Field Notes: The Latest Word from Our Testers

The green truth behind bamboo, a hyper-efficient cookpot, and a bargain three-person tent.

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene

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TECH4O TRAILEADER WATCH

An altimeter watch that comes with an airbag? Well, not exactly. But the Tech4o does use the same electronic sensors as the now-ubiquitous safety device found in cars to measure speed and distance. "It proved accurate to within a tenth of a mile on long dayhikes," said our tester, who carried a GPS as a control. You lose some accuracy if your stride changes significantly, like on a steep summit bid, but that's a negligible tradeoff considering the price. Other features beyond the usual alarms and timers: barometric graph, ascent/descent calculator, and an electronic compass with declination and reverse bearing settings for expert routefinding. The big screen is easy to read and displays a wealth of data, but it makes the watch a bit bulky. $139. (800) 235-2607; tech4o.com.

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene

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UNDER ARMOUR COLD GEAR BASE 2.0 CREW AND LEGGINGS

These new baselayers impressed multiple testers with their fit and performance. The stretchy polyester midweight fabric has a smooth outer face for easy layering and a fuzzy internal waffle pattern that feels wonderfully cozy. The construction also aids wicking, as the internal channels move sweat closer to the surface of the fabric, where it can evaporate faster. Fit on both the tights and the crewneck is efficiently–not embarrassingly–snug, though the cut fell a few inches short for testers with longer limbs. The silver-based anti-stink treatment works as well as the best we've tried. Cold Gear baselayers also come in lighter (1.0) and heavier (3.0) weight versions, all in men's and women's sizes. $50 each for the 2.0 layers. (888) 727-6687; underarmour.com.

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene

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CRAZY CREEK BACKPACKER LITE AIR CAMP CHAIR

This camp chair left a trail of happy testers from Colorado to Oregon. Credit an integral air-filled cushion that's easy to inflate with a couple of breaths and that's super convenient–no need to wrestle a pad into place. And with the press of a button, you can adjust air pressure for custom comfort. We experienced no puncture problems, as the inner polyurethane pad is protected by a durable 210-denier ripstop nylon shell. It comes with a carrying handle, stuff sack, and repair kit. Deflated and rolled up it's about the size of your forearm. (For reviews of two more portable chairs–one for bad backs and one that's the ultimate napper–go to backpacker.com/campchair.) $52; 1 lb. 4 oz. (800) 331-0304; crazycreek.com.

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene



BRIDGEDALE VENTUM LIGHT HIKER SOCK


If you've downsized to lightweight boots and want the perfect pair of socks to match, try the Ventum. It's light and breathable, yet cushioned like a classic midweight sock. During months and miles of pounding on Southwest trails, our tester appreciated the thick, strategically placed padding in the places she needed it–under the ball and heel, around the toes, and over the Achilles. Mesh panels on top keep air circulating and overall volume down. The merino/nylon/Lycra blend is soft and wicks well, and a silver- and mineral-based antimicrobial treatment prevented stink build-up even after four straight days of use. $19; unisex S-XL. (802) 658-8322; bridgedale.com.

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Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene

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PRIMUS ETAPOWER 1.7L POT

Turbo-charge your cooking system: This new pot–suitable for groups of two to three people–has a built-in heat exchanger that boosts fuel efficiency and speeds up boil times. In controlled tests (70°F air temp, 58°F water temp), 1 liter of water boiled up to 1.5 minutes faster in the Primus pot than in a standard aluminum pot. It's made of hard-anodized aluminum with a non-stick coating, and it comes with a lid and pot gripper. Before you buy: Try it on your stove in the store; the fins of the heat exchanger don't mesh perfectly with all stove types. We like the 1.7-liter size for its versatility, but the pot is available in smaller and larger versions as well. Need a stove, too? The Primus EtaPower Easy Fuel Stove ($125, pot included) earned an Editors' Choice Award in 2007 for its super efficiency. $45; 12.6 oz. (307) 332-0901; primuscamping.com.

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene

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HIGH SIERRA EXPLORER 55 BACKPACK

Any bargain pack can handle a weekend trip. This one managed three and a half months on the AT, with loads up to 40 pounds, and our tester had no complaints. The top-loading Explorer 55 holds a week's worth of three-season gear (volume is 3,356 cubic inches), and the pack is loaded with features despite the bare-bones price: hydration sleeve and port, tiny digital camera/accessory pocket that attaches to the shoulder strap, dual mesh bottle holders, and an integrated rain cover. Our tester reported great load transfer from dual aluminum stays and a stiffened hipbelt. And even in 90°F heat, the suspension's molded channels and mesh-covered back panel kept him from overheating. Demerit: It's heavy for the capacity. The one size is best for torso lengths of 16 to 18 inches, and fits both men and women well. $110; 5 lbs. 1 oz. (800) 323-9590; highsierrasport.com.

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene

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ALPS MOUNTAINEERING ZEPHYR 3 TENT

Gunning for McKinley? The Zephyr ain't your bunker. But for typical summer weekends, this lightweight, three-season tent is a bargain. The two-door, double-walled wedge pitches fast: Just feed the two aluminum poles through short, two-foot-long sleeves on the tent body and clip the ends into place. The high ceiling (41 inches at the center) makes changing clothes and playing cards comfortable, but floor space is tight for three adults–it's best for two big guys or parents with a child. The two vestibules manage a full load of gear for three. The floor and fly fabrics withstood sandpapery canyonlands in Utah, and the all-mesh walls minimized condensation even with a trio inside. In typical three-season conditions, the Zephyr kept testers dry and sheltered, but in gusty winds the high, steep walls flapped like sails. $160; 5 lbs. 7 oz. (800) 344-2577; alpsmountaineering.com.

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene

GREEN SCENE

Lightening your planetary load

Bamboo has generated a lot of buzz as a sustainable material for performance fabrics. It's a weed that grows remarkably fast–up to three feet a day–without irrigation, fertilizers, or pesticides. It also regenerates quickly, reaches maturity in four years, doesn't require replanting, and when spun into rayon (the most common form of bamboo used in fabrics), it feels silky, resists odor, wicks well, and breathes. But while bamboo itself is inarguably green, the process of turning plant into fabric is far from benign. To make rayon, bamboo pith (found in the center of the plant) and leaves are cooked with toxic chemical solvents, including sodium hydroxide (caustic soda or lye) and carbon disulfide.

The good news: Though the treatment described above is currently the most common in the industry, new bamboo processing techniques are in the works. One relies on alcohol and hydrogen (which are less harmful) in a closed-loop system, which means that virtually all of the chemicals used in the process are reclaimed or reused, and hence kept out of the environment. Unfortunately, we couldn't find anyone in the outdoor biz using this new process. Until it's widely adopted, bamboo won't be quite as green as it looks.

Tech4o Traileader | Under Armour Cold Gear Base 2.0 | Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR | Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker | Primus EtaPower 1.7L Pot | High Sierra Explorer 55 | ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3 | Green Scene