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Favorite reads: Backpacking & hiking blogs, websites, and forums

Oden, my BFF and productive co-worker at AndrewSkurka.com

Oden, my BFF and productive co-worker at AndrewSkurka.com

Expectedly, I follow many blogs, websites, and forums dedicated to backpacking (and perhaps secondarily to hiking, camping, and the outdoors).

As an avid backpacker, I appreciate new gear reviews, skill tutorials, meal recipes, and information on destinations and routes. And as an outdoor blogger myself, other outlets help keep my finger on the pulse of the community; and, occasionally, they inspire me.

Recently, I searched for “backpacking blogs,” in the hopes of discovering new ones worth reading. The results were generally disappointing, even though some of the lists purported to include “the best” and “top-ranked” sites, and even gave out awards.

Many of my favorite blogs were omitted. Personally, I appreciate high quality and insightful content; I value the credibility and first-hand experience of the blogger; and I find off-putting clickbait headlines and useless lists of gear full of affiliate links.

So I’ve decided to share my own top selections.

How to follow blogs

Rather than bookmarking each of these blogs and visiting them periodically, it’s easier to use a blog reader (my pick: Feedly), which aggregates all new content.

Blogs that I read most regularly

Blogs with potential

A few blogs did not make the list above because they simply don’t post often enough. I wish they did, but I understand the reasons they probably don’t: other full-time work, family responsibilities, and a preference to play instead of writing about play. Here they are:

My complete feed

There are several popular, highly regarded, and quality blogs and websites that deserve mention but that I don’t read regularly. In these cases, I do not typically find what they produce to be useful to me.

For example, Appalachian Trials focuses on the physiological challenges of thru-hiking, but that’s no longer my gig. Midwest Basecamp, Missouri Howell, Modern Hiker, and SoCal Hiker have strong regional content, but we live in different parts of the country. And Lady on a Rock and Walking with Wired have updates on their thru-hikes, but I don’t need an armchair adventure.

With quick searching, you should be able to find all of the websites in my feed, below.

Websites and forums

To compliment my blog reading, I keep tabs on a handful of websites and forums. Here, I get perspectives from more users, and I hear from knowledgeable community members who don’t share their wisdom on a personal site (e.g., RoguePhotonicRichard Nisley, and Lone Wolf).

The primary challenge of forums is the signal-to-noise ratio. It’s difficult to find consistent information and credible contributors.

What have I missed? Leave a comment.

I’m sure that I have omitted worthy backpacking blogs and websites. I’d love to know about them — What are they?

I’m sure that we also rank blogs differently. Which ones do you love most?

54 Responses to Favorite reads: Backpacking & hiking blogs, websites, and forums

  1. Kurt October 20, 2016 at 10:54 am #

    Youtube channels are conspicuous by their absence, or maybe I missed something? I know the topic was specifically blogs, but you did include websites and forums. Perhaps you are not a big fan of the slowness of watching videos, and prefer to jump around to specific topics of interest on a blog. Just curious.

    • Andrew Skurka October 20, 2016 at 11:00 am #

      Personally I don’t consume much content via video, so I can’t speak credibly to it.

      My most recent experience with video was while working on an instructional video series with Sierra Designs. The “competitive research” process was generally torturous, with a ton of crappy content to filter through before finding something decent.

      If you have a few channels that you recommend, I bet readers would like to know about them.

      • Douche P. October 20, 2016 at 11:10 am #

        The only thing I’ve found worth watching on youtube is Ray Mears

        • Douche P. October 20, 2016 at 11:15 am #

          and I dig your videos, didnt mean to leave that out

        • Andrew Skurka October 20, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

          Douche – BTW, I didn’t mean to omit your blog. Usually I’m good about adding them when I see them, and I’ve seen your name on here many times. I think I actually used your Sawyer Mini review to substantiate a position in the second edition of the Gear Guide.

          • Douche P. October 20, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

            oh no prob dude! I’d love to earn a spot on the list and it gives me a good goal for the next year 🙂 Glad the mini post was helpful and I look forward to the gear guide part deux

      • MarkL October 20, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

        Here is one I just found yesterday that, given your feelings about Goretex’s marketing, I’m certain you will have opinions about. My own reaction is in the comment section from yesterday.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGp0QE1yhEI

  2. GZ October 20, 2016 at 11:38 am #

    I tried Feedly but I ended up putting everything into Outlook as I am parked in there all day anyway for work items.

