Category Archives: Backpacking

Stories and images from the best backpacking trips in America and the world, with trip-planning advice based on my personal, on-the-ground knowledge from having done the trip.

February 17, 2019 A hiker descending from the Fenetre d'Arpette on the Tour du Mont Blanc.

Photo Gallery: Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, Hiking, International Adventures, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   5 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Look at any list of the world’s greatest hiking trails, and the Tour du Mont Blanc almost invariably occupies a spot at or near the top of the list. There are many good reasons for that. But first and foremost comes the sheer majesty of this roughly 105-mile (170k) walking path around the “Monarch of the Alps.” Passing through three nations—France, Italy, and Switzerland—and over several mountain passes reaching nearly 9,000 feet, it delivers almost constant views of glaciers, pointy peaks and “augilles,” and when it’s not engulfed in clouds, the snowy dome of Mont Blanc.

In July 2017, I took a wonderful, nine-day trek on the Tour du Mont Blanc with my family and eight other friends and relatives—including my 80-year-old mom—and we were blown away by the scenery and the cultural and gastronomical experience. Scroll through my photos below for a window into the awesome character of this trail. Continue reading →

February 13, 2019 Wallowa Mountains, Oregon.

12 Pro Tips For Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter

In Backpacking, Hiking, Skiing, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   18 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Staying warm while Nordic, downhill, or backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking in winter is a constant challenge: We sweat, our clothes get damp, then we get cold. But as humans have known for thousands of years, it’s a matter of smartly managing and insulating our body’s furnace (and today we have much better technical clothing than animal skins). As someone who runs hot when moving, cools off quickly, and gets cold fingers and toes easily, I’ve learned many tricks over nearly four decades of getting out in the backcountry in frigid temperatures. Follow these tips and you will be vastly more comfortable outdoors in winter.

Continue reading →

February 11, 2019 A backpacker on the Pitamakan Pass-Dawson Pass traverse in Glacier National Park.

America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips

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By Michael Lanza

What makes a great backpacking trip? I’ve thought about that more than a mentally stable person probably should, having done many of America’s (and the world’s) most beautiful and beloved multi-day hikes over the years. Certainly top-shelf scenery is mandatory. An element of adventurousness enhances a hike, in my eyes. As I assembled this top 10 list, longer trips seemed to dominate it—there’s something special about a big walk in the wilderness—but two- and three-day hikes also made my list. Another factor that truly matters is a wilderness experience: All 10 are in national parks or wilderness areas.

In the final analysis, though, the only criterion that matters is simple: that it’s a great trip. And that character shows itself over and over in my picks for the 10 best backpacking trips in the country, selected from the many I’ve taken over more than a quarter-century (and counting) of carrying a backpack, both as a longtime field editor for Backpacker magazine and creator of this blog. Continue reading →

February 10, 2019 Baron Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Photo Gallery: Mountain Lakes of Idaho’s Sawtooths

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By Michael Lanza

I may be risking an impassioned debate here, but I think there are very few mountain ranges in America with as many drop-dead, gorgeous high mountain lakes as Idaho’s Sawtooths. In fact, the only ranges that arguably beat out the Sawtooths in that department may be the High Sierra and Wind River Range (and not coincidentally, the three share other similarities, including geology). In 20 years of wandering around Idaho’s best-known hills, I’ve seen many of those watery jewels. This gallery of photos from many of them may persuade you to agree with me. Continue reading →

February 3, 2019 Above Marie Lake on the John Muir Trail.

Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail: The Ultimate, 10-day, Ultralight Plan

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By Michael Lanza

Are you planning to thru-hike the John Muir Trail? “America’s Most Beautiful Trail” should be on every serious backpacker’s tick list. After hiking it in seven days, I became convinced that—while that was very hard—the traditional itinerary of spreading the roughly 221 miles out over three weeks or more has a serious flaw: With limited food-resupply options, you’ll carry a monster pack that may not only make you sore and uncomfortable, it could cause injuries that cut short your trip.

In this article, I lay out my ultralight strategy for thru-hiking the JMT in 10 to 11 days—and why you’d want to do it. Continue reading →

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