Category Archives: Skills

My professional tips on hiking, backpacking, gear, and outdoors skills, and taking children on wilderness adventures.

January 15, 2019 Michael Lanza of The Big Outside hiking in the Monolith Valley, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Planning Your Next Trip? I Can Help You Do It Right

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Family Adventures, Hiking, International Adventures, National Park Adventures, Paddling, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

Do you have a classic national park backpacking trip or other outdoor adventure in your sights for this year? The Teton Crest Trail? The John Muir Trail? Anywhere in Yosemite, Glacier, the Grand Canyon, Olympic, Mount Rainier, Zion, Sequoia, Canyonlands, North Cascades, or another park or wilderness area?

Now is the time to be planning it, and The Big Outside can show you exactly how to make your dream trip happen. Here’s how. Continue reading →

January 14, 2019 A hiker on Angels Landing in Zion National Park.

How to Avoid the Crowds When Hiking in Zion

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, Hiking, National Park Adventures, Skills   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

The famous hikes in Zion Canyon—like Angels Landing (photo above), the Riverside Walk and lower Narrows, and Emerald Pools—can offer experiences that border on magical, especially when there are few other people around. But while the scenery isn’t diminished by walking in a conga line of other hikers, and repeatedly waiting out traffic jams on narrow routes like the upper sections of Angels Landing, the crowds do extinguish some of the magic.

Follow these tips to enjoy some of these hikes almost—or maybe, if you get lucky, entirely—to yourself. And plan your trip using my story “Insider Tips: The 10 Best Hikes in Zion National Park.” Continue reading →

December 15, 2018 A backcountry skier at Baldy Knoll, in Wyoming's Teton Range.

How to Dress in Layers for Winter in the Backcountry

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By Michael Lanza

If hiking, backpacking, and climbing from spring through fall teaches us the fundamentals of layering our clothing for comfort in variable weather, the backcountry in winter confers a graduate degree in layering. In mild temperatures, getting wet with perspiration or precipitation merely risks discomfort. In freezing temps, it can quickly lead to hypothermia and actually become life-threatening. Drawn from three decades of Nordic and backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, climbing, camping, and trail running in winter, these tips go beyond the usual layering advice to help you stay comfortable and safe by customizing clothing systems according to activity and body type. Continue reading →

December 10, 2018 Wallowa Mountains, Oregon.

12 Pro Tips For Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter

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By Michael Lanza

Staying warm while Nordic, downhill, or backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking in winter is a constant challenge: We sweat, our clothes get damp, then we get cold. But as humans have known for thousands of years, it’s a matter of smartly managing and insulating our body’s furnace (and today we have much better technical clothing than animal skins). As someone who runs hot when moving, cools off quickly, and gets cold fingers and toes easily, I’ve learned many tricks over nearly four decades of getting out in the backcountry in frigid temperatures. Follow these tips and you will be vastly more comfortable outdoors in winter.

Continue reading →

November 13, 2018 Northern Bailey Range, Olympic Mountains, Olympic National Park.

10 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear

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By Michael Lanza

My first tent cost about 75 bucks. It was a bit heavy and bulky for backpacking. I called it the Wind Sock because it snapped loudly in the slightest breeze, and its poles bowed disturbingly in strong gusts. (I learned to choose protected campsites.) But at a time when I could not afford good gear and was developing a passion for hiking, backpacking, and climbing, it sheltered me for about 150 nights in the backcountry and in campgrounds. It ultimately cost me about 50 cents a night.

When I started dayhiking and backpacking, I needed gear and clothing that was cheap. Yes, you usually get what you pay for. But over the years, I’ve learned the strategies for getting decent or even very good gear cheaply. If you’re much shorter on cash than on eagerness to get outdoors—or you just prefer paying less for your gear so you can afford more of it—these freshly updated and expanded tips will help you get out there without emptying your checking account.

Continue reading →

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