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Extensive snow coverage on the north side of Mather Pass, looking towards Palisade Lakes, after a very wet winter. Taken June 28, 2006.

Reader question: Should I change my High Sierra itinerary due the heavy snowfall?

A reader question from Gabino: I’m sure that every backpacker planning to undertake the PCT, JMT, Sierra High Route, Kings Canyon High Basin Route, or any other high-elevation route in California’s High Sierra is wondering the same thing right now. Here are some thoughts: California’s snowpack: The Facts There are many ways to record and analyze […]

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The Davidson River, Pisgah National Forest

Thought it impossible: Wildfires close 140 miles of the Appalachian Trail

Along the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails, closures and fire bans are considered normal, especially after dry winters or late in the summer. Ditto for other long trails through arid or semi-arid environments like the Arizona Trail or Colorado Trail. But I considered such trail closures impossible on the Appalachian Trail, which is nicknamed “The Green Tunnel” […]

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Hiking my own hike, on a 3-month thru-hike of the AT in 2002. But doing it "the wrong way," with gear, supplies, and skills that were inappropriate for my trip objective and the conditions.

Actually, there is a “right way” to backpack: The limits of “hike your own hike”

One interaction I distinctly recall from the Appalachian Trail was in Virginia, with a fellow thru-hiker who was outwardly critical of my approach. I had been moving at a relatively quick clip, in the hopes of finishing the entire trail in about three months, before the start of my fall semester. “You’re hiking too fast […]

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A rolled rock at 11,500 feet in the Colorado Rockies. To dig a cathole in this hardpan, you'd need a 5-lb pick mattock.

How to poop in the outdoors || Part 2: Digging catholes & rolling rocks

The first step in pooping in the outdoors is finding a good location. Site selection was discussed in-depth in Part 1. But to quickly refresh, high quality pooping spots will be: At least 200 feet away from water, Inconspicuous, Biologically rich, and Conducive to a cathole. The next step is creating a hole. Notice my use of […]

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Like a bear hang, a perfect cathole is easier to draw than to execute in the field.

How to poop in the outdoors || Part 1: Site selection

Like real estate, pooping outdoors is all about location, location, location. Conventional wisdom mostly skips over this aspect, and puts more emphasis on the cathole — you know, the perfect 8-inch pit that, like the perfect bear hang, is much easier to draw than to accomplish in the field. By finding a good pooping location, more liberties […]

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From Sentry Peak Pass, looking across the upper Middle Fork valley towards the next pass on the Wind River High Route, Photo Pass.

Repeating myself: Section-hike (don’t thru-hike) the Wind River High Route

The Wind River High Route is world-class and represents a “best of” backcountry experience in one of the wildest mountain ranges in the country. A similar statement could be made about the Sierra High Route, Kings Canyon High Basin Route, and Glacier Divide Route. A thru-hike of any one of these routes is likely to be a lifetime memory. But for nearly everyone, […]

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My group foot care kit for hiking and backpacking. For solo trips, I carry fewer items and less of each item.

Gear List || Backpacking Foot Care Kit for blisters & maceration

How many hiking and backpacking trips have been set back, or even ruined, by blisters, maceration, and other podiatric problems? Quite a few — including some of mine, unfortunately. To minimize these issues, I carry a dedicated foot care kit. I consider it a separate entity than my backpacking first aid kit. It contains several […]

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