Category Archives: Gear Reviews
I tested gear for Backpacker magazine for two decades. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel.
By Michael Lanza
I love getting outdoors in winter, especially skiing in all of its varieties—climbing up and sliding down mountains in the backcountry, skate skiing, resort skiing with my family, and touring on gentler terrain in the forest. Problem is, I have the worst fingers for being outside in sub-freezing temperatures: My Raynaud’s disease is so bad that my fingers turn white and numb even when I’m chopping vegetables that are still cold from the fridge. That’s made me picky about gloves. I’ve tested many over the years, and I use different models depending on the activity and temperature. Here are the best gloves I’ve found for winter. Continue reading →
Pieps DSP Sport
$320, 8 oz. (with three AAA batteries, included, not including harness weight)
I have more than a few friends—all of them experienced backcountry skiers, trained in avalanche awareness, and none of them reckless—who’ve been caught in avalanches. In each case, fortunately, it was minor and they emerged uninjured. But each of them realized it could have gone very badly. While an avalanche beacon represents yet another pricey piece of gear in an already expensive pastime, for backcountry riders traveling in mountainous, avalanche-prone terrain in winter and spring, it’s as indispensable as a shovel and climbing skins. So I decided to check out the more-affordable Pieps DSP Sport during several days of backcountry skiing in the mountains around Lake Tahoe and in Idaho’s Boise Mountains. Continue reading →
By Michael Lanza
Let’s admit it: We don’t always take our base layers as seriously and we do our outerwear and insulation—or boots and other gear, for that matter. But this under-appreciated first stage in a layering system for the outdoors really sets the table for how comfortable you’ll be. Base layers that don’t perform well probably won’t kill you, but misery isn’t a good companion. This is what we wear against our skin. It matters. Continue reading →
Ski Bag and Carry-On Pack
The Douchebag Ski Bag
$249, 8 lbs. 1 oz.
Douchebags Hugger 30L
$159, 2 lbs. 12 oz.
One thing scares me about flying, and that is flying with expensive gear checked as luggage. Besides the prospect of a big trip getting hijacked by lost luggage, there’s the fear of gear being damaged. And while a good duffle usually protects gear very effectively (especially if packed with soft goods padding hard goods), skis have always seemed highly vulnerable to the machinations of airport luggage handlers—particularly in the flimsy, soft ski bags that have dominated that gear category for years. Now I worry no more, since I picked up the Douchebag, an adjustable, reinforced ski bag that’s like a flak jacket for your boards. Continue reading →
Trekking & Snow Poles
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles
$170, 1 lb. 2 oz. (with trekking baskets)
One size, adjustable
If you make the mountains your playground in all seasons and find your budget tapped by a variety of boots, packs, and other gear for your sports, the notion of purchasing more than one pair of poles may create some financial hardship (and it cuts into your beer budget). You need one pair of sticks that do it all. From six mid-October days of hiking in the western North Carolina mountains, including a 34-mile backpacking trip in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, to days of backcountry skiing in the Idaho mountains, I leaned on BD’s Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles and they stood up to every task. Continue reading →