Buyers' Guides

Lighten Up: Illumination is Outdoor Essential #4

Illumination is #4 on the 10 Essentials list. We talked to experts from Black Diamond, Ledlenser, and Petzl to learn more about headlamp technology and what to consider when selecting your backcountry illumination.

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A Brief History of Outdoor Insulation: Essential #3

To celebrate extra clothing (#3 of the 10 Essentials), we looked at the origins of some classic outdoor insulation: wool and polypro baselayers, down and synthetic jackets, and ever-popular fleece.

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Sun Protection is an Outdoor Essential Year Round

Sun protection isn't just for sunny hikes or summer swims. And effective sun protection means more than slapping on some sunscreen. So, as part of our Year of Essential Outdoor Gear, we're taking a look at Essential #2, sun protection.

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How Trailspace Members Rate Their Navigation Gear

A detailed topo map and compass have topped the 10 Essentials list for decades. But we wondered: What navigation gear is tops among our community members?

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How many cats or bacon slices can you fit in a pack?

REI just released this infographic on "How to Choose & Use a Backpack." In a brief layout, it covers a fair amount of introductory info for the beginning pack buyer/carrier in an easy-to-read format.

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Winter Traction: An Introduction to Snowshoes and Crampons

The biggest difference between three-season and winter hiking is the walking surface. Snow and ice require traction aids such as snowshoes, microspikes, or crampons. Here's an overview of the options.

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See and Be Seen with Reflective Technology

Reflective technology can improve visibility, convenience and safety as days get shorter.

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Guide to Lightweight Backpacking

Is your backpack so heavy that you need help lifting it off the ground? If so, perhaps it's time to learn about lightweight backpacking and how to reduce the weight of your pack to a more comfortable 10 to 15 percent of your body weight »

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Guide to Canoes and Paddles

Whether you're buying your first recreational or touring canoe or adding to your quiver of whitewater boats, there are numerous factors to consider in selecting the right craft. What type, shape, and materials? How long? And what about a paddle?

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Lightweight Backpacking: Stove Systems

Consider the pros and cons of different lightweight backpacking stoves and how to think about stoves and cooking from the perspective of a lightweight backpacker.

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Choosing Your Canoe: Shapes and Curves

Tumblehome, flare, and rocker. Flat, round, vee, shallow arch. A canoe's shape and curves directly affect its stability, speed, and tracking. Understand the basic design principles to understand what canoe(s) will perform best for you and the waters you paddle.

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Choosing a Paddle: Selecting Your Personal Propeller

You need something to make your canoe go. Choosing a paddle is a bit like a black art. Science is a good beginning, but feel makes the final determination.

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Gear Explained: Parts of a Canoe Paddle

To help you differentiate your grip from your tip, here are the basic parts of a canoe paddle.

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Lightweight Backpacking: Backpack Makeover

Consider a backpack that weighs between 1 and 3 pounds and can carry 20 to 30 pounds of gear. Learn how to size one, how to choose a pack made with durable fabrics, and how backpack suspensions work.

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Choosing a Canoe: How Long?

What length canoe to get? Depends on how and where you'll use it.

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Gear Explained: Parts of a Canoe

Don't know your keel from your yoke? Even a seemingly simple canoe can have a confusing number of parts, features, and terms. Here are the basic parts of a typical canoe, from bow to stern:

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Lightweight Backpacking: Sleeping Bag Makeover

Lightening your load? Learn how to choose a sleeping bag under three pounds. Evaluate different sleeping bag and quilt designs, insulation, temperature ratings, sizing, and more.

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Lightweight Backpacking: Shelter Makeover

Learn how to reduce the weight of your current tent and what to look for in a new tent if you decide to replace yours, in this second piece from our introduction to lightweight backpacking. Also, consider some alternative ultralight shelters.

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An Introduction to Lightweight Backpacking

Is your backpack so heavy that you need help lifting it off the ground? Do you let out a cougar scream when you finally get it onto your back? If so, perhaps it's time to learn about lightweight backpacking and how to reduce the weight of your pack to a more comfortable 10 to 15 percent of your body weight.

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Choosing Your Canoe: Materials

From natural birch bark to modern composites, a wide range of materials are used to build canoes today. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and no one material does it all well.

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Guide to Sleeping Bags

Down or synthetic? What temperature rating? Mummy or rectangular? Extra-long or women-specific? With the range of sleeping bag shapes, sizes, fills, and...

