family backpacking

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 time of year, your companions and backpacking style, the trip’s length and the 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.

Read on

A young family at Skilern Hot Springs, Smoky Mountains, Idaho.

A Survival Guide For the Outdoors Lover Who’s a New Parent

By Michael Lanza

So, you’ve been an avid [circle all appropriate terms: hiker/backpacker/climber/trail runner/skier/kayaker] for years, and now you’re spending big chunks of your days changing diapers and your nights wondering when you’ll sleep again. You’ve never gone this long without getting out into the mountains, and you see no remedy for that shortfall in the foreseeable future. Your new baby is more wonderful than you’d ever imagined—and yet, you’re feeling a little despair over what’s missing from your life lately.

I know where your head is right now. And I have good news for you: I’ve seen the bright light at the end of the tunnel, and you can get there faster than you might think. Here’s how.

Read on

A backpacker hiking through Granite Park in the John Muir Wilderness, High Sierra, California.

Big Scenery, No Crowds: 10 Top Backpacking Trips For Solitude

By Michael Lanza

We all want our wilderness backpacking trips to have two sometimes conflicting qualities: mind-blowing scenery, but also few other people around. A high degree of solitude somehow makes the backcountry feel bigger and wilder and the views more breathtaking. However unrealistic the notion may be, we like to believe we have some stunning corner of nature to ourselves. But in the real world, if you head out into popular mountains in July or August or in canyon country in spring or fall, you’ll probably have company—maybe more than you prefer.

Not on these trips, though.

Read on

A backpacker descending the trail off Maze Overlook in the Maze District, Canyonlands National Park.

Why and When to Spend More on Hiking and Backpacking Gear

By Michael Lanza

You need a new backpack, backpacking tent, rain jacket, boots, or a sleeping bag. You’ve read reviews. You’ve winnowed your short list to a handful of possible choices—with a significant difference in prices. That’s when you struggle with the question that pushes the frugality button in all of us: Why should I spend more?

This story will explain why some gear is more expensive and give you specific advice on buying five big-ticket items: packs, tents, rain jackets, shoes and boots, and sleeping bags.

Read on

Michael Lanza of The Big Outside hiking Besseggen Ridge above Lake Gjende in Norway's Jotunheimen National Park.

Video: How to Pack a Backpack

By Michael Lanza

Wonder why I’m smiling in the above photo? Well, sure, two friends and I were hiking the incredibly scenic Besseggen Ridge in Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park; that had something to do with it. But the other big factor was that I was comfortable—and how well my pack carried had a lot to do with that. And how I loaded it greatly affected how well it carried on my back. In this four-minute video, I’ll show you how to properly load a backpack to make your trail miles much more enjoyable.

Read on