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.

November 19, 2014 Trekking in the Dolomite Mountains, Italy.

Gift Guide: My Top 25 Picks In New Outdoor Gear and Apparel

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By Michael Lanza

It’s that time of year again, when you’re shopping for the right something for a special someone… or you want to give a special someone the right suggestions for a gift for you. Either way, check out my annual list of top 25 favorite new pieces of outdoor gear and apparel, with links to my original reviews of these jackets, packs, boots, tents, and other gear. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Five Ten Camp Four Hiking Shoes

November 13, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Five Ten Camp Four

Five Ten Camp Four

Hiking/Scrambling Shoes
Five Ten Camp Four
$150, 1 lb. 13 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 4-13, women’s 5-11

Five Ten Camp Four Mid
$170, 2 lbs. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 4-13
fiveten.com

Whether on rugged, rocky trails or off-trail, some hikes demand more from footwear. On a 13.5-hour, roughly 18-mile, mostly off-trail dayhike with about 7,000 feet of vertical gain and loss in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains in July, I needed shoes with sticky soles for scrambling steep rock, but also good traction on every possible mountain surface from sand and scree to snow. Plus, I wanted solid protection for my feet and comfort for walking many hours. The Camp Four Mid delivered on all counts that day, as did the low-cut version on similar terrain when hiking to climbing routes in Idaho’s Castle Rocks State Park. Continue reading →

November 6, 2014 Trekkers above Olavsbu Hut in Norway's Jotunheimen National Park.

Ask Me: Which Big Backpack Do You Recommend?

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Michael,

I purchased a Mountainsmith Apex 80 before I knew anything about buying packs. I love the pack, but I recently ended up carrying 45 lbs. for the first time, and the pack refused to stay on my hips. I took it into my local REI and it turns out the pack is too large for me. My torso is 17 inches and the pack starts at 18 inches. I have read through every backpack review on your site (they were very informative) and have narrowed down my replacements, and would like your advice. The three on my list are: Gregory Baltoro 75, Osprey Aether 70/85 (the Xenith only fits torsos starting at 18), and the Deuter Act 75+10. I need the larger pack as the scout troop my son is with does multi-day trips, and we end up carrying all the stuff the boy’s parents over-packed (plus I’m not experienced enough yet to be able to pack myself perfectly). Continue reading →

Gear Review: Osprey Zip 25 Kids Daypack

October 28, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Osprey Zip 25

My son hiking with his Osprey Zip 25 in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains.

Kids Daypack
Osprey Zip 25
$60, 25L/1,526 c.i., 1 lb. 8 oz.
One size, not adjustable (fits children age 8 to 13)
ospreypacks.com

For my family’s seven-day, hut-to-hut trek through Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, I wanted a daypack for my 13-year-old son that’s comfortable, has the capacity and good organization for his water, clothes, and personal items, and that’s streamlined and stable so it wouldn’t encumber him too much. So I had him test-drive a Zip 25. Continue reading →

Review: Clothing That Helps Me Run and Hike Farther

October 14, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Opedix Knee-Tec Tights

Opedix Knee-Tec Tights

Compression Apparel
Bioskin Compression Shorts
$95, 7 oz. (medium)
Sizes: S-XXL

Bioskin Calf Skin Sleeves
$65/pair, $35/one, 3 oz. (XL pair)
Sizes: S-XXL (The size range fits calves with a widest-point circumference of 11 to 20 ins.)
bioskin.com

Opedix Knee-Tec Tights
$225, 10 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
opedix.com

Well into the descent off 9,860-foot McGown Peak in Idaho’s Sawtooths—a dayhike of about 11 miles and more than 3,300 vertical feet, mostly off-trail with 1,000 feet of third-class scrambling and steep scree running—I turned to my climbing partner and said, “My legs feel great.” I’d like to believe that’s because I’m in such incredible physical condition that climbing a rugged peak does not even begin to fatigue my leg muscles. But the reason I felt so fresh at that point was because of what I was wearing below the waist: Opedix Knee-Tec Tights. I’ve been using compression apparel—shorts, tights, socks, and calf sleeves—for a few years, and I’ve found I can trail run and hike farther before getting tired, and feel better that evening and the next day. Clothing that does that almost seems like cheating—but I’ll take any advantage I can find. Continue reading →

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