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.
Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX
$180, 2 lbs. 8 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-15 plus wide sizes, women’s 6-12 plus narrow and wide sizes
There’s an almost mind-boggling array of choices out there in shoes and boots for the trail. But many dayhikers and backpackers really only need one solidly built, mid-cut pair of boots that strike a balance between support and out-of-the-box comfort—and basically aren’t too heavy or too light. On a nine-day, mid-July trek on the 105-mile Tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps of France, Italy, and Switzerland, I hiked these boots through wind-driven rain, slick mud, and warm, sunny days, over talus boulders and loose scree, and on trails, dirt roads, and town streets—and they performed well, although I do have one caution about them. Read on. Continue reading →
Exped Skyline 15
$129, 2 lbs. 5 oz.
Daypacks come in many sizes and designs these days, some for multi-sport use, some more specialized. But real technological innovation happens rarely in that market. Now comes Exped’s new Skyline 15, which, with one simple adjustment that takes a few seconds, essentially shape-shifts between two different types of pack. To see whether it really measures up to its promise, I took it out for a true test on a rugged dayhike in New Hampshire’s White Mountains on a day of hot temperatures and humidity. Continue reading →
Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60
$200, 2 lbs. 9 oz. (men’s S/M pack with S/M hipbelt)
Sizes: men’s S/M (fits torsos 16-19 inches) and M/L (fits torsos 18-21 inches), plus four hipbelt sizes (XS/S to L/XL)
Many avid backpackers eventually find themselves facing an expensive quandary: the need for a second or even third pack to better handle the range of trips they take. Sierra Designs confronts that challenge with the Flex Capacitor, which changes size to cover a range of trips from weekends to a week or even a thru-hike. Curious about how it performs, I took it on a trip where a pack with that capacity range would come in handy: on a nine-day hike of the 105-mile Tour du Mont Blanc, where on some days I’d be carrying two people’s stuff, and on other days only my own (when that second person didn’t hike). Continue reading →
Komperdell C3 Carbon Power Lock
$150, 1 lb./pair
I know: Choosing trekking poles can feel a little like picking out the best straw from a dispenser in a restaurant—they all kind of look the same. But poles are not straws, of course; they differ, and finding a pair you like does depend on how you’ll use them. Taking the C3 Carbon Power Lock poles on a five-day, 80-mile backpacking trip in the North Cascades National Park Complex and a three-day, 40-mile hike in Utah’s Dark Canyon Wilderness (and my wife used them on a nine-day trek of the 105-mile Tour du Mont Blanc) convinced me that they compare favorably against more-expensive, top-performing, all-around trekking poles for dayhikers, backpackers, and climbers. Here’s why. Continue reading →
I stumbled upon your blog and have enjoyed reading your advice. I am currently deciding between the Gregory Baltoro 75 and 65. I have always had a 65L pack and was looking to upgrade to a new pack this year. When I compared the two packs I found that there was only four ounces difference in weight from the 65L to the 75L. So I am thinking about going to the 75 even though my gear fits in a 65L pack fine. Is there any reason not to go to the larger pack?
Idaho Falls, ID Continue reading →