Tag Archives: ultralight backpacking gear reviews

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

Looking For Reviews of the Best Gear? Look Here

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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 →

November 16, 2015 Hiking Thompson Peak, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Gift Guide: My Top 25 Picks In New Outdoor Gear and Apparel

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By Michael Lanza

It’s that time of year again, when you’re looking for the right gift for a special person—or maybe you want to give a special someone the right suggestions for a gift for you. Either way, check out my annual list of 25 favorite new pieces of outdoor gear and apparel, with links to my original reviews of these jackets, packs, boots, tents, and other gear. Continue reading →

Gear Review: The 5 Best Headlamps

November 6, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
The 5 Best Headlamps

The 5 Best Headlamps

By Michael Lanza

How do you choose which headlamp to buy for hiking, backpacking, climbing, trail running, and other outdoor activities? Price? Design and range of lighting modes? Go with a brand you know and trust? Having tested dozens of headlamps, I favor models that meet five simple criteria:

•    Lightweight (no hiker, runner, or climber needs a heavy, bulky light).
•    Versatile and bright enough for everything from reading in the tent and managing camp chores to hiking rugged trail or route-finding off-trail in complete darkness.
•    Intuitive and easy to use, so I don’t have to consult instructions more than once, take of my gloves to operate it, or use a tool to change batteries.
•    Projects a beam that’s focused and even, not blotchy and uneven.
•    Preferably rechargeable so I’m not throwing away batteries.

With the exception of being rechargeable—which costs more, and I review headlamps at a range of price points—I generally apply those standards when choosing which headlamps I’ll review at The Big Outside. So to help you find the right model for yourself or someone else, I’ve put together this list of the five best headlamps I’ve reviewed at this blog, listed in order of cost, along with a comparison chart. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Poles

October 30, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Poles

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Poles

Trekking Poles
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Poles
$160, 10 oz./pair (110 cm)
Sizes: 110, 120, 130, and 140 cm

With gear, exceptionally low weight often means compromising functionality, durability, or both. With Black Diamond’s Distance Carbon Z Poles, though, there’s little compromise. On a mostly off-trail, two-day backpacking trip to Quiet Lake in Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains; another mostly off-trail, roughly 14-mile and 5,000-foot dayhike of 10,470-foot Horstman Peak and traverse of the Monolith Valley in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains; and a 6.4-mile, 1,400-foot, on-trail hike up 10,243-foot Mount Washburn in Yellowstone National Park, I found the strengths of these poles far outweighed the one shortcoming that helps make them so light. Continue reading →

October 21, 2015 On the Pacific Crest Trail at Glen Aulin, Yosemite National Park.

Ask Me: What’s the Best Thru-Hiking Backpack?

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Hi Michael,

I was just getting ready to get the Osprey Atmos 65 backpack for my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Osprey and REI say a large is 3 lbs. 10 oz. Your review of the 2015 Atmos 65 said a medium would be 4 lbs. 6 oz. Really? Why the significant extra weight?



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