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 1, 2015 Backpackers in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear

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By Michael Lanza

My first, two-person tent set me back only about twice what you’d pay today for a good, single-burner backpacking stove. It weighed several pounds and was bulky for backpacking. I nicknamed that tent the Wind Sock for its propensity to snap loudly in even the slightest breeze, and how its poles bowed disturbingly in strong gusts. (I learned to choose protected campsites.) In heavy downpours, I sometimes woke up to a puddle on the floor. Continue reading →

February 27, 2015 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 →

February 24, 2015 South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon.

Ask Me: Tips For Hiking or Trail Running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim

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Michael,

I’m happy to have run across your website. The pictures of the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim (r2r2r) hike are spectacular and only enhance the anticipation and excitement for my own upcoming rim-to-rim (r2r) run. I have several questions for you about it. Continue reading →

February 22, 2015 Kerrick Canyon, Yosemite National Park.

Ask Me: How Do We Begin Lightening Up Our Backpacking Gear?

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Family Adventures, Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments

Hi Michael,

On the hike out from Mount Sopris, near our Aspen, Colorado, home, my husband commented that it feels like time to invest in lighter-weight backpacking gear to ease up the wear and tear on our bodies. Our kids are ages nine and 11, and backpacking as a family is an important part of our lives. Recently, we upgraded our mountain bikes (cushy suspension, etc.) so that we could still happily bike with our kids; it seems like we need to do the same with our backpacking equipment. Knowing that you are in touch with the latest gear compared to our old stuff, what would you recommend as the most important things to upgrade, with weight in mind? Continue reading →

Review: Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Touring Pants

February 20, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Touring Pants

Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Touring Pants

Winter Pants
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Touring Pants
$299, 1 lb. 11 oz. (men’s small)
Sizes: men’s and women’s XS-XL
blackdiamondequipment.com

Finding one pair of pants for all of your backcountry skiing or riding, snowshoeing, and climbing adventures in the mountains, from the frigid days of early winter to corn skiing on sun-blasted slopes in April, is a tall order. But Black Diamond’s Dawn Patrol Touring Pants demonstrated that kind of range for me while backcountry skiing in the Idaho mountains on days ranging from 3° F, to the 20s with falling snow, and the 40s under a thermonuclear sun. Continue reading →

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