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Outdoor Adventure Guide

Posted in Features on October 1, 2005
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Contributors: Tori Tellem

RainGear For When Conditions Get Wet And SloppyYou know that old '70s song "It Never Rains in Southern California"? Don't believe it. We had the second wettest winter on record in 2004-'05, causing everything from house-mashing mudslides to football-field-size sinkholes. So now we know a thing or two about being soaked and miserable, thanks to those nonstop downpours. The gear we've collected here should keep you dry and your truck weatherproof no matter how wet it gets.

Dry BedNeed to keep gear (or yourself) dry in the bed? There are three basic choices for cargo-area cover: a tonneau, a truck cap, or a camper shell. The bed-wall-high tonneau is fine for gear but makes for a claustrophobic sleeping area; camper shells are great for sleeping but overkill if you stow gear more often than camp. Truck caps, such as this fiberglass MX model from A.R.E., are a good compromise between the two. The roof-high construction gives you space for tall gear or breathing room while you snooze, but it's not so tall as to spoil your truck's aerodynamic profile or garage ceiling clearance. Walk-in doors make access easier than ever, and A.R.E. offers paint-code matching so the cap will blend with the sheetmetal.

A.R.E, 800.649.4273,

Like Water Off A DuckIf you're "lucky" enough to spend a lot of wheeling time in the rain, you'll want to look into making some modifications to your truck to better cope with the water, not to mention all the mud you'll encounter. For example, spray-in bedliner material is not only good for bed protection, it can also be used on your 4x4's floorboards to make hosing out the mud a whole lot easier. Worried about your seats being perpetually wet? Try covering them with a waterproof material, like the neoprene covers offered by Wet Okole Hawaii. Wet Okole has seat patterns that will fit just about any truck or SUV, and installation is simple, as the covers simply slide over the existing upholstery and fasten with Velcro and straps. There are some 38 colors in Wet Okole's inventory, so there's sure to be something that'll fit your rig's color scheme.

Line-X, 800.831.3232,

Rhino Linings, 888.744.6604,

Wet Okole Hawaii, 949.548.1543,

I Can See Clearly NowDon't rely on just your windshield wipers for clear visibility in poor conditions. There are several silicone-based windshield treatments on the market that will help repel rain and keep sleet and snow from sticking to the glass. Probably the best known is Rain-X, which is now available in Swipe & Wipe towelettes in addition to the familiar liquid spray. Rain-X, however, has to be applied in dry conditions. If it's already raining and you want to treat your windshield, use Instant Rain Shield or Ultra Rain Shield from No Touch. Both products are designed to work on wet glass; Instant Rain Shield lasts 4 to 10 days, while Ultra Rain Shield can last up to six months.

Rain-X, 800.416.1600, www.rainx.comInstant Rain Shield,

Rain Boots: Gore-Tex vs. RubberBoth are waterproof, so which is best for you? According to Rocky Outdoor Gear's Joe Hanning, the breathability of Gore-Tex will make boots lined with it more comfortable to wear over the long haul, as your feet won't get clammy and, as a result, cold. Typically a boot made with Gore-Tex will also fit better than a rubber boot and will be much more comfortable to hike in.

But if you find yourself in swampy areas with lots of mud and standing water, rubber is the better choice, says Hanning. Rubber boots are available in sizes that are taller than standard boots, so you can have water protection further up your leg. Rubber boots are also much easier to clean after use; there's no leather or laces for mud to cake in.

Rubber also costs less, said Hanning. Typical rubber boots sell for between $49 and $99, while Gore-Tex-lined boots can sell for $140 and up.Rocky Outdoor Gear,740.753.1951,

What is Gore-Tex?You've seen the tags on everything from boots to jackets, but have you ever wondered what Gore-Tex is and how it can be waterproof and breathable at the same time? Gore-Tex is a membrane with pores so small water molecules can't get through, but air can. So on the inside of the garment your skin can breathe without getting clammy, but rain can't soak in.

According to Joe Hanning of Rocky Outdoor Gear, just about every apparel maker has its own waterproof system that is similar to Gore-Tex, but they're usually less expensive since typically they aren't as breathable. He lumps his own company's Rocky Waterproof material into that same not-quite-as-good camp. "That's what you're paying the extra money for when you're buying Gore-Tex," he said.

Rain Boots, Part 2:How High?Whether you need to wade through knee-deep gumbo to hook up a winch cable or just keep your feet dry during a spring rain, there's a mind-boggling variety of rubber boots on the market suited to any outdoors task. For example, here are just a few samples from LaCrosse.