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Sleeping Bag Construction: Baffles, Layers, and Shingles

Baffled by baffles? Confused by shingles and layers? Here's your guide to the various construction techniques that keep down and synthetic insulation in the right places, and you warm in your sleeping bag.

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Gear Explained: Synthetic Insulation

To pick the right insulation — synthetic or down — for your backcountry adventures, you need to understand what each insulation is, its properties, and its pros and cons. Start with our synthetic insulation primer.

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Gear Explained: Down Insulation

To pick the right insulation — down or synthetic — for your backcountry adventures, you need to understand what each insulation is, its properties, and its pros and cons. Start with our down insulation primer.

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Gear Explained: Sleeping Bag Shapes, Sizes, Fits

Mummy, rectangular, and semi-rectangular, specialty bags, liners, and covers. Choosing a sleeping bag requires understanding the different shapes, sizes, and versions available.

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Gear Explained: Parts of a Sleeping Bag

Even a seemingly simple piece of gear like a sleeping bag can have a confusing number of features, parts, and terms. Here are the basic parts of a typical mummy bag.

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Trekking Poles: Selecting a Pair (Part 3)

To narrow down the choices available at your local outfitter and find the right pair of poles for you and your treks, consider hiking style and terrain, your body, special features, and your budget.

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Trekking Poles: Parts Explained (Part 2)

Trekking poles have become more complicated than the single-piece hiking staffs they've replaced. Here's a primer on the parts of a trekking pole: from strap and grip down to basket and tip.

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Trekking Poles: To Use or Not, Benefits and Drawbacks (Part 1)

Visit any major trail and you'll likely see hikers using trekking poles, matching poles specifically designed for hiking. If you haven't yet tried trekking poles, consider the advantages to decide whether they're a worthwhile addition to your gear closet.

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Outdoor iPhone Apps: Guidebooks Go Mobile

A quick guide to outdoor adventure applications available for Apple's iPhone.

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Outdoor Gifts for Outdoor Kids

If you know a kid to whom you'd like to give the whole outdoor world, here are a few of my own gift ideas. The best parts are money-free.

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Gift ideas from the Trailspace Gear Guide

A few choice selections from the Trailspace Gear Guide might help simplify your shopping list.

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If the Shoe Fits: A Buyers' Guide to Trail Running Shoes

To choose the right trail running shoes, or trail runners, consider the features of the various shoes on the market, as well as the unique nature and biomechanics of your feet. Know your feet, know the terrain, and know if the shoe fits.

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The Wet Foot Test: Find Your Foot Type

Your foot’s arch — high, neutral, or flat — helps determine the amount of stability you need in your footwear. Try the wet foot test to find your arch and foot type.

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Building a Better Water Bottle: Aluminum, Steel, and No BPA

Whether it’s for a trek into the backcountry or a trip to the store, there are a growing number of aluminum, stainless steel, and BPA-free plastic water bottles.

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Soft Shells 101

Soft shells have become extremely popular backcountry (and around-town) clothing in recent years, but this rapidly growing category of stretchy, breathable outerwear can also be confusing to navigate. Here’s a basic introduction to this newest and continually expanding category of outerwear.

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Guide to Tents

Like campers and backpackers, tents come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. Since you’ll depend on your tent for shelter, be sure to choose a good quality one that fits your outdoor needs.

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How to Choose a Sleeping Bag

Down or synthetic? What temperature rating? Mummy or rectangular? Extra-long or women-specific? With the range of sleeping bag types and options on the market there’s sure to be a bag (or bags) ideal for your personal thermostat, shape, and overnight destination.

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Guide to Backpacks

Like most outdoor gear, choosing a backpack depends on what you plan on doing with it primarily. Consider how long you will be gone on trips (a day, overnight, a week?), how much gear you’ll need, or want, to bring along, and when you’ll be out.

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How to Fit Boots

Ultimately the most important aspect of choosing a hiking boot — or trail runner or climbing shoe — is a good fit. Here are some tips to help you properly fit hiking and backpacking boots.

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Guide to Outdoor Footwear

With thousands of outdoor footwear reviews by hikers, mountaineers, climbers, and trail runners who've tested their boots and shoes in the field, Trailspace's Guide to Outdoor Footwear has you, and your feet, covered.

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How to Choose Snowshoes

Snowshoes, one of the oldest forms of transportation around, are also one of the easiest to use. Deciding which snowshoes to buy may not appear simple though due to the wide variety of models available. Read our tips and you can cut through the confusion and choose the right pair for you.

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