Question: Dear Gear Guy, I need to replace my old Moonstone Activent windshirt that I use for running. I took your advice a few years ago and it really paid off (as your advice always does). Can you tell me about another windshirt, preferably a pullover that can replace my Moonstone? Thanks.
Dan Hearty, St. Louis, Mo.
Answer: Alas, Activent, we hardly knew ye. For those to whom the name is unfamiliar, Gore Activent was a material that came out seven or eight years ago. Sort of a "Gore-Tex Really Light." Not waterproof, but water-resistant enough to keep you dry for a few hours of moderate rain. Windproof. Very breathable. In short, just great stuff - I still think it the best performance fabric of the past decade. But it didn't sell. Most makers were putting out pieces that cost $150 or more, and when a prospective buyer heard "not waterproof," they backed off.
When it went off the market I bought four or five pieces on closeouts, and still use several of them to this day.
Gore claims Activent re-surfaced under the Windstopper trademark. I'm a little dubious, although it also has a mesh liner, which adds weight and warmth. Still, the Gore Bike Wear Balance Jacket can be had from places such as Performance for $99 (if it's really Activent, why wasn't it priced like that five years ago?). The Balance is a two-layer shell, meaning no mesh liner, which is good. Marmot's Evolution Half-Zip also uses Windstopper in a pullover-style wind shirt, also $100.
The other thing I'd suggest is to look at REI's Mistral Jacket ($149). It's a "soft shell" piece made with a lightweight version of Polartec's Power Shield. So it's nearly completely windproof, very breathable, and highly water-repellent. Not as much as the old Activent/new Windstopper, but pretty good in mist, snow or light rain. I've been wearing one this fall on cool evenings when we're out mountain-biking. When the temps are below 40 it's terrific - a light, wicking T-shirt under it, and I'm set. Above 40 it may be a bit warm, but that depends on the user and the activity.
Alas, it has a full zip and is not a pullover. And it's bulkier than a light hard-shell - not sure you could make it fit in a jersey pocket.
Q: I'm traveling the country in my RV, setting up at various places to hike or backpack, and then moving on when the mood hits me. I tend to hike off the beaten trails, but I've also gotten myself lost at times. Is there a GPS unit than can help me find my way back to my car after bushwhacking or taking a trail that isn't marked on any map? It would be even better if it could help me navigate back roads and trails on my bike too. Thanks!
Karin, Glendale, Ariz.
A: The short answer is: Yes, there is such a beast. Several, in fact. But you can't necessarily expect a GPS unit like you see in some cars that says "Turn here, meathead." That's because not everything is digitally converted to detailed maps useful for hiking, for one thing. And only higher-end GPS devices have the memory capacity to handle lots of on-the-ground detail.
That said, you might take a look at the Garmin GPSMap 60CSx ($500). This is an exceptionally powerful unit, with a bright color display, excellent satellite-acquisition technology so you pick you fixes accurately and quickly, and expandable memory using MicroSD cards. The GPSMap 60CSx comes with a national road database, useful for driving (car kit is $210), and can take a number of products from MapSource, such as National Parks, West ($110), which has detailed maps of every national park in and west of Colorado.
The 60CSx also can handle bicycling duties, and you can purchase a handlebar mount for $18.
But - don't expect to be able to stop anywhere, hop out of the car, vanish into the brush, and call up a detailed map. In many places, you'll be able to find your rough location relative to key landmarks, but not much in the way of topographical detail or even some obscure logging/jeep tracks. But then, at those times you simply input a waypoint, and use that to mark your track back.
And because all GPS units handle waypoints, you can get by with a less-expensive one if you wish. The Garmin Geko 301 ($230), for instance, stores 500 waypoints, calculates altitude, has a compass, and is waterproof. No excuse to get lost with this unt. Or, the Magellan eXplorist 21 ($200 with outdoor kit) has a pretty good all-U.S. topo map, an armored case, and more. Also a solid, basic unit for keeping on track.
Happy trails to you.
Doug Gantenbein, a resident of Port Townsend, writes The Gear Guy column for Outside Online, the Internet edition of Outside Magazine. To send him a question about outdoor gear, go to www.outsidemag.com and follow the Gear Guy links.