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.
Osprey Exos 58
$220, 55L/3,356 c.i., 2 lbs. 8 oz. (small, fits torsos 16-19 ins.)
Sizes: unisex S-L (M 58L/3,539 c.i., fits torsos 18-21 ins., L 61L/3,722 c.i., fits torsos 21-23 ins.)
When Osprey introduced the Exos pack series in 2008, it immediately became a leader—and helped redefine how we think about backpacking. It showed us that a backpack weighing under three pounds can serve the needs of everyone from weekenders to longer-distance backpackers and thru-hikers, and it gave ultralighters an option to the minimalist rucksacks that fill that category (which are “minimalist” both in weight and comfort). As a fan of the original Exos packs, I took the new Exos 58 out on recent four-day, 85-mile backpacking trip in northern Yosemite National Park, and a seven-day, hut-to-hut trek on the Alta Via 2 through Italy’s Dolomites in July, and concluded that Osprey has taken something that was very good and made it lighter and better. Continue reading →
[Note: Both reader questions below are similar, so I combined them into one post.]
I recently came across your website. It’s a fantastic resource—thank you!
I am looking for a breathable (i.e., not waterproof) shoe for long, fast dayhikes (with occasional downhill running) on rough, rocky terrain (on and off-trail). Reasonable performance on third-, fourth-, and low fifth-class terrain is a bonus, but 95 percent of the shoe’s use will be on rough, non-technical terrain. The two main shoes I was considering were the Salewa Firetail EVO and the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor. You give both of these shoes high praise, for similar applications (e.g. 22-mile, 5,000-foot vertical hike with the Firetails; 28-mile, 8,000-foot vertical hike with the Raptors). Which do you prefer? Which do you think would be best for my intended applications? Are there other shoes you think I should consider? Continue reading →
Vasque Breeze 2.0
$80, 1 lb. 10 oz. (youth 6)
Sizes: kids 10-13, youth 1-6
Finding boots for kids that not only look like adult boots, but are also really built like high-quality adults boots, can be like looking for an honest man in our nation’s capitol. So I was especially pleased with how well the kids’ Breeze 2.0 performed when my 13-year-old son wore them for more than a week of trekking hut to hut through Italy’s rugged Dolomite Mountains, encountering a full range of conditions: rain, mud, puddles, and snow. Continue reading →
Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock
$140, 1 lb. 5 oz.
Length: 27 to 55 ins./68 to 140 cm, collapsed length 27 ins./68 cm
On a 13.5-hour, roughly 18-mile, mostly off-trail dayhike in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains in July, I encountered the kind of terrain that makes a hiker wonder why humans ever thought walking upright was a good idea: steep, sliding scree, talus, firm snow that was slick on its surface, exposed ledges carpeted in sand and pebbles, and several thousand vertical feet of up and down on severely angled earth. It was the sort of day where you’d appreciate having four legs—or, short of that, a pair of sturdy, reliable trekking poles, which is why I was glad I had BD’s Trail Pro Shock with me. Continue reading →
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 →