Ask Me

Send me your questions about hiking, backpacking, gear, or any trip I write about at The Big Outside.

I can help you plan the best backpacking, hiking, or family adventure of your life.

For more than two decades, as a former field editor for Backpacker magazine and running this blog, I’ve made a living identifying, planning, and writing about great trips. That’s why The Big Outside is a uniquely authoritative resource for outdoor adventures.

Now you can tap into my expertise.

Got a question about hiking, backpacking, planning a family adventure, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside? Email it to me at michaelalanza79@gmail.com. For $60, I’ll answer your questions via email to help ensure your trip is a success. I will also provide a telephone consult for $75. Write to me and I will tell you whether I can answer your question (I usually can). You may find helpful information on this page and my All Trips page, and in my skills stories and gear reviews.

This page has links to menus of all of my Ask Me posts, in which I share my response to a reader question. The links below organize those posts in categories: Family Adventures, Gear, National Parks, Backpacking, Hiking, Skills, Paddling, International, and Skiing/Snow. If I answer your question, I might share it in a blog post, using only your first name and city, with your permission.

—Michael Lanza

 

Imogene Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Imogene Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

All Ask Me posts about Family Adventures

 

 

Tent Flap With a View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites

Tent Flap With a View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites

All Ask Me posts about Gear

 

On "The Visor" on Half Dome's summit, Yosemite National Park.

On “The Visor” on Half Dome’s summit, Yosemite National Park.

All Ask Me posts about National Parks

 

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by USA Today and others. I invite you to get email updates about new stories and gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box in the left sidebar, at the bottom of this post, or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

Campsite along the Teton Crest Trail on Death Canyon Shelf, Grand Teton National Park.

Campsite along the Teton Crest Trail on Death Canyon Shelf, Grand Teton National Park.

All Ask Me posts about Backpacking

 

Bighorn sheep along the Highline Trail, Glacier National Park.

Bighorn sheep along the Highline Trail, Glacier National Park.

All Ask Me posts about Hiking

 

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Tips on lightening up your backpacking gear… and your pack.

Tips on lightening up your backpacking gear… and your pack.

All Ask Me posts about Skills

 

Tips on taking a multi-day float trip down the Green River in Canyonlands National Park.

Tips on taking a multi-day float trip down the Green River in Canyonlands National Park.

All Ask Me posts about Paddling

 

 

Kyrkja (the peak), above Leirvatnet (the lake), outside Leirvassbu Hut, Jotunheimen National Park, Norway.

Kyrkja (the peak), above Leirvatnet (the lake), Jotunheimen National Park, Norway.

All Ask Me posts about International Adventures

 

Skiing past the Bench Lakes, below Mount Heyburn, Sawtooths, Idaho.

Skiing past the Bench Lakes, below Mount Heyburn, Sawtooths, Idaho.

All Ask Me posts about Skiing and Snow

 

 

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46 Responses to Ask Me

  1. Sarah Almstrand   |  November 5, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    Hi Michael –

    I have loved reading your blog when I can and even bought your book. 🙂 I really can’t justify buying a subscription right now as I really can’t do any hiking at this point in my life. I understand that you need to do it though and wish you all the best of luck!

    Best,
    Sarah

  2. Sandra Julian   |  September 25, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Hi Michael,

    I wanted to write to you and thank you once again for all of your help in planning my trip. I should have written long before now but time got away from me this summer. I wanted to let you know that we had a great experience and enjoyed every moment of the trip. It was absolutely amazing and I am hopeful that my kids (although they thoroughly enjoyed it) will appreciate it even more as they grow older.

    Each park was special in its own way and it is difficult to say what I enjoyed the most. If I had to name one thing it would be the Highline Trail at Glacier National Park. As I reflect on the trip, there really isn’t anything that I regret. I would do it all the same way if I had it to do over again.

    I hope you had a great summer and made some family memories of your own….I am sure that you did.

