outdoor apparel reviews

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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Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen Hoodie

The Best Sun Shirts of 2021

By Michael Lanza Whether backpacking, dayhiking, climbing, trail running, fishing, paddling, or active outdoors in myriad other ways, sun protection becomes critical not only for preventing skin cancer, but also because the hot sun can wear you down and exacerbate the effects of heat, elevation, and dehydration—especially in the mountains and desert. While there are a variety of styles of …

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A backpacker hiking the Dawson Pass Trail in Glacier National Park.

How You Can Tell How Warm a Down Jacket Is

By Michael Lanza While sleeping bags have temperature ratings, with down jackets and other insulated jackets, there exists no easy way to determine how warm any specific garment will be without wearing it outside. But despite the absence of a precise metric for gauging the warmth of down and synthetic puffy jackets, there are ways to assess a specific jacket’s …

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Feathered Friends Eos Down Jacket.

The 10 Best Down Jackets of 2021

By Michael Lanza Whatever you need an insulated jacket for, there’s a down or synthetic puffy for your needs, within your budget. And whether you want a puffy jacket for outdoor activities like backpacking, camping, and climbing, or just to keep you warm around town or at outdoor sporting events, this review will help you figure out how to choose …

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The North Face Hyperlayer FD Short-Sleeve Crew and Flylow Hardcastle Short in the Grand Canyon.

The Best Base Layers, Shorts and Socks for Hiking and Running

By Michael Lanza

Let’s admit it: We don’t always take our base layers as seriously and we do our outerwear and insulation—or packs, tents, boots and other gear, for that matter. But this under-appreciated first stage in a layering system for the outdoors really sets the table for how comfortable you’ll be. Base layers that don’t perform well probably won’t kill you, but misery isn’t a good companion. This is what we wear against our skin. It matters.

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