We Like: Kodak PlaySport

If you like capturing your outdoor adventures, this waterproof pocket high-definition camcorder might just be what you need. The Kodak Playsport is about the size and shape of a cell phone but it shoots great quality HD video and 5 megapixel JPEG photographs.

Alternatives to wool

Q. Dear Gear Guy. My Scout leader says that when hiking in the winter you should always wear wool because it keeps you warm even when wet. But I am allergic to wool. Any ideas?

Stores We Like: Axl’s Closet

When it comes to buying cool clothes for school, shopping online is one of the best ways to save your parents some cash. And one of the best new sites we’ve found is

Rust-proof knife

Q. When I was packing for summer camp, I had a hard time choosing the pocketknife to take. Almost all my knifes have wooden handles, and if they get wet, they rot and the blades rust. And the knife I took did rust. Can you tell me of a good rust-proof knife?

Boots hurt my feet

Q. On every camp-out, my boots always hurt my feet -- sometimes from wet socks but mainly for reasons unknown. Is there anything I can do?

Hiking boot brands

Q. I want to buy some hiking boots and I was looking at some different brands. What boot brands do you like and what else should I consider when shopping for hiking boots?

Waterproof headlamps

Q. Dear Gear Guy, I was on a hike last weekend with my troop and accidentally dropped my flashlight in a stream. By the time I fished it out of the water it was dead and still doesn’t work. I need a new one and am wondering if anyone makes waterproof headlamps?

Finding a good hiking staff

Q. I am looking for a good hiking staff for my height (I’m about 5’9”). I need a long, quality staff but all the ones I have found are either short but good quality, or long but cheap. Help Gear Guy?!

Lightweight, affordable tent

Q. Please help, Gear Guy! I like to camp and hike but I always get slowed down by my heavy tent. Can you help me find a lightweight AND affordable backpacking tent?

Stuff We Like: Coleman SkinSmart

Summer is mosquito season. So what better time to tell you about our new favorite insect repellent. It’s called Coleman SkinSmart.

Buy a boat on a budget

Q. Gear Guy, I want a boat that is less than 8 feet and no smaller than a five-horsepower motor. The problem: My budget is $500. Do you have any ideas?

Non-inflatable sleeping pad

Q. Dear Gear Guy, My son and I are making plans for his first official summer camp as a Boy Scout. He has a problem and hopes you can help. Could you recommend a quality non-inflatable sleeping pad to help with that stiff back he wakes up with every morning after camping?

Turn sweat into energy

Q. Hi Gear Guy. One time, I saw a TV ad about a special type of garment—particularly for athletes—that turns your sweat into energy. Is there really such a product and will it work?

Cheap alternative to Camelbaks

Q. Hi Gear Guy, Some of my friends have Camelbaks, the backpacks with the built-in water bottle. I would love to have one for camps but my dad says they are too expensive. Is there any cheap alternative?

Stuff We Like: Byrd Robin knife

Readers are always writing in asking about what’s the best knife for the money. Well, there are plenty of good options out there but one of my favorites right now is the Byrd Robin.

Large sheath knives

Q. I’ve been looking at buying a new knife. I found a sheath knife with a 5-inch blade. If I did get one could I carry it?

Keeping cool in the desert

Q. Hey Gear Guy, I went out on a desert trip to the Sahara Desert last weekend and I had a hard time keeping cool. I was in a tank top and shorts but I still got hot and sweaty. Can you tell me what would be better to wear?

Sporty pocket watches

Q. Hello Gear Guy, I really want to buy my son a durable pocket watch. He found one in an antique store but it didn’t work. We want the type that flips open—do you have any ideas for a sporty pocket watch. Please help!

Stuff We Like: Waterproof daypack

While there are lots of cool daypacks on the market with tons of handy features, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that’s truly waterproof. But we found one: the DaKine Cyclone Roll Top Backpack.

Caring for leather boots

Q. I have some old leather boots that are dry and stiff. I polish them, but it doesn't seem to help. Is there a way to get them smooth and more durable?

Don’t forget anything

Q. When I go camping with my den I always forget some piece of my gear. How can I make sure I don't forget anything?

Stuff We Like: Xtreme Sports ID

I’m sure you’ve heard the good advice about always having your emergency contact info on you when you’re playing in the great outdoors. But what do you do when you can't take your wallet? Xtreme Sports ID might be the answer.