    Thanks again,

    Sandy

    • MichaelALanza   |  September 25, 2017 at 7:41 pm

      You’re very welcome, Sandy. I’m glad it went so well for your family. Now you can start thinking about your next one!

  3. Dave Fraatz   |  September 6, 2017 at 9:13 am

    I recently finished my trip to The Sawtooths. It was amazing! I most enjoyed Sand Mountain Pass and the descent to Toxaway Lake in the afternoon light. I am hard-pressed to find any equals, perhaps the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. I visited nearly all of the places you suggested. I hope they never create a Sawtooths National Park. Thanks so much for helping me plan a route.

    Next on my agenda is the High Sierra (Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and perhaps Mt Whitney), which you also helped me plan. Thanks again.

    • MichaelALanza   |  September 6, 2017 at 3:52 pm

      Hi Dave, good on you for doing such an amazing hike in the Sawtooths, certainly one of my favorite mountain ranges. The High Sierra will be an appropriate follow-up. Thanks for reading and supporting my blog and safe and happy future adventures to you. Keep in touch.

  4. Armando Lopez   |  June 29, 2017 at 7:53 am

    Michael, you provided invaluable guidance during our phone conversation. Some destinations such as Utah have so many options that it can be overwhelming. Your pointers and pros and cons made planning my trip easier. More than a service it felt like a friend providing useful, sincere advice. Thanks!

    • MichaelALanza   |  June 29, 2017 at 7:58 am

      Have a great trip, Armando. Glad I could help with it.

  5. Robert   |  June 5, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Thanks, Michael, you were extremely prompt and thorough in answering my Ask Me question. You guided me to specific blog posts and provided new information that can only be obtained through extensive first-hand experience. I want to make the most of my family’s time in the backcountry, and your advice will definitely help. Thanks again!

    • MichaelALanza   |  June 5, 2017 at 3:49 pm

      Thanks, Robert, I appreciate that, and wish you a safe and wonderful trip.

  6. Dave   |  June 1, 2017 at 10:26 am

    Michael,

    Thanks a lot for the phone consultation. It did a great job of answering some major issues for an upcoming trip this fall. I’ll definitely keep you in mind when planning for future trips.

    • MichaelALanza   |  June 1, 2017 at 10:47 am

      Hi Dave, I’m glad I could be helpful to you. Good luck and safe travels, looks like you have a fantastic summer ahead of you.

  7. Michael Nelson   |  April 24, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Hello Michael,

    Would really appreciate any recommendations you could make for 3 day two night backcountry hiking/camping in Colorado. Our group of guys have done Sahale (nice pic) and the Narrows. We’ve already booked our flights into Denver and are looking for something hopefully no more than a three hour drive to a trailhead. Open to any distance and/or elevation… lake or water nearby would be great. Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

    • MichaelALanza   |  April 24, 2017 at 2:14 pm

      Hi Michael, thanks for reading my blog. Sahale and the Narrows are two tough acts to follow! Go to my All Trips By State page (https://thebigoutside.com/all-trips-by-state/) and scroll down to Colorado for links to stories I’ve already posted. Those should give you some ideas. If you’d like to talk further, email me (see note at the top of this page). Good luck.

  8. Chris   |  April 6, 2017 at 6:45 am

    Michael,

    We are trying to plan a trip for the Canyonlands and just watched your video on Squaw Canyon to Chelser Park. Approximately how many miles round trip was this and what campsites did you stay at? Was this a one nighter or did you guys did multiple nights on this hike? Thanks!

  9. Dave Prefontaine   |  February 27, 2017 at 9:04 am

    Hi Michael, My wife and now 1 1/2 year old boy have grown out of our Hubba Hubba and are looking for new 3p tent for the up coming season. I was looking at the Carbon Reflex 3 but am concerned about durability. We are also considering a Zpacks Triplex for its excellent weight savings, but would miss the star gazing potential. Do you have any experience with these tents? We would really like to keep the weight down as much as possible as we have many snacks and toys that have been added to our gear list! Any ideas would be helpful.

