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8-week course: How to plan your first trip, next trip, or dream trip

By Andrew Skurka / April 20, 2020 /

Successful backpacking trips are typically planned, not improvised. A thoughtful approach towards gear, food, maps, permits, travel, fitness, and skills will increase your safety margin and trip quality, and will actually create more potential for adventure — by solving foreseeable problems beforehand, you can respond fully to the true unknowns. Can you plan all aspects…

women rock climbers high-fiving on rock

Outdoor Women: How to Find Your Community

By Alexandra Lev and Teresa Hagerty / April 20, 2020 /

This is for the incredible women still seeking their outdoor community. I’ve been there too. This is the article I wish I’d found years ago to support my search for my own female adventure partners. Allow me to provide you with the map to your outdoor sisterhood. The destination is worth the journey. When I…

Discuss: When & how will backpacking be safe & feasible again?

By Andrew Skurka / April 14, 2020 /

The COVID-19 pandemic has me heartbroken by the death toll, saddened by the widespread fear, longing for social engagement, deflated by its economic impact, fascinated by the science, and — most of all right now — simply anxious to return to a “normal” that more closely resembles the old one than the current one. I’m…

How is backpacking different for women than men? Series intro

By Andrew Skurka / April 13, 2020 /

While reorganizing and streamlining the blog categories late last year, I found two lonely posts that demanded their own section — For women — and that also highlighted the need for more related content. On this website I generally stick to subjects about which I’m an expert, so historically it’s been light on female-specific subjects…

Coronavirus: US- and state-level trends

By Andrew Skurka / March 31, 2020 /

This weekend I got frustrated by the lack of easy-to-find and up-to-date national- and state-level coronavirus trends. Specifically: How many cases and deaths have been reported each day? And, What is the rate of change? So I created my own, using data from the New York Times, which they’ve made publicly available on Github and…

Recommended footwear for high routes, Alaska, and early-season conditions

By Andrew Skurka / March 26, 2020 /

What is the optimal backpacking footwear for high routes, Alaska, and early-season conditions? Each year I field this question from dozens of clients, so here I’d like to provide a list of proven winners (and a few losers). These recommendations are relevant to anyone planning a trip to similar locations or in similar conditions, whether…

Assignment: Download maps in Gaia GPS for offline use

By Andrew Skurka / March 20, 2020 /

On most trips and in most locations, to navigate I rely primarily on my: Paper topographic maps, Watch (good), ABC