LaCrosse Footwear, 800.323.2668,

Trailside EntertainmentToo wet to 'wheel? Check out these portable entertainment systems. From Jeep is the Rubicon Rugged Radio, a big, burley, weather- and shock-resistant AM/FM tuner that looks a lot like a small generator. It's built with rubberized knobs that are easy to use with gloves and sits on protective rollbars with rubberized feet. The Rugged Radio runs on six D-cell batteries or the supplied power cord.

Taking the Rubicon radio to the next level, the folks at Jeep have just introduced the Rubicon Rugged TV/Lantern/Radio with-you guessed it-a built-in television (a 5-inch black-and-white unit) and a retractable lantern. The radio dial also gets a weather band to keep up with local storm warnings. Its ruggedized construction features are similar to the original Rubicon radio's. Jeep,

Jeep isn't the only company to get in on the trailside entertainment movement. Coleman offers the King Cobra Lantern TV Radio, which packs a 5-inch TV, an AM/FM/Weather (seven-band) radio, a fluorescent tube, and a flashlight all into one compact package. The King Cobra can be powered by C-cells or 12-volt power, and the kit includes a car-plug adapter.

Coleman, 800.835.3278,

Waterproof ItYou may already be familiar with products on the market that can add or refresh the waterproof layer on your boots, jackets, and other outer wear. But a quick look over the Nikwax line will show you that modern waterproofing technology doesn't stop at clothing. Nikwax also offers cleaning and re-waterproofing products for tents, backpacks, duffle bags, rope, and even maps and charts. You'll find more traditional types of 'proofing products in the lineup too, for leather, cotton, wool, down, and even water-repellent fabrics like Gore-Tex.

Nikwax, 800.563.3057,

Frog-Like SkinWhen it gets wet enough, you'll want waterproof protection for more than just your feet. And let's face it: Those 99-cent see-through ponchos you get at the drug store just don't cut it, for more than a few minutes anyway. For true wet-weather repellancy look to a rain suit like those made by Frogg Toggs. Made up of three layers of polypropylene material with a center layer of microporous film, Frogg Toggs suits are 100-percent waterproof but also breathe, to keep you comfortably cool even when fully zipped up. Frogg Toggs come in several styles, including models for hunters with Advantage Wetlands, MAX-4 HD, and Timber camo patterns.

Frogg Toggs, 800.349.1835,

SnowWhen Keeping Warm And Dry Means Staying AliveGetting wet in a rainstorm makes you uncomfortable until you can dry out. Getting wet in the snow can have far grimmer ramifications, ranging from chills and frostbite to hypothermia, an abnormal lowering of the body temperature that can lead to death. Now, we don't want to be total buzzkill for you winter wheelers, but being well protected against the harsh elements means living to wheel another day, right?

Jacket Or Parka?There is a difference: A jacket is generally shorter, covering the upper body down to the waist or a little further; the inner lining and outer shell are generally of one piece (though there are jackets with removable liners). A parka is longer, covering the upper body down to mid-thigh; typically parkas are two-piece garments with a liner that separates from the outer shell.

Personal preference and your winter activities usually determine whether you buy a parka or a jacket. If you can afford an outer layer just for wheeling, though, think jacket. Since it's shorter, you won't have to sit on it when you're driving, giving you better maneuverability inside the cab.

Down Or Fleece?When it comes to outer garment insulation, there's no question: Down is best when the goal is warmth. Down is also extremely light, and even the bulkiest down vests, parkas, and sleeping bags can be stuffed in very tight spaces, which is why it's so popular with backpackers.

Get down wet, though, and it loses its loft (the air spaces around the feathers), which is what gives it its excellent insulation capabilities. If you're going to be in a wet and cold environment, be sure to put a waterproof layer over the down garment. Or choose one of the synthetic (polyester) downlike materials.

Synthetic fleece is being used more and more as an insulator, as it too is lightweight but doesn't lose its insulation properties when wet. It also breathes well, meaning perspiration that's wicked away from the body via a poly undershirt can get through a fleece outer layer.

That breatheability, however, can be a negative in windy environments. Wind can cut right through fleece unless it's coupled with some sort of wind barrier, whether that's an additional layer of fabric (such as Columbia Sportswear's Windstopper, a Gore-Tex laminate) or a second, outer garment. According to Columbia's Dan Tiegs, the hang tag on a fleece garment can tell you a lot about its qualities, from the weight of the fleece to the protection it offers from the wind.

