Book Review: “Long Trails, Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike” By Liz Thomas

A little over a month ago I came across a post (either on Liz Thomas’ Facebook page or her Instagram page… I can’t remember now) announcing that her new book, “Long Trails, Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike“, was ready for preorder through Amazon. I didn’t even know that she was coming out with a new book, but I do enjoy reading new books about hiking and backpacking, so I followed the link to Amazon and submitted my preorder. The book was something in the neighborhood of $16, and at that time still had around 2 weeks (give or take) before it was ready to ship.

I didn’t really know what to expect of her new book. Sure, I had an idea based on the title: “Long Trails, Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike” however, I had never thru-hiked a long trail before, and based on my foreseeable future, a hike of that magnitude is not in my cards. Beyond that, I had never really even been on, or planned, much of a “long  distance hike” either… In fact, the longest hike I had been on up to this point has only been a 7 day hike in the Olympic Mountains in Washington state. What is ironic though, is that on that particular hike, out of the 8 of us, Liz was one of those hikers!

(And I gotta add here that to this day, that hike has been one of my most enjoyable hikes for several different reasons. The views were new and amazing, and so much different from the views from any of the other hikes I have done before or since (east coast vs west coast scenery). And as I already mentioned, that hike has also been the longest length of time that I had been out hiking at one time. Then of course with all the other experienced hikers on that hike I felt like a groupie, hiking with my favorite rock stars! But it was a big learning experience for me… On that hike I watched how everyone else approached everything from walking down the trail, to setting up camp, not to mention that I got to put my hands on and hear about all sorts of new and different gear! But best of all, each night while sitting in the middle of nowhere – so far away from any roads, towers, or modern civilization in general, while looking out at the silhouette of the surrounding mountain ranges against a starry sky, I got to sit with all those inspiring hikers around a small fire (in Jake’s Caldera Cone, of course) and listen to trail stories from all of these hikers… it was an all-around awesome experience!)

Anyway, on that particular hike I got to talk with, and somewhat get to know Liz as a person. Like so many other hikers that I have met since I started backpacking, I found that, while she is indeed a backpacking rock star, she is also a real person. According to her new book, she has hiked over 15,000 miles, and over the course of those miles, she has accumulated a ton of information. Between the fact that I was able to meet and learn from her in the past, and the fact that she has logged so much time, and so many miles on the trail, I was excited to get this book and read through it!

When the book arrived, I was immediately surprised by it’s size. It is a much larger, and thicker, book than I thought it would have been (and yes, the dimensions and page count is listed on the Amazon description page… I obviously neglected to look at it though, lol!) This book is 7.5 x 9.2” in size and a whopping 328 pages in length (counting the appendix and indexes at the end of the book)! Wowzer!

In the past, Liz has written several articles which has appeared in the pages of the ever-popular Backpacker magazine, and now with Backpacker magazine’s help, she has published this new book for us all to enjoy! And besides all of the information cram-packed into this book, there are also a number of inspiring and informative photos, some of which are even from the hike we were on! (And I gotta admit, just knowing that some of the photos in the book are from a hike I was actually on, makes this book a little more special to me too… lol!)

Now, there are several other backpacking “how-to” books out there that I have read and enjoyed, and would highly recommend to those that love backpacking too (whether new or experienced). These books include:

I personally enjoyed these books, and I feel like they do an especially good job at helping those new to backpacking to figure out gear choices, as well as things to consider that may not be so obvious to a new backpacker. I remember just a few years back when I just started backpacking… naturally, I was totally green, and just figuring gear out was more than overwhelming to say the least… Fast-forward to today, considering what I have learned over the years, I would definitely suggest these books to anyone just getting into hiking & backpacking before buying anything else. In my honest opinion, these books can help clear up many (even unknown) questions and get one started on a much clearer, defined path than without them…

I would say that gear is one of the biggest questions folks generally ask about before beginning a hike. Maybe because it is something tangible, something that we can actually put our hands on, while everything else about the trail is yet unknown to us, and just out of touch. I know this is how it was for me anyway (not to mention that a majority of the questions and comments I get are gear related questions). Before my wife and I set out on our first ever backpacking trip only a mere 8 years ago from Amicalola Falls to Neels Gap, I did do some initial research on the actual trail, but mostly I researched gear. Looking back at that hike now, I wouldn’t say I invested as much research into the actual trail and what to expect from it, as I now do before my hike’s. At that time, as a new hiker, I was consumed with gear questions… “What gear do I need, and what gear was “the best” gear to get…??” In Liz’s new book, she does touch on gear options, and even includes several different accomplished backpackers gear lists (including her own), but also strongly focuses on learning skill set’s, and encouraging and directing one towards proper preparation to actually hike a trail. She also talks a lot about “life” on the trail, how to prepare for, and then stick it out when things (do) get rough, as well as trail etiquette and making friends along the way. Aside from gear, there are so many other things worth knowing before actually walking down the beaten path, and I would be willing to say that there are many of us that learn these things the hard way (at least I did). In this book though, Liz sheds some light on many of those things that are yet unknown and in my opinion, helps set us off on the right foot!

Now after reading Liz’s new book “Long Trails” I would definitely include her book in the above recommended book’s for hikers and backpackers; to both new and experienced backpackers, and to both “weekend hikers” as well as “long distance hikers.” While the information presented in her new book focuses on, and helps to set the stage  for long distance hikes, I feel like the information provided is also good for those out for just  a weekend hike too. Besides, many folks that set out for long distance hikes will likely end up doing some shorter “shake-down” hikes first anyway.

