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DEAR ABBY: I am an outdoorsman with 20-plus years of experience in backpacking and camping. I'm very happy that the woman I'm planning to marry enjoys these activities with me, but she has very little experience.

Last Christmas, she bought a tent for us to use on our outdoor adventures, knowing that I was shopping around and comparing models and trying to find the perfect one. She was very excited to see me tear off the wrapping paper, and I truly appreciate her affection and effort. However, the tent she purchased is much too heavy and bulky to use for backpacking.

We are young and have modest incomes, and we both value thriftiness, so should I ask her to return the tent and purchase one that would be more suitable for our adventures? Or should I keep quiet, purchase the lightweight tent that I desire, and use her gift just when she and I are traveling together on less demanding outings? How can I get the tent I need without dampening her enthusiasm for outdoor activities? -- OUTDOORSMAN IN LOVE

DEAR OUTDOORSMAN: Explain that you love her for wanting to surprise you, but some things are better selected together -- such as wedding rings and houses. I am almost positive that she'll understand your logic if you put it that way. However, if she doesn't, then pack up the tent and suggest that the two of you take a short hike together with HER carrying it.

DEAR ABBY: I am writing to ask your advice on how to deal with a dear friend of many years. She informed my husband and me last week that she is pregnant "accidentally" for the second time by a man she doesn't want to be with.

She spent several hours crying and looking for support and advice from me, but I am not sure how to give it. You see, after two miscarriages last year, my husband and I are trying very hard to conceive again. I am taking progesterone and going through a huge mental and physical struggle to have a child, and it is difficult for me to console her in her pregnancy complaints and upset over the circumstances of her condition (for the second time!).

I just want to cry out to her that I would give my right arm to have the child she is carrying. She knows my situation, and I have tried to tell her how hard this is for me. I am not sure how to save my sanity and still be a friend to her. Please help! -- HURTING IN WRIGHTSVILLE, PA.

DEAR HURTING: Your friend's egocentricity is shocking under the circumstances. If she had any empathy for your situation, she would not have sought out your shoulder to cry on. Because I can't "fix" her, the best advice I can offer is to tell her exactly what you have told me. If she's going to remain your friend, she needs to hear it.

DEAR ABBY: My godparents will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary soon. However, one of them is suffering from Alzheimer's and is in a nursing home.

I would like to send a care package to honor their special day, but I don't know what to include since the Alzheimer's patient can't use many of the things some elderly people might enjoy. Any suggestions? -- DEVOTED GODCHILD

DEAR DEVOTED: I am sure that if you created an album of special memories for the couple, it would be deeply appreciated. Also, some tapes or CDs of music from "their era" -- the '40s, '50s and '60s -- might bring them both pleasure.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

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