Category Archives: Skills

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

December 9, 2016 Cas9-127 Camp, Dome Glacier, day 4, Ptarmigan Traverse, North Cascades

5 Tips For Buying a Backpacking Tent

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By Michael Lanza

There are a lot of tents out there. How do you choose between them? Backpackers come in different sizes and have different needs and preferences in a tent. In testing scores of backcountry tents over the past two decades, for reviews in Backpacker Magazine and this blog, I’ve seen the best and the worst—and gotten a sense of what to look for in a tent and how to help people pick out one they like. Here are my five simple tips for finding a tent you’ll love. Continue reading →

December 4, 2016 Wallowa Mountains, Oregon.

12 Pro Tips For Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter

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By Michael Lanza

Staying warm and comfortable while Nordic or backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking in winter is a constant challenge—we sweat, our bodies and clothes get damp, then we get cold. But it’s not impossible. In fact, as someone who runs hot when moving and cools off quickly—and who gets cold fingers very easily—I’ve learned some tricks over the years that have made getting outdoors in winter vastly more comfortable and enjoyable for me. Follow these tips and you could be more comfortable on cold-weather outdoor adventures, too. Continue reading →

December 2, 2016 5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack

5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack

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By Michael Lanza

If you’re super fit and strong, young, hike with a pack of any weight 50 or 100 days a year, and have never known any sort of injury or ache in your body, then don’t bother reading this article. But for everyone else, knowing how to find the right backpack for your activities and your body will make a world of difference in your enjoyment when carrying that pack for hours a day on a trail or up and down a mountain. The following tips reflect what I’ve learned about finding the right pack from hundreds of days testing all manner of daypacks, backpacks, climbing packs, and ski packs for the past two decades. Continue reading →

November 29, 2016 Northern Bailey Range, Olympic Mountains, Olympic National Park.

5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear

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By Michael Lanza

My first two-person tent set me back only about twice what you’d pay today for a good, single-burner backpacking stove. It weighed several pounds and was bulky for backpacking. I nicknamed that tent the Wind Sock for its propensity to snap loudly in even the slightest breeze, and how its poles bowed disturbingly in strong gusts. (I learned to choose protected campsites.) In heavy downpours, I sometimes woke up to a puddle covering the floor.

But I used it for six summers of car camping and backpacking.At a time in my life when I could not afford good gear, that tent 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 lifetime cost for that tent worked out to about 50 cents a night. Continue reading →

November 25, 2016 Backpacking the Gunsight Pass Trail, Glacier National Park.

Why and When to Spend More on Outdoor Gear

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By Michael Lanza

You need a new backpack, backpacking tent, rain jacket, boots, or a sleeping bag. You’ve read some reviews. You’ve winnowed your short list to a handful of possible choices—with a significant difference in prices. That’s when you struggle with the question that pushes the frugality button in all of us: Why should I spend more?

Over the course of more than two decades testing and reviewing gear for this blog and Backpacker magazine, I’ve learned what qualities separate the expensive from the moderately priced from the cheap—and when it’s worth spending more, and when it’s not. Before you spend (or waste) another dime, read on. Continue reading →

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