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 24, 2015 Backpackers, Pacific Crest Trail near Cloudy Pass, Glacier Peak Wilderness.

Ask Me: Should I Buy a Larger Backpack If It’s Not Much Heavier?

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


I stumbled upon your blog and have enjoyed reading your advice. I am currently deciding between the Gregory Baltoro 75 and 65. I have always had a 65L pack and was looking to upgrade to a new pack this year. When I compared the two packs I found that there was only four ounces difference in weight from the 65L to the 75L. So I am thinking about going to the 75 even though my gear fits in a 65L pack fine. Is there any reason not to go to the larger pack?

Idaho Falls, ID Continue reading →

My 10 Most-Read Gear Reviews

November 22, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments
Osprey Atmos AG 65

Osprey Atmos AG 65

By Michael Lanza

Other than my home page, the link clicked most often at The Big Outside is my Gear Reviews category—and individual gear reviews consistently rank among the most-viewed stories at my blog. So I like to periodically post a list of my reviews of outdoor gear and apparel that are the most popular with you, The Big Outside’s readers. Sifting through my blog’s analytics data, I produced this top 10 list of the most-read gear reviews at this blog, with a link to my original review of each item. As you’re shopping for specific outdoor gear or clothing, check this out to see what’s popular with your fellow outdoor enthusiasts and fans of The Big Outside.

Continue reading →

November 21, 2015 Death Canyon Shelf, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Looking For Reviews of the Best Gear? Look Here

In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

I take a bit of a different approach to testing and reviewing outdoor gear at The Big Outside. I don’t try to blanket my readers with reviews of every new piece of gear hitting the market—I can’t do it, but frankly, a lot of it is mediocre and not worth recommending. Instead, I find the best backpacks and daypacks, backcountry tents and footwear, bags, outdoor apparel, and other gear that I actually want to use and would recommend to friends. After two decades of testing and reviewing gear, including many years as a field editor and lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine, I think I have a pretty good eye for what outdoor gear and apparel performs well and what’s not worth your money.

That’s what you’ll find at my Gear Reviews page—only reviews of products I would recommend to my closest friends. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO Tent

November 18, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO tent

Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO tent

Three-Season Tent
Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO
$350, 3 lbs. 9 oz. (not including stuff sacks and stakes)

On the last night of a family backpacking trip on the Rockwall Trail in Canada’s Kootenay National Park, our kids announced to my wife and me that they had dibs on this tent; we had to settle for the tent without internal lighting. But the LED lights built into the Big Agnes mtnGLO tent series are more than a novelty; they elevate the livability of backcountry camping. Technologies like that change the way people perceive an activity by making “roughing it” seem a little less rough. For those of us who’ve been happily backpacking more primitively, lights in a tent certainly add a lot of convenience. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Exped Thunder 50 Backpack

November 17, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Exped Thunder 50

Exped Thunder 50

Exped Thunder 50
$249, 3 lbs. 4 oz.
One size, adjustable
Men’s torso range 17.5-22.5 ins./ 44.5-57cm
Women’s torso range 16.5-20 ins./ 42-51cm

The idea of downsizing your backpack and other gear is always enticing (and a smart goal; see my tips on that). But unless you have pockets deep enough to finance a quiver of packs, you probably need one that can handle whatever kind of trip you take, and you may be leery of buying one that’s too small or specialized or lacks convenient features. The Thunder 50 struck me at first glance as a pack that may offer exceptional versatility while hewing to a minimalist ethic that keeps weight low, so I took it out on a mostly off-trail backpacking trip with my son in Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains to test my theory. Continue reading →

← Older posts