Category Archives: Skills

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

January 17, 2018

Ask Me: 55-Year-Old Woman First Time Hiking the John Muir Trail

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Hi Michael!

I am a first-time JMT hiker this summer. I’m an avid dayhiker and will do some two- and three-day hikes to prepare. I’m losing 20 pounds and doing a lot of strength training. Here are my concerns: I am 55 years old and this trip is my way of celebrating this milestone and 25 years of sobriety! I may have to hike part of it alone—I have friends with me for the first week and the last week. I really want to pack light. I know I can do 10 miles/day, but I would like to average 15 mpd. I have read pack lists from women who ended up with 40 to 50 lbs.! I have no desire to carry that much. Can you give me an idea of a realistic daily mileage and how I can keep my pack 35 lbs. or under without running out of food and water, and where I should stop to resupply? Continue reading →

December 6, 2017 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 mountain weather, heading into the backcountry in winter confers a graduate degree in layering systems. In mild temperatures, getting wet with perspiration or precipitation merely risks discomfort. In freezing temps, it can quickly lead to getting really cold and actually become life-threatening. Three decades of Nordic and backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, camping, and trail running in winter have informed my layering strategy, which goes beyond the usual advice, customizing clothing systems according to activity and body type. Continue reading →

December 3, 2017 Wallowa Mountains, Oregon.

12 Pro Tips For Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter

In Backpacking, Hiking, Skiing, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   16 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 very easily, I’ve learned many tricks over three decades of getting outdoors in frigid temperatures. Follow these tips and you will be vastly more comfortable outdoors in winter.

Continue reading →

November 16, 2017 Northern Bailey Range, Olympic Mountains, Olympic National Park.

5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear

In Backpacking, Gear Reviews, Hiking, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , ,   |   14 Comments

By Michael Lanza

My first two-person tent set me back only about 75 bucks. It weighed several pounds and was bulky for backpacking. I called it the Wind Sock for its propensity to snap loudly in the slightest breeze, and because its poles bowed disturbingly in strong gusts. (I learned to choose protected campsites.) When it rained hard, I’d wake up to a puddle covering the floor.

But I used it for six summers of car camping and backpacking. At a time when I could not afford good gear, that tent was good enough. It sheltered me for probably close to 150 nights and got me through many wonderful experiences. For its swan song, my girlfriend (now my wife) and I spent three months hiking, backpacking, and climbing throughout the West—and slept a total of one night indoors. I used the Wind Sock until it all but disintegrated in the last campsite it ever saw. My cost for that tent worked out to about 50 cents a night. Continue reading →

November 12, 2017 A campsite by the Colorado River at Hance Rapids, Grand Canyon.

How to Choose the Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent for You

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By Michael Lanza

An ultralight backpacking tent can shave pounds from your total pack weight. But when comparing models, the specs on them can look like a big pot of numeral soup. Besides two clear differences—ultralight tents are lighter and usually cost more—you wonder: What differentiates them from one another? I’ve tested and reviewed scores of tents of all sizes. I love the best ultralight tents, but I’ve used many that had flaws or shortcomings not immediately obvious. In this article, I’ll tell you how to find the three-season, ultralight tent that’s best for you. Continue reading →

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Grand Canyon Hiker