    You could provide an OPML file for all your feeds.

    I do keep up on some the BSA feeds but that is about a 10:1 ratio of stuff that is outside of backpacking to backpacking / camping.

    Once I get my hip from aching I’d love to go on a jog with ya and talk small business ownership stuff.

    • Andrew Skurka October 20, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

      Jogging plenty now that ultra season is over. Tell me when you’re ready.

  3. MarkL October 20, 2016 at 12:00 pm #

    I have started following CleverHiker (cleverhiker.com). He’s not too intense and seems to have a pretty good sense that what’s best for him is not necessarily best for everyone. Gear reviews are pretty good and he typically responds to feedback in a constructive and positive way.

    Outdoor Research has a pretty good blog with more of a mountaineering/climbing lens, but still has good stuff, often with humor, including a fantastic response to a recent awful The North Face photo shoot. Their FB feed often reposts good articles from other sources.

    I have conflicted feelings about Outdoor Gear Lab. I started out really liking them, and I still read their reviews for information on an individual products, but I put little stock in their ratings and rankings; I have had a lot of criticism regarding their equipment selection and inconsistent conclusions; criticism they have never responded to. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen them respond to anyone’s comments, good or bad. They don’t provide a comments section in the reviews themselves. The fact they now have a connected eBay store feels wrong.

    Regarding equipment selection, for example, their recent sleeping pad review had I think 9 pads from Therma-Rest and one from Nemo, which was an older model; their backpack review contained packs that were tested in 2012 and 2014 and no explanation; their GPS review did not include barometric altimeter as a feature worth mentioning and included outdated models; their review of hiking pants claimed there is no convertible version of the OR Ferrosi, but there has been since at least 2014, as well as a 3/4 length.

    Regarding their conclusions, they also have too much focus on picking a “best” without defining “best for what use” or “best for what kind of user”. This results in a penchant for comparing apples to oranges. In the same pad review they complained about an insulated pad being “too heavy” but compared it to a non-insulated pad. Different needs, different uses. Same in the pants review, where they compare summer-weight convertible pants with bomb-proof Arc’teryx pants.

    Their conclusions can also seem to contradict their own ratings. In the “hiking pants” review their “Editor’s Choice” (Prana) had quality issues and their “top pick” (the Arc’teryx) scored below most of the others in comfort and mobility, which seem pretty important to a hiking pant; they questioned the durability of the Ferrosi pants, even though they said, ” you could do loads of hiking in these pants without wearing them out,” but marked them down for getting scuffed, after “multiple rock climbs.” They had previously rated the Ferrosi jacket – same material – very highly and able to withstand a lot of abuse.

    • MarkL October 20, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

      Sorry, didn’t mean to rant. Still good information there, but head-scratching context. Read carefully.

      • Andrew Skurka October 20, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

        I would not consider that a rant. I would consider it well grounded feedback. I, too, view their reviews with some skepticism. I have no sense for the credibility or consistency of the reviewers, and the extent of their reviews is limited to what they can get hold of (and what has affiliate revenue potential) and not so much a “state of the market” inventory. That all said, their reviews are a hell of a lot better than most user reviews: they do test the products in the field, instead of just in their backyard; they do review a lot of gear, so they can better distinguish good from bad; and they are less likely to rave about a product simply because they spent their money on it and because they have an emotional attachment to it.

        • MarkL October 20, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

          Well said abut their reviews, which is what I was getting at that I still read them for product information.

          • mkt42 October 21, 2016 at 3:03 am #

            Those are all good comments about the pros and cons of OutdoorGearLab.com.

            Somewhat less good, but still a place that I go when I’m looking for product reviews, is BackpackGearTest.org.

        • Zachary Robbins October 21, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

          I’ve had success using OutdoorGearLab for a few purchases. In particular GPS devices, newer point-and-shoot camera models (since prior camera was 10+ years old), and backpacking chairs after I lost my previous one.

    • Pedro December 23, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

      I agree in most of what you said about OutdoorGearLab, although I still like what they do and I find their gear reviews useful.

