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By Michael Lanza

On a cool early morning last August while backpacking the Wind River High Route, I hiked in the shadow of tall mountains to Jackass Pass at 10,790 feet—a spot I’ve stood on at least a few times before, overlooking the incomparable Cirque of the Towers in the Winds—and affirmed a truth about that patch of rocks and dirt: It still possessed the capacity to take my breath away and make my heart speed up a little bit (although the climb to the pass may have had something to do with that).

It was a comfort to see that the effect the Wind River Range has on me had not changed.

Despite lying just south of two of America’s most beloved national parks—Grand Teton and Yellowstone—Wyoming’s Wind River Range exists in a sort of odd state of exalted partial anonymity. Backpackers who go there almost invariably leave feeling they have discovered a mountain paradise (because they have). Yet, the Winds remain off the radar of so many people who enjoy putting on a backpack and walking for days through mountains.

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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. 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 for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backpacker hiking into Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range, Wyoming.
” data-medium-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Wind5-024-Titcomb-Basin-Trail-Wind-River-Range-Wyoming.jpg?fit=300%2C170&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Wind5-024-Titcomb-Basin-Trail-Wind-River-Range-Wyoming.jpg?fit=900%2C509&ssl=1″ width=”900″ height=”509″ src=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Wind5-024-Titcomb-Basin-Trail-Wind-River-Range-Wyoming.jpg?resize=900%2C509&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker hiking into Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range, Wyoming.” class=”wp-image-42481″ srcset=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Wind5-024-Titcomb-Basin-Trail-Wind-River-Range-Wyoming.jpg?resize=1024%2C579&ssl=1 1024w, https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Wind5-024-Titcomb-Basin-Trail-Wind-River-Range-Wyoming.jpg?resize=300%2C170&ssl=1 300w, https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Wind5-024-Titcomb-Basin-Trail-Wind-River-Range-Wyoming.jpg?resize=768%2C434&ssl=1 768w, https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Wind5-024-Titcomb-Basin-Trail-Wind-River-Range-Wyoming.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Todd Arndt backpacking into Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range, Wyoming.

After several backpacking trips in the Winds, I find myself drawn back ever more strongly; I’m planning to return this summer to explore a new area of it (new for me). And I’ve hiked through many mountain ranges across the country over more than three decades of backpacking, including the 10 years I spent as the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog. I rank the Winds among “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips.”

This story will attempt to convey the many good reasons every avid backpacker should hike in the Wind River Range. Give it a read, I think you’ll be convinced. Click any photo to read about that trip. Please share your thoughts on this article—or your favorite Wind River Range hikes—in the comments section below
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How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be

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By Michael Lanza

“How hard will that hike be?” That’s a question that
all dayhikers and backpackers, from beginners to experts, think about all the
time—and it’s not always easy to answer. But there are ways of evaluating the
difficulty of any hike, using readily available information, that can greatly
help you understand what to expect before you even leave home. Here’s
how.

No matter how relatively easy or arduous the hike you’re considering, or where you fall on the spectrum of hiking experience or personal fitness level, this article will tell you exactly how to answer that question—and which questions to ask and what information to seek to reach that answer. This article shares what I’ve learned over four decades of backpacking and dayhiking, including the 10 years I spent as a field editor for Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog, and this knowledge can help ensure that you and your companions or your family don’t get in over your heads.

Whether you’re new to dayhiking or backpacking, a
parent planning a hike with young kids, or a fit and experienced dayhiker or
backpacker contemplating one of the toughest hikes you’ve ever attempted, it’s
important to have a good sense of what you’ll face on a new and unfamiliar hike
and whether it’s within your abilities.

Tet19 047 Me on Teton Crest Trail copy cropped 17 jpg
Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. 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 for my e-books to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backpacker hiking the Dawson Pass Trail in Glacier National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Pam Solon backpacking the Dawson Pass Trail in Glacier National Park. Click photo to read about backpacking in Glacier.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/06224534/Gla7-117-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Dawson-Pass-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/06224534/Gla7-117-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Dawson-Pass-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/06224534/Gla7-117-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Dawson-Pass-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park-1024×683.jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker hiking the Dawson Pass Trail in Glacier National Park.” class=”wp-image-61235″ srcset=”https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/06224534/Gla7-117-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Dawson-Pass-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg 1024w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/06224534/Gla7-117-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Dawson-Pass-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg 300w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/06224534/Gla7-117-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Dawson-Pass-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg 768w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/06224534/Gla7-117-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Dawson-Pass-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg 150w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/06224534/Gla7-117-Pam-Solon-backpacking-the-Dawson-Pass-Trail-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Pam Solon backpacking the Dawson Pass Trail in Glacier National Park. Click photo to read about backpacking in Glacier.

Exceeding your limits or those of someone with you can
invite unwanted consequences—and the person with the least stamina,
abilities, or experience often dictates any party’s pace, limits, and outcomes.
Those consequences
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The 12 Best Down Jackets of 2024

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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, skiing, climbing, and hut treks, or just to keep you warm around town or at outdoor sporting events, this review will help you figure out how to choose the right jacket for your purposes, and it spotlights the best down and synthetic insulated jackets available today.

