Trail-Running Gear Reviews

Backpackers at night with headlamps in a campsite in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park.

The Best Headlamps of 2024

By Michael Lanza

A headlamp is unquestionably essential gear for hiking, backpacking, climbing, trail running, ultra-running and ultra-hiking and other backcountry activities that sometimes push into darkness (whether intentionally or not). But with so many to pick from, how do you choose which one to buy? Price? Brightness? Weight? Design and range of lighting modes? Go with a brand you know and trust? This review cuts through the information overload to help you pick the right headlamp for your adventures.

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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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Backpackers hiking the Titcomb Basin Trail, Wind River Range, Wyoming.

The Best Trekking Poles of 2024

By Michael Lanza

One of the most immutable truisms about hiking is this: Backpackers, dayhikers, climbers, mountain runners, and others who start using trekking poles almost never hit the trail without them again. No matter how much weight you’re carrying—from an ultralight daypack to a godawful heavy monster backpack—using poles will lessen your chances of an accidental fall and your leg muscles and joints, feet, back, and body will all feel better, thanks to the reduced strain, fatigue, and impact on them.

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The Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Hoodie in the Grand Canyon.

The Best Sun Shirts of 2024

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 sun shirts, for active pursuits in warm to hot temperatures, nothing really beats a lightweight, breathable hoody for maximum protection and keeping you cool—while adding minimal weight and bulk to your kit. This review spotlights the best sun shirt hoodies.

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The Black Diamond Astro 300 and Astro 300-R headlamps.

Review: Black Diamond Astro 300 and Astro 300-R Headlamps

Rechargeable Ultralight Headlamps
Black Diamond Astro 300-R
$40, 2.6 oz./75g
backcountry.com

Black Diamond Astro 300
$20, 2.6 oz./75g
blackdiamondequipment.com

How simple and inexpensive a headlamp do you want for the backcountry? Or to frame the question from a different angle: How complex a headlamp do you need? Using Black Diamond’s rechargeable Astro 300-R and the optionally rechargeable, battery-powered Astro 300 on a pair of backpacking trips in the Canadian Rockies—the Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park and the Nigel, Cataract, and Cline Passes Route in the White Goat Wilderness—as well as a four-day hike in the Wind River Range and camping at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve, I became very acquainted with the strengths and shortcomings of two of today’s most affordable ultralight headlamps.

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