Category Archives: Skills

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

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

10 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear

In Backpacking, Gear Reviews, Hiking, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   16 Comments

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 →

Ask Me: Should I Go Backpacking Solo?

October 13, 2018  |  In Ask Me, Backpacking, National Park Adventures, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   8 Comments
A backpacker at Upper Lyman Lakes, Glacier Peak Wilderness, Washington.

A backpacker at Upper Lyman Lakes, Glacier Peak Wilderness, Washington.

Hello Michael,

I’ve read through a lot of your blog, and it really has inspired me to get outside more and look for greater adventures than what I’ve already done. I have never been anywhere in the United States and so I have my sights set on Rocky Mountain National Park, in Colorado. I’m looking to do some backpacking, and with so many trails and options to choose from, I’m at a loss and honestly confused. I’m looking for something that will take me about four days. Sadly, I haven’t been able to find someone to tag along with me, and although I have quite a bit of camping and hiking experience, I haven’t done it by myself. What are your thoughts on backpacking solo? Continue reading →

How to Prevent Hypothermia While Hiking and Backpacking

October 2, 2018  |  In Backpacking, Family Adventures, Hiking, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , ,   |   1 Comment
A backpacker on the windy trail from Pitamakan Pass to Dawson Pass in Glacier National Park.

Todd Arndt staying warm in cold wind high in Glacier National Park.

By Michael Lanza

Rain and wind battered two friends and I as we hiked across exposed meadows high in the Olympic Mountains—our second straight day of rain. Dripping, knee-high vegetation ladled cups of water onto our pants and boots. My rain jacket kept my upper body dry, but my soft-shell pants eventually soaked through. That, and the wind, slowly made me steadily colder—more than I realized.

After a strenuous ascent of a steep mountainside, carrying a heavy pack with my jacket hood up—which should have made me quite warm—it occurred to me: I’m still cold.

I was hypothermic. Continue reading →

10 Tips For a Smarter Layering System

September 16, 2018  |  In Backpacking, Gear Reviews, Hiking, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments
A backpacker on a rainy and windy day high in the Olympic Mountains.

A backpacker on a rainy and windy day high in the Olympic Mountains.

By Michael Lanza

Think of your layering system of clothing for outdoor activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, and skiing as a musical instrument. When you’re first learning how to play, you practice one chord or note at a time. But you only begin to produce music once you link chords in a way that sounds good. Similarly, only by treating your layering system as a dynamic, interconnected whole can you move more comfortably and safely in any weather. In this freshly updated article, I offer 10 specific tips for making your layering system work better—which ultimately helps you spend your money smartly. Continue reading →

August 30, 2018 REI Magma 10 sleeping bag.

10 Pro Tips For Staying Warm in a Sleeping Bag

In Backpacking, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , ,   |   12 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Head into the mountains in summer, or almost anywhere in fall or spring, and you can encounter nighttime and morning temperatures anywhere from the 40s Fahrenheit to below freezing. Hundreds (if not thousands) of frosty nights sleeping outside over the past three-plus decades have taught me a few things about how to stay warm. (My coldest night was -30° F, in winter in New Hampshire’s White Mountains; I don’t recommend it.)

No matter how cold you normally sleep outside, or whether you’re camping in the backcountry or at a campground, these 10 tips will keep you warmer in your sleeping bag. Continue reading →

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