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Top Gear: 2007 Editors’ Choice

April 25, 2007
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SIERRA DESIGNS MOKEN 4Camp is where a good day in the wilderness starts and ends. Your camp will begin with a tent, and one of our top choices this year is the new Moken tent from Sierra Designs (800/635-0461; /sierradesigns.com/. It comes in two sizes, 4-person ($480) and 6-person ($550); and features four DAC shock-corded aluminum poles, a full-coverage rainfly, and two sleeping chambers on either side with a common open area in the center.

Another excellent tent that got our attention and award is the Kelty (800/535-3589; /kelty.com/) Villa, again made in two sizes: 4-person ($350) and 6-person ($425). The Villa features two doors, two vestibules, clip-sleeve assembly, lots of venting, internal storage pockets, a gear shelf and loft, and four DAC DA17 aluminum shock-corded poles.

Sleeping bags are another camp essential, and the Casper 15-degree-F mummy bag from Eureka! (800/572-8822; /eurekatent/) is a grand value with top-notch materials and construction with a very friendly price of just $80. It’s got highly compressible Rteq synthetic double-layer fill, offset quilt construction, a tough outer skin and a wicking inner liner among its many qualities.

On the upper end ($180) of the category, we selected the Kelty (800/535-3589; /kelty.com/) Luxor 20-degree-F bi-fill sleeping bag that offers a layer of 650-fill down and two moisture-managing layers of Thermolite Quallo synthetic insulation. Feature highlights of the semi-rectangular bag include a bathtub-style bottom, zippered foot vent and pillow pockets.

A bag liner serves two purposes: it adds a bit of extra insulation, and allows the inside of the bag to stay clean while you dirty and launder the liner. Cocoon (800/254-7258; /cocoonusa.com/) has followed the trend in women’s-specific bag designs with the introduction of its Women’s Mummyliners. Available in silk ($65) or Egyptian cotton ($36), the liner is designed to better fit the different contour and size of women’s bags.

The new Exped MultiMat ($38) from Outdoor Research (800/421-2421; /orgear.com/) comes in handy for a multitude of purposes. The 79x39x1/8-inch mat is made of closed-cell EVA foam and is covered with ripstop nylon on one side. The waterproof mat makes a comfortable ground cover, tent liner or sleeping pad. Use it anywhere you want insulation and cushioning.

Sitting on the ground is no fun, so we suggest you take a look at one of our top picks in camp furniture, the GCI Outdoor (800/956-SEAT; /gcioutdoor.com/) Pico Arm Chair ($129). It may seem a bit pricey, but you get a sturdy, full-sized chair with a capacity of 250 pounds that can be folded down into the size of a briefcase for transport and storage. The Pico weighs just 9 pounds and comes with its own carrying case.

Crazy Creek (800/331-0304; /crazycreek.com/) also scored big with us for its Crazy Legs Leisure Swivel ($89), a full-size camp chair that offers an adjustable swiveling side table (51/4×103/4 inches) that can be folded up and down, tilted and swung into a number of positions. The Leisure Swivel weighs 9 pounds, 6 ounces and its weight capacity is 325 pounds.

Camp cooking is hot, and you won’t find a better lightweight, two-burner camp stove than the Brunton (800/443-4871; /brunton.com/) Gannett. This $80 cooker has a stainless steel lid and grill rack, painted steel bottom, two 12,000 BTU burners, wind wings, hose-style gas bottle hook up, and matchless ignition. The Gannett measures approximately 12x22x4 inches and weighs just 10 pounds.

For basecamp neatness and convenience, Kelty (800/535-3589; /kelty.com/) has designed the rugged Binto Bar ($120) storage cube. A Delrin rod frame, wind-resistant work surface, zippered mesh inner pockets, dual carry handles and a shoulder strap make up the outer “box.” Inside the Binto Bar are three individual, removable Bintos (freestanding organizer polyester storage cubes) for organizing your supplies.

The right accessories make your campsite chores easier and less time-consuming. For cutting rope or performing some other task that involves a multitool, we liked the X-tract ($50) by Buck (800/326-2825; /buckknives.com/) for its one-handed access with Buck’s patent-pending Button Lock Leverage System. The X-tract comes with nose pliers with wire cutters, a can/bottle opener, and two screwdrivers: one Phillips, one slotted. A full-size Buck blade makes the X-tract a legitimate multifunctional tool for everyday use.

