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.

February 9, 2016 Campsite, Colorado River at Hance Rapids, Grand Canyon.

Ask Me: Can We Use a Non-Freestanding Tent in the Grand Canyon?

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Gear Reviews, National Park Adventures, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

Hi Michael,

I’ve been reading The Big Outside for a few months now and have really enjoyed it. My brother and I are taking a trip to the Grand Canyon this year and decided to follow the itinerary you laid out in this post: thebigoutside.com/a-matter-of-perspective-a-father-daughter-hike-in-the-grand-canyon. Your tips on getting permits and planning for a trip to the Grand Canyon have proven invaluable, particularly after our last trip there (in October 2013) was essentially canceled due to the government shutdown at the time. Needless to say, we are really looking forward to going! I do have one worry, however. We are both using non-freestanding tents—I’m using a Sierra Designs Flashlight 1; my brother is using a Tarptent Rainbow—and I’m unsure of how difficult pitching will be in the canyon. Continue reading →

Gear Review: The Best Gear Duffles

February 4, 2016  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Osprey Transporter 95

Osprey Transporter 95

By Michael Lanza

Whatever your outdoor sport—backpacking, climbing, whitewater rafting or kayaking, backcountry skiing, etc.—a sturdy duffle for organizing, hauling, and protecting your gear and clothing is invaluable. Not only does it eliminate the risk of damaging an expensive backpack by using it as your luggage, a good duffle has more capacity and is built to suffer the indignities of getting tossed into jet, train, and bus baggage compartments, being strapped onto a roof rack, sled, snowmobile, or pack animal, and exposed to rain and snow.

I subjected the four duffles and two convertible pieces of luggage reviewed here to perils ranging from cross-country and intercontinental flights to the environmental hazards of a multi-day wilderness float down Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and numerous long-distance, family car trips. Besides passing the durability test, all of them demonstrated unique strengths for different styles of adventure travel. Continue reading →

February 3, 2016 Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park, Canada.

Ask Me: How Can a Small Woman Find a Backpack That Fits?

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   6 Comments

Hi Michael,

My fiancée has begun backpacking, and we’re in the market for a pack. But she’s tiny, five feet and just 100 pounds, and finding a waist belt small enough has been an issue. I’m thinking she needs a 50- to 55-liter pack. Any suggestions?

Thanks,

Dave
Worcester, MA Continue reading →

January 28, 2016 Osprey Aura AG 65

Ask Me: What Do You Recommend For a Versatile, All-Purpose Backpack?

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Hello Michael,

I saw your gear reviews on your blog and I want to ask which backpack you’d recommend for long trails for a man: Osprey Xenith 75 (or 88) or Gregory Baltoro 75? Normally I take from 15 to 25 kg (30 to 50 lbs.). And I need this backpack for trips up to approximately 12 days—from short weekend trips with tent to 14-day trips. It would be nice if the backpack has a lot of pockets. For speed and technical routes I have a 35-liter Deuter Guide without any extra pockets, but for long treks I need more space for my wallet, phone, headlight, etc.

Best regards,
Emil
Lodz, Poland Continue reading →

Review: Winter Jackets, Pants, Gloves & Mittens For Kids

January 27, 2016  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Backcountry skiing Galena Summit area, Idaho.

My son, Nate, backcountry skiing near Galena Summit, Idaho.

By Michael Lanza

Winter’s cold temperatures, snow, and propensity for getting us wet makes outerwear and insulation critically important for everyone, including kids—especially if your family spends a lot of time outdoors. We have taken our kids on multi-day ski trips to backcountry yurts since they were little, and now my oldest joins me backcountry skiing. Whether we’re miles from civilization, or downhill or Nordic skiing at a resort, I outfit my kids with good-quality winter jackets, pants, gloves and mittens so they’ll be comfortable and safe and enjoy the experience. Because they’ll outgrow it within a couple of years, I look for well-made clothing that delivers high dollar value and could get used by a younger child. I review here the stuff my kids are wearing now. Continue reading →

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