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.
Gregory Miwok 24
$119, 1 lb. 10 oz.
One size 24L/1,464 c.i.
What do I look for in a daypack? I want it to have the capacity for all-day hikes with my family or really long dayhikes when I’m carrying extra food and clothing, be compact and hug my body for short hikes, have easy access without being over-engineered, and function well as a bike-commuting or airport carry-on pack. And I want it to remain lightweight. After carrying the Miwok 24 with up to 15 pounds inside it on a pair of very long dayhikes—a 13.5-hour, mostly off-trail, roughly 18-mile tour through Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, and a 19-mile, several-thousand-foot, seven-summit traverse of the Wildcat-Carter-Moriah Range in New Hampshire’s White Mountains—plus a seven-mile dayhike in Arches National Park and while biking around town and on a cross-country flight, I decided this streamlined daypack could be the only one I need. Continue reading →
By Michael Lanza
Thinking about buying a new backpack, tent, boots, or other outdoor gear or apparel? I recently spent a couple of days wandering the floor of The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City—a convention center you could fit a few Wal-Marts inside—at the Outdoor Retailer Show, ogling the best of the new products for hiking and backpacking that will hit stores in 2015.
I’ll test and review many of these, but here’s an early peek at the most interesting items I saw (in other words, the stuff I’m most coveting).
Black Diamond Element 60/Elixir 60
$220, 60L/3,661 c.i., 3 lbs. 6 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s medium and large (62L/3,783 c.i.), women’s small (58L/3,539 c.i.) and medium (60L/3,661 c.i.)
On a June backpacking trip with my 13-year-old son to Alice Lake in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, I found myself clambering over four-foot-tall, slick, densely consolidated drifts of snow not yet melted out on the trail, fording a fast, frigid, and knee-deep creek, and tiptoeing over logs across the creek. In circumstances that challenge your balance, it’s nice to have a pack that feels like an extension of your body, rather than tugging you in a direction you don’t want to go. The impressively lightweight Element 60 did that, plus it has the capacity for longer trips and smart design details. Continue reading →
Scarpa Zanskar GTX
$259, 3 lbs. 3 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 40-47, 48
I’m a big fan of lightweight gear, including footwear. But sometimes you need boots that can handle anything: steady rain, mud, snow, scree, rocky trail, and the abuse of off-trail scrambling, plus deliver the support and protection for any circumstance, carrying any amount of weight. The best heavy-duty boots do all these things without actually feeling heavy or clunky. On an early-summer backpacking trip in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains and nine days of trekking hut-to-hut on the rugged Alta Via 2 through Italy’s Dolomites in July, the Zanskar GTX did all of that for me. Continue reading →
Ultralight Rain Shell
Mountain Hardwear Quasar Hybrid Pullover
$375, 9 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL
There was a time when we thought of a waterproof-breathable jacket as a security blanket: It had to protect us against anything, so we wanted it to look like it could. Now that we know more about their strengths and weaknesses, we smartly look at three-season rain shells more in terms of the question: How minimal a jacket can we get away with? On several trips using the Quasar Hybrid Pullover, from the Grand Canyon in November to Arches and Canyonlands national parks in March and Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains in June, and on a weeklong, hut-to-hut trek in Italy’s Dolomites, I was surprised by how much protection this nine-ounce shell delivers. Continue reading →