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Long-term review: Osprey Aether/Ariel Pro 70 || Tough mid-weight load-hauler

By Andrew Skurka / May 21, 2019 / 2 Comments

Recently I had to look through photos of the Great Western Loop from 2007. My, my, I had such a small and light pack. But the trend has been moving in the wrong direction ever since, and for about a year I’ve been using a pack that has more volume and weighs more than anything…

Standout gear for cold-and-wet conditions in the Appalachians

By Andrew Skurka / May 19, 2019 / 19 Comments

Last week my guiding season kicked off in the beautiful — but soggy and unseasonably cold — mountains of West Virginia, with four 3-day/2-night learning-intensive Backpacking Fundamentals courses, split between two guide teams. Based on the conditions assessment that we performed during the Planning Curriculum, we expected rain and cool temperatures. But I was hoping for…

Gear list: West Virginia & Appalachians in May

By Andrew Skurka / May 8, 2019 / 7 Comments

My guiding season starts this Friday in West Virginia, where Alan Dixon, Joseph “Stringbean” McConaughy, Ron Bell, Matthew Bright, and I will be leading two consecutive intro-level 3-day trips (May 10-12 and 13-15). Seneca Creek National Recreation Area encompasses Spruce Knob, the state’s high point, and is not far from other popular backcountry areas like Dolly…

In my pack: Six items for rain & ticks in West Virginia

By Andrew Skurka / April 28, 2019 / 28 Comments

Next month I am guiding two 3-day overnight backpacking trips in West Virginia, which has all the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains but a fraction of the backcountry traffic versus the range’s more eastern destinations like Shenandoah National Park. I’m being joined by Alan Dixon, Joe McConaughy (“Stringbean”), Ron Bell, and Matt Bright. This week…

Long-term review: Black Diamond Rhythm Tee with NuYarn, innovative nylon/merino blend

By Andrew Skurka / April 24, 2019 / 17 Comments

At the end of a Black Diamond media lunch at Outdoor Retailer last November, I was given a t-shirt that we’d been quickly briefed about but that seemed like vastly inferior product seeding relative to the new powder skis and airbag packs that’d really wow’d us. I’m notoriously particular about my athletic clothing, and I expected this…

Long-term review: Saxx Kinetic Boxer Briefs || Pricey perfection

By Andrew Skurka / April 17, 2019 / 14 Comments

After my first trip last spring, I cut out the boxer brief liner of my favorite hiking shorts, which were designed for running and which I’d scored at Marshalls for $15(!) a few years earlier. The elasticized liner had lost its rebound, resulting in an imperfect fit and insufficient support. The shell was still in…

Book review: Thirst, by Anish || Honest & accurate depiction of PCT FKT

By Andrew Skurka / April 14, 2019 / 2 Comments

“Better her than me,” I said multiple times during Thirst: 2600 miles to home, by Heather Anderson (“Anish”) about her record-setting thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013, which she completed in 60+ days at an astounding pace of over 43 miles per day. This glorified diary is an honest and accurate depiction of…

Book review: The Sun is a Compass || Bellingham to Kotzebue, Alaska

By Andrew Skurka / April 8, 2019 / 5 Comments

Nine years ago I randomly met Caroline Van Hemert on a gravely beach along Alaska’s Lynn Canal, between Juneau and Haines. She approached as I was cooking dinner and soaking in a splendid sunny evening. It was kind of dreamy, I won’t lie — I was halfway into my Alaska-Yukon Expedition, and she was the…

For sale: My childhood home

By Andrew Skurka / April 3, 2019 / 19 Comments

Thirty-three years ago my parents moved to 51 Donald Lewis Drive in Seekonk, Mass. — along with their three kids, ages 7, 5, and 2 — and on Monday put this classic Colonial on the market. With this post I’m not trying to help their sale, but simply mark a milestone as I occasionally do…

Snowpocalypse 2019: Expected “summer” conditions in the High Sierra & southern Rockies

By Andrew Skurka / March 28, 2019 / 47 Comments

California, Oregon, Nevada, and the Four Corners states have been drenched this winter, with snowpacks now about 150 percent of their normals. If you have scheduled backpacking trips in the High Sierra or southern Rockies in June or July, and to a lesser degree August, here is some reading for you: 1. Today on my…