I selected the jackets covered in this review after extensive testing on backpacking, camping, backcountry ski touring, climbing and other backcountry trips. I’ve field-tested dozens of insulated jackets over nearly three decades of testing and reviewing gear, formerly as the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine for 10 years and even longer running this blog.

Technology has blurred the traditional lines between down and synthetics, with water-resistant down that traps heat even when wet—all but eliminating the weakness that had long been the Achilles heel of down—and synthetic insulation materials that approach the warmth-to-weight ratio and compressibility of down.

If you’d prefer, scroll past my buying tips to dive immediately into the jacket reviews.

If you have a question for me or a comment on this review, please leave it in the comments section at the bottom of this story. I try to respond to all comments.

Tet19 047 Me on Teton Crest Trail copy cropped 15 jpg
Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. 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 for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

The Black Diamond Approach Down Hoody.
” data-image-caption=”The Black Diamond Approach Down Hoody in the Grand Canyon.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/06225653/Black-Diamond-Approach-Down-Hoody-hood-up-1.jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/06225653/Black-Diamond-Approach-Down-Hoody-hood-up-1.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/06225653/Black-Diamond-Approach-Down-Hoody-hood-up-1-1024×683.jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”The Black Diamond Approach Down Hoody.” class=”wp-image-52287″ srcset=”https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/06225653/Black-Diamond-Approach-Down-Hoody-hood-up-1.jpg 1024w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/06225653/Black-Diamond-Approach-Down-Hoody-hood-up-1.jpg 300w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/06225653/Black-Diamond-Approach-Down-Hoody-hood-up-1.jpg 768w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/06225653/Black-Diamond-Approach-Down-Hoody-hood-up-1.jpg 150w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/06225653/Black-Diamond-Approach-Down-Hoody-hood-up-1.jpg 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />The Black Diamond Approach Down Hoody in the Grand Canyon.

How to Choose a Synthetic or Down Jacket

Insulated jackets today differ not only in type and amount of insulation, but also in water resistance, breathability, and as always, design features like the hood and pockets. When choosing between down and synthetic models, consider the usual conditions and temperatures in which you’ll use it—in other words, how wet and cold you expect to get, and your body type (how easily you get cold)—as well as the seasonal and activity versatility you require. Some questions to
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Finally, an Explanation for the Moon’s Radically Different Hemispheres

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Pink Floyd was wrong, there is no dark side to the Moon. There is however, a far side. The tidal effects between the Earth and Moon have caused this captured or synchronous rotation. The two sides display very different geographical features; the near side with mare and ancient volcanic flows while the far side displaying craters within craters. New research suggests the Moon has turned itself inside out with heavy elements like titanium returning to the surface. It’s now thought that a giant impact on the far side pushed titanium to the surface, creating a thinner more active near side. 

There have been a number of theories for the formation of the Moon; the capture theory and the accretion theory to name two of them. Perhaps the most accepted theory now is the giant impact theory which suggests Earth was struck by a large object, causing a lot of debris to be ejected into orbit. This material eventually coalesced to form the Moon we know and love today.

In the decades that followed the Apollo missions, scientists studied the rocks returned by the astronauts. The studies revealed that many of the surface rocks contained unexpectedly high concentrations of titanium. More surprisingly was that satellite observations revealed these titanium rich minerals were far more common on the nearside and absent on the far-side. What is known is that the Moon formed fast and hot and would have been covered for a short period in an ocean of molten magma. The magma cooled and solidified forming the Moon’s crust but trapped below was the more dense material including titanium and iron. 

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Sample collection on the surface of the Moon. Apollo 16 astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr. is shown collecting samples with the Lunar Roving Vehicle in the left background. Image: NASA

The dense material should have sunk to greater depths inside the Moon however over the years that followed something strange seems to have happened. The denser material did indeed sink, mixed with mantle but melted and returned to the surface as titanium rich lava flows. Debates have been raging whether this is exactly what happened but a new piece of research by a team at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory offer more details about the process and how the interior of the Moon evolved.

It has already been suggested that the Moon may have suffered a giant impact on the far side causing the heavier elements to be forced over to the near side but the new study highlighted supporting evidence from gravitational anomalies. The team measured tiny variations in the Moon’s gravitational field from data from the GRAIL mission. GRAIL – or Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory – orbited the Moon to create the most accurate gravitational map of the Moon to date. Using GRAIL data the team discovered that titanium-iron oxide minerals had migrated to the near side and sunk to the interior in sheetlike cascades. This was consistent with models suggesting the event occurred more than 4.22 billion years ago. 

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Global map of the Moon, as seen from the Clementine mission, showing the differences between the lunar near- and farside. Credit: NASA.

As paper co-author and LPL associate professor Jeff Andrews-Hanna said “The moon is fundamentally lopsided in every respect.” The near side feature known as Oceanus Procellarum is a great example. It is lower in elevation and has a lava flow covered thinner crust with high concentrations of titanium rich elements. This is very different on the far

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