Category Archives: Skills

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

September 16, 2018 Boston Charlies Camp on the Catwalk, Olympic National Park.

10 Tips For a Smarter Layering System

In Backpacking, Gear Reviews, Hiking, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments

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 →

August 19, 2018 A backpacker on the Dusky Track in the Pleasant Range, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand.

7 Pro Tips For Keeping Your Backpacking Gear Dry

In Backpacking, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , ,   |   5 Comments

By Michael Lanza

From the rainforest of the North Cascades and Olympic National Park to New England, from the Tour du Mont Blanc to New Zealand (lead photo, above), I’ve carried a backpack through many fierce, sustained downpours. I’ve tried virtually every strategy imaginable to keep my clothing and gear inside my pack dry—some which have failed spectacularly, and some which have worked flawlessly, no matter how wet I got. In this story, I share my seven top tricks for how I keep the rain from getting anywhere near my dry clothes, sleeping bag, and other contents of my pack. Continue reading →

August 12, 2018 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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   13 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 →

August 5, 2018

8 Pro Tips For Preventing Blisters When Hiking

In Backpacking, Hiking, Skills   |   Tagged , , , ,   |   26 Comments

By Michael Lanza

I deserve to be plagued by blisters. I field test upwards of a dozen models of hiking, backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, and trail-running shoes and boots every year. I’m constantly wearing new footwear right out of the box, often hiking 15 to 30 miles a day—usually without doing anything more than trying them on, almost never allowing for any break-in time. And I almost never get a blister. Best of all, the tricks I use to avoid them are simple enough for anyone to practice. Continue reading →

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Grand Canyon Hiker