We thought of the bird-watching crowd when we picked the new XM-832 binoculars ($340) by Carson Optical (800/967-8427; /carson-optical.com/). This 8×32 model, part of the high definition series, weighs 20.6 ounces, ideal for a birder’s day in the field. It offers bright images even in low-light conditions and a 420-foot field of view at 1000 yards.

No morning at camp is a good one without having that first cup of joe, which is why we added the H2JO! ($10) from GSI Outdoors (800/704-4474; /gsioutdoors.com/) to our list. This handy filter fits on most standard water bottles, and brews coffee in about XX minutes. You just fill the bottle with water, screw on the filter, add grounds, close the lid and /viola/.

Why didn’t someone come up with this sooner? The Figure9 rope tightener ($2-$9) by Nite Ize (800/678-6483;/niteize.com/) is an aluminum hardware piece that comes with rope so you can pitch your tent, gather your firewood, and hold your canoe or other gear in place on the roof of your vehicle. Available in different sizes, the Figure9 works two ways: You can secure it to the end of your rope or secure it in any location along the length of a rope.

Your canine companion will bark for joy when wearing the Bark’n Boots ($60 for set of four boots) by RuffWear (888/783-3932; /ruffwear.com/). Available in various sizes according to paw width, these booties have Grip Trex, a combination of an upper inspired by human shoes and a high-performance Vibram sole. The anatomical mold is also like human shoes for fit, sizing and shape.

We’re big supporters of dual-purpose gear, like the Ranger 90 ($249) by Thule (203/881-9600; /thule.com/). It’s great if you don’t have the storage space for a rooftop box, but want a carrier with more performance than a rooftop bag. Offering 12 cubic feet of carrying capacity, the Ranger 90 has taped seams and rain flap-protected zippers for water resistance. It mounts directly to Thule and most aftermarket and factory-installed rack systems with Thule’s EasySnap mounting hardware.

The Icarus ($89) by Gregory Packs (800/477-3420; /gregorypacks.com/) is a smart daypack that quickly compacts down in size from its 1500-cubic-inch capacity. A unique integrated stabilizer system that’s tied into the waist belt compresses the bottom of the pack and draws the load close to the body in one motion. A front organizer pocket and a battery/wallet pocket keep things organized.

Many soft shells are great for three-season camping since they are lightweight yet still durable and breathable. Take the Serria Falls ($80) by Columbia (800/547-8066; /columbiasportswear.com/). Consisting of nylon, polyester and an elastane stretch double weave, these fabrics make for a two-way stretch jacket that’s wind, water and abrasion resistant. It’s also clothing that can be worn on and off the campsite.

Good sporty looks aside, the Race multisport sunglasses ($170) by Julbo (800/651-0833; /julboinc.com/) are highly durable because of the Cameleon lenses (also available with other lens types), which are resistant to scratches, chemical and air-borne particles, and, best of all, unbreakable. The adjustable nose projects the lens forward to give ventilation between the eyes and the lenses during activity. They’re also extra wide for optimal viewing.

Lowa (888/335-LOWA; /lowaboots.com/) has injected its main ingredient – polyurethane – into its new AL-X 22 Lo Mesh trail shoe ($110), part of the new AL-X line of low and midcut boots. The rubber outsole is embedded in the PU mono-wrap midsole, which extends upward for side support, making it a shoe pumped with the necessary support and shock absorption for hiking the trail or hitting the pavement. A partial mesh upper adds ventilation.

Sometimes it’s the details that make the shoe, like adding a zipper to a pair of hiking boots. Kudos to Hi-Tec (209/545-1111; /hi-tec.com/) and its reasonably priced V-Lite Quick Zip boot ($75), which has a gusseted zipper on the side so you don’t have to undo your oh-so-perfectly tied laces. A carbon rubber outsole and a compression-molded EVA midsole make the V-Lite lightweight and durable.

Like adults – and even dogs (see our pick from RuffWear) – kids should also have a good pair of shoes while outdoors. Good for wet and dry activities, the Pen shell clog ($50) by Mion (866/784-6466; /mionfootwear.com/) offers primo traction, control and a comfortable fit. It comes with the same Gripstick rubber outsole, Ergomorphic footbed and 360-degree lacing with climbing-grade cord as the adult Mions. And they cover the majority of a child’s foot, so there’s no worry of the shoe flying off while roughing it.

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