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By Michael Lanza

Glacier National Park. The Wind River Range. The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. Iceland. The John Muir Trail, Wonderland Trail, and Teton Crest Trail. Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. Yellowstone. Southern Utah’s Escalante canyons. The North Cascades and Pasayten Wilderness. The High Uintas Wilderness. The Tour du Mont Blanc. These are just some of the numerous places where I’ve tested the backpacking gear and apparel reviewed at The Big Outside—so that I can give you honest and thorough, field-tested opinions that help you find the best gear for your adventures.

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

Three decades of testing outdoor gear and apparel—including formerly as the lead gear reviewer and Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine for 10 years and even longer running this blog—have refined my ability to identify gear that’s truly outstanding, at the cutting edge technologically, and a good value.

In this freshly updated review, I share my top picks for a basic backpacking gear kit, from several of the best packs, tents, boots, and sleeping bags, including suggestions for backpackers on a budget—because everyone has different needs and preferences—to a favorite rain shell, the best trekking poles, down jackets, and air mattresses, the camp kitchen, and water treatment.

Tet19 047 Me on Teton Crest Trail copy cropped 1 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.

Michael Lanza of The Big Outside at Pitamakan Pass in Glacier National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Me at Pitamakan Pass in Glacier National Park on a seven-day hike in September. Click photo to read about backpacking in Glacier.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/06224626/Gla7-110-Me-at-Pitamakan-Pass-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/2023/10/06224626/Gla7-110-Me-at-Pitamakan-Pass-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/06224626/Gla7-110-Me-at-Pitamakan-Pass-in-Glacier-National-Park-1024×683.jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”Michael Lanza of The Big Outside at Pitamakan Pass in Glacier National Park.” class=”wp-image-60682″ srcset=”https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/06224626/Gla7-110-Me-at-Pitamakan-Pass-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg 1024w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/06224626/Gla7-110-Me-at-Pitamakan-Pass-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg 300w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/06224626/Gla7-110-Me-at-Pitamakan-Pass-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg 768w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/06224626/Gla7-110-Me-at-Pitamakan-Pass-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg 150w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/06224626/Gla7-110-Me-at-Pitamakan-Pass-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Me at Pitamakan Pass in Glacier National Park on a seven-day hike in September. Click photo to read about backpacking in Glacier.

Much of the gear in this story links to my complete review of it, where you can get more details and find links to online retailers for purchasing it. Purchasing through the “Buy it now” affiliate links below or affiliate links in each complete review supports my work on The Big Outside, at no
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5 Reasons You Must Backpack in the Grand Canyon

Tet19 047 Me on Teton Crest Trail copy cropped 20

By Michael Lanza

The Grand Canyon’s appeal to backpackers may seem elusive. It’s hard, it’s dry, it’s often quite hot with little respite from the blazing sun. But while those aspects of hiking there are rarely out of mind, when I recall backpacking in the canyon, I conjure mental images of waterfalls, creeks, and intimate side canyons sheltering perennial streams that nurture lush oases in the desert. I think of wildflowers carpeting the ground for as far as the eye can see. I recall campsites on beaches by the Colorado River and on promontories overlooking a wide expanse of the canyon.

And, of course, I picture the endless vistas stretching for miles in every direction, where impossibly immense stone towers loom thousands of feet above an unfathomably vertiginous and complex landscape.

After several backpacking trips in the Big Ditch, I find that the more I go there, the more I need to go back again. This place really hooks you (see reason no. 5, below). And my perspective is shaped by more than three decades of backpacking all over the United States, including formerly as the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine for 10 years and even longer running this blog. I’ve taken many of the best multi-day hikes out there—some of them multiple times.

Tet19 047 Me on Teton Crest Trail copy cropped 21
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 on the Tonto Trail on the Grand Canyon’s Royal Arch Loop.
” data-image-caption=”David Ports backpacking the Tonto Trail on the Grand Canyon’s Royal Arch Loop.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/06235057/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/06235057/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/06235057/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy-1024×683.jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker on the Tonto Trail on the Grand Canyon’s Royal Arch Loop.” class=”wp-image-23908″ srcset=”https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/06235057/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg 1024w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/06235057/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg 300w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/06235057/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg 768w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/06235057/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg 1080w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/06235057/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg 200w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/06235057/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg 670w, https://tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/06235057/Gran6-137-Ports-Tonto-Trail-Royal-Arch-Loop-Grand-Canyon-copy.jpg 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />David Ports backpacking the Tonto Trail on the Grand Canyon’s Royal Arch Loop. Click photo to read about that trip.

See my lists of “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips,” “The 10 Best National Park Backpacking Trips,” and “The

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8 Epic Grand Canyon Backpacking Trips You Must Do

Tet19 047 Me on Teton Crest Trail copy cropped 18

By Michael Lanza

This is, in a way, a story about addiction. Or a love affair. Or both. Those metaphors best describe how the Grand Canyon constantly lures me back when I’m thinking about spring and fall hiking and backpacking trips.

It is that rare kind of natural environment that exists on a scale of its own, like Alaska or the Himalaya. There’s something soul-stirring and hypnotic about its infinite vistas, the deceptive immensity of the canyon walls and stone towers, and the way the foreground and background continually expand and shrink as you ascend and descend elevation gradients of a vertical mile or more—all of which validates enduring the wilting heat and trails that sometimes seem better suited to rattlesnakes and scorpions than bipedal primates.

For backpackers seeking adventure, challenge, and incomparable natural beauty, the canyon stands alone.

