backpacking gear reviews

A backpacker hiking to Spider Gap in Washington's Glacier Peak Wilderness.

An Essentials-Only Backpacking Gear Checklist

By Michael Lanza

What do you need to pack for a three-season backpacking trip? While the specific items depend in part on factors like the precise time of year, your companions and backpacking style, and the trip’s length and weather forecast, this story provides a core checklist of essential gear to help you organize and efficiently pack—and avoid overpacking—for virtually any backpacking trip.

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Danner Trail 2650 Mesh hiking shoes.

Review: Danner Trail 2650 Hiking Shoes

Hiking Shoes
Danner Trail 2650 Mesh
$150, 1 lb. 7.5 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

Want one pair of hiking shoes that do it all? Join the club. And maybe also check out Danner’s Trail 2650. Having knocked off some trail miles in the mesh version of these very light hikers, including in brutal desert heat (which can do terrible things to feet), I’m convinced that many dayhikers and lightweight backpackers would find quite a lot to admire about these shoes.

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Princeton Tec Vizz headlamp

Review: Princeton Tec Vizz Headlamp

Ultralight Headlamp
Princeton Tec Vizz
$50, 3.2 oz. (with three AAA batteries, included)
outdoorplay.com

As headlamps for the backcountry have continuously improved in terms of brightness, versatility, and low weight, some have acquired a level of complexity that demands spending a little time learning how to use it. Not so with the latest version of this longtime top-performer. Still among the brightest ultralight headlamps, Princeton Tec’s Vizz 420 stands out for many reasons that others do—plus simplicity: You don’t need a degree in electrical engineering to operate it—almost anyone who’s ever used a headlamp will intuitively understand how to use it. But many will most appreciate not having to study a user manual.

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Backpackers on the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.

The Best Backpacking Gear of 2021

By Michael Lanza

The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. The Wonderland Trail. The Teton Crest Trail. Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. Glacier National Park. The Ruby Crest Trail. Yellowstone. The Wind River Range. The North Cascades. Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. The High Uintas Wilderness. The Tour du Mont Blanc. These are just some of the numerous places where I’ve tested the backpacking gear you see reviewed at The Big Outside. I treat gear roughly in places that are hard on outdoor gear and apparel so that I can give you brutally honest and thorough, field-tested opinions that help you make the best gear choices for your adventures.

And that’s exactly how I came up with these picks for today’s best backpacking gear.

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Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Air Mattress

Review: Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Air Mattress

Insulated Air Mattress Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Air Mattress $180, 17.3 oz. (regular) Sizes: five unisex and two women’s-specific sizes backcountry.com What makes us sleep well in the backcountry? I contemplated that question after numerous, very peaceful nights of deep slumber on a river trip and three backpacking trips. Certainly, the deep quiet and being outdoors matter. …

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