    Regards

  10. David   |  February 12, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    Love your site Michael!

    Did a ton of day-hikes/car-camping in 2016 with a more of this level adventuring planned for 2017 (Mt Olympic/YosemiteValley/Banff/Jasper). Personally though, I can already sense that I need more.

    Might you have a perfect 2-3 days backpacking trip up your sleeve fitting for 2 novice backpackers consisting of husband and wife? Preferably for March if possible? Any suggestions would be great. Thank you.

  11. Aaron Morris   |  February 7, 2017 at 7:37 am

    Hey there Michael, Ive got a question about an upcoming trip a group of guys and myself are planning to do. In August, we are planning on doing the Spider Gap-Buck Creek Pass Loop. I know there was a fire in Buck Creek and the trail back to Trinity Trailhead is closed and the Forest Service does not know if they will be able to clear the trail and open up the trail this year. I wanted to know if you knew anything about extending the loop to High Pass, down Napeequa Valley, up to Little Giant Pass and then exiting at the Little Giant Trailhead. Do you know how many miles this may add to the trip or if this would be a good alternative if Buck Creek Trail is closed? Thanks a bunch

    • Michael Lanza   |  February 9, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      Hi Aaron, great trip you’re planning. As you know, I wrote about it in this story: https://thebigoutside.com/wild-heart-of-the-glacier-peak-wilderness-backpacking-the-spider-gap-buck-creek-pass-loop/.

      Too bad the Buck Creek Trail is closed. On a previous backpacking trip up to Buck Creek Pass, I hiked the user trail (not shown on maps, but quite obvious) from the campground at Buck Creek Pass up onto Liberty Cap, and then along that 7,000-foot ridge southeast to High Pass. Beautiful hike when it’s clear (though quite exposed in wind and weather). I went as far as Triad Lake, which is not named on maps, but is the lake that Triad Creek drains, right before High Pass. I thought about bushwhacking from High Pass to the Napeequa valley, but I didn’t, so I’m not sure what the terrain is like. It looks like there’s potential for thick bushwhacking and tricky route-finding with steep terrain and maybe cliff bands, but it might go. Then you obviously have trail hiking back to Trinity.

      I don’t know where the Buck Creek Trail is closed, but there may be another option for you. I have friends who backpacked another user trail that diverges off the Buck Creek Trail probably less than a mile east-southeast of Buck Creek Pass and climbs onto a high bench traversing over to Massie Lake. (I remember passing the junction once and noticing it, though it’s unmarked, blocked off by the Forest Service, and easy to overlook.) The Green Trails Holden map no. 113 shows an unmaintained trail from Massie Lake down to Trail 1550 in the Chiwawa Valley; my friends hiked that trail. They said it was buggy camping at Massie Lake, but otherwise a good hike. That was probably several years ago.

      I certainly can’t say definitively whether either route would work or recommend either one, and I’m sure either would be strenuous and require expert skills. But that’s what I know about that area. Good luck.

  12. Meme   |  January 20, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    Hi Michael!

    I want to take my boyfriend on a modest (35 miles or less) backpacking trip in the southwest US for his 40th birthday. I am having a hard time finding a hike that fits. We will be going in July so avoiding National Parks in the desert are trying to be avoided to miss some of the heat.

    With many thanks!
    Meme

  13. Beau   |  January 16, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    Hi. I was planning on doing a 2-night backpacking trip into the Needles District of Canyonlands. I am stuck on trying to figure out how to carry the recommended 1 gallon/day water. Do you have any tips or thoughts to help me with this? Thanks in advance.

    • MichaelALanza   |  January 17, 2017 at 7:02 am

      Hi Beau,

      I use an MSR Dromedary (http://bit.ly/2k0SRlG) when I have to carry extra water. There’s a 10L size and smaller ones. They’re collapsible and roll up when empty. I place it high in my pack, close to my shoulder blades, for best weight distribution in the pack.

      Good luck. Great trip.

