This summer, I've canoed and hiked, fished and biked. I fought to be outdoors as much as possible. I had help. Here are a few products that will ease your life outside.

This summer, I've canoed and hiked, fished and biked. I fought to be outdoors as much as possible. I had help. Here are a few products that will ease your life outside.

Dry on the Fly

A few hours before I left for a weeklong portage trip in July, I had in my pack a pair of traditional relaxed khakis - the kind you might've worn in a bush safari circa 1912. My trip was saved by exchanging them for Columbia's PFG Aruba III Convertible Pants.

These are perfect for wading trips, overnight hikes or questionable weather. A very lightweight synthetic fiber allows them to dry almost instantly. Zippered legs convert them into shorts, and a mesh interior makes them good for a swim. Bypass the rather sticky drawstring with a nylon belt.

Cost: $45

Product info: columbia.com

Available: Mad River Outfitters, 813 Bethel Rd., North Side

Bugs Be Gone

When backpacking, extra stuff is a sin. To the rescue comes All-Terrain's Herbal Armor Lotion w/SPF 15, which combines sunscreen and bug repellant into one efficient balm.

Advertised as 100-percent effective for two hours, small doses held up well against some pretty daunting mosquito clouds and blocked UV rays as well as the Banana Boat I normally use. Five natural oils replace harmful DEET for those worried about the chemical's effects on skin and gear. The only drawback is smelling like a citronella candle at Bonnaroo for about 30 minutes.

Cost: $10 for a four-ounce bottle

Product info: allterrainco.com

Available: Clintonville Outfitters, 2869 N. High St., Clintonville

Tent for Two

Tents literally come in all shapes and sizes, so determining what works best for you can be difficult. A really great two-person tent for beginning backpackers is Eureka's Apex 2XT, an affordable model from a trusted manufacturer. Neither soaking rains nor hot sun nor winds cresting 40 mph could best it last month in Canada, while nearby domes were succumbing to the elements.

What's nice about this tent is an extended rain fly, which creates dual vestibules for storing gear out of the rain, and two entry doors. My only nitpick is somewhat small interior space for its pack weight of five pounds, six ounces.

Cost: $125

Product info: eurekatent.com

Available: Dick's Sporting Goods, multiple locations

Blade Stunner

I've skimped when it comes to knives, and I've paid the price. Anyone who has done the same should wise up and buy SOG's Powerlock, a multi-tool with pliers, straight blade, screwdrivers, can and bottle openers, saw and several other assets packed inside a stainless-steel package.

You'll feel the difference immediately with the Compound Leverage system - two interlocking gears that smoothly open the pliers. Tools are readily accessible in the two handles, and each locks in place for easy use. The Powerlock is somewhat expensive ($110) and heavy (9.6 ounces), but its sharpness and reliability are totally worth the cost and weight.

Cost: $110

Product info: sogknives.com

Available: Lowe's, multiple locations