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.

June 22, 2017 A hiker at Goat Lake below Thompson Peak, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

A Good Time to Buy Backpacking Gear? Right Now

In Gear Reviews   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

If you’ve been thinking you need (or want) a new backpack, tent, boots, or other piece of hiking or backpacking gear, right now is one of the two or three best times of year to grab good deals. Most brick-and-mortar and online retailers are holding major sales, offering steeply discounted prices on new and recently new gear. Read on for my recommendations for favorite models of packs, tents, rain shells, and other gear, and links to sales taking place right now, and save yourself serious cash. Continue reading →

Gear Review: The North Face Ultra Gore-Tex Surround Mid Hiking Boots

June 21, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments
The North Face Ultra Gore-Tex Surround Mid boots.

The North Face Ultra Gore-Tex Surround Mid boots.

Hiking Boots
The North Face Ultra Gore-Tex Surround Mid
$190, 2 lbs. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-14, women’s 5-11
backcountry.com

The heat and humidity fell onto us like a wet blanket; I broke into a sweat just lacing up my boots for the dayhike of 3,740-foot Cerro Chato, a dormant volcano with close-up views of its larger and more-famous neighbor, Arenal Volcano, in Costa Rica’s tropical Northern Lowlands. And yet, I wanted waterproof-breathable boots for Costa Rican trails notorious for slick mud. The crazy-steep path up Cerro Chato would not only challenge us physically, it would challenge the breathability of The North Face Gore-Tex Surround Mid boots. It would also help me assess whether these very lightweight mid-cuts are the answer to chronically wet hikes in persistently hot, humid conditions—which you don’t have to go to Central America to find, as any hiker in the Eastern U.S. can confirm. Continue reading →

June 20, 2017 Backpacking the Tonto Trail on the Grand Canyon's Royal Arch Loop.

Ask Me: What ‘Luxury’ Backpacking Gear Do You Carry?

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments

[Note: I received similar questions from two different readers about choosing which “luxury” items, like camp chairs and sandals, to carry when backpacking—ML]

Michael,

I really enjoy your reviews and articles. I’m 52 and enjoy backpacking in the Southern Appalachians, typically 10 to 15 miles a day, and head out around eight times a year. I carry around 20 pounds in my Osprey Exos 58. I have the EMS Velocity 1 tent, Thermarest NeoAir all season air mattress, MSR PocketRocket with Titan Kettle, and The North Face Gold Kazoo bag. So I travel pretty light.

I currently use the Therm-a-rest Z Seat Pad, but have been considering stepping up to the Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 Original Camp Chair weighing in at 21 oz. Do you think it would be worth the extra weight to go with the chair? At the end of the day it sure would be nice to kick back in it rather than leaning against a tree or rock while sitting on the Z pad.

Best regards,
Pete
Charlotte, NC Continue reading →

Gear Review: 6 Favorite Hiking Daypacks

June 14, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   1 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.

By Michael Lanza

What do you need a daypack for? That’s really the critical question to consider when choosing from the dozens of widely varying choices out there today, which range all over the map in terms of volume, weight, carrying capacity, features—and cost. Some are very specialized, others built as all-purpose dayhiking sacks, but still designed with an eye toward making them stand out from a crowded field.

I’ve picked out six favorite daypacks I’ve tested and reviewed at The Big Outside—all different enough from one another to offer you clear choices. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp

June 6, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments
Black Diamond ReVolt

Black Diamond ReVolt

Rechargeable Headlamp
Black Diamond ReVolt
$60, 3.5 oz. (with 3 AAA batteries, included)
backcountry.com

Newly updated for 2017, Black Diamond’s ReVolt rechargeable headlamp quickly became the one I grabbed from a drawer full of headlamps, for trips ranging from backpacking 40 miles in May through Utah’s Dark Canyon Wilderness, to backcountry skiing for four days in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains and camping in Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley. Beyond the convenience of running on either its USB-rechargeable NiMH batteries or standard AAA alkaline batteries, it offers a variety of modes and features not found in other headlamps—including BD’s PowerTap technology to instantly cycle between brightness settings, plus being waterproof—at a competitive price. Continue reading →

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Grand Canyon Hiker