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Tell me: Who’s your guiding dream team in 2020?

By Andrew Skurka / September 17, 2019 / 37 Comments

Tomorrow morning I drive up to Grand Lake, Colo., to greet the Adventure 2A and 2B groups as they exit from their respective 5-day outings. They’re our final set of trips this year, both in Rocky Mountain National Park and for the season. For the first time since I launched trips under my own company…

How to navigate || Part 5: Skills + knowledge checklist

By Andrew Skurka / September 1, 2019 / 3 Comments

Within a few days of starting my Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 2002, I learned dead-reckon navigation using my watch and the datasheet. With surprising accuracy, I could now monitor my hiking pace, pinpoint my location between known landmarks, and predict my arrival time at upcoming points of interest like water sources and shelters. On an…

How to navigate || Part 4: Navigator’s Mindset & “staying found”

By Andrew Skurka / August 30, 2019 / 6 Comments

With just a credit card and reliable internet connection, an aspiring navigator can acquire the proper maps, resources, and equipment. The final two steps to navigational proficiency require more intention, self-study, perhaps an evening or weekend course, and most importantly field practice. In other words, the process is more time-intensive, but also more fun. These…

How to navigate || Part 3: Watch, compass, altimeter & GPS device

By Andrew Skurka / August 28, 2019 / 23 Comments

Using just a topographic map, I can competently navigate in areas like the High Sierra and Colorado Rockies, which generally have distinct landforms and open views. Even so, for added accuracy and unusual circumstances, I also carry select navigational tools, personally a GPS watch, magnetic compass, and smartphone with GPS app. These instruments become more…

How to navigate || Part 2: Maps & resources

By Andrew Skurka / August 23, 2019 / 58 Comments

For my earliest hikes, I utilized whatever resources were conveniently available and that seemed sufficient. Before thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2002, for example, I purchased the ATC Data Book and downloaded the ALDHA Thru-Hikers Companion. And to explore Colorado’s Front Range the following summer, I bought a few National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps that…

How to navigate || Part 1: Navigator’s Toolkit + Navigation Mastery

By Andrew Skurka / August 22, 2019 / 19 Comments

Navigation is one of the most important backpacking skills, and certainly the most liberating. It allows you to drive your own adventure, rather than being a passenger. As a new backpacker with only rudimentary know-how, I was confined to backcountry thruways like the Appalachian Trail and high-use areas like Rocky Mountain National Park, where I…

Backpacking & dinner recipes

By Andrew Skurka / August 21, 2019 / Comments Off on Backpacking & dinner recipes

These are my best ideas for backpacking breakfasts and dinners. The recipes have been extensively field-tested by me and by hundreds of clients on my guided backpacking trips. Some meals were immediately winners, but often I tinkered with the ratios and secondary ingredients to get them just right. When creating these meals, I strived to…

Long-term review: La Sportiva Bushido II || Ideal for high routes, Alaska, early-season

By Andrew Skurka / August 21, 2019 / 22 Comments

The La Sportiva Bushido II ($130, 10.5 oz) is designed as an all-mountain trail running shoe. It may perform well in that application, but I bought a pair earlier this summer to instead hike in Alaska’s Brooks Range and on the Yosemite High Route in early-season conditions. Over a 5-week period I put 315 demanding…

Long-term review: Therm-a-Rest UberLite || 3-season pad for 8.8 oz

By Andrew Skurka / August 19, 2019 / 11 Comments

Therm-a-Rest revolutionized the sleeping pad category in the late-2000’s with the NeoAir XLite, which was lighter, warmer, and more comfortable than the prevailing self-inflating pads of the day. Use of the NeoAir technology was expanded, and other brands developed competing products, but the XLite has remained dominant among backpackers concerned with the weight of their…

Long-term review: Big Agnes Tiger Wall Carbon Tent || $1000+ fragile guilty pleasure

By Andrew Skurka / August 17, 2019 / 14 Comments

Over dinner at The Pump House in Fairbanks, I read to my co-guides — Alan Dixon, Flyin’ Brian Robinson, and Justin Simoni — the disclaimer-filled email about the Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Carbon Tent, sent to me by BA’s PR firm: “The [Tiger Wall Carbon] is intended for only the most advanced users. Although…