Andrew Skurka is, without a doubt, the ultimate hiker. Over the years, he has trekked more than 30,000 miles, going end-to-end on the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails, coast-to-coast across North America, and through some of the most remote and rugged regions in Alaska. This former National Geographic Adventurer of the Year has figuratively, and now literally, written the book on long distance hiking, as his new book, The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide, hits stores this week.
Whether you're taking a day hike through a local park or making an epic trek through the Himalaya, you can learn something from Andrew's book. Despite the title seemingly indicating that it is strictly a tome on the best gear for hiking and camping, there is plenty of wisdom and philosophy to be gained as well. For instance, you'll learn how to not only trek faster, but smarter too, and you'll also gain valuable insights into judging what to bring with you, what to leave at home, and how to prepare for a backpacking trip in a variety of conditions and locations. Skurka even touches on how a good hiking trip can be beneficial to the health of a relationship as well.
But the bulk of the book is focused on one of my favorite topics – gear. Andrew shares the benefits of his considerable experience in the field to tell us what items have performed the best for him on his adventures, and exactly how they can help us too. He doesn't spend much time endorsing specific products from gear companies however, preferring to instead educate us on the benefits of a good layering system, for example, or why using a tarp-shelter is a better option than a tent. Skurka even tells us how to construct a cheap, lightweight, and efficient stove from common items found around the house.
The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide is packed full of practical information that isn't what you would always necessarily expect. For instance, Skurka does share his thoughts on what clothing items work best in different environments, which can be a huge benefit for someone who is trying to sort through all the options in base layers, fleeces, shells, and son on. But he also discusses, in great detail, the differences between "water-resistant" fabrics vs. "waterproof-breathable" ones, and even explains how they work and why they are valuable. This can be beneficial when deciding what to spend our money on and what options work best for our own personal trips as well.
The Guide extends well beyond clothing however, with Andrew offering valuable insights into footwear, headwear, hand wear, and even eyewear. He discusses sleeping bags and sleeping pads, shelters, maps and GPS, trekking poles, and much more. In short, everything you could possibly need for a hike lasting a few hours to a few months, and everything in between. Along the way, Skurka shares wisdom on how to find a proper campsite, how to prep food for a prolonged journey, and how to stay well hydrated while on the trail.
The book wraps up with a series of sample gear kits that are broken down nicely be geographical locations in the U.S. For instance, there are unique lists for tackling the Eastern Forests of the country, as opposed to the western mountain states or dry deserts of the southwest. Accompanying each kit is an introduction to the region, which helps hikers familiarize themselves with what to expect while traveling there. Some of the factors that are touched upon include environmental conditions, precipitation, wildlife and insects, and the availability of water along the way.
All in all, this is an extremely comprehensive guide for planning, preparing, and equipping for just about any kind of backpacking trip. Andrew will show you how to do it efficiently and enjoyably, while a minimal amount of the best gear possible. The kind of wisdom that you find between the covers of this book can only come from someone like Skurka, who has more experience in the field than any of us mere mortals could ever hope to attain on our own. The guide is easy to ready, informative, and helpful on many levels, and I think hikers of any level and experience will find plenty to like here.
The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide is available now from National Geographic books for $19.95.