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.

February 20, 2019 Outdoor Research Interstellar Jacket

Review: Outdoor Research Interstellar Jacket

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Rain Jacket
Outdoor Research Interstellar Jacket
$299, 11 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
Moosejaw.com

Anyone who’s spent enough hours in waterproof-breathable jackets while on the move in rain knows that the second half of that hyphenated adjective looms as critical to performance as the “waterproof” part. When OR introduced the Interstellar as an overhaul of a personal favorite, their Realm Jacket, for only $20 more—and unlike the Realm, also in women’s sizes—I was immediately eager to put it through the paces. After wearing it in weather ranging from rain and snow to strong winds, from a mid-September backpacking trip through Glacier to backcountry skiing at home in Idaho, I’m convinced the Interstellar has succeeded the Realm as a leading, top-value backcountry rain shell—but it does have one Achilles heel. Continue reading →

February 5, 2019 Boise Mountains, Idaho.

Review: The Best Gloves For Winter 2019

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By Michael Lanza

Looking for winter gloves that keep your hands warm and dry and are made with quality to last for years? As a professional gear reviewer who gets cold hands easily and spends many days outside in winter, from skiing in all of its forms to bike commuting, trail running, and working outside, I’ve used many types of gloves. I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to select gloves and which models perform best for specific uses. This review covers the best gloves I’ve found for winter, in several styles and degrees of warmth, for outdoor recreation as well as doing any kind of work outside. I’m confident you’ll find a pair here that meet your needs. Continue reading →

January 30, 2019 MSR Zoic 2 backpacking tent.

Gear Review: MSR Zoic 2 Backpacking Tent

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Backpacking Tent
MSR Zoic 2
$350, 4 lbs. 6 oz.
moosejaw.com

Everyone wants ultralight backpacking gear—but not everyone wants to live with the sacrifices inherent to ultralight gear. While few pieces of gear can produce as much reduction in the weight of your gear kit as switching from a standard to an ultralight tent, you’ll also notice the tradeoffs in a tent more than with almost any other ultralight gear. With MSR’s new Zoic 2, backpackers get the comfort of a tent with good space, along with superior ventilation and good stability, weather performance, and durability. Continue reading →

January 9, 2019 A backcountry skier in the High Sierra above Lake Tahoe.

Review: The Best Winter Hats of 2019

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By Michael Lanza

Do you love getting outdoors in winter? If so, then you know that, just like the rest of your body, your noggin needs protection from cold temperatures, wind, and precipitation at this time of year. But just as with your body core and extremities, how much insulation your head needs depends on ambient conditions like temperature and wind as well as your activity level—how much heat your body is producing. And it sometimes seems there are as many choices in head wear out there as there are heads.

Look no further. This review covers the best winter hats for all kinds of outdoor recreationists, including Nordic, backcountry, and downhill skiers, runners, snowshoers, fitness walkers, climbers, bike commuters, and others who stay active outdoors in the cold months. And if you’re simply looking for a warm hat at a good price, you’ll find those in this article, too. Continue reading →

Review: The Best Gear Duffles and Luggage of 2019

December 19, 2018  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   6 Comments
The North Face, Patagonia, and Marmot gear duffels.

The North Face, Patagonia, and Marmot gear duffels.

By Michael Lanza

Whatever your outdoor sport—backpacking, climbing, whitewater rafting or kayaking, backcountry skiing, etc.—a sturdy duffle for organizing, hauling, and protecting your gear and clothing pays for itself many times over. Not only does it eliminate the risk of damaging an expensive backpack by using it as your luggage, a good duffle has more capacity and is built to suffer the indignities of getting tossed into jet, train, and bus baggage compartments, being strapped onto a roof rack, sled, snowmobile, or pack animal, and exposed to rain, snow, mud and other natural indignities. Continue reading →

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