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.

May 18, 2017 In the tent, Grand Canyon

Pro Tips For Buying Sleeping Bags

In Backpacking, Gear Reviews, Paddling, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Finding a sleeping bag that’s right for you may be the most confusing gear-buying task. Getting the right one is critical to sleeping comfortably in the backcountry, and your bag could save your life in an emergency. But with the myriad choices out there, how do you tell them apart, beyond temperature rating and price? I’ve slept in many, many bags as a gear tester for two decades (and counting) for Backpacker and this blog, in all seasons, in temperatures from very mild to -30° F. (Mild is more pleasant.) In this article, I’ll share what I’ve learned about picking out a sleeping bag that will be ideal for your body and your adventures. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Osprey Talon 22 and Tempest 20 Daypacks

May 17, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Hikers testing the Osprey Tempest 20 on Telescope Peak, Death Valley National Park.

Hikers testing the Osprey Tempest 20 on Telescope Peak, Death Valley National Park.

Daypacks
Osprey Talon 22 and Tempest 20
$110, 20L/1,220 c.i., 1 lb. 11 oz. (men’s S/M)
Sizes: men’s S/M and M/L, women’s XS/S and S/M
backcountry.com

Daypacks are a little like flavors of ice cream—there’s something for everyone’s taste, and they vary so greatly that you can get to feel like one isn’t nearly enough. So how do you find the right model when you want a quiver of one daypack for all purposes? In pursuit of the answer to that enduring philosophical conundrum, I carried Osprey’s Talon 22 on a dayhike to the highest point in California’s Death Valley National Park, 11,049-foot Telescope Peak, and on dayhikes during a family trip to Costa Rica, including the crazily steep and rugged peak Cerro Chato. Continue reading →

The 5 Best Rain Jackets for the Backcountry

May 10, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Marmot Crux Jacket

The 7.5-oz. Marmot Crux Jacket

By Michael Lanza

Shop for a rain jacket for the backcountry and you’ll see shells for adults ranging in price from under $100 to over $600, in weight from less than half a pound to over a pound—and just as huge and confusing a range of opinions on them from reviewers and consumers. I’m going to make the choice simple for you. I’ve tested dozens of rain shells over the past two decades, at all price points, from many brands you know and don’t know. Hiking through soaking rains all over the world has shaped what I look for in a jacket.

Here are my picks for the five best rain jackets available today, ranging in price from $275 to $425—with great deals available right now on some of these top-performing shells. I think you’ll find one of them is just right for you. Continue reading →

May 9, 2017 Backpacking the Gunsight Pass Trail, Glacier National Park.

Why and When to Spend More on Hiking and Backpacking Gear

In Gear Reviews, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

You need a new backpack, backpacking tent, rain jacket, boots, or a sleeping bag. You’ve read some reviews. You’ve winnowed your short list to a handful of possible choices—with a significant difference in prices. That’s when you struggle with the question that pushes the frugality button in all of us: Why should I spend more?

Over the course of more than two decades testing and reviewing gear for this blog and Backpacker magazine, I’ve learned what qualities separate the expensive from the moderately priced from the cheap—and when it’s worth spending more, and when it’s not. Before you spend (or waste) another dime, read on. Continue reading →

May 4, 2017 John Muir Trail at Thousand Island Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness, High Sierra, California.

Pro Tips For Buying the Right Hiking Boots

In Backpacking, Gear Reviews, Hiking, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Boots are the most important piece of hiking or backpacking gear you will buy: You can live with a mediocre pack or a cheap tent (as many of us have), but poorly fitting boots are often a trip ender. Trouble is, boots are also the most difficult piece of gear to get right. Getting a good fit is only the first step, and a good retailer should help you do that. (First tip: Don’t settle for a mediocre or poor fit in boots—if they don’t feel good, they aren’t good.) The questions I get most often from readers focus on which type of boot to buy. Here’s what I’ve learned from two decades of testing and reviewing scores of shoe and boot models of all kinds. Continue reading →

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Grand Canyon Hiker