March 27, 2011

Hiking: Get in gear with new gadgets

By CAREY KISH

Early spring is a great time to dig through your gear stash, to empty out those bins and boxes, duffels and ditties, and get stuff organized, cleaned up, repaired and ready to go for the big hiking season ahead.

Sorting through all your equipment is not only a cathartic exercise, it's also sure to give you a good idea of any new gear that you might need or want. And as any certified gearhead knows, there's always a thing or two that you just absolutely, positively must have. In that spirit, here are a few interesting products to consider for your wish list this season.

GOURMET KITCHEN TOOLS

Tired of the same old macaroni and cheese or freeze-dried this and that out on the trail? With the GSI Crossover Kitchen Set, you can easily transform dinnertime into a gourmet feast for your whole camping group. This compact and lightweight kit -- just 9.5 ounces -- features tongs, a stirring/serving spoon and a spatula, all with folding handles. There's also a mini cutting board, spice bottle, pot scraper, scrub pad, soap bottle, oil bottle and dish towel. And everything fits neatly into a crescent-shaped pouch that tucks inside a 2-liter pot (not included); $35, gsioutdoors.com.

WATERPROOF PHONE CASE

For iPhone owners who just can't let go of their portable brain, even on the trail, the Magellan iPhone ToughCase is just the thing. The waterproof and shock-proof case, just 7.5 ounces, not only protects your phone from the soggy elements and that accidental dunk in the stream, but also from the occasional drop onto hard ground.

Even though encased, the touchscreen, buttons, microphone and jacks are all usable on the go. A special GPS chip set enhances antenna performance and the accuracy of navigation apps. And the case itself carries a built-in battery that automatically charges your phone and doubles battery life; $180, magellangps.com.

PUMP-FREE WATER FILTER

Who enjoys filtering water after a long day on the trail? Not this hiker, who would rather lounge in camp with a book and a posthike cocktail. Nope, the drudgery of using a pump filter to get clean water has always been a necessary but not nice chore. That all changes with the Platypus GravityWorks pump-free water system (only 10.5 ounces), which allows you to fill, haul, filter and dispense water without pumping and is faster and easier than other systems. Simply fill the "dirty" reservoir and elevate. Attach the hose and the integrated high-tech microfilter and "clean" reservoir, and let gravity do the work while you snooze; $110, platy.com.

COMPASS THAT FLOATS

No hiker should leave the trailhead without a compass (and a map and guidebook and the basic skills to use all three) in his or her rucksack. With the handy Brunton Pioneer 26DNL, there's no reason to. It has all the features of a good compass: a look-through sighting mirror, quick-dampening needle and highly readable compass circle. And bonus, it floats if dropped in the water! The compass measures only 2.5 inches and weighs just over an ounce; $22, brunton.com.

MULTITOOL THAT'S JUST RIGHT

It's easy to overdo it with knives and multitools to the point where you've got more gadgets (and weight) than you really want to carry, so some hikers take their chances and just stop packing them. With the Leatherman Juice S2 multitool, you'll have just what you need for common trail repairs but no frilly extras. You get a 2.5-inch knife blade, scissors, needle-nose and regular pliers, Phillips screwdriver, three sizes of flathead screwdrivers, wire cutters and the all-important bottle opener and corkscrew. And it all folds nicely into a compact 4.4-ounce package. $60, leatherman.com.

SUPER-LIGHT TREKKING POLES

"One pound on your feet equals five your back," goes the old hiker's adage about avoiding not only a heavy backpack, but heavy boots as well, to increase comfort and reduce fatigue on the trail. Why shouldn't the same apply to your trekking poles, those things that swing from your hands all day long? The carbon fiber Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z-Poles make short work of the ounces, weighing in at a feathery 9.2 ounces per pair. A Kevlar cord connects the three pole sections, and with the push of a release button each pole folds into a compact bundle only 13 inches long. Snapping the poles back to full length is just as quick and easy. The poles aren't adjustable, so be sure to purchase the right size. $150, blackdiamondequipment.com.

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is a freelance writer and avid hiker. Send comments and hike suggestions to:

MaineOutdoors@aol.com

 

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