Andrew Skurka has written The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide “from the perspective of an unapologetic Ultimate Hiker” which he defines as a “backpacker who simply loves to walk.” And while he has written this book to be targeted at hikers who would like to be more like an Ultimate Hiker, this book is still very valuable (and personally recommended by myself) for beginner and intermediate hikers as well.
When writing this book, Andrew refrained from making this book into another “Lightweight Backpacking” book, although he does admit that weight is an important consideration for the Ultimate Hiker. However, his focus lies in “comfort, safety, durability, efficiency and the best use of our gear.” As well, a great feature of the book is the fact that he does make reference to specific brands, products, prices and weights, but when doing so, he is emphasizing the gear type rather than the particular brand.
Andrew begins the book by sharing some of his personal experiences in which he came to the conclusion that there are two activities involved in backpacking. Hiking and camping. And this is the ultimate question that Andrew Skurka asks us in his new book. At first, this question may not make much sense, after all, when we go backpacking we hike as well as camp. However, with a little thought (or time on the trail) it becomes more clear as to what he is really asking us…
When we head out on the trail, are we packing to camp, or are we packing to hike?
So, what’s the difference? The Ultimate Hiker is a backpacker who loves to hike from dawn to dusk, and maximizes our on-trail comfort by packing light. On the other hand, the Ultimate Camper usually hikes a shorter distance and enjoys spending time in camp rather than hiking the trail. However, he admits that neither of the two is superior to the other, but that this is simply more of a personal preference, although gear consideration for either of the two is an important factor. And this is not to say that one person can’t be both either. It just depends on what the goals are for each trip.
Andrew states that there are 3 questions that he asks himself before each trip and that by honestly, accurately and correctly answering these questions will allow him to have the most successful backpacking trip. He also encourages us to do the same before heading out before each trip.
- What are my objectives?
- What are the environmental and route conditions that I will likely encounter during my trip (such as temperature, precipitation, and water availability)?
- What gear, supplies and skill will best help me achieve my objectives and keep me safe and comfortable in those conditions?
The first two questions Andrew covers in section one of his book: “Why, When & Where” which I briefly discussed above in this post.
The second part of the book, “Tools & Techniques” answers the third question. In the second section (the gear-geek section), Andrew discusses everything from the underwear that covers our bum to the pack on our back, and everything in between. This section is filled with Andrews experience and observations with various pieces of backpacking “gear” through extensive trial and error, as well as research. This section is filled with discussion on all sorts of items needed on the trail, as well as tips, how-to guides and charts. Andrew also shares more of his personal experiences in his “Tried & True” and “Skurka’s Picks” sections.
The third section consists of his tried and true sample gear kits that are region specific, including:
- Eastern Forests
- Mountain West
- Desert Southwest Packrafting
- Northern Winter
- Philmont Scout Ranch
He also includes tips and a chart for “Gearing Up On A Budget” as well as a glossary at the end of the third section of the book.
So, just in case you are wondering “Who is Andrew Skurka?”
Andrew Skurka is an accomplished adventure athlete, speaker, guide, and writer. Andrew has been named “Adventurer of the Year” by both Outside and National Geographic Adventure magazines, as well as “Person of the Year” by Backpacker magazine, and for good reason. He has accumulated more than 30,000 miles on the trail and is most well-known for his solo long-distance backpacking trips including:
- 7,800 mile Sea-To-Sea Route
- 6,875 mile Great Western Loop Trail
- 4,700 mile Alaska-Yukon Expedition
- 2,175 mile Appalachian Trail
- 2,660 mile Pacific Crest Trail
- 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail
It is safe to say (because he said it in his book), Andrew Skurka is an Ultimate Hiker, although he states that he is not a backpacking guru and encourages us all to “exercise our own judgement in evaluating the applicability and utility of the information in his book based on our own ability, experience and comfort level.”
So, my thoughts on the book…
I found this book to be very fun and easy to read, and of course very informative. I read through it with a highlighter with the idea of highlighting the “good” parts, and well, now my entire book is yellow! 🙂 The book flowed from one subject to the next which made it that much easier to read. Now that I am done, the only thing that I wish was different about it is that I wish that it had been around when I first started backpacking!
I highly recommend this book to anyone who backpacks or even wants to backpack. No matter whether you are a newbie hiker or a long time experienced hiker, a part-time or a full-time hiker, a heavy hauler or an ultralighter. I feel like this book will have something to offer to anyone who will read it, so I encourage you to pick up a copy if you haven’t already. And heck, while you’re at it, pick up one and give it away!
Andrew’s book is available through a few different retail sites, however, if you order the book from his personal site, he will sign it for you before it ships! (Score!) You can get there by clicking here (and no, I will not receive any $$ for any purchases through this link).
So, you have ordered the book and now you have to wait for it to come in the mail…I know, it sucks waiting on things to show up on the door step…but, for now, here is a video from one of Andrew’s recent Ultimate Hiking Gear & Skills Clinic:
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: The author of this post (me) purchased this book with my own monies and was under no obligation to write a review on it. I did so because I thoroughly enjoyed the book and feel like it has lots to offer to the backpacking world.