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.
Osprey Talon 18/Tempest 16
$90, 1 lb. 5 oz. (S/M Talon 18)
Men’s Talon 18 sizes:
S/M 16L/976 c.i., fits torsos 41-51cm/16-20 ins.
M/L 18L/1,098 c.i., fits torsos 48-58.5cm/19-23 ins.
Women’s Tempest 16 sizes:
XS/S 14L/854 c.i., fits torsos 33-43cm/13-17 ins.
S/M 16L/976 c.i., fits torsos 40.5-51cm/16-20 ins.
I’ve used enough daypacks over the years to notice the little differences between the many models out there—and to be very picky about them. Not only do I favor lighter, simpler daypacks for everything from dayhikes with my family to ultra-dayhikes, but I expect comfort, good access, and versatility, and I know what I like in features. With those requirements in mind, I took Osprey’s Talon 18 out on several dayhikes of varying lengths—including a 27-mile, 12-hour day—during a six-day rafting trip down Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Continue reading →
I sweat profusely while hiking. I love winter and fall, but summer kills me. In your opinion, what is the most breathable, light rain shell out there? Money is no object, and I was hoping I could use it for three-season hiking, if possible.
Everett, MA Continue reading →
Three-Season Sleeping Bag
Kelty Dualist 20
$150, 3 lbs. 1 oz. (regular)
Sizes: regular and long ($160)
Outfitting yourself with good-quality backpacking gear when you’re on a budget can be a challenge, especially core gear like your pack, boots, tent, and sleeping bag. That’s why I wanted to test out Kelty’s competitively priced Dualist 20 on a weeklong rafting trip down Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River, where I discovered this dual-insulation bag delivers a lot of value for its bargain-basement price. Continue reading →
Scarpa R-evolution GTX
$239, 2 lb. 14 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 40-47, 48, women’s 37-42
Boot makers are trying harder to design footwear that bridges the divide between lightweight, nimble shoes and heavier boots that have traditionally delivered more support and protection, but have also been stiffer and less sensitive. I personally applaud that trend, and based on what I hear from readers, I suspect consumers will like it, too. Scarpa’s new R-evolution GTX represents a step in this direction. Curious about how well they achieve this lofty goal, I wore them on a four-day, 86-mile backpacking trip in northern Yosemite National Park last September, and for three days on the 37-mile Kepler Track in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park in March. Continue reading →
Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody
$149, 7.5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s and women’s XS-XL
A breathable, ultralight jacket that sheds light precipitation can be the most versatile garment you own—something you wear almost as much as your skivvies. Over the past several months, I pulled on BD’s Alpine Start Hoody to combat wind, light rain, and cool temps on a 17-mile dayhike over the four summits of New Hampshire’s Northern Presidential Range in June; on a 25-mile, May dayhike in the Grand Canyon; trail running in the hills of central Massachusetts and standing on the blustery summit of New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock in April; while climbing in February in Joshua Tree National Park; during a November overnight hike of The Narrows in Zion National Park; on a chilly, October hike and scramble up 9,820-foot McGown Peak in Idaho’s Sawtooths; and on numerous trail runs and rides in the Boise Foothills and bike commuting around the city. That list alone speaks volumes about the range of this sub-eight-ounce jacket. Continue reading →