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: Osprey Exos 58 Backpack

July 21, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Osprey Exos 58

Osprey Exos 58

Backpack
Osprey Exos 58
$220, 55L/3,356 c.i., 2 lbs. 8 oz. (small, fits torsos 16-19 ins.)
Sizes: unisex S-L (M 58L/3,539 c.i., fits torsos 18-21 ins., L 61L/3,722 c.i., fits torsos 21-23 ins.)
ospreypacks.com

When Osprey introduced the Exos pack series in 2008, it immediately became a leader—and helped redefine how we think about backpacking. It showed us that a backpack weighing under three pounds can serve the needs of everyone from weekenders to longer-distance backpackers and thru-hikers, and it gave ultralighters an option to the minimalist rucksacks that fill that category (which are “minimalist” both in weight and comfort). Success is a tough act to follow, and revising a popular product is risky. As a longtime fan of the original Exos packs, I took the new Exos 58 out on a seven-day, hut-to-hut trek on the Alta Via 2 through Italy’s Dolomites and concluded that Osprey has taken something that was very good and made it lighter and better. Continue reading →

Gear Review: La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0 Shoes

July 2, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments
La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0

La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0

Hiking/Trail Running Shoes
La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0
$115, 1 lb. 8 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: Euro men’s 38-47.5, women’s 36-43
sportiva.com

There are trail-running shoes I can run in, and then there are shoes I can run and hike far in because they simply have greater support and cushion for handling the cumulative abuse that feet suffer on longer outings. On many trail runs of up to 12 miles in the Boise Foothills—plus one 20-mile, 3,600-foot run—the Wildcat 3.0 never caused me the hot toes, sore soles, or foot achiness that I get from some lightweight shoes on runs of more than eight or 10 miles. Even after that 20-miler in the Wildcats, my feet felt good. Continue reading →

Gear Review: 5 Camping Essentials

June 26, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

There’s a 10 essentials list for hiking and backpacking—but what’s absolutely essential for camping? Put on my list of essentials these give items that add convenience and comfort: a super bright lantern; a lightweight, collapsible chair and small table; a soft-sided, highly portable cooler; and a tiny charger to resuscitate your phones. They will become staples of my trips ranging from car camping to rafting. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800 Sleeping Bag

June 17, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800

Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800

Two-Season Sleeping Bag
Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800 (30° F)
$330, 1 lbs. 12 oz. (reg); $350 (long)
Sizes: men’s regular and long, women’s regular ($370)
sierradesigns.com

It’s a chilly morning in the backcountry and the last thing you want to do is exit your warm sleeping bag to step outside. With the Mobile Mummy 800, you don’t have to—you can wear your sleeping bag outside to fire up breakfast or take care of other business. Although the concept of a wearable sleeping bag that converts to a long down jacket isn’t new, Sierra Designs has achieved a nice kind of perfection with the Mobile Mummy. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Salewa Firetail EVO Gore-Tex Shoes

June 9, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Salewa Firetail EVO Gore-Tex

Salewa Firetail EVO Gore-Tex

Hiking/Scrambling Shoes
Salewa Firetail EVO Gore-Tex
$149, 1 lb. 11 oz. (men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 6-13, women’s 3-9
salewa.us

You can find really tough, durable shoes, or really lightweight shoes, but rarely will you find a shoe that can legitimately make both claims. The Firetail breaks that rule. From hiking and scrambling around Utah’s Arches National Park and Idaho’s Castle Rocks State Park to a 22-mile, 5,000-vertical-foot dayhike in the Columbia Gorge, I subjected these shoes to the kind of abuse that would begin shredding other lightweights. Yet other than being dirty and a bit scuffed on the rubber toe bumper, my Firetails still look and perform like new. And although sporting the pedigree of an “approach,” or scrambling shoe for climbers, this is actually the kind of versatile, comfortable, all-around low-cut that all dayhikers should give a serious look. Continue reading →

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