This story will show you, in words and photos, why one or more of these Big Ditch backpacking trips deserves top priority as you’re planning your next trip. I think you will quickly understand why the Grand Canyon has increasingly become one of my favorite places over more than three decades (and counting) of backpacking, including the 10 years I spent as a longtime field editor for Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog.

Tet19 047 Me on Teton Crest Trail copy cropped 19
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 at Ooh-Ah Point on the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.
” data-image-caption=”Todd Arndt at Ooh-Ah Point on the South Kaibab Trail. Click on the photo to see my e-book “The Best Backpacking Trip in the Grand Canyon.”
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/06231753/Gran8-003-Todd-Arndt-at-Ooh-Ah-Point-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon..jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/06231753/Gran8-003-Todd-Arndt-at-Ooh-Ah-Point-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon..jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/06231753/Gran8-003-Todd-Arndt-at-Ooh-Ah-Point-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon..jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker at Ooh-Ah Point on the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.” class=”wp-image-36039″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/06231753/Gran8-003-Todd-Arndt-at-Ooh-Ah-Point-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon..jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1 1200w, https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/06231753/Gran8-003-Todd-Arndt-at-Ooh-Ah-Point-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon..jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/06231753/Gran8-003-Todd-Arndt-at-Ooh-Ah-Point-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon..jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/06231753/Gran8-003-Todd-Arndt-at-Ooh-Ah-Point-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon..jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/tbo-media.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/06231753/Gran8-003-Todd-Arndt-at-Ooh-Ah-Point-South-Kaibab-Trail-Grand-Canyon..jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1 1080w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Todd Arndt at Ooh-Ah Point on the South Kaibab Trail. Click on the photo to see my e-book “The Best Backpacking Trip in the Grand Canyon.”

And the time to start planning your
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Juno Reveals a Giant Lava Lake on Io

JNCE 2024034 58C00025 V01.point

NASA’s Juno spacecraft came within 1,500 km (930 miles) of the surface of Jupiter’s moon Io in two recent flybys. That’s close enough to reveal new details on the surface of this moon, the most volcanic object in the Solar System. Not only did Juno capture volcanic activity, but scientists were also able to create a visual animation from the data that shows what Io’s 200-km-long lava lake Loki Patera would look like if you could get even closer. There are islands at the center of a magma lake rimmed with hot lava. The lake’s surface is smooth as glass, like obsidian.

“Io is simply littered with volcanoes, and we caught a few of them in action,” said Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton during a news conference at the European Geophysical Union General Assembly in Vienna, Austria. “There is amazing detail showing these crazy islands embedded in the middle of a potentially magma lake rimmed with hot lava. The specular reflection our instruments recorded of the lake suggests parts of Io’s surface are as smooth as glass, reminiscent of volcanically created obsidian glass on Earth.”

This animation is an artist’s concept of Loki Patera, a lava lake on Jupiter’s moon Io, made using data from the JunoCam imager aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft. With multiple islands in its interior, Loki is a depression filled with magma and rimmed with molten lava. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Just imagine if you could stand by the shores of this lake – which would be a stunning view in itself. But then, you could look up and see the giant Jupiter looming in the skies above you.

Juno made the two close flybys of Io in December 2023 and February 2024. Images from Juno’s JunoCam included the first close-up images of the moon’s northern latitudes. Undoubtedly, Io looks like a pizza – which has been the conclusion since our first views of this moon, when Voyager 1 flew through the Jupiter system in March 1979. The mottled and colorful surface comes from the volcanic activity, with hundreds of vents and calderas on the surface that create a variety of features. Volcanic plumes and lava flows across the surface show up in all sorts of colors, from red and yellow to orange and black. Some of the lava “rivers” stretch for hundreds of kilometers.

JNCE 2024034 58C00025 V01.point 1
Io’s sub-Jovian hemisphere is revealed in detail for the first time since Voyager 1 flew through the Jupiter system in March 1979, during the Juno spacecraft’s 58th perijove, or close pass, on February 3, 2024. This image shows Io’s nightside illuminated by sunlight reflected off Jupiter’s cloud tops. Several surface changes are visible include a reshaping of the compound flow field at Kanehekili (center left) and a new lava flow to the east of Kanehekili. This image has a pixel scale of 1.6 km/pixel. Credit : NASA/SwRI/JPL/MSSS/Jason Perry.

Juno scientists were also able to re-create a spectacular feature on Io, a spired mountain that has been nicknamed “The Steeple.” This feature is between 5 and 7 kilometers (3-4.3 miles) in height. It’s hard to comprehend the type of volcanic activity that could have created such a stunning landform.

Created using data collected by the JunoCam imager aboard NASA’s Juno during flybys in December 2023 and February 2024, this animation is an artist’s concept of a feature on the Jovian moon Io that the mission science team nicknamed “Steeple Mountain.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Speaking of volcanic activity, two recent papers have come to a jaw-dropping conclusion about Io: this moon has been erupting since the dawn of the Solar System.

All the volcanic on Io is activity is driven by tidal heating. Io is in an orbital resonance with two other large moons of Jupiter, Europa and Ganymede.

“Every time Ganymede orbits Jupiter once, Europa orbits twice, and Io orbits four times,” explained the authors of a paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, led by Ery Hughes of GNS Science in New Zealand. “This situation causes tidal heating in Io (like how the Moon causes ocean tides on Earth), which causes the volcanism.”

However, scientists haven’t known how long this resonance has been occurring and whether what we observe today is what has always been happening in the Jupiter system. This is because volcanism renews Io’s surface almost

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