Category Archives: Gear Reviews

I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker magazine for two decades and counting. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel.

Review: Outdoor Research Superlayer Jacket

January 22, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Outdoor Research Superlayer Jacket

Outdoor Research Superlayer Jacket

Insulated Jacket
Outdoor Research Superlayer Jacket
$225, 15 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL
outdoorresearch.com

What would you think if I told you that I went for a backcountry ski tour that involved climbing uphill for an hour, sweating enough to get both my base layer top and my hat wet, then skied for a while along rolling terrain, and finally turned around and descended fast to my car—all without making any layering change? That was just my first outing wearing OR’s new Superlayer Jacket. Over the course of several winter days field-testing it, in temperatures ranging from the low single digits to the 30s Fahrenheit, I found it so remarkably breathable that it often never left my body. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Sea to Summit Flow 35L Dry Pack

January 16, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Sea to Summit Flow 35L Dry Pack

Sea to Summit Flow 35L Dry Pack

Waterproof Backpack
Sea to Summit Flow 35L Dry Pack
$200, 2 lbs. 4 oz.
One size
seatosummit.com

We reached the first, deep pool of water that we had to swim across in the narrow canyon called the Subway, in the backcountry of Utah’s Zion National Park. I tucked my expensive camera gear inside my new Sea to Summit Flow 35L Dry Pack, with my food and extra clothing—and hoped this pack would prove true to the company’s claim of being infallibly watertight. (I did put my camera gear inside another dry bag first, of course.) Then I dropped into the frigid pool—wearing a dry suit—and kicked across it, floating the Flow. And yes, it did keep its contents completely dry—thankfully. But more than just a glorified dry bag with shoulder straps, it proved itself to be a solid and comfortable pack for hiking all day, too. Continue reading →

January 8, 2015 Timberline Trail, Oregon.

A Preview of This Year’s Best New Gear

In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

 

Osprey Aura 65 AG

Osprey Aura 65 AG

Thinking about buying a new backpack, tent, boots, or other outdoor gear or apparel? Last August, I spent a couple of days wandering the floor of The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City—a convention center you could fit a few Wal-Marts inside—at the Outdoor Retailer Show, ogling the best of the new products for hiking and backpacking that will hit stores this winter and spring.

I’ll test and review many of these, but here’s an early peek at the most interesting items I saw (in other words, the stuff I’m most coveting).

Continue reading →

January 4, 2015 On the Pacific Crest Trail at Glen Aulin, Yosemite National Park.

Ask Me: What’s the Best Thru-Hiking Backpack?

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , ,   |   1 Comment

Hi Michael,

I was just getting ready to get the Osprey Atmos 65 backpack for my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Osprey and REI say a large is 3 lbs. 10 oz. Your review of the 2015 Atmos 65 said a medium would be 4 lbs. 6 oz. Really? Why the significant extra weight?

Thanks.

Bruce Continue reading →

December 26, 2014 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

Michael,

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.

Thanks.

Bruce
Virginia

Continue reading →

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