Q. I have a very narrow foot and am looking for an all leather backpacking boot. Presently, I own Vasque Sundowners (med. width), and the heel slips a good bit (even with adding a thicker insole). I am looking for a boot this weight or a little heavier, but I’ve found that these boots are usually not available in widths.
Any suggestions of companies that make women’s narrows? Or any suggestions on boots made on a narrower last?
Gear Guy: That’s a bit of a tough problem, Denise, but we ought to be able to find something for you.
I’d have three suggestions: First, Asolos Latitude boot ($185). Although built on a man’s last, the Latitude is designed for narrow feet, and may well be the boot you need. For that matter, try Asolos AFX 520GTX ($185). I have a narrow heel, too, and find Asolos traditional boots fit me well.
Another option would be Salomons Adventure 8 ($165), a good-fitting boot with a design that I’ve found makes up for several foot irregularities.
Finally, L.L. Bean’s newly redesigned Cresta Hiker ($150) has a fairly narrow heel and may fit well. All these boots are roughly comparable to the Sundowner in terms of heft and support, and should do well for extended backcountry travel. In a heavier boot, try One Sports Mazama ($225), Merrells Ridgeline ($210) or Alico Sports Yoho ($220). None of these come in widths, but they do come in women’s models.
And every bootmaker is a little different. Some use a wide last, some a narrow one. Just keep trying boots on until you find what you like. Good luck!
Q. I’m in the market for a three-season tent to use on multi-day inflatable kayaking trips. I have a four-season tent that I intend to use when really bad weather may be encountered.
The key points I am looking for are: 1) light weight; 2) easy to setup; 3) good ventilation. Mountain Hardware’s Skylight caught my eye, but I’m a little worried about the clear plastic window in the rain fly. Do these things turn yellow or harden (and eventually crack) with age? How long should I expect this tent to last, given proper care and moderate use (say, 15 pitchings per year). Any similar tents that I should consider? My budget is $400, but could go a little more if necessary.
Gear Guy: Mountain Hardware’s tents haven’t been on the market long enough for any feedback on whether those plastic windows will misbehave, but I rather doubt that they will.
Clear plastic technology is advanced enough to ensure that you shouldn’t have a problem. I’d say the Skylight ($265) is an excellent choice, and one that should last for five years or more with reasonable care.
In that size and price range, I’d also take a look at the Sierra Designs Orion ($235), the Marmot Peapod ($339) and Mosss Stardome DST ($399).
Q. Any advice on how to keep your feet warm in really cold conditions (-20F to -40 F)? Does a person need super gaiters or just really warm socks?
Gear Guy: Really warm socks won’t cut it. If you want to keep track of your toes, you have to take serious measures in conditions that cold. For starters, a warm plastic boot like a Scarpa Inverno or Asolo Expedition is a minimum requirement. Buy them a bit large to ensure your feet have room and circulation is not cut off. Wear wicking liner socks to keep your feet dry, then a heavy wool or wool blend sock. For a boot covering, I’d recommend a full super gaiter that extends beneath the boot. One superb model is Outdoor Research’s Brooks Ranger ($110). These have an insulated sole, so cold can’t come up through the bottom of the boot.
In some conditions, it might also be advisable to wear vapor-barrier liner socks. These generally go for about $25, and keep your feet warmer by reducing evaporative cooling. Their drawback is that they make your socks damp, so you must take good care of your feet and change socks daily. Otherwise you risk a serious case of immersion foot!
MEMO: Send your questions directly to Interactive Gear Guy Douglas Gantenbein by e-mail at email@example.com or check out his twice-weekly column on Outside Online at http://outside.starwave.com
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