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Ask the Gear Guy

Not sure which gear to buy? Need tips for maintaining your equipment? Ask the Gear Guy for help.

Stuff We Like: UCO StakeLight

If you've ever tripped over the guy lines of your tent in the dark, or gotten a little turned around on your way back to your tent after a midnight trip to the bathroom, then you know exactly why the StakeLight is so cool.

Waterproof or water-resistant?

waterproof-200x148Q. Hey Gear Guy, I have a question for you. What’s the difference between waterproof and water-resistant? I see it on lots of outdoor gear but I’m not sure which is which.

Hate leaving the tent to pee at night

bathroom-200x148When I’m camping, I hate having to get up in the middle of the night to go outside and pee. Sometimes it’s too cold or I’m nervous about what I might step on in the dark. What should I do?

Avoiding mosquito attacks

I feel like a mosquito magnet. Seems like every time I go on outings with my troop, I'm the only one who gets bitten. What can I do? Help!

De-Stinking Water Bottles

Q. Gear Guy, How do I prevent the nasty odor and taste that I get when I store my Nalgene bottle with the lid closed?

How to fit a backpack

backpack-200x148Watch as Eagle Scout Jon Almquist, who works for national outdoors retailer REI, shows you how to fit a backpack in this exclusive BL video.

Effective bug sprays

bugspray-200x148Q. My Scout Troop took a four-day backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The mosquitoes were the biggest problem on the trip. I used several different bug sprays, and only one of them worked. But the one that worked only worked for about 15 minutes. What type of bug spray (preferably natural) could I use that would keep the mosquitoes away for at least an hour? Also, I’ve heard that there is clothing that keeps bugs away. How effective is this clothing?

How to repair rubber rain boots

shoegoo-200x148My favorite rubber rain boots have a hole in the side. Now they aren't dry at all. They weren't really expensive, but I don't want to get new ones. How can I repair my boot? Please help.

Reduce sweating in your lifejacket

livevest-200x148Q. My family has a great sit-on-top kayak and I love paddling it around the lake in the summer but my parents make me wear a lifejacket and my back gets totally sweaty and gross. Please help me!

What’s a Boston valve?

Q. Hey Gear Guy! I am thinking about buying an inflatable boat. I checked all of the safety regulations, laws, details, etc. The only thing I’m not quite sure about is how to inflate it. It says it comes with two Boston valves for easy inflation. Do I attach them to a hand pump, like the one for my sports balls? Or do I need a special pump? Please say no! HELP!

Itchy groin after swimming

ocean-200x148Q. Dear Gear Guy. My friends and I do a lot of swimming in saltwater in the summer, and a common problem we have is the infamous itchy groin. Is there a solution?

Stuff We Like: WD-40 Bike Chain Lubricant

wd40-200x148You've probably heard of WD-40. It's a spray-on lubricant that has been around forever and is useful on nearly everything -- except bike chains. Now there's a WD-40 made specifically for bikes.

Where to find cheap, decent hiking boots

boot-200x148Q. Hey Gear Guy, I was really unsmart on my first campout and brought sneakers! My Scoutmaster said I had to get hiking boots, but my family doesn't make that much money. Do you know of some really cheap, decent hiking boots?

Why is my pack so heavy?

Q. I’ve been in Scouts for about a year and I was wondering why my backpack is so heavy. I only pack about two pairs of jeans, extra socks and two shirts. I also pack a mess kit and a flashlight plus batteries. My sleeping pad is not heavy; neither is my sleeping bag. Why might my pack be so heavy and do you know how to fix it?

Skateboard knee pads are super-smelly

Dear Gear Guy, I've been skateboarding on my friend's ramp a lot. I always wear my elbow and knee pads and helmet, but they are starting to really stink. I guess I've been sweating in them a lot, and the pads are super-smelly. What can I do?

Are white-gas stoves allowed?

coleman-200x148Q. Dear Gear Guy, I recently inherited a Coleman white-gas stove from my father; he has been using it since he was a Cub Scout with my grandfather in the 1960s. I would love to bring this to camp, but I've heard a lot of talk that white gas isn't permitted in Scouts anymore. Is this true?

Sleeping bag is too cold

Q. I have a 20-degree-rated sleeping bag that I use with a fleece liner, but in late fall and early winter, I'm still cold. I've tried everything -- what should I do?

Getting comfortable in a sleeping bag

Q. I've been camping for years but am still having trouble getting comfortable when I'm sleeping. I can only sleep on my side with my right arm under my pillow but that can be trouble on cold nights when my mummy bag is cinched up tight. Any help Gear Guy?