  14. Sam   |  January 3, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Hi Michael! I’ve enjoyed gaining a lot of useful information and insight from your blogs about Grand Teton National Park. Some buddies and I are planning a backpacking trip along the TCT this year and I’m tentatively leaning towards sometime in September. You’ve mentioned the trail being near a ghost town after labor day and I’m curious as to why. Is there any reason to avoid the trail in the first week or two of September?? Thanks for your advise!

    • MichaelALanza   |  January 3, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      Hi Sam, thanks for the nice words. I like heading into Western mountain ranges like the Tetons after Labor Day because most people take their vacations in summer before Labor Day, and that’s the primary reason why ranges like the Tetons get much less busy in September. For the Teton Crest Trail, you’ll also find it easier to get a permit after Labor Day. Of course, there’s a slightly increased chance of seeing fresh snowfall in September, particularly the later you go in the month. (I generally prefer the first half of September.) But that’s impossible to predict far in advance, and the odds are good that you’ll see cooler but summer-like weather: mild days, cool nights.

      As examples, this year, we saw a snowstorm over Labor Day weekend in the Idaho mountains and the Tetons, and glorious weather most of the rest of September. A friend and I backpacked five nice days in the North Cascades in the last week of September with mostly excellent weather. Hope that answers your question. Good luck with your trip planning.

  15. Shreya   |  December 29, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Dear Michael,
    I am trying to plan a scenic hiking trip with my almost 4 year old boy and husband. Both have asthma but husband is serious competitive rower and son is also pretty active in terms of biking, running and learning how to swim. We live in Houston. Do you have any suggestions ? Or what should I even aim for.
    Thanks

  16. A Baer   |  December 1, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    Michael, planning a SE/SC Utah trip next year. wondering your advice on GPS usage? I’ve loaded some extra maps on my Garmin Nuvi and hope it will get me around on the BLM roads. Will it suffice getting from point A to B using Lat/Long??? or do I need a specialty unit? Or do you use off-line maps on an iPhone and such? Thanks.

    • MichaelALanza   |  December 2, 2016 at 6:42 am

      Hi, well, believe it or not, I generally use printed atlases from DeLorme and Benchmark Maps to navigate on back roads, and the maps program on my phone when needed. Primitive, I know, but simple, cheap, and effective. I expect the maps you’ve loaded onto your Garmin would do the trick, too. Have a good trip.

  17. Adiyan Haran   |  May 30, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    FYI, a web site worth knowing about,
    http://www.archesoftheescalante.com

  18. michaellanza   |  December 23, 2015 at 5:12 am

    Thanks Tricia, I really appreciate that. Happy and safe travels to you as well.

  19. Tricia @ www.roadtriptheworld.com   |  December 22, 2015 at 10:25 am

    I just wanted to say how much I love reading your blog! Your posts can always be counted on to inspire adventure. I also wanted to let you know that I just finished writing a post about my favorite travel blogs that inspire adventure and I’ve included your blog in it. I should be posting it in the next couple of day. Happy Travels!

  20. Tommy K. Hindman   |  September 19, 2015 at 8:15 am

    My fiancé and I are planning a cross-country trip to Glacier National Park when I finish my Master’s in the spring. Any advice on a 5-6 day trip we can take in the beginning of May or mid May? I see the season doesn’t really start until late May but this is the only time we will be able to go. Thank you again for such an awesome blog.

    • michaellanza   |  September 20, 2015 at 7:58 am

      Hi Tommy, Glacier’s certainly fabulous at any time of year. I’ve been there in early April, skiing in the backcountry. Higher elevations remain completely snow-covered, with potential avalanche hazard, into early summer, so hiking in the mountains is difficult and dangerous in May. You’ll find some info about hiking in spring at http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/spring.htm. In early May, you might get lucky and find some lower-elevation trails on the edges of the park relatively snow-free, like in the Lake McDonald and St. Mary areas, and maybe in the Belly River Valley in the park’s northeast corner. Unfortunately, it’s just not an ideal time to see much of Glacier.

