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.

March 22, 2015 Zeacliff, White Mountains, N.H.

Ask Me: Time to Ditch the Old, Heavy Boots For Lighter Footwear?

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

Hi, Michael,

I’ve got a pair of Asolo Yukons that I’ve used for nearly 20 years. They are comfortable as can be and offer great ankle support, but at age 52 I’m wondering if I should part with my beloved Yukons and invest in a modern, lighter boot. I’ve heard that every pound on the feet is like five pounds on the back, and as my joints age and my stamina diminishes, I’ve thought it might be wise to buy new. I do mostly dayhikes with a few two-night backpacking trips a season, typically carrying about 20 to 25 pounds. We hike in the White Mountains of N.H., which typically means rocky and wet! I’d love your thoughts on whether to stick with these high-quality tried-and-true Yukons or ditch them for something lighter.

John
Easton, MA

Special offer! Hey dog owners, want to win $5,000 to take a dream trip? Kurgo is giving out $5,000 sponsorships to take your dream adventure in 2015. Apply now! kurgo.com/adventure Continue reading →

Gear Review: Scarpa Zen Pro Mid GTX Boots

March 20, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Scarpa Zen Pro Mid GTX

Scarpa Zen Pro Mid GTX

Hiking/Scrambling Boots
Scarpa Zen Pro Mid GTX
$199, 2 lb. 4 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 40-47, 48, women’s 36-42
scarpa.com

On an October hike and scramble up 9,860-foot McGown Peak in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, involving about 3,500 vertical feet and 11 miles round-trip, about half of it off-trail, I put these new boots through every test from scrambling third-class rock to hiking at a fast pace on forest trails. And the Zen Pro Mid GTX passed with flying colors, proving itself an outstanding, all-mountain boot. Continue reading →

March 18, 2015 John Muir Trail at Thousand Island Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness, High Sierra, California.

Pro Tips For Buying the Right Boots

In Backpacking, Gear Reviews, Hiking, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Boots are the most important piece of hiking or backpacking gear you will buy: You can live with a mediocre pack or a cheap tent (as many of us have), but poorly fitting boots are often a trip ender. Trouble is, boots are also the most difficult piece of gear to get right. Getting a good fit is only the first step, and a good retailer should help you do that. (Don’t settle for a mediocre or poor fit in boots—if they don’t feel good, they aren’t.) The questions I get most often from readers focus on which type of boot to buy. Here’s what I’ve learned from two decades of testing and reviewing scores of shoe and boot models of all kinds. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Katadyn Base Camp Pro 10L Gravity Filter

March 13, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Katadyn Base Camp Pro 10L Gravity Filter

Katadyn Base Camp Pro 10L Gravity Filter

Water Filter
Katadyn Base Camp Pro 10L Gravity Filter
$100, 12 oz.
katadyn.com

Treating water in the backcountry is usually a time-consuming chore—unless you use a gravity filter, which, once assembled, does most of the work for you. On a four-day, 86-mile, ultralight backpacking trip in northern Yosemite National Park in early September, a friend and I found the Katadyn Base Camp Pro 10L gravity filter simple to use and speedy, and it has the capacity to quickly treat water for a larger group or a family. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Air Mattress

March 6, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments
Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Air Mattress

Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Air Mattress

Insulated Air Mattress
Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Air Mattress
$170, 1 lb. 5 oz. (regular, including stuff sack)
Sizes: small (66×21.5×2.5 ins., $170, 1 lb. 4 oz., packed size 5×9 ins.), regular 72×21.5×2.5 ins., packed size 4.5×9 ins.), large (79x25x2.5 ins., $190, 1 lb. 9 oz., packed size 4.5×10 ins.)
seatosummit.com

I like to hike long days when I backpack, so I want the lightest gear that does the job. But I also like a comfortable air mat to sleep on after a 20-mile day. Those objectives of comfort and low weight sometimes conflict. But on a four-day, 86-mile backpacking trip in northern Yosemite National Park in September, I slept just about as well as I do in my bed at home on a Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated air mat, which weighs under a pound and a half and packs down to about one-and-a-half times the size of a liter bottle. Continue reading →

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