Cool Stuff, The Sequel

An afternoon update of equipment I'm lusting after.
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An afternoon update of equipment I'm lusting after.

Well, I just went to The North Face and hit a half dozen other booths, so here's another gear lust update.

North Face Elephant's Foot sleeping bag and Mica solo tent

Folks at The Face usually have some cool new ideas, and occasionally they recycle some old ones, like their Elephant's Foot sleeping bag, a WP/B insulated synthetic sack that's a throwback to the old half-bags so beloved of European alpinists during the 1970s. The zipperless sleeping bag pulls up to hour armpits and you wear it with a jacket. It weighs less than two pounds, with WP/B cover. I've had a sample for a couple weeks, but haven't gotten out to try it yet. Looks perfect for ultralighters and emergency use though. They've also got a great little one person tent, The Mica, that's 2 lbs. 4 oz., and $229, with full mosquito mesh and a large side-vestibule suitable for gear storage and storm cooking.

Black Diamond Neve Crampon

On the not-new-but-news-to-me front, Black Diamond has a Neve crampon that's just a hair over two pounds a pair, complete with ABS plate. That's about as light as crampons get, not much heavier than a pair of Kahtoolas, but these are climbing capable, and the points are built thick and burly so they won't bend if need to grind your way across talus or front-point on rock nubbins. The strap version fits wimpy hiking boots too. Price is $150.

Markhill Stormy

At the Liberty Mountain booth I saw another overlooked piece of classic gear. Markhill still makes a cartridge stove based on the old Markill Stormy cookset that was a staple of alpinists for years. The stepped-shape pot sits down in a full enclosure windscreen. A flexible tube runs from standard blended fuel canisters to a burner located in the deeply recessed windscreen. The pot lid is also a bowl, and the whole unit packs down into an armored container. It changes seamlessly between freestanding camp use or tent-top hanging stove. Running across the Markhill Stormy was like finding out one of my old solo-obsessed climbing buddies is still alive. In their catalog it says "Markill," on the stove I saw it said Trangia. Regardless, with this set-up, you can cook outside in a hurricane. $140.

Trailer Trashing

At last post I promised to update y'all on the cool little travel trailers I've seen. About six months ago I was thinking about buying a small van-sized RV for assignment and photography travels. Then the price of petrol blew sky high, so my dreams of RV retirement and carefree bad weather camping went poof. Well, not so fast.

The Topo Crossover Trailer is a 500lb trailer with a 35-pound tongue weight (translation: Even your P.O.S. Yugo should pull it.) It pops up into a two-room tent with plenty of storage space, two separate two-person bedrooms - one with a couch. And the rear trailer door swings out into a kitchen counter-sink arrangement. The trailer itself is compatible with most roof rack systems, so you can carry bikes, kayaks etc. atop the trailer. Looks Sweet. It's a palace for four people. You could hold aerobics classes in this thing no problem, and there's boucoup room for 10 people to hang out in a storm. Price is $5,000.

Sylvan Sport's Go Trailer is rigged more for multi-sport gear and rugged duty (you can haul it off-road). The pop-up tent is permanently hidden atop an open-bed trailer that'll fit everything from sea kayaks to (gasp) quadrunners. Trailer weight is 800lbs, with an 80-pound tongue weight, meaning it's still suitable for moderately macho sedans, but you probably shouldn't tow it with your Smart Car. Once gear's been unloaded from the undercarriage, the frame extends up, the tent drops straight down, and you get two double beds with a table in between. Convert the table and you have bed space for up to 6, with gear storage underneath. Like the Topo, the Go has beefy rack bars atop the trailer, so you can strap or latch on all your toys. Since the trailer bed is open, it also works as a utility trailer for construction materials or yard waste. Price is $8,995.

Next up: It sounds as if the Fremont River near my home in Torrey blew its banks and washed away the hamlets of Caineville and Hanksville yesterday. So the topic is flash floods.

O.K. Campers, I'm outta here. (Big air kiss. Big air kiss.) Ciao.--steve howe