What's A Pac Boot?"Pac" is the name given to a type of winter boot made from a combination of leather (or some other sort of fabric) and rubber-leather where it binds around the top of your foot and ankle (and the lower part of your leg, if the boot's tall enough), and rubber around your toes and down to where the boot meets the snow. Pac boots are incredibly versatile: available with Arctic-explorer levels of insulation or none at all; available in a wide variety of colors and styles (including camo patterns); available with scent-locking features for hunters; and so on. Here are just a few.

Boot InsulationHow much insulation do you need in your snow boots? Your feet generate heat when you're active; they don't when you're not. So, according to the folks at LaCrosse Footwear, match your activity level with these weights of Thinsulate insulation:

200 grams: Cold conditions and high levels of activity, like working or hiking400 grams: Moderate activity levels600-800 grams: Very cold conditions and low activity levels900-1,300 grams: When you're stationary (driving, sitting in a tree stand)

Personal WarmersYou may think of pocket, glove, and other types of warmers as just a convenience, but they're far more important than that, according to the Heat Factory's David Treptow: "They're a must for survival." If you're stuck, and we mean really stuck, somewhere in the snow for a number of days, you can use several of the Heat Factory's large warmers to wrap key areas of your body-the kidneys, armpits and groin-and heat the blood there. When coping with the risk of hypothermia, "It's about keeping your core warm, not the extremeties," Treptow said.

He recommends packing six large warmers to cover those key body areas. Store them in resealable bags, use several at a time, and when you don't need them, put them back in the bag. Because the Heat Factory warmers only generate heat when they're exposed to the air, that process stops when they're sealed up in an air-tight bag. Each large warmer is designed to work for a full 24 hours, the smaller, pocket-sized warmers for up to 12.

Heat Factory, 800.993.4328,

Whatcha Got Under There?Long johns may have kept Grandpa's butt warm, but these days we have the benefit of high-tech undergarments that keep us warm and dry next to the skin. What does that mean? If you sweat under bulky clothing, the moisture will make you cold as it evaporates. Why fight the cold inside and outside your clothes? Today's cold-weather undergarments consist of lightweight fabrics that allow perspiration to pass through as it evaporates, keeping your skin dry.

Underarmour, 888.427.6687,

Browning, 800.333.3288,

Got Juice?Some clothing manufacturers make outerwear that heats electrically. Rocky Outdoor Gear, for example, offers Warmgear vests (shown below) and jackets that use C-cell batteries to warm polymer panels in the front and back up to about room temperature. An adapter sold with the garments allows you to plug them in to your truck's power outlets.

Rocky Outdoor Gear, 740.753.1951,

Dry Your BootsAre you going to risk damaging those expensive boots by putting them by the fire to dry? There's no need: Here are two very different ways to dry your boots without cooking them.

Heat Your TruckSometimes it gets so dang cold that your truck's stock heater just isn't up to the task-if it's working at all. Here are a couple of options to bring more warmth to your world, one permanent, the other portable.

Mojave Heater Flex-a-lite fans help keep our rigs cool. Now the company is going the other way with its new Mojave heater. Measuring just 12 by 9 by 5 inches, the Mojave puts out a toe-toasting 12,000 Btus and moves 130 cfm of air. It taps into your truck's existing water source, and an optional plenum can be added for directional heating and defrosting.

Flex-a-lite, 800.851.1510,

Coleman SurvivalCat This is more than just a heater: The SurvivalCat Emergency Preparedness Kit from Coleman combines an 800-Btu SurvivalCat catalytic heater with two emergency blankets and a box of waterproof matches, all in a compact carrying case. Coleman's propane-powered catalytic heaters work without a flame, and the SurvivalCat can raise the temperature of your truck cab by up to 20 degrees, says the company.

Coleman, 800.835.3278,

21st Century Snow ChainsGoClaws from Flex-Trax are everything that old-school snow chains aren't. They're made from lightweight polyurethane, install in minutes (even if your vehicle is already stuck), won't clog, and can be used to free your rig from mud or sand in addition to snow. You can visit the company's Web site for a comprehensive, four-page explanation of how GoClaws work; you'll probably be more interested in the fact that Flex-Trax makes GoClaws for flotation tire sizes up to 37 inches.

