Category Archives: Gear Reviews

I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker magazine for two decades and counting. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel.

Gear Review: The North Face Fovero 70 Backpack

August 24, 2016  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
The North Face Fovero 70 backpack

The North Face Fovero 70 backpack.

The North Face Fovero 70
$290, 70L/4,272 c.i., 5 lbs. 7 oz. (men’s S/M)
Sizes: men’s S/M (fits torsos 15-20 ins.) & L/XL (torsos 17-22 ins.), women’s XS/S (torsos 13-18 ins.) & M/L (torsos 15-20 ins.)

Backpacking for three days in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains with my 15-year-old son and two of his buddies who were taking their first backpacking trip, I hauled up to about 40 pounds, including much of our team gear and food. For that kind of backpacking, I want a pack that’s built for heavy loads and has a high degree of organization. The Fovero 70 rose to the challenge in comfort and has exceptional access for backpackers who like to compartmentalize. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Gregory Miwok 18 and Maya 16 Daypacks

August 18, 2016  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , ,   |   2 Comments
Gregory Miwok 18 daypack

Gregory Miwok 18 daypack

Gregory Miwok 18/Maya 16
$99, 18L/1,098 c.i., 1 lb. 10 oz.
One size

For most three-season dayhikes—whether it’s several miles or an ultra-hike of 20 or more miles—I want to travel light, and I prefer a daypack that helps me achieve that goal, while remaining comfortable and having a utilitarian feature set. Having been a fan of the Gregory Miwok series for some years for just those reasons, I took the new men’s Miwok 18 out for a spin on various one-day hikes, including the 32-mile, 10,000-vertical-foot Pemi Loop over nine summits in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and came away largely impressed with its versatility for most dayhikers. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Jansport Tahoma 75 Backpack

August 10, 2016  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
My son, Nate, hiking to our high camp below California's Mount Whitney.

My son, Nate, hiking to our high camp below California’s Mount Whitney.

Jansport Tahoma 75
$310, 70L/4,270 c.i., 4 lbs. 11 oz.
One size, adjustable

After carrying this pack on a four-day climb of the Mountaineers Route on California’s Mount Whitney in April, my 15-year-old son made the most persuasive demonstration of his opinion of it several weeks later: The next time he was carrying a backpack, this kid with an unusually large quiver of packs for his age (and many backcountry trips under his belt) chose the Tahoma 75 again. The reasons, I think, are simple: As a pack for both multi-day mountaineering and backpacking, it’s comfortable, tough, and nicely featured. Continue reading →

August 4, 2016 On the John Muir Trail at Sapphire Lake in Evolution Basin, Kings Canyon National Park.

Ask Me: How to Load a Bear Canister Into a Backpack

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Gear Reviews, National Park Adventures, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment


When carrying a bear canister, where and how would you place it in the pack? Toward the bottom above the sleeping bag? More toward the top of the pack just below the shoulderblades? Would you store it vertically and pack stuff around it, or just store horizontally across the pack? This is my first year going places that require a canister, and I can’t find an answer.

[Originally submitted as a comment at my story “Video: How to Load a Backpack.”] Continue reading →

Gear Review: Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra Air Mattress

August 3, 2016  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments
Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra air mattress.

Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra air mattress.

Insulated Air Mattress
Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra
$100, 1 lb. 6 oz. (regular, with stuff sack)
Sizes: petite ($90, 66x20x3.5 ins.), regular (72x20x3.5 ins.), long ($110, 78x20x3.5 ins.), wide regular ($130, 72x25x3.5 ins.)

The ultimate measure of an air mattress comes at the moment when my family discovers it—and when my wife and kids saw the new Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra, they all wanted to sleep on it. I used this air mat for two nights backpacking in the Panamint Range of Death Valley National Park in May, and I (reluctantly) shared it with my family while camping at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve and on a mid-July rafting and kayaking trip on the Green River through Lodore Canyon in Dinosaur National Monument, and I haven’t found an air mat for backpacking that’s more comfortable and this compact. Continue reading →

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