After reading this book, I would say that the title of the book is a very accurate title: “Long Trails.” This book takes a look at many things one can expect to experience whether preparing for a long hike, or while actually on that long hike. I found her book to be quite enjoyable, and while I was already at least vaguely familiar with many of the topics she covers in the book, she provided a bit more depth to those topics that made me think about them more, or at least differently than I had before.

As you can conclude from reading through my blog, I am a “weekend hiker”… or a short distance hiker. Most of my hikes are simply long weekend hikes, typically ranging between 2 – 5 days, and usually no more than about 50 miles at a time. But, if you read through some of my more recent posts, you will also see that I am in the planning  stages for my longest hike yet to come: a “thru-hike” along the JMT next summer (2018)! Now, I have already been doing a lot of research to prepare for that hike, however, based on my short distance hiker mindset, I have only looked at that hike as another short hike… not a long hike. But now after reading this book, it really dawned on me that my JMT hike will indeed be an actual “long distance thru-hike!” I unexpectedly found that this book just so happened to be the perfect book for me to be reading right now in light of my JMT hike!

As with any good “how-to” book, I found myself making several notes while reading through her book, especially when thinking about my own upcoming JMT thru-hike. But not only for that hike though, I think that this information can easily apply to some of my shorter hikes too. For me, as primarily a short distance and time-wise hiker, I found her book to be a very valuable source of information, and because of it, I feel like I will go into my future hikes just a little more prepared. Considering this, I would definitely recommend her new book to any new, or even already experienced backpacker.

3-iPhone Photo - 5

In conclusion, I really enjoyed reading this book. As can be seen in one of the photo’s above, I actually read this book while I was relaxing on a cruise ship. Even when I was lying next to some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been too, my mind was drifting towards the mountains, and the trails that snaked through them… However, just any old book wouldn’t have taken my thoughts away from the beers and the beaches… but for me, this book was not any old book though. This book kept me pulled in, it kept my mind wandering, and it held me there all the way to the end.  In my opinion, Liz’s new book “Long Trails” is definitely a “2 thumbs up” book! So go and check it out!

Thanks for stopping by!

~Stick~

Disclaimer: I paid for this book with my own money, right off of Amazon. I am not expected to, nor was asked to write a review, I did so because I enjoyed the book very much, and feel like it is a valuable tool for other backpackers and hikers, so I decided to write this post. 

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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6 Responses to Book Review: “Long Trails, Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike” By Liz Thomas

  1. Andrew says:

    Hi Chad, or Stick (which do you prefer?). Nice write up of this new book and mention of other interesting looking books too.
    I guess they are all relevant to UK ultralight backpackers? Would you say this new ‘thruhike’ is worth getting even though my thruhikes are a mear few hundred miles maximum?
    And tying you down: if you had to pick 3 of those books to buy, which ones would you pick please?

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    • Stick says:

      Andrew,

      I would say that this book by Liz would be relevant to any long distance hiker, no matter where you are hiking. And as a short distance hiker, I personally found the book worth reading too. She doesn’t exactly focus on specific gear lists, or trails, but more so just prepares one for lots of things worth knowing when setting out on a hike. Such as how to prepare for a hike, pointers on some things to do to help save money and make arrangements while you are out hiking. She tries to make folks ask questions that many folks don’t really consider until they are already in a situation, yet unprepared. Then she goes into things on the trail, such as etiquette, making friends, and briefly describing real trail life….

      Anyway, if you enjoy reading books on backpacking, I feel like this one is worth the read. Sure, there are also things in there that you may already know, or may not apply to you directly, but this book is a bit different from all the rest that I have read in that it doesn’t try to tell you how to hike a trail, so much as prepare you for the trail life.

      As for 3 of them only, I would go with this one from Liz for sure, and the UL Backpacking Tips from Mike Clelland because he has all sorts of useful tips. For the 3rd book, both Andrew and Justin’s books are great as for going over gear with a pretty broad brush, as well as other useful information on actually hiking… either would be a great 3rd choice though… To be fair though, I have a number of others on my shelfs too… these are just a few I grabbed, but that really stuck out the most… I would suggest them all! As well, they may even be available as a download too, which are usually less expensive, and no shipping!

      Hope this helps! 🙂

      ~Stick~

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  2. I forgot that her book was coming out! Yes, going to purchase now 🙂

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  3. Chad, enjoyed reading your review…
    From conversations out on the trail, you know I’m in the same boat as you only getting away for hikes 50 miles or less over a long weekend. However, I just made the commitment to do a 2 week (December 2017) 90 miler in Nepal with Josh Belcher…so I may just pick up this book to add to my library.
    Thanks for the review

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    • Stick says:

      Jeff!

      That sounds like it is going to be a fun hike! I am hoping to do a hike in FL in December… if the cards are played right… 🙂

      Anyway, I would encourage you to pick this book up. I think we both have about the same understanding and experience when it comes to backpacking, so as I mentioned in the write up, some things may already be familiar, but she explains it from a different angle than what we are used to viewing them from. I think it’s a very worthwhile investment, and worth the read. If you pick it up let me know what you think about it!

      Talk with you later,

      ~Stick~

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