Flex-Trax, 800.420.1062,

Weather Station In Your HandFast-moving winter weather fronts can turn your snow-berm-bashing trip into a real nightmare. Keep track of changing weather conditions with a Kestrel Pocket Weather Meter. The 2500 Series (shown) measures wind speed, temperature, wind chill, barometric pressure, and altitude. It also features a three-hour pressure trend indicator that helps you to anticipate changes in the weather. The Weather Meter is fully waterproof (it even floats!) so you can use it in any ambient condition, and the high-precision impeller can be replaced without tools should it become damaged. The 2500 is just one of many hand-held weather stations made by Kestrel.

Nielsen-Kellerman, 610.447.1555,

HeatIt's Getting Hot Out Herery heat. Africa hot. Sweaty. Glistening. Nope, not writing summer haiku here. Call it what you want, and give its side effects whatever adjective or verb you need to, but it boils (literally) down to one thing: It can suck when it's hot out. Some of us have to suffer through many months of ugly seasons before we're able to resurrect the truck from storage and head to the hills and trails and suffer through hard-core high temps. And those aren't miserable just for you-your truck can also take a beating if not properly equipped for fun in the sun. That's why we've got tips and gear to keep both of you wheeling in comfort and completely prepared no matter how far north the mercury goes.

Gimme ShelterWe could go into the specs of the Add-Awn Sport Shade, but what's the point? All you'll really care about when you're baking is the fact that it will provide between 80 and 150 square feet of shade. That'll feel like the moon is out. It'll mount on pickups, SUVs with roof racks, and trailers. OK, here's the tech anyway: It has low-profile brackets that go inside the truck bed, resulting in a clean fit, and it includes a carrying bag, so it's not a bulky item to store in your rig-year round (it's ideal for escaping from rain too). It has telescoping legs for dealing with uneven terrain and for angling.

FTM Enterprises, 760.732.3161,

No More Night SweatsYour sleeping bag keeps you toasty and warm all winter-but if you bought it because it's the dream sleeping bag for winter months, outfitted with flannel and such, you'll hate it when evening degrees are barely a relief from the day's. That's why if you're shopping for a bag, don't think simply seasonal but rather all-season. And if you'll be hiking to your destinations, pay close attention to the weight of the sleeper. Kelty hits both topics of consideration with its Light Year 3D. This one is even designed for wet climates. Comfort (and the name) comes from a Polarguard 3D insulation, which is a synthetic material that will give you warmth in the wintertime. There's a two-way locking zipper and zippered foot vent for making sure you can find a happy temperature for slumber, and it weighs in at 2 pounds, 6 ounces.Kelty, 800.423.2320,

Grab A Cold OneYou know ARB best for its air lockers, but you'll love those Aussies even more for their portable refrigerator/freezer when it's hot out. Not a glorified cooler, the Freezer Fridge has two separate power cords-one for AC operation (120 volts) and the other for DC (12/24 volt)-and there's thermostat control so you can decide whether to make it work as a refrigerator or freezer. Extreme angles don't bother it, and it has a removable lid and basket. Its rounded corners won't tear up your vehicle's innards.

ARB 4x4 Accessories, 206.264.1669,

Heat vs. Your EngineYour OE radiator probably isn't up to the task of cooling off a higher-horsepower engine, especially on a hot day; and nothing takes the fun out of wheeling more than constant overheating. Switching to an all-aluminum radiator can lower the coolant temperature by as much as 20 degrees, and Be Cool has what you need to make this swap happen, even if you're dealing with a tight engine compartment or small grille opening. Be Cool radiators have epoxy-free construction to also contribute to heat dissipation.

Be Cool, 800.691.2667 or 989.895.9699,

Red HeadWe're all about slathering the SPF 75 over our exposed parts, but we often forget about our scalps, and our baseball caps do nothing for our ears. That's why the Sun Bucket is an easy solution. It features SolarShield fabric rated at 50+ UPF and has a Coolmax head guard for "moisture management" (the politically correct way to say, "You're sweating like a pig"). There's an adjustable and removable chin cord.

Outdoor Research, 800.421.2421,

Liquid For Your TruckIt's a mouthful to say, but it's a key ingredient for your truck to run healthy in the heat. Ready? Prestone 50/50 Prediluted All Makes All Models Extended Life Antifreeze/Coolant. Whew! It's intended for topping off, and has the precise factory-fill blend: 50-percent antifreeze concentrate for temperature and corrosion protection, and 50-percent demineralized water for heat transfer. It can be added to any cooling system-it's compatible with all types of antifreeze, regardless of color.

