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.

Gear Review: L.L. Bean Puff-n-Stuff Jacket

April 7, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
L.L. Bean Puff-n-Stuff Jacket

L.L. Bean Puff-n-Stuff Jacket.

Kids Puffy Jacket
L.L. Bean Puff-n-Stuff Jacket
$59, 13.5 oz. (boys large/14-16)
Sizes: boys’ and girls’ S-XL (8-18), little boys’ and girls’ S-L (4-7)

From wearing it as a layering piece under a shell when skiing, to backpacking in late March in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park when the temperature dropped below freezing, to innumerable school days, my son has worn this hooded, insulated jacket so much it has hardly seen a hanger (partly because he doesn’t appear to know how to use a hanger). When buying outdoor apparel for kids, you sometimes have to choose between high quality and affordability. I’m a believer that, like adults, kids enjoy the outdoors more when they’re comfortable—but it’s hard pulling the trigger on an expensive item, given how few seasons a kid wears something before outgrowing it. At 59 bucks, the Puff-n-Stuff Jacket is a steal. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Sierra Designs Flash 3 Tent

April 1, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Sierra Designs Flash 3

Sierra Designs Flash 3

Three-Season Tent
Sierra Designs Flash 3
$400, 4 lbs. 15 oz. (tent and poles only)

Backpacking with my kids amplifies a challenge any backpacker faces: finding a tent that provides good living space and stability without being a burdensome weight or filling your backpack. My kids are young enough that they carry just personal gear (bag, pad, clothes, snacks, water). So on a recent overnight trip with my kids in the Needles District of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, without my wife or another adult to share the family food and gear load, I took the Flash 3 for a test drive and was blown away by the amount of space it has for a sub-five-pound, freestanding shelter. Continue reading →

March 25, 2014 Cap4-93 Chimney Rock Canyon, Capitol Reef NP, UT

Ask Me: What Lightweight Sleeping Bag Do You Recommend for Desert Trips?

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


Can you recommend a desert sleeping bag for a several-night stay. I have a regular bag, but it is for cold weather (0 degrees). We are starting to do some desert backpacking trips and I don’t see much information on the type of bag that would be comfortable in that type of weather.

Thank you.

West Hills, CA Continue reading →

Gear Review: La Sportiva Thunder III GTX Boots

March 24, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , ,   |   4 Comments
La Sportiva Thunder III GTX

La Sportiva Thunder III GTX

La Sportiva Thunder III GTX
$195, 2 lbs. 15 oz. (men’s US 9/Euro 42)
Sizes: Euro men’s 38-47.5, women’s 36-43

Very few backpacking trips put boots to the test like a multi-day hike in the Grand Canyon. On a three-day backpacking trip with my 10-year-old daughter in the Grand Canyon, carrying up to 50 pounds—including, at one point, 17 pounds of water—down and up very steep, rugged trails, the Thunder III GTX boots delivered an impressive combination of support and protection balanced with a surprisingly nimble feel. Continue reading →

Ask Me: What Do You Suggest for Heavy-Duty Backpacking Boots?

March 18, 2014  |  In Ask Me, Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments
La Sportiva Hyper Mid GTX

La Sportiva Hyper Mid GTX

(Via Twitter from @Keeping_Secrets, aka Grant, St. Louis, MO)

@Keeping_Secrets: Hey Mike! I’m looking at new hiking boots. We pack heavy. Looking at Vasque Breeze 2.0. Thoughts? Recommendations? Continue reading →

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