On the Dientes Circuit, Chilean Patagonia.

On the Dientes Circuit, Chilean Patagonia.

Hello, my name is Michael Lanza and The Big Outside is my creation. I’m a writer, outdoor photographer, author, speaker, and for many years was the Northwest Editor of Backpacker Magazine, where I was also the magazine’s primary gear reviewer. I’m a longtime hiker, backpacker, climber, backcountry skier, trail runner, paddler, and cyclist. Over the past two decades, my work has taken me to national parks and wilderness areas across the United States—including multiple visits to most major U.S. parks—and all over the world: the Alps, Nepal, Scottish Highlands, Italy’s Dolomites, New Zealand, Spain, Iceland, Norway, Patagonia.

I started The Big Outside with a simple mission: to offer stories, photos, and expert trip-planning advice on America’s and the world’s best outdoor adventures—including many that are great for families. Most importantly, these stories are based on my on-the-ground, first-hand knowledge from having done all of the trips myself.

For many years, I’ve made a living identifying, planning, and writing about great trips. I think you’ll find The Big Outside is uniquely authoritative for that reason, and that’s why my blog made USA Today’s Readers Choice list of Top 10 Hiking and Outdoors Bloggers in 2014, and FlipKey, a Trip Advisor site, named my blog a Top 10 Outdoor Travel Blogger in 2015.

Many stories here are about outdoor adventures with my wife and our young son and daughter. A primary goal of mine with The Big Outside is to inspire and inform other parents to take their own kids on outdoor adventures—and especially to believe that their family is capable of stepping out a little beyond their comfort zone. As I have done with my kids, I want other families to discover the powerful emotional payoff and bond achieved through sharing outdoors experiences. See my list of all-time “Top 10 Family Adventures” and my very popular post “10 Tips For Raising Outdoors-Loving Kids.”

You will find a diverse offering of stories here, describing adventures for everyone from ultra-hikers to families with young kids. Each story about a trip features a gallery of photos, and some stories also have a video.

Wondering where to start? My All Trips page lists every story at this blog about an adventure I’ve taken, and my “Photo Gallery: 20 Big Adventures in Pictures” provides an inspiring visual introduction to the breadth of stories at this site. In the left sidebar, you can click on any of several Categories for a focused list of adventure stories, such as National Park Adventures or Family Adventures, my reviews of only the best outdoor gear I’m testing constantly (based on my experience of two decades and counting as a gear tester for Backpacker), and tips on skills I’ve learned over the course of three decades exploring the outdoors. See the videos for many stories at this site all at my Youtube channel.

Subscribe to my blog (at left or below) for regular updates when I post a new story. (I promise I won’t ever share your e-mail address.)

Got a question for me? Click on the Ask Me category to see whether I’ve already answered a similar question from another reader; if not, e-mail me your question to mlanza@thebigoutside.com. I’ll answer as many as I can and share my answers in an Ask Me post (using only your first name and city, with your permission).

At my Book page, you can read an excerpt of my book Before They’re Gone—A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks, from Beacon Press, winner of a National Outdoor Book Award honorable mention, about spending a year embarking on wilderness adventures with my wife, nine-year-old son, and seven-year-old daughter in national parks threatened by climate change.

If you wish to see more about my professional background and view samples of my published magazine articles, photography, details about the speaking programs I offer, and descriptions of my other books, please visit michaellanza.com.

I hope you enjoy my stories and pictures at The Big Outside and find them both inspirational and helpful in planning your own adventures. I’d love to hear what you think of this site and your suggestions for trips, stories, or how I could improve the site. Please subscribe to my e-mail list at left or below. Comment on my posts; I appreciate the feedback and try to respond to many comments.

To help support what I’m doing, please consider booking your travel through the Book Travel link in the main menu (at top of page), which brings revenue to my site.

Feel free to send your ideas, questions, and suggestions to me at mlanza@thebigoutside.com. I respond to as many as I can. I occasionally receive requests from people interested in contributing stories to The Big Outside, so please be informed that I do not accept submissions of any kind.

The Big Outside is supported by brands that want to associate with my high-quality stories and images, and I appreciate their support because it helps me keep this site going. If you believe in what I’m doing at The Big Outside, one way to show your support is to like and follow my sponsors on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Read about those brands and how to partner with The Big Outside at my Sponsors page.

Have fun and be safe out there.

Michael Lanza



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Mount Heyburn, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Mount Heyburn, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

37 Responses to About

  1. Jeff   |  March 9, 2015 at 5:20 pm


    Wow. What an incredibly generous response from you. There are many people like me who are trying to make trips like this happen but are by no means experts. The last thing a dad like me wants to do is take our kids to a great place but then compromise the experience due to bad planning or decisions. Not only is your blog incredibly helpful, but the fact that you take the time to personally reach out to us less experienced but well meaning family adventurers really puts what you are doing over the top.