      I recently discover another site https://www.theadventurejunkies.com/ which I really like. Their gear reviews are a bit simpler, more targeted to beginners, but very easy to understand and provide a lot of value. Their website design is also great. Very clean and ad-free.

  4. D Hammond October 20, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

    Buck Nelson! Could be arm chair adventuring but there’s definitely some skills described within.

    • Andrew Skurka October 20, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

      That’s http://bucktrack.com/, for those unfamiliar with Buck.

      Unfortunately he doesn’t post much new stuff, and none of it as a blog. The social internet was not as developed as when he was doing most of his big stuff.

      • D Hammond October 20, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

        Hmm, I hiked the IAT through Gaspésie this summer, and was doing some before bed reading his blog of his 2016 Louis and Clark hike/kayak trip. Just to mention that he was blogging as recently as this summer.

      • Buck Nelson October 20, 2016 at 2:42 pm #

        Thanks for the mention, Andrew. I did do about 150 new posts this year, including a couple of gear lists, but primarily journaling about my hike and paddle of the Lewis and Clark Trail. http://bucktrack.com/lewis-and-clark-trail-journal/

  5. Connie Dodson October 20, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

    I have updated products, in awhile. The website information is solid.

    I have had the website, under different names, over the years always pushing good practices.
    http://www.ultralightbackpackingonline.com

    I started as a mountainclimber, over the years more into hiking in wilderness areas.

    I added kayaking, to canoeing with my dad.

    Most days, are all about hiking.

  6. Joe October 20, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    I really enjoy backpackthesierra.com. It’s more about where to go and reports on where the bloggers have been and less about gear which works for me these days.

  7. Sean October 20, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

    As a peak-bagger rather than a backpacker, I tend to use SummitPost more than the sites you list. 14ers.com is also sometimes useful for Colorado stuff (as long as you ignore anything having to do with 14ers ;-).

    While I still follow Leor Pantilat, his stuff has become less interesting to me as he has moved away from peaks and toward photo-essays about long runs. Anton Krupicka doesn’t post very often, but he usually writes about interesting routes. Other than that, I mostly follow a few friends; I could never keep up with your long list.

  8. david October 20, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

    Alright, let’s see that list of favorite podcasts! http://www.allwhowander.us is at the top of the list, right? 😉

    • Andrew Skurka October 20, 2016 at 3:02 pm #

      Not much of a podcast listener, sorry. But if the lists of “best outdoor podcasts” online now are poor, there is your chance!

  9. Kovas - Midwest Basecamp October 20, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

    Thanks so much for including my blog, totally unexpected. Looking forward to interacting more in the future.

  10. Russ Byer October 20, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

    That is a great list. I like reading blogs and watching youtube vids that focus on the personal backpacking experiences of others. A few years ago I started to keep a journal of my adventures online. It became a way to share them with my father as we are no longer able to do trips together. I recently migrated my journal into a blog. Would love your feedback on how to improve.

    http://ducttapeadk.blogspot.com/?

  11. Anthony October 20, 2016 at 8:14 pm #

    Great list Andrew. Most I was aware of but some new stuff here as well.

    I would add:

    wintertrekking.com a forum for those who winter camp in the extreme cold (lot’s of Canadian content, natch).

    http://www.myccr.com an exhaustive community forum largely focused on Canoeing in Canada. I don’t canoe but for some reason I find it addictive. For those who don’t exclusively backpack it’s a great resource. It’s even got me thinking of taking up canoeing at some point…

  12. Keith Howells October 20, 2016 at 10:12 pm #

    If you get a chance…Howellsoutdoors.com…trip reports, gear reviews…some pretty alright stuff…

  13. Matthew October 21, 2016 at 12:23 am #

    Hi Andrew

    A good filter on BackPackingLight.com is to rely on certain authorative personalities like:
    Mike Clelland and Roger Caffin

    I’d say Backpackthesierra is an indispensable blog/resource to find good info on seasonal hiking in the Northern Sierra: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/

    • Shawn K. October 24, 2016 at 5:35 pm #

      meh – Some BPL members are definitely worth the time (as you mentioned), but as a whole, BPL is being run into the ground by its founder, IMO. It’s a shame, because the community that continues to limp on has much to offer if it was just allowed to flourish and regain some of its former vitality. I doubt I’ll renew my membership.

