Free gases are characterized by their narrow line width, and they can conveniently be studied by laser spectroscopy. The present paper discusses the monitoring of such ambient pressure gases, which are dispersed in scattering media such as aerosol-laden atmospheres, solids, or liquids. Atmospheric work basically constitutes the well-known field of differential absorption lidar (DIAL), while the study of free gas in solids and liquids was initiated more recently under the name of GASMAS (GAs in Scattering Media Absorption Spectroscopy). We discuss the connections between the two techniques, which are extensively used in our labortory. Thus, we span the field from trace-gas mapping of gases in the lower atmosphere to gas studies in construction materials, food products, and the human body. We show that the basic ideas are very similar, while the spatial and temporal scales vary greatly.