    • MichaelALanza   |  March 17, 2015 at 9:06 am

      Thanks, Jeff, I’m glad to help you out and I enjoy hearing from readers. Keep in touch.

  2. Natasha   |  February 2, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    You should consider adding a Pinterest “Pin It” button to your blog posts. Some women (and men) like myself would love to be able to bookmark certain blog posts (like your tips for getting ready to do an ultra-long day hike) that way we can refer back to them easily, as well as share them with others!

    • michaellanza   |  February 2, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      Hi Natasha, thanks for wanting to share my blog posts. All of the social-media buttons, including Pinterest, are located at the bottom of all of my blog posts (which are listed at the home page and linked from the Categories in the left sidebar). Unfortunately, static pages (like this one) do not have the social-media buttons. Tell me if that answers your question or if I can clarify anything else for you. Thanks for writing.

      • Natasha   |  February 4, 2015 at 10:24 am

        Ahh, that’s why I couldn’t find it! Thanks for pointing that out.

  3. Noel   |  November 15, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Hellow Michael:

    Your website has a lot of places that I will add on my bucket list. I’d better hurry up my retirement before I get too old to hike with a pack. My hat off to you and your family for just being able to share those precious moments that you all enjoy. Your mother is an inspiration for going on the Jotunheimen National Park Hut to Hut Hike with you and your family. Maybe we’ll cross hiking paths in the future.


  4. Bryan   |  October 29, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Hi, Michael. In addition to the deep content on your site, I wanted to let you know I admire the way you talk about traveling with your kids and the ideas you offer on making it work. One of the best pieces of advice I received as a new dad was to take my son and my daughter on an annual trip in the woods with just the two of us, which I notice you do too. It’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done to see their character grow as they take on new challenges.

    We also like to have a book to read on the trip: everything from Twain’s Huck Finn to Daniel Taylor’s Letters to My Children, which has been a great way to talk through the adventures of growing up.

    • michaellanza   |  October 30, 2014 at 5:52 am

      Thanks Bryan. I love your idea about sharing a book together on trips with your children. Keep in touch.

  5. Bege Reynolds   |  September 24, 2014 at 8:46 am


    I enjoyed talking to you yesterday on the flight to Denver and Boise. I subscribed to your blog and so did my husband, John. Miles will love it when he returns from Patagonia. I also can’t wait to read your book. When my daughter and Miles were born in 1990 and 1993 there wasn’t a lot out there for outdoor adventures for kids but we found a Tough Traveler backpack and headed out to backpack, ski into a yurt, hike in the Canyons of Utah, and all over the west. We fly fished with babies on our backs, took newborns into Elk Bend hot springs in Idaho, and explored our wonderful outdoors with our kids. We packed out diapers, jerry rigged sleeping bags and pads to make them kid size, and were definetly an unusual family. Once backcountry skiing on Galena Summit, a guy asked me what I was training for with my big pack. My daughter turned her head and looked through her tiny ski goggles and he said, “Oh my that’s a baby, live cargo!”
    I so appreciate what you are doing. What an amazing website and blog. You give such great information for young families to get out into the wilderness. I look forward to reading more.

    Best, Bege

    • michaellanza   |  September 24, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      Thanks Bege. Nice talking to you as well, and I’m delighted that you looked up my blog and ordered my book. That’s a wonderful story about your daughter in your pack! Nice job raising your kids to love the outdoors.

  6. Janie Merickel Hodge   |  August 10, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I love your blog. I have been orchestrating mom and son trips (2 sons. 2 trips a summer) since they were 4. My oldest and I (he’s 11, this is our 7th trip together) are going to complete the Teton Crest Trail in two weeks.

    Once, in RMNP, a ranger came to find us at our permitted campsite, (my son was 5) cuz there was a snow storm in the forecast (in July) I think they wanted to help us get home.

    But my little beauty of a boy was happy in his long johns, puffy coat and we had a great warm tent (Bibler) and were playing cards as the flakes started to drift.

    The Ranger “knocked” on our tent, peered in and then smiled kinda proudly, said something like “well, aren’t you guys great” told us they were likely going to have Trail Ridge rd closed in the am, but we could get out to Grand Lake, and went on to warn others.

    It wasn’t all that remote, I was not worried about trail finding even under snow; it’s a great memory.

    But, I do love to be prepared, safe, bear/animal-wise and teach love and learning of our wonderful lands … and, mostly I cherish the hours of wilderness time together. Nothing like it. I know my sons so much better due to these trips. Powerful experiences.

    So thank you for sharing ways folks can get out there! Your stuff is fantastic!!!!

