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Serving well as either a glove liner or lightweight windproof glove, the Mountain Hardwear Gravity Gloves work like a charm.  Made with Gore Windstopper and a leather leather palm, these gloves are great for any activity in less than ideal conditions.  Trying them in 90MPH wind on a cold day kept the wind off my hands and retained enough heat to keep them warm for about ten minutes before I needed additional protection.  These gloves have found a permanent spot in my cool and cold weather gear lists.

Quick Info:

Design: Windproof glove or glove liner Retail: $50 (Buy) Weight: 3 oz. (medium) Why it's hot:
  • Quality construction
  • Versatility
  • Leather Palm
Why it's not:
  • None
~|~[caption id="attachment_711" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Osprey Talon 44"]Osprey Talon 44
The Osprey Talon 44 ended my search for a new pack.  I had gone through about three others in the span of about a month when I tried the Talon 44.  From my very first day on the trail the Talon 44 promised to be my go to pack and solidified that fact on the second day.  Reinforced lightweight materials allows the pack to be light while offering an acceptable level of durability.

Be Safe!1. Know Before You Go

Education is probably the single most important factor determining your safety and survival in the great outdoors. The level of first-aid training you'll want to have can range from basic first-aid to wilderness survival and will depend on your destination. Although it's probably not a bad idea to be up-to-date on your basic first-aid and CPR skills all the time (regardless of your travel plans), don't underestimate the level of training you may need for a trip to a remote location -- better to have these skills and not need to use them. And the more you know, the less likely you are to panic if you find yourself in a difficult situation. In addition to health & safety training, which can be useful when reacting to a difficult situation, proactive training can go a long way toward improving your comfort and safety during adventure travel. Many adventure sports are very technical and require proper technical training. Some activities, such as SCUBA diving, require formal certification before you can participate. Do your research, find the training and/or certification course necessary for your planned activity, and be sure that you're comfortable and confident in your skill level before you head out on your own. From small wilderness first-aid and survival courses to full fledged schools that offer college credit (i.e. the National Outdoor Leadership School, http://www.nols.edu) surely you will find something that fits your needs.

2. Plan Your Travel and Travel Your Plan

Always make a plan before heading into the wilderness. Do your homework and find out about the area you'll be in. This will help you prepare for the conditions you might encounter. Write everything down as part of your full trip plan. Although small departures from the plan are ultimately what define an adventure, proper planning is key to maximizing your safety and enjoyment during adventure travel. Before you depart, leave a copy of your plan with a trusted family member or friend. In the past it was recommended you leave an additional copy of the plan on the dashboard of your car, however this practice has been reported in some instances to contribute to thefts at the trail head. Use your discretion in this matter. These steps ensure that should something happen to you, a rescue can be mounted quickly and the search area can be defined readily. And of course, be sure to check in with the person you left your plan with once you've completed your trip.

3. Do Not Exceed Your Limits

Although pushing your limits can make you stronger, flagrantly exceeding them may make you a statistic. Keep this in mind while planning your trip. Know the limits of your training and your equipment and never exceed them. Equally important is to know your own physical limits. The more remote your destination the more you'll want to feel confident in your physical condition before you go. Again, it's probably not a bad idea to to have physical at least once a year and be up-to-date on your immunizations -- when was the last time you had a tetanus shot? -- regardless of your travel plans, but if you're headed somewhere remote you should probably consult your doctor before you go. Are there immunizations you need to travel to certain parts of the world? Are there medications that you will want to have on hand in certain parts of the world? ...or even just in case of emergency? Are you in the proper physical condition for the adventure you have planned? Remember, the goal is to have a good time and return home safe.

4. Double Check Everything... EVERYTHING Before You Go

Equipment should literally be double checked before you set out. Of course you'll examine everything before you leave the house, but it's worth remembering that items can get damaged during transit... baggage handling is not usually a 'white glove' service. It's easy to assume that this won't be an issue, because the equipment used in adventure is fairly sturdy and should stand up to relatively harsh conditions, but there is no sense staking your life, or your comfort, on that assumption. Also, make sure you check (and re-check!) the weather before you set off. The elements are part of the game when it comes to outdoor adventure, but last-minute or unseasonable weather that you've not planned for can quickly turn adventure into emergency.