Prestone, 800.862.7737,

Bikini SeasonNothing feels quite as awesome as an open-top vehicle-until the moment you're convinced that someone is holding a magnifying glass over your head and trying to spontaneously combust you under the searing sun. To keep the wind in your hair but gain sun block, an easy solution is a bikini top, such as this one from Bestop. The company offers them in multiple styles, including header, traditional, and strapless. To look the part of outdoor adventurer, there are three camo colors in the line: military, urban, and desert. The fabric tops have reinforced edges and industrial-grade buckles and webbing.

Bestop, 888.407.9456,

Pitch A TentWhen the weather warms up, it's the ideal time to sleep under the stars, and having a compact tent that you can easily carry in your truck or in your backpack is the goal of the all-season Black Diamond Equipment Mega Light. Using a carbon-fiber pole sheds weight, and without the optional floor, the Mega Light rings in at a bit over 2 pounds. It's designed for being pitched over rocky terrain (and snow pits). And as a perk, it comes with a Pole Link Converter, a nylon wrap with a Velcro-type of closure system for combining trekking or ski poles into a single Mega Light pole.

Black Diamond Equipment, 801.278.5552,

Fan ClubIf you've pondered switching from a mechanical fan to an electric fan, summer is a good time to finally get serious about it. These are just as sturdy, and they're as capable of handling wheeling with the A/C on or being on your tow rig for hauling toys for water or dirt. In fact, you'll probably see a jump in both horsepower and torque as a side effect of the change. The Cool-Pack from Perma-Cool has dual high-output, low-amp, 14-inch fans that are controlled with a 160- to 210-degree F adjustable thermal switch in an aluminum assembly. The Cool-Pack will mount to the existing radiator-core support and uses stock fan-shroud mounting holes and fasteners; it arrives to you pre-assembled and wired.Perma-Cool, 909.390.1550,

Hi-Po PumpWe've already told you heat can quickly become a brutal enemy of your truck. Another way to prevent overheating your small-block Chevy is to install the Edelbrock Victor Series aluminum water pump. Featuring racing technology (where cooling and light weight matter big time for performance), they're designed for maximum flow and pressure and equal distribution to both sides of the block within 1 percent, they say. The pump flows in only one direction to keep things efficient.

Edelbrock Corp, 800.FUN.TEAM (386.8326) or 800.416.8628 (tech),

Amphibious FootwearFace it: Your tennies don't really cut it if your feet get wet or you're walking on them all day on rugged terrain. The X-1 from Teva is lightweight, cushioned, stable, and flexible, plus it has a 360-degree drainage system. You may not plan to do any running off road, but if you had the urge to bolt, these are tuned for just that via the Wraptor Lite fit system, and they have Protection Web, a coated fabric. The men's shoe weighs in at just about 9 ounces, while women's are about 811/42.

Teva, 800.367.8382,

The JacketYou may not like the idea of sacrificing precious cargo room in your truck or your pack to bring along a jacket, because after all, it's summer, so the extra clothing can stay behind at camp, right? Big mistake. While it can be warm during the day, sometimes temperatures dip low once the sun goes down. That's no bueno if you're stuck on the trail or still have a long hike back. One of the key words in clothing for warm months is "breathable," but another must is "packable." The Ultra Light Jacket from REI is waterproof and has upper-arm zippers for ventilation, chest pockets and hand-warmer pockets, a microfleece-lined collar, and a double-layer front placket to keep out wind.

REI, 253.395.3780,

Wicking FabricWhen it's hot, you sweat. When you sweat, your clothing ends up soaking wet. If that happens, it's likely because you're wearing a natural fiber, such as cotton T-shirt and shorts. But if you plan to be outdoors-wheeling, hiking, backpacking, or whatever-you should really aim for wearing synthetic fabrics that "wick." They're better than cotton because they don't retain your sweat-they draw it and other moisture away from the skin, keeping the clothing lightweight and dry (by evaporating quickly), making you far from clammy. To know if something is wickable, watch for words like CoolMax, which is often utilized as a liner in things like shorts (think chafing), or Gore-Tex, which boasts being both breathable and waterproof. Companies such as Timberland (888.802.9947, offer clothing that wicks, including T-shirts, crew-neck tops, and even socks (since the friction between the wet sock and shoe can result in blisters). Wicking material is just as important in winter months too, so it's an investment you can wear year-round.

Other Weapons Of SurvivalWinchTow strapTree saverExtra fuelSpare parts and fluidsA container for catching fluid/oil leaksToilet paperTrash bagsTire-pressure gaugeJumper cablesTow hookSunblock and insect repellentMaps (including BLM, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Geological Survey)

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