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

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

The 10 Best Backpacking Packs.
Looking for a backpack? Start with my list of The 10 Best Backpacking Packs.

Best in Class Gear

Don’t have time to read through multiple reviews? No worries, I’ve done the hard work for you. Here are my reviews of the best backpacking packs and tents, jackets, and other gear.

The 10 Best Backpacking Packs

The Best Ultralight Packs

The 7 Best Backpacking Tents

The 5 Best Rain Jackets for Hiking and Backpacking

The Best Trekking Poles

22 Essential Backpacking Gear Accessories

The 8 Best Hiking Daypacks

Make your next backpacking trip better with my “Top 5 Tips for Better Ultralight Backpacking.”

Gear Review: The 7 Best Backpacking Tents.
Time for a new backpacking tent? Click here for my top 7 picks.

The 5 Best Headlamps

The 10 Best Down Jackets

The Best Ultralight Hiking and Backpacking Jackets

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Thank you.


The Best Base Layers for Hiking, Running, and Training

The Best Gloves for Winter

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside, which has made several top outdoors blog lists. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip. Please follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.


How Much Should You Spend?

Lots 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

What do you really need for backpacking? See my “Essentials-Only Backpacking Gear Checklist.”

Review: 22 Essential Backpacking Gear Accessories.
Don’t forget the little things. See my Review: 22 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

Backpacking Tent Reviews

Shop smartly. Read my "5 Things to Know Before Buying Backpacking Gear."
5 Things to Know Before Buying Backpacking Gear (click here).

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

Rain Jacket Reviews

Ultralight Wind Shell Reviews

Puffy & Insulated Jacket 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

Get the right pack for you. See my “Gear Review: The 10 Best Packs For Backpacking
and my “5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack.”

The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun.
Make backpacking more fun. Click this photo for my tips on going ultralight.

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

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

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

10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit.
Click here for my 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

Ask Me: How Do We Begin Lightening Up Our Backpacking Gear?

Ask Me: An Essentials-Only Backpacking Gear Checklist

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