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.

September 1, 2015 Osprey Aura AG 65

Ask Me: What Do You Recommend For a Versatile, Mid-Size Backpack?

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

Hello Michael,

I saw your gear reviews on your blog and I want to ask which backpack you’d recommend for long trails for a man: Osprey Xenith 75 (or 88) or Gregory Baltoro 75? Normally I take from 15 to 25 kg (30 to 50 lbs.). And I need this backpack for trips up to approximately 12 days—from short weekend trips with tent to 14-day trips. It would be nice if the backpack has a lot of pockets. For speed and technical routes I have a 35-liter Deuter Guide without any extra pockets, but for long treks I need more space for my wallet, phone, headlight, etc.

Best regards,
Emil
Lodz, Poland Continue reading →

Review: Marmot Boy’s and Girl’s PreCip Jacket

August 28, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments
Marmot Girl's PreCip Jacket

Marmot Girl’s PreCip Jacket

Kid’s Rain Jacket
Marmot Boy’s and Girl’s PreCip Jacket
$65, 9 oz. (girls large)
Sizes: boys and girls XS (4-5) to XL (13-15)
marmot.com

When the first thunderstorm dumped rain less than an hour into our eight-mile, family dayhike on the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park, in the Canadian Rockies, we just pulled on our rain shells and kept on hiking uphill. The second thunderstorm rolled in later, while we were descending but still above treeline, fully exposed to the effects of the wind, steady rain, and temperatures in the 50s. My 12-year-old daughter has less body fat than a pika, but she stayed comfortable and dry through those tempests in her Girl’s PreCip Jacket. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Sea to Summit X-Pot Set 31

August 26, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments
Sea to Summit X-Pot

Sea to Summit X-Pot

Collapsible Cook Set
Sea to Summit X-Pot Set 31
$100, 1 lb. 6 oz.
Set includes a 2.8L X-Pot with lid, two X-Bowls, two X-Mugs, all collapsible
seatosummit.com

At Helmet Falls camp on the first night of a four-day, 34-mile, family backpacking trip on the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies, a group of backpackers cooking near us looked at my X-Pot set and one asked, “What is that and who makes it?” When I answered him, he responded, “I gotta get one of those. Or I’m going to watch which bear locker you put your food and cooking gear in later and take it.” I was pretty sure he was kidding—but not entirely certain. The collapsible X-Pot cooking set is sure to change the way we think about cooking systems for backpacking, and many backpackers will covet it. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Sierra Designs Tensegrity 2 FL Tent

August 21, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Sierra Designs Tensegrity 2 FL

Sierra Designs Tensegrity 2 FL

Ultralight Tent
Sierra Designs Tensegrity 2 FL
$390, 2 lbs. 10 oz. (without the included stuff sack and nine sturdy stakes, which are needed to pitch the tent)
sierradesigns.com

When I first saw this tent displayed at the Outdoor Retailer trade show a year ago, I wanted to test it in the backcountry. The whole concept behind SD’s new Tensegrity line intriguingly throws out the playbook on what backpacking tents are supposed to look like: Gone are the inward sloping walls, traditional vestibules, and poles, all with the goal of making a shelter that’s not just lighter but more functional. I took the Tensegrity 2 FL on a six-day rafting trip down Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River—and mostly liked what I saw in this unusual shelter. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Polaroid Cube Camera

August 14, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Polaroid Cube

Polaroid Cube

Ultralight Point-and-Shoot Camera
Polaroid Cube
$100, 2 oz.
polaroidcube.com/shop/polaroid-cube.html

Anyone who’s lamented the weight and bulk of photography equipment in the backcountry—but wants to bring pictures back from every trip—can’t help but be curious about a point-and-shoot camera that weighs two ounces, is the size of an ultralight headlamp, cost just 100 bucks, and shoots 6-megapixel photos and high-definition 1080p video. That it comes from Polaroid, the company that changed consumer photography with instant cameras, only heightens the interest. So I picked up a Polaroid Cube for a six-day rafting trip down Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River to see what kind of pictures and video it could produce. Continue reading →

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