Change into fresh clothes to stay warm

Q. I have been reading Boys’ Life longer than most Scouts, but I saw the question about “I have a 20 degree bag…but still cold.” His problem might be that he is going to bed in the clothes that he has been wearing all day. Your body sweats, even in the coldest weather, and that moisture will keep you cold even in the warmest sleeping bag. My advice is to change into fresh dry clothes, at a minimum, change into dry socks and long johns. Try it. Dry means warm.

Good thermal underwear

Q. Hello Gear Guy, My son will be attending a Freeze-O-Ree next month. We need to get some good thermal underwear for 30-40 degree temps. What can you recommend?

Why is my sleeping bag so cold?

sleepingbag-200x148Dear Gear Guy, I have a 30-degree rated backpacking sleeping bag but still get cold in above freezing temperatures. Can you recommend a good bag that is light enough to carry and will still keep me warm? Thanks!

Stuff We Like: Black Diamond Mercury 55 backpack

backpack-200x148At first glance, Black Diamond's ergoACTIV backpack suspension system seems like a gimmick. But it really works. The hip belt has a unique rotating ball joint that pivots as your body moves. The result is a much more comfortable pack that does a really good job of transferring the pack's weight to your hips.

Inexpensive outdoor equipment

cheapgear-200x148.jpgLast weekend my dad took me to the local outdoors store, but we both couldn't believe how expensive camping stuff is. Please help! Where can I get good outdoor equipment without paying huge prices?

Inexpensive cot or sleeping pad for camping

thermarest-200x148Q. Hey Gear Guy! I need something to keep me off of the ground at campouts, a cot or just a simple ground pad. However I don’t have much money. What’s something cheap that works well?

How to train with a loaded backpack

backpack-200x148Q. Dear Gear Guy, I want to train for my backpacking trips with a loaded backpack, but I don’t want to have to pack all my gear every time I want to train. Is there any way to add weight to the backpack in a simple but accurate representation of a full backpack?

Supplies for a beach outing

sunscreen-200x148Q. Hey Gear Guy, I’m going to the beach this summer, and I was wondering what would be the best things to get for my personal needs, such as my face, skin, etc. I’m going to buy my own personal stuff this year to go, such as my sunscreen lotion, etc. I was just wondering what I need to buy. Any good selections? Thanks.

Stuff We Like: Action Shot Camera

actionshot-200x148Finally, an affordable wearable video camera! With this new Action Shot Camera, you don’t have to drop a lot of cash to start filming your adventures.

Convertible hiking pants for Philmont

convertiblepantsQ. Gear Guy, We’re going to Philmont Scout Ranch. Need suggestions for hiking pants (convertible to shorts) and hiking shorts for both me and my 15-year-old.

Deodorize stinky gear

smell-200x148I play soccer and football. I sometimes wear my cleats six days a week. Is there any way to rid my equipment (cleats, shin guards, shoulder pads, etc.) of that everlasting smell of fresh body odor?

Stop rolling off the sleeping pad

When I go camping I often have trouble sleeping. I toss and turn and always end up rolling off my sleeping pad. What can I do to sleep better?

Preventing and treating blisters

boots-200x148Q. I'm going to the 2013 National Scout Jamboree, and I've been told that there's tons of hiking. That might be a problem because my feet sweat a lot and give me blisters. Any suggestions for preventing and treating this?

Should I buy a Gerber or Swiss Army knife?

Q. Hey Gear Guy, I’m debating on whether to buy a Gerber pocketknife or a Swiss Army knife. My friend says Gerber; but I’ve heard Swiss Army my whole life. Which one should I buy?

Keeping rain out of your tent

revivex-200x148Q. I have a two-person tent that I really like, but when it rains, it leaks badly. I applied seam sealer as you had said in a previous answer, but now it's like the rain is coming through the tent itself, not the seams. I think the rain fly that came with the tent is not big enough. Can I buy another type of rain fly? I was thinking a tarp would not allow air to come through and I will get hot. Do you have any other suggestions?

Good ball cap for hot days

Q. Last summer at Cub Scout day camp, the temperature hit 106 degrees. I like to wear a wide brim hat on days like that, but sometimes they just get in the way and a ball cap works better, especially when I’m out doing a lot of active stuff like running around or jogging. I find that most ball caps make my head feel hot and just retain more heat. I try soaking them in water and letting evaporation cool my head down, which helps a little, but I was wondering if you’ve come across any good caps that might have some ventilation in them.

How to buy a new fishing pole?

Q. Dear Gear Guy, I’m looking to buy a new fishing pole, but don’t know what qualities to look for in a rod. What do you recommend?