Waterproof clothing for the snow

Q. Hey Gear Guy, I went to a cabin in the snow a few weeks ago with my Scout troop. I wore my snow jacket and pants but I still got soaked. Can you recommend good waterproof clothing for the snow?

Stuff We Like: JakPak

It’s a jacket. Wait, it’s a sleeping bag. No, it’s a tent. Actually it’s a JakPak, an interesting new waterproof jacket with a built-in, deployable pack that converts the thing into a bivy sack (a tiny one-man tent).

Stuff We Like: Gerber Curve

Bigger isn’t always better. Especially when it comes to a heavy knife crammed in your pocket. That’s why we dig the new Gerber Curve.

Warm winter gloves

Q. Dear Mr. Gear [Guy]: I’ve never had a good pair of winter gloves and I’m a real wimp when it comes to being cold. Do you have a certain pair I should get?

Protect Your Melon

NEWS FLASH! Wearing a helmet while snowboarding and skiing is cool -- and mandatory. Whoever tells you otherwise is a total kook. Whether you’re an experienced rider or a first-timer, do yourself a favor and protect your melon.

Warm sleeping bag

Q. I have bought, used and received a lot of sleeping bags, and I just can't seem to find one that's warm enough. Please help.

Pack too much or not enough

Q. I’m having problems with packing for camping trips. I always pack too much or not enough. What can I do to not make those mistakes anymore?

Share money-saving tips

Think you have what it takes to Go Cheap? Take the Gear Guy Challenge! Share some of your own money-saving tips and tricks, and we'll print some of the best tips in a future issue of Boys' Life.

What’s SUP?

Q. Dear Gear Guy. I’ve heard people talk about something called SUP -- I think it might have something to do with surfing but I’m not sure what it is. Can you fill me in?

Stuff We Like: Compression sacks

Among the handiest accessories for backpacking are waterproof compression stuff sacks. They are great for compressing your clothes into a manageable size for easy packing or to make a bulky sleeping bag fit inside your pack.

Good sleeping bag at a good price

sleepingbagQ. Hey Gear Guy, I am going cold-weather camping later this month, and I need a good new sleeping bag at a good price that I can use for a long time. It needs to be: Synthetic, at most 15 degrees, at most 4 pounds, and compact enough for backpacking. We are low on cash at the moment, so is there anything out there that I can get for around $100 that meets those requirements?

Nalgene bottles safe?

nalgene-200x148Q. What's up with those old Nalgene bottles? A friend of mine said they were made with stuff that's bad for you. Is that true? I still use one. Are they safe?

Lightweight but warm sleeping bags

sleepingbag-200x148Q. I need to get a good sleeping bag that weighs two pounds at most and will keep me warm in at least 30-degree weather. What kind of bag should I look for?

Happy B-Day Sundowner

boot-200x148This year is the Vasque Sundowner’s 25th anniversary. Over the years it has become one of the most popular hiking boots on the market -- and for good reason.

Mountain bike or road bike?

bike-200x148Q. I love mountain bikes but I never go on trails. I think road bikes are too delicate for my street and I never like going too fast. What should I do?

Stuff We Like: Pandora

pandora-200x148Okay, so this one isn’t exactly a piece of gear, but it is something we really, really like. AND it’s free! It’s an online music program called Pandora ( which is basically like a radio station on the Web that plays only the music YOU like.

Discounts for Boy Scouts

I actually don’t have a question. Just wanted to tell fellow Boys’ Life readers that Alps Mountaineering gives all Boy Scouts a 45 percent discount off list price on outdoor equipment on their website.

Stuff We Like: Injinji Toesocks

toesock-200x148They look awfully silly, and the guys might laugh, but you'll be the one smiling at the end of the day after hiking or running in these toed socks.

Picking a backpacking stove

I am looking for a nice backpacking stove that doesn't use too much gas or weigh too much. What can you recommend?

Sleeping bag that does it all

sleepingbag-200x148I mostly do warm-weather camping, but sometimes I go on winter camp-outs. I can only afford one sleeping bag, so can you recommend one that would work for both?