      Frankly, Andrew is doing much more on his own than the BPL staff has collectively. Maybe it’s time for a AndrewSkurka.com Forum?

      • Andrew Skurka October 24, 2016 at 9:19 pm #

        BackpackingLight was overlooked for too long and has lost its firm grasp on the pole position. Ryan has the writing skills and outdoor know-how to carry the entire thing on his shoulders, as Philip does at SectionHiker and as I do here, but he seems to be unwilling or to have other ideas for it.

        The business model has changed recently, with a transition to affiliate revenue. This should be more sustainable and more profitable, relative to membership subscriptions. I would like to see fuller and more consistent disclosures about these interests, however. It’s tacky to receive an email from BPL that is full of affiliate links (e.g. about a Montane WP/B jacket) but that lacks a disclosure.

        • Shawn K. October 25, 2016 at 8:16 am #

          Fair appraisal. I won’t take up space with complaints about BPL here, except to say that it’s refreshing to have an open, respectful conversation with a site owner such as yourself, as opposed to deletion-without-response from Ryan.

          You’re doing it right, and as long as it makes sense for you to continue as you have been, I hope you do. Another thanks for your recommended reading list.

  14. Chris F. October 21, 2016 at 12:34 am #

    Podcasts are the way to go! You must drive a bit, put the time to good use. Podcast Addict works well on Android.

    I really like Paul Kirtley’s podcasts; these contain some great interviews. Mark Hines, Al Humphreys and Lisa Fenton were the last three guests.
    http://paulkirtley.co.uk/Topics/pkpodcast/

    The blog is enjoyable and covers a range of bushcraft, canoeing, hunting and plant identification. There is a second AskPaulKirtley poscast that I like, but it can be fairly introductory at times.

  15. Anthony October 21, 2016 at 6:28 am #

    Also that Andrew Skurka guy has a pretty good blog…

    • Chris F. October 21, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

      Skurka makes Marco Polo look like a couch potato. Twice the distance, half the time and he didn’t need a horse.

  16. Patrick Hill October 21, 2016 at 7:23 am #

    Andrew,
    I regularly read your blog as well as those by Paul Magnanti, Dave Chennault, and Philip Werner. Good stuff! I would like to (perhaps immodestly:) recommend my blog http://www.Strongility.com which is focused on backpacking and related outdoor activities with a slant towards fitness.

  17. Paul Mags October 21, 2016 at 10:29 am #

    Thanks Andrew. This post was very timely and welcome accolade.

  18. Andrew B. October 21, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

    Endless Mountain Experience is a blog I’ve enjoyed reading. Most of the content is focused on northeastern Pennsylvania and the surrounding region.

    https://endlessmountains.wordpress.com/

  19. Damian Hegsted October 22, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

    This is an amazing list. I already frequent a number of these sites, but at least half of them I have never heard of. One I didn’t see on there was “hikearizona.com”. It is somewhat local for the Southwest in general, but incredibly helpful in planning trips. It’s the biggest repository of trip reports and gps track data that I have seen on any outdoors sites.

    Thank you

  20. Rick Rogers October 24, 2016 at 7:59 am #

    One blog that I thoroughly enjoy, especially for its humor, is http://popupbackpacker.com/. An example quote where he’s describing how to put heat shrink on a ti cup handle,

    “Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees, while make sure you wife isn’t home – they get weird when you use the oven for anything other than baking or broiling. Place the pot in the oven for 15 or 20 minutes.”

    My wife and I got a kick out of that, as it rings true in our household.

  21. RenegadePilgrim October 24, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

    Not to be Captain Obvious or anything, but really? Not a single outdoor blog written by women? There are some really good ones out there. I mean, I know women aren’t exactly your demographic or anything, but that’s a gaping hole I see here.

    • Andrew Skurka October 24, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

      No credit for specifically referencing Erin Saver or Christy Rosander or for having several female bloggers listed in my full feed? Guess that needed to be more obvious.

      No, none made my top list, but that is because I personally get more from other blogs. Left off many other good male bloggers, too. If you know of a female writer who you think is on par with my favorites, I would love to follow them.

