Category Archives: Ask Me

I answer reader questions about hiking, backpacking, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside. Send me your questions to I receive many; it can take a few weeks to respond.

September 23, 2015 Campsite, Dome Glacier, Ptarmigan Traverse, Glacier Peak Wilderness, North Cascades.

Ask Me: How Can You Tell How Warm a Down Jacket Is?

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Gear Reviews, Hiking, Paddling, Skiing   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment


With sleeping bags, we have temperature ratings. But with down/insulated/puffy jackets, what is best way to determine if a jacket will be warm or warmer or hot? Is it the amount of fill? Some but not all jackets indicate the amount of fill.



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September 22, 2015 Sahale Arm, North Cascades National Park, Washington.

Ask Me: How Do I Stop Getting Battered Toes When Hiking?

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Hiking, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , ,   |   10 Comments


I know this is a really random question, but when descending mountain trails my big toes suffer immensely. Besides tying the laces up really tight, is there a trick to protecting them without losing a toenail or having them feel beat up?

Rexburg, ID Continue reading →

September 20, 2015 Hiking the West Rim Trail above Zion Canyon, Zion National Park.

Ask Me: Looking For a 3- or 4-Day Backpacking Trip in Zion or the Southwest

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Some friends and I are planning to do the Zion National Park thru-hike in October, partly inspired by one of your posts. We have a pact to do a significant multi-day backpacking trip every year in the fall, and this one would be great. The Zion National Park website says there may be prescribed burns during September-November, and the Wildcat Canyon Trail and the thru-hike will be closed when they burn. At this point, park rangers can’t promise our dates wouldn’t have burns. We’re flying out from Florida. Really want to do the Zion thru-hike. So thinking we’ll stick to that plan, but want to have a Plan B in the same area in case we learn that our trip will be blocked by a prescribed burn. Would love your thoughts on good 3- to 4-day backpacking trips—loop or point to point—in Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bryce, Capitol Reef, or Canyonlands. Continue reading →

September 17, 2015 Teton Crest Trail, Death Canyon Shelf, Grand Teton National Park.

Ask Me: What Are Your Favorite Campsites on the Teton Crest Trail?

In Ask Me, Backpacking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments


Really enjoy your website, thanks for all the info. Have a question for you about the Teton Crest Trail. I know it is first come in the camping zones, but I was wondering if you know what specific spots in the camping zones have the best views from camp or the best views right next to camp.

 We plan on staying on Death Canyon Shelf zone, in the North Fork and South Fork of Cascade Canyon, as well as either Upper or Lower Paintbrush Canyon. 

Any help you could give on specific spots within those zones would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! Continue reading →

September 8, 2015 Michael Lanza on the summit of Clouds Rest, Yosemite National Park.

Like The Big Outside? Please Support My Work

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Family Adventures, Gear Reviews, Hiking, International Adventures, National Park Adventures, Paddling, Skiing, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

A little over five years ago, I started this blog and website with a simple goal: 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—based on my on-the-ground, first-hand knowledge from having done all of the trips myself. Since then, it has grown larger than I expected, into a popular online source for gear reviews and my tips on outdoor skills. Perhaps most gratifyingly for me, The Big Outside has inspired families and others to get outdoors.

Now I’m asking you to help support my work on this blog. Continue reading →

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