Gear Reviews

Welcome to The Big Outside’s Gear Reviews page

I tested and reviewed gear for Backpacker magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel—which helps you spend your money more smartly.

Scroll down to find links to all of my reviews of backpacking, hiking, and other gear, organized by categories, as well as lists of my top picks. You will also find links to my expert tips on how to buy the best gear for your needs.

My policy on reviewing gear is simple: I request gear from companies when I have a sense it will perform well; I’ve been doing this for about 25 years, so I have a good eye. Gear companies send me product without any promise of what I’ll write in a review. I put it through rigorous field testing on many trips; some of it doesn’t make the cut. I strive to point out strengths and weaknesses of gear in my reviews. I don’t bother reviewing gear that I wouldn’t recommend—I won’t waste my time or my readers’ time.

Got any suggestions or questions for me? Drop me a note at

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See my Custom Trip Planning page to learn how I can help you plan any trip you’ve read about at this blog, including advice on the right gear for it.

Scroll down to begin your gear journey toward your next adventure.

And thanks for reading The Big Outside.

—Michael Lanza

Want to find great deals on gear and support my blog at no cost to you? Buy gear through the links in my reviews or these affiliate links at or

The 10 Best Backpacking Packs
Looking for a backpack? Click photo to see “The 10 Best Backpacking Packs.”

Best in Class Gear

Don’t have time to read through multiple reviews? It’s okay, I’ve done the hard work for you. See my reviews of the best backpacking packs and tents, jackets, and other gear.

The 10 Best Backpacking Packs

The Best Ultralight Packs

The 9 (Very) Best Backpacking Tents

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The Black Diamond Helio Active Shell.
Need a new rain jacket? Click photo to see the 5 best.

The 5 Best Rain Jackets for Hiking and Backpacking

The Best Trekking Poles

24 Essential Backpacking Gear Accessories

The 10 Best Hiking Daypacks

Make your next trip better with “The Top 5 Ultralight Backpacking Tips.”

Backpackers at a campsite in Titcomb Basin, Wind River Range, Wyoming.
Time for a new backpacking tent? Click here for my top picks.

The 5 Best Headlamps

The 10 Best Down Jackets

The Best Ultralight Hiking and Backpacking Jackets

The Best Base Layers for Hiking, Running, and Training

The Best Gloves for Winter

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How Much Should You Spend?

Many of us have to live within a budget. All of us want to get the best value. Experience has taught me when to find gear at the lowest prices and when it makes sense to spend less or spend more on gear. Read these three articles for insights that will save you money and make you happy about what you buy.

5 Things to Know Before Buying Backpacking Gear

5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear

Why and When to Spend More on Outdoor Gear

Plan your next great backpacking adventure using my downloadable, expert e-guides.
Click here now to learn more.

A backpacker on the Fisher Creek Trail in North Cascades National Park.
Don’t forget the little things. See my Review: 24 Essential Backpacking Gear Accessories.

Reviews by Gear Category

The numerous links below will give you menus of my reviews in each category, listed in order of the most-recently posted.

Backpack Reviews

Daypack Reviews

A backpacker on the Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park.
Shop smartly for gear. Click here for my tips.

Backpacking Tent Reviews

Sleeping Bag Reviews

All Outdoor Apparel Reviews

Hiking Shoes Reviews

Backpacking Boots Reviews

Trail-Running Shoes Reviews

All Backpacking Gear Reviews

All Ultralight Backpacking Gear Reviews

All Hiking Gear Reviews

Puffy & Insulated Jacket Reviews

Rain Jacket Reviews

Ultralight Wind Shell Reviews

Headlamp Reviews

Trekking Poles Reviews

Backpacking Cooking System Reviews

Air Mattress & Sleeping Pad Reviews

Camping Gear Reviews

All Trail-Running Gear and Apparel Reviews

I can help you plan the best backpacking, hiking, or family adventure of your life.
Click here now to learn more.


A backpacker in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park.
Making your backpacking trips more enjoyable. Click photo for my expert tips on lightweight and ultralight backpacking.

How to Buy Gear

How do you choose the right pack, tent, boots, sleeping bag, and other gear for your needs? That depends on the type of hiking and backpacking you do. The stories linked below will help you make the best choices when buying gear.

A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking

5 Smart Steps to Lighten Your Backpacking Gear

The Top 5 Tips for Better Ultralight Backpacking

5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack

Video: How to Load a Backpack

5 Tips For Buying a Backpacking Tent

How to Choose the Best Ultralight Backpacking Tent for You

Planning your next big adventure? See “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips
and “Tent Flap With a View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites.”


A backpacker on the Dawson Pass Trail in Glacier National Park.
Don’t be denied your dream trip. Click photo for “10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit.”

Pro Tips For Buying the Right Boots

5 Pro Tips For Buying the Right Rain Jacket For the Backcountry

Pro Tips: How to Choose a Sleeping Bag

An Essentials-Only Backpacking Gear Checklist

You live for the outdoors. The Big Outside helps you get out there.
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