      • Karen October 24, 2016 at 6:21 pm #

        HI Andrew and Renegade Pilgrim!
        My fave female outdoor blogger is Kristen Bor of Bearfoottheory.com. She’s a hero of my women backpacking friends. 🙂

  22. JC - Fearless Foods October 28, 2016 at 10:06 pm #

    For the fellow podcast listener’s… I really enjoy some of the Adventure Sports Podcasts episodes which are produced in Colorado! Thank you Andrew for the great list!

  23. Robert Collins October 30, 2016 at 1:22 am #

    Not a blog, but a forum focused on backpack hunting.
    http://www.rokslide.com/

  24. Jeremy Syvrud November 1, 2016 at 1:03 am #

    For anyone interested in California hiking, http://modernhiker.com is an essential blog to read! As well as http://stargazehike.com

  25. John Abela November 1, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    Thanks for the https://hikelighter.com/ mention/inclusion Andrew.

    I think of all the ones on your list, the MSR ‘Summit Register’ has probably become my favorite over the last few months. They are just doing a great job on covering a good variety of topics, and doing so pretty dang well.

    The Blake Miller ‘Outdoor Quest’ was a new one too me, and glad I saw it on the list. I love anything that has to do with teaching folks how to do navigation/orientation in a way that is easy and fast to learn and remember. Spent a good four days reading through his articles.

    I think it is really nice to see somebody like you come forward and make the statement that those things which you were really into, which sort of defined a good part of the last few years of your life, are no longer something you are into (“thru-hiking… no longer my gig”) and yet continue on with your website as you find a new direction, a new outdoor set of adventures, a new set of hobbies… and not just shut down your website or stop publishing. So many guys that once had leading hiking websites that have lost interest in hiking have simply gone by the wayside, never to be heard from anymore. It really is nice that you have allowed your website, and those who follow you, to make the journey with you as you transition into new adventures. Thanks for doing so!

  26. Patrice La Vigne November 2, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

    Great list! But it is true what appeals to one person doesn’t necessarily appeal to the next. I keep a blog and we move around the country so much with seasonal work that I like to think I don’t lose readers because of seasonal content. But my blog is not 100% focused on outdoor adventures. In any case, thanks for sharing.

  27. Dave Sailer November 6, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

    2 more blogs…

    Rambling Hemlock (Joan West): https://ramblinghemlock.blogspot.com/

    Hiking for Her – Best Hiking Tips For Women Hikers (Diane Spicer): http://www.hiking-for-her.com/

  28. Jeff November 18, 2016 at 6:41 am #

    Great list Andrew. I added several of these blogs to my feedly. Much appreciated. I’ve been an avid reader of your excellent blog.

    My top list of blogs is here: http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2016/9/the-best-blogs-for-landscape-photography-locations

    My complete list (backpacking, hiking, gear, and photography) is here: http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2016/11/my-backpacking-hiking-outdoor-gear-and-photography-blogs-the-complete-current-list

    I also find ClubTread to be an excellent resource for Canadian locations

  29. Tomasz December 2, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

    Hi Andy,

    Hope you don’t mind if I suggest you to take a look on this website. I live in London, but was born in Poland, which has strong hiking traditions. During last few years I follow one guy, whom I consider „the Polish version” of you. It’s Lukasz Supergan, the long distance trekker and traveler, who did remarkable achievements during last 10 years. Well known among our backpacking community.

    He is the first person, who thru-hiked the range of Carpathian Mountains – 2 200 km in 93 days – solo, in 2004. Only less than 25 people did that traverse in history and he was the first one walking without companion. 9 years later he came back and finished similar trip (with small changes) in 65 days.

    He also walked 4000 km from Warsaw PL to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and did some notable winter adventures.

    Among numerous adventures, one of his most important is thru-hike of entire Zagros Range, desert mountains in western Iran. Knowing geographical and political situation of Iran, I can only imagine, how tough was that. He has started from northern part of the country and walked about 2 300 km, towards the Indian Ocean. He has also wrote a book about this trip, only available in Polish, unfortunately.

    Lukasz has also finished HRP (traverse of Pyrenees) and interesting Iceland traverse, which connected the most eastern and western points of it, more than 900 km. After all this adventures he’s well recognized adventurer in our country.

    You can find some info on his website. His blog – very useful, I must say – is in Polish only, but has some English section: http://www.lukaszsupergan.com/bio-lukasz-supergan-english/

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