      Thanks for following my blog, I hope you subscribe and consider making a donation of support (scroll up this page for the Support button). Good luck with your trip.

  21. Joe   |  September 1, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    Love your blog…….will be doing the Toxaway Lake to Alice Lake Loop over the Labor Day weekend and wanted to get your thoughts about adding some mileage by taking the trail over to Vernon Lake then going off trail from Vernon back to Toxaway…….is off trail hiking from Vernon to Toxaway doable……thanks for your jelp……jh

    • michaellanza   |  September 1, 2015 at 5:51 pm

      Thanks Joe. I’ve wondered that same question. On a map it looks like it’s not steep or far to hike from Vernon to Toxaway, but I’ve never done it. I may try it sometime. I’ve been throughout that area on trail, it’s all nice.

  22. Tristan Jones   |  June 21, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    hi micheal! i want to make 2-5 day hike in the sawtooth mountain range near the end of august. i want to have a visible trail but one i am less likely to run into a bunch of people. maybe one that circles around and back to my car? im not afraid of heights and i feel confident enough with my physical endurance. i feel like scrambles and mellow climbs would only make the journey that much more enjoyable! if you could recommend a really gnarly yet satisfying backpacking trip i would greatly appreciate it. thank you

  23. Gary   |  June 1, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Hello Michael,

    Could you please recommend a 4-5 day backcountry trip in the Grand Teton Range that could include camp sites located outside of the park (maybe the Jedediah Smith Wilderness area), so I would not need to get a overnight permit in the park? I do have a 1 night permit for Paintbrush, so I was hoping to make that my last night for camping inside the park, then walk out to Jenny Lake on the last day. I was thinking the starting point could be around the top of Rendezvous Peak via the tramway? I have done day hikes in the Tetons, but never a backcountry trip, so I would appreciate your input. I’m going to be going the last week of August. I have basic skills with compass and map reading, so some off trail hiking is o.k.. I’m looking for solitude and will be solo hiking. Thank you for your time. Much appreciated!

    • michaellanza   |  June 3, 2015 at 9:02 am

      Hi Gary, Take a look at a map of Grand Teton National Park and you’ll see that you have limited options for camping outside the park but still reaching Paintbrush Canyon for your last night. You can start at the top of the Jackson Hole Ski Resort tram and hike down into Granite Canyon, but that’s inside the park; to get outside the park to camp, you’d have to hike a bit south on the Teton Crest Trail out of Granite Canyon, and I’m told that Moose Lake in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness is a nice spot to camp. Then you’d turn around the next day and hike north on the Teton Crest Trail to Alaska Basin, which is outside the park, to camp your second night.

      From Alaska Basin, it would be a big day, over 13 miles with two passes (Hurricane, which is easier, and Paintbrush Divide, which is a big climb), to reach Upper Paintbrush.

      But it’s easier to get a first-come permit for camping in the southern areas of the park than it is for Paintbrush Canyon, which you already have. My suggestion: When you arrive at the park, go to the backcountry desk and try to add nights in the park to your existing permit for a night in Paintbrush. Death Canyon Shelf and South Fork Cascade Canyon offer some of the park’s best camping. See all of my Ask Me posts above about the Teton Crest Trail.

      I have not backpacked much in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness (only the southern end of the Teton Crest Trail and a dayhike up Table Mountain from Teton Canyon on the west side). If you want to explore that area, you’ll see there are trails through it on the west side of the Tetons, but only a few spots where they link up with trails in the park. The shuttle is also much longer and more complicated (or expensive) if you start and finish at trailheads on the west and east sides of the Tetons instead of trailheads in the park (east side).

  24. Sharmaine Popov   |  May 26, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Hi…could you do an article on – what to pack? I’m going away for a weekend and I just filled up an Osprey 65 L pack – and I don’t even have a stove or tent in it! To make it worse…what I do have – air mattress, sleeping bag etc is new…like 2015 so it is not old heavy stuff. And end to end list for a couple different outing lengths would be great…

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