Category Archives: Skills

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

March 3, 2019 A black bear in Olympic National Park.

Ask Me: Should I Hike or Backpack Solo in Bear Country?

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Hiking, National Park Adventures, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   14 Comments

Michael,

Here’s a question I’ve struggled with. Because of the timing of my trips, I often end up hiking and backpacking solo. I enjoy that (and enjoy groups). However, as a result, I’ve had a number of bear and moose encounters that have left me a little uncomfortable, and with a feeling of powerlessness in those situations. I’ve read about bear encounters and technically know what to do (making noise, etc.), but I’ve sometimes exhausted all those tricks and found myself still staring at a bear in my path. What do you recommend I do—especially about hiking solo? Continue reading →

February 13, 2019 Wallowa Mountains, Oregon.

12 Pro Tips For Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter

In Backpacking, Hiking, Skiing, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   18 Comments

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 →

February 3, 2019 Above Marie Lake on the John Muir Trail.

Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail: The Ultimate, 10-day, Ultralight Plan

In Backpacking, National Park Adventures, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   12 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Are you planning to thru-hike the John Muir Trail? “America’s Most Beautiful Trail” should be on every serious backpacker’s tick list. After hiking it in seven days, I became convinced that—while that was very hard—the traditional itinerary of spreading the roughly 221 miles out over three weeks or more has a serious flaw: With limited food-resupply options, you’ll carry a monster pack that may not only make you sore and uncomfortable, it could cause injuries that cut short your trip.

In this article, I lay out my ultralight strategy for thru-hiking the JMT in 10 to 11 days—and why you’d want to do it. Continue reading →

January 20, 2019 A backpacker in Glacier National Park.

10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit

In Backpacking, National Park Adventures, Paddling, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   12 Comments

By Michael Lanza

The first time I backpacked in Yosemite National Park, more than 25 years ago, I applied for a permit to start at the park’s most popular trailhead, Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley—and I got it. I had no idea at the time how lucky I was (and it’s even more difficult to get that permit now). Over the years since, I’ve been shot down trying to get permits for popular hikes in parks like Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Glacier. But I’ve also learned many tricks for landing coveted backcountry permits in those flagship parks and others—which receive far more requests than they can fill. I share what I’ve learned in the following, detailed tips, which I’ve just updated.

And if you want to take a trip in one of those popular parks this year, the time for reserving permits is upon us or coming up quickly.

Continue reading →

January 15, 2019 Michael Lanza of The Big Outside 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 , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments

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 →

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