5. Have the Basics and Be Prepared for a Longer Stay

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, always have a basic survival kit. Your kit may change based on the terrain, weather, training, and experience but always carry one. Many examples of survival kits are available on the internet (http://www.google.com/search?q=basic+survival+kit). Also, never forget that circumstances beyond your control may force your stay to be longer than you have anticipated. When you head out for a day hike you should be prepared to make it through the night, if necessary. You don't have to be comfortable, just alive. In addition to your survival kit, always carry a map of the area and, most importantly, know how to use it. Some resources for maps are below: http://www.map-reading.com/ http://www.maptools.com/ Land Navigation Handbook: The Sierra Club Guide to Map, Compass & GPS

6. Insurance (Bonus)

The cost of a search and rescue can be extremely expensive. Although generally not the case in the United States, you may be billed for the cost of any search and rescue efforts you require. Insurance can be one way to hedge that bet. Numerous organizations provide insurance and many credit cards will cover you while flying, renting cars, etc. but a policy specifically for adventure travel is a good idea. Again, a search of the internet will give you many options. http://www.google.com/search?q=adventure+travel+insurance

When making the move to Apple from PC, I ran into the problem of interfacing with my Garmin eTrex Vista Cx GPS (Buy).  Although there are plenty of applications available to transfer waypoints, tracks, etc. to and from the GPS units. Garmin RoadTrip is a Garmin application to do just that, but may not be the best solution.  The biggest missing feature was the ability to transfer maps to and from my GPS.  Garmin now has a couple of tools to do just that.  Let's cover them one-by-one.

Garmin RoadTrip

For those familiar with Garmin MapSource Garmin RoadTrip will look suspiciously similar.  The tools are desperately in need of an overhaul and the folder/item manager is horrendous.  That said, it works.  RoadTrip is used to transfer routes, waypoints, and tracks to and from your GPS device.  You can also overlay any maps you may have onto the map.  Although only one map layer may be shown at a time.  While transferring data to the GPS you will have to option to transfer the maps that correspond to your data via MapInstall.  Another downfall is the lack of ability to use UTM coordinates.  Hopefully some of these changes will be made soon.

Garmin MapInstall

MapInstall is a fairly straight forward tool to use.  If used in conjunction with RoadTrip as described above the maps will be transferred automatically.  If you would like to transfer maps manually, MapInstall makes it almost as easy.  Just select the map layer you want to transfer and then select the individual maps.  The interface is rather straight forward and easy to use.

Garmin MapManager

MapManager is simply an application to install maps to RoadTrip and MapInstall.  Open MapInstall, select the map file you want to install and your done.  Then fire up RoadTrip or MapInstall and you'll have access to the maps. Garmin also has a handful of other applications for OS X.  WebUpdate to keep your GPS device up to date and a few lesser used applications that some find useful.  As far as the applications previously discussed, I would like to see a few things.  First, as I mentioned earlier I would like to see a user interface cleanup.  Second, all of these tools are used to transfer data to and from a GPS device.  There is no reason these should be seperate applications.  One complete application like MapSource would be a welcome change.  Third, I would like to see some sort of "sync" capability.  Right now, you can either send or receive from the GPS with no regard for what changes have been made.  Syncing would allow you to make simple changes and push them back to the GPS without having to worry about what was on the device initially.  Cell phones and PDA's have been doing this for many years, yet it still isn't possible with GPS devices.  All in all the applications work and if you need to use your Garmin GPS with OS X, these are the best bet, keeping in mind it's not perfect.

Quick Info:

Design: Application to interface Apple OS X with Garmin GPS devices. http://www8.garmin.com/macosx/
Therm-a-Rest Prolite 4
The Therm-a-Rest Prolite 4 is the latest lightweight offering in a long line of self inflating sleeping pads from Cascade Designs.  Designed for four season backpacking and trekking and features a tapered design to reduce weight and rolled size.  Weighing in at just under a pound and a half, while not exactly ultra light, the Prolite 4 is quite light compared to other pads.  Another benefit is the pad will roll down to about the size of a football.  The pad is coated on the underside with a non-slip coating that works marginally well at best especially on silicon coated nylon commonly found in most tents.  The top is coated nylon that allows your sleeping bag to slide at will.  Adding a few dots of silicon can help to fix this.  Being 1.5" thick, the Prolite 4 is quite warm providing a manufacturer claimed R-factor of 3.2 (if you are concerned with such things).  Also available are the Prolite 3 for warmer weather camping and womens version of each.  All pads are available in short (3/4), regular, and long.  The price of the Prolite 4 is a little tough to swallow but factoring in the many years of service it will provide it makes a worth investment. [UPDATE: Feb-2009]: Therm-a-Rest seems to be changing the lineup. Beginning in March of 2009 the Prolite 3 will be know as the Prolite and the Prolite 4 will be known as the Prolite Plus.

Quick Review:

Design: Light weight sleeping pad Weight: 1lb 7.875oz. Retail: $99.95 (Prolite Plus, Regular) (Buy) Why it's hot:
  • Durability
  • Warm
  • Packs relatively small
Why it's not:
  • Pad slides during the night
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