    I don ‘t carry the Bibler much that the boys are older and tougher, but it was a perfect guarantee in their younger days that we’d get cozy in our chilly nights up here.

    We’re going light (20 pound-ish packs) on the TCT – it’s just more fun, and it’s wonderful to learn how little you need to enjoy your kids, and they you. And the beauty of the Tetons.

    Thanks again! You are amazing.

  7. Dolores   |  August 7, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Hi Michael glad to come across your blog. Just subscribed. Not sure if you’ve visited Acadia yet or not – didn’t see a post about it. If you go, you might find our blog of interest: http://www.acadiaonmymind.com.

    • michaellanza   |  August 8, 2014 at 5:17 am

      Hi Dolores, thanks for subscribing to The Big Outside. I’m originally from New England and was author of a guidebook, “New England Hiking,” for many years, which included a number of hikes in Acadia. I’ve visited there several times, love the park. I would like to write about it at The Big Outside at some point. Thanks for the good suggestion.

      • Dolores   |  September 7, 2014 at 8:58 am

        Looking forward to your future blog posts on Acadia or anywhere else your travels may take you! We may even have “New England Hiking” on our bookshelf. We’re also authors of a couple of Falcon guides, “Hiking Acadia National Park” and “Best Easy Day Hikes, Acadia National Park,” which could be a handy reference for travels in Acadia, in addition to our http://www.acadiaonmymind.com blog. Happy trails!

  8. Sarah Almstrand   |  July 28, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    I just stumbled on your amazing blog and ordered your book – I can’t wait to receive it and read it!

    • michaellanza   |  August 8, 2014 at 5:15 am

      Hi Sarah, thanks for writing, I’m delighted you like The Big Outside and hope you enjoy my book. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

  9. WildFamilyFun   |  July 20, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    I’m so glad I found your blog. Our family is an outdoor loving family and I love sharing our adventures. I feel its so important for children to experience time in the outdoors. It gives them so much confidence and we have had such wonderful family times.
    Cant wait to read about your adventures.

    • michaellanza   |  July 21, 2014 at 3:35 am

      I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for reading. You might also enjoy my book (click on the Book link in the main menu).

  10. abqandrea   |  March 26, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Love the site, thank you so much for your detailed and toe-tingling trip reports. I am looking to bite off JMT solo in ~9 days as my first backpacking trip EVER and your information will help immensely. I might also be in touch about writing about this silliness for Backpacker. :-)

    • MichaelALanza   |  March 30, 2014 at 6:58 am

      Thanks and good luck to you. You’ll find lots of tips on planning a JMT hike by searching on “John Muir Trail” in the search box above left.

  11. Grant Gaumer   |  March 10, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Thanks again for all your help, Michael. Your advise, expertise, and willingness to help have been invaluable to planning our trip and I am sure it will lead to a great vacation later this summer. I know I have said this before, but your help is greatly appreciated!

    • MichaelALanza   |  March 10, 2014 at 1:36 pm

      Thank you, Grant, I appreciate your kind words.

  12. Michael Burkhardt   |  February 16, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    Read your post about the Eagle Cap Wilderness trip, I’d have to say you’re making me wish my life away a little bit :-) My 2014 backpacking plans include the Eagle Cap Wilderness & I’m excited to see it and photograph it for the first time!

    • MichaelALanza   |  February 17, 2014 at 6:01 am

      Thanks Michael. You’d better bring plenty of memory card capacity to the Eagle Cap!

  13. Steven Dunnavant   |  October 28, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    Hey Michael!

    So glad to have found The Big Outside and all your writings. An Eagle Scout in my teens and now a man in my mid-40’s living in East Texas, I had lost much of my outdoors activity time until a few weeks ago when my wife and I backpacked into the mountains to the Blue Lakes between Telluride and Ouray, Colorado for our 25th anniversary. I’m now hooked and spending my spare time on the Internet researching our next treks. I’ve read many of your stories and love them all. They are well-written, interesting and short enough that I can absorb one during a bowl of oatmeal at the bar before the sun comes up. Please keep up the good work. I’ll be a subscriber from now on!

    Our next trip? The segments of the Colorado Trail between Durango and Lake City’ish.

    Take care!


  14. Rebecca W.   |  August 28, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Hi Michael,

    I just wanted to follow up to let you know that we LOVE our new Big Agnes Copper Spur 4-person tent per your recommendation. It worked fabulously for our family on the Teton Crest Trail earlier this month. We were happy with the space, great doors, the many pockets for headlamps and such, and the size and weight for backpacking. Seems durable and well-constructed. Also love all the mesh for clear weather with the rain fly off.

