Gear Test: Midland GXT800 FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radios
Midland GXT800 FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radios
By Stuart Bourdon
Handheld communication devices are a vital link between family members, friends and party members during outdoor excursions; and we often recommend you purchase a good set of two-way radios to help you keep in touch with them around the campground and while engaged your favorite outdoor activities.
The Midland GXT800 is from the company’s top-shelf group of waterproof handheld five-watt FRS/GMRS two-way radios. Among the GXT800′s major feature highlights are 22 channels (seven FRS, eight GMRS, and another seven that are combo FRS/GMRS outlets); 142 privacy codes to allow for up to 3124 communication options; direct call so you can instantly contact one in your party without bothering others; NOAA weather alert radio so you can have automatic alerts for severe or hazardous conditions day or night; and waterproofing that meets JIS4 specifications, so if you drop the radios in the creek and fish them out quickly, they should not be adversely affected.
We tested the FRS/GMRS two-way radios in a moderately wooded campground, on the trail, in the car, and out in the open, using them much the same way as the average camper does. We were generally impressed with the overall performance of the GXT800 radios in the campground and on the trail (but no farther apart than about 1/4-mile) as long as no large looming obstruction such as a ridgeline got in the way. In most instances, good sound quality and clear reception were the rule rather than the exception.
For a long-distance open-range test, we went to our usual strip of test beach. We reviewed reception clarity and sound quality in an unobstructed straight-line shot with the transmitting unit atop a breakwater. Performance marks were high at intervals of one and three miles, only beginning to slightly deteriorate in transmission clarity at five miles with just a hint of static.
In a densely wooded, but otherwise unobstructed and flat valley, we again critically reviewed the unit’s sound and transmission performance. Both were very good at one mile, but once we got past the three-mile mark, service was intermittent, and at five miles was nearly non-existent.
We ran our evaluation in one of the GMRS channels and on high power setting. One of the little things that we really liked about the Midland GXT800 radios was that the units offer three power modes (low, medium and high) to allow the operator to select the power level that offers the optimum combination of output and efficiency, helping to stretch out a battery charge as long as possible.
Midland offers a pair of its GXT800 radios in a blister pack that includes a dual-radio desktop charging station with 110-volt AC adapter cord and 12-volt DC adapter cord, rechargeable battery packs, belt clips, and headsets. $110. Midland Radio: 816/241-8500; /midlandradio.com/.
Gregory Z 22 pack
By Mark Evitt
Is it possible for a daypack to look futuristic? The backbone (literally) of the Gregory Z 22 is the new Jet Stream DTS suspension system, which allows air to circulate between the pack and the wearer’s back. I tested the pack during dayhikes in the Sierra Nevada mountains and found the Z 22 responded well to weight changes and kept my back dry.
At first glance, the Z 22 looks a lot different than your average daypack, and it feels different, too. The back of the pack is rigid, and there is a layer of taught mesh running the length of the pack. The main body of the pack curves outward, and is held into place by two criss-crossed thin springsteel bars. These bars flex, depending on how much weight is in the pack, so the pack stays away from your back and you don’t sweat. Moisture-wicking shoulder straps and hipbelt keep your body’s contact points with the pack as sweat-free as possible.
While the pack’s suspension system sounds complicated, the rest of the Z 22 is pleasantly simple. There aren’t any superfluous zippers, compartments and pockets. The pack’s main compartment holds a water reservoir, and has space for the gear you’ll need on your hike. I was able to fit my jacket, lunch and a spare pair of pants and shirt. With a total of 1300 cubic inches of storage space, the Z 22 isn’t huge, but the point here is to have a light pack (the pack itself weighs only 2 pounds, 10 ounces) that doesn’t limit your movement. A small compartment at the top of the pack holds and MP3 player or your keys, and you can slide maps into the expandable front pouch (it doesn’t zip). I loved the two small side pouches – one on each side of the hip belt – where I could put snacks, my VHF radio or a small tube of sunscreen.
The Z 22 is made from 210-denier ripstop nylon, and like other Gregory products, is very well constructed. Two sets of compression straps prove this pack is designed for hikers who want to move and have their pack move with them. Here’s the real question I wanted to answer: Would my back still be wet after a morning hiking with Z 22? Mesh linings and weight transfer systems look great and work well in theory, but the tale of the trail can be different.
After loading my gear into the Z 22 (the 1300 cubic inches of space required me to pack judiciously), I set off. It took me a little while to figure out the best way to wear the daypack on my back. Because the pack curves outward, the weight pulled me back a little. Once I adjusted the shoulder straps and trusted the Jet Stream DTS would keep me cool, the pack was rock solid. At lunchtime, there was no question the Z 22 had done its job. I was still sweaty at the pack’s contact points (especially on my hips) but my back was dry. For forward-thinking pack design that’s executed well, with style, the Gregory Z 22 is an ideal light-hiking daypack. $99. Gregory: 800/477-3420; gregorypacks.com
REI Comfort Recliner Chair
By Sylvia Alarid
It was my biggest challenge yet-hike 24 miles in three days through the beautiful and wild granite country of the High Sierra near Lake Tahoe. It was a rewarding experience, and although I had little training before the trip, I was physically fine for the most part. But it did feel great when, returning to our basecamp, I could rest my dogs while sitting on some comfortable furniture, such as REI’s Comfort Recliner Chair.
For 2008 the popular co-op is targeting the basecamp crowd, offering a full line of camp furniture (even cookware). The Comfort Recliner Chair is part of the Comfort Collection and one of four chairs in the three-collection lineup, which introduces two types of cots, three tables, a camp stool, camp kitchen and trail chairs.
Like its name states, the Comfort Recliner Chair was comfortable because of the padding on the armrests and body, and its three levels of recline adjustment. And though it’s a small detail, it’s a very important one: The chair’s beverage holder is shaped to hold a Nalgene bottle, a coffee mug with a handle, a long-neck glass bottle or a 12-ounce aluminum can of Fresca. Just drop your favorite drink in the holder and adjust the size with the attached cinch cord.
REI doesn’t sacrifice anything with its products, and this chair is no different. The fabric is made of 600-denier ripstop polyester fabric, and a heavy-duty, powdercoated steel frame provides good stability. The included carry sack doubles as a lumbar pad, which came in handy when I took a seat after we finished our second day of hiking.
While bushwacking through our primitive trail, I took a bad step and fell against a tree trunk, hitting my tailbone. Yet, after a hearty dinner, a refreshing drink and some ibuprofen, I was sitting comfortably and happily in my Comfort Recliner Chair. You should, too. $59. REI: 800/426-4840; /rei.com/.