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.

August 14, 2018 The Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles.

Gear Review: Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles

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Trekking Poles
Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles
$50, 1 lb. 3 oz. (with trekking baskets)
One size, adjustable
montemlife.com

Despite how useful they are at reducing impact on leg and back muscles and joints, letting you hike farther with noticeably less fatigue, trekking poles are often one of the last pieces of gear that hikers and backpackers acquire. I suspect that has to do with cost almost as much as the time lag between becoming a hiker and discovering the utility of poles. But what if poles were cheaper? Seeing the Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles priced one-third to one-quarter the cost of many leading, popular pole models, I used them backpacking the rugged, 25-mile Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop in the Grand Canyon, a four-day trip in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, and dayhiking in Zion National Park to see how they measure up. Continue reading →

August 8, 2018 Black Diamond Storm headlamp

Gear Review: Black Diamond Storm Headlamp

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Headlamp
Black Diamond Storm
$50, 3.9 oz. (with 4 AAA batteries, included)
moosejaw.com

As darkness and light rain both fell on a partner and I for the last couple of miles of a 27-mile dayhike the length of western Maine’s brutally rugged Mahoosuc Range, I slipped the Storm onto my head—which helped prevent my shuffling and occasional staggering from turning into falling. I also used this ultralight headlamp in campsites from Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve and Yosemite National Park to backpacking the Grand Canyon’s Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop. Through all that field testing, the Storm proved itself one of the best high-performance headlamps on the market today. Here’s why. Continue reading →

July 25, 2018 Big Agnes Picket SL 30 sleeping bag.

Gear Review: Big Agnes Picket SL 30 Sleeping Bag

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Three-Season Sleeping Bag
Big Agnes Picket SL 30
$260, 2 lbs. 4 oz. (men’s regular)
Sizes: regular and long
moosejaw.com

I know I’m not the easiest person to share a tent with: I flop from side to side during the night. A side sleeper, I curl up with knees bent and extend my arms almost fully. I’ve always preferred mummy-style sleeping bags for their efficiency at trapping heat—but some feel a bit too much like a coffin. On numerous nights of backpacking and camping from the Grand Canyon’s Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop in May to Idaho’s City of Rocks in June and Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows area in July, I found that the stretch panels of the Big Agnes Picket SL 30 gave me an experience closer to sleeping in my bed at home. Continue reading →

July 11, 2018 The trail to Spider Gap, Glacier Peak Wilderness, Washington.

Ask Me: An Essentials-Only Backpacking Gear Checklist

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Hi Michael,

Can you provide a good, basic gear list for three-season backpacking? Thanks.

Jody
Cibolo, TX Continue reading →

July 3, 2018 A campsite in Titcomb Basin, in Wyoming's Wind River Range.

Gear Review: The 5 Best Backpacking Tents of 2018

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By Michael Lanza

Time for a new backpacking tent? There’s hardly been a better time to get one. Whether you prioritize weight, living space, performance in foul weather, or unique features, tents for backpacking have seen great innovation and variety. In the competitive outdoor industry, designers keep making shelters that are lighter, stronger, and in many ways more livable.

For this article, I’ve picked out the five top-performing backpacking tents I’ve field tested and reviewed at this blog. I think you’ll find at least one that’s perfect for you—plus you’ll find some at great sale prices now (and links to those online retailers below). Continue reading →

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Grand Canyon Hiker