    The Teton Crest trip will remain a huge highlight for us as a family. We based our trip very closely on yours as described on your website, and after test-driving a Lanza Family adventure, we’re already looking at planning the next one. Thanks for pointing us to the Big Agnes tent, and for the inspiration for our Teton trip!

    Rebecca & family

    • Michael Lanza   |  August 28, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      Hi Rebecca, I’m so glad the tent and your Teton Crest Trail trip worked out so well. Good choices in both cases! Get in touch anytime, and start planning the next big adventure!

  15. Saunsea Cwnsel   |  June 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Simply from reading your bio, I already greatly enjoy your style of writing. Stories are such a powerful way for us to connect with one another, especially those of us hiking around who-knows-where. I look forward to reading more of your stories!

  16. • Chris Holmes • (@alphatexana)   |  June 20, 2013 at 11:11 am

    First learned of you and your website after reading your book, Before They’re Gone. While my kids are a little older and my schedule limits our vacations, I’m excited that I’ve raised four kids who all look forward to summer vacations and visiting more of our National Parks (Badlands this summer!). The kids have even begun to research those they have not yet visited and tell me which ones they wish to visit before they leave for college.

    I have enjoyed following along with the stories you have on the website and think that your site has great potential to serve families who love the outdoors and I look forward to following you in the future.

    Possible story ideas which you might want to consider are along “how do I educate my child to….” series, which shares your experience and advice regarding teaching your children to interact in the outdoors responsibly. Read a map. Leave no trace. Cook in camp. What to do in the event they get lost (interview what SAR would want our kids to do, so we can explain to kids what they should do and expect from SAR).

    We hang out quite a bit at Big Bend since we are here in Texas. Let me know if you’d like to do a story on that park and I’ll be glad to share some of my experiences with you regarding hiking with kids in Big Bend.

    Again, good luck on the site!


    • MichaelALanza   |  June 20, 2013 at 11:18 am

      Hi Chris, thanks very much for the nice words, great story suggestions, and for following The Big Outside and reading my book. I like your ideas and you just may see some of them come to fruition at this site. Keep in touch.

  17. Dave   |  April 11, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Hi Mike,

    OK, to be completely honest, I’m posting here as part of your Rafflecopter promo. I do enjoy your blog. Great photos, stories, and gear reviews. Keep up the good work!

  18. The Muddy Waters crew   |  March 7, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Dear Michael:

    My dad (who inspires our own love for the outdoors and adventure) sent me your website. Congratulations on all the adventure travels you’ve done as a family, wow! Love the photography too. I especially enjoyed your tips on kids and the outdoors. We swear by just about the same principles.

    If of any interest, I wanted to share a little about the family adventure we experienced while living aboard our boat Muddy Waters for a year, homeschooling our two kids, and traveling through a good part of the United States, Canada and the Bahamas (visiting many parks, battlefields, natural wonders, towns, etc. along the way). We met the most wonderful people and made some lifetime memories.

    For what it’s worth, our travel blog is at http://www.samwayadventure.com. Though we returned to land-life recently, we have a few more adventures on the water up our sleeves.

    Congratulations again. Your kids are very fortunate.



    • MichaelALanza   |  March 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm

      Hi Michael, thanks for the nice words and sharing your own story and your wonderful blog. And good on you and your wife for the terrific adventure you took your kids on. We can only make the world a better place one family at a time.

  19. William M. Stowell-Alonso, MA   |  February 21, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Dear Mr. Lanza,

    What an incredible role-model you are. I especially enjoy your family focus. You are just awesome. The great outdoors on a weekly basis should be on every child’s/ parent to do list.

    The peace of mind that can be had when our timing syncs with natures timing is a real master tool. The pace of life falls into rhythm, the mind clears, the anxiety melts away, and all is well.

    I believe we would soon experience a seismic shift in the mindsets of children across America, and a dramatic decrease in Columbine/ Newtown style killings.

    What you do is incredibly valuable, and inspiring. I will be posting a link to your web site on my website, following you on twitter, discussing your work with the coaches who work in my group, and the kids/families I coach. I will be integrating your overall vision/ mission into my work.

    I operate an Executive Functions Skills Coaching group for children with Learning Disabilities & Autism, called Life Skills Corp. in the NY/ Ct area.

    I look forward to posting pertinent posts to my parents and followers.

    All the best,


    William Michael Stowell-Alonso, MA
    Director & Executive Functions Skills Coach
    Life Skills Corp.

    • MichaelALanza   |  February 21, 2013 at 9:13 am

      Hi Bill, thank you for such nice comments, they are much appreciated. I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts about the critical importance of getting kids to love the outdoors. I just looked at your website, looks like good work you’re doing. Thanks for sharing The Big Outside with others, best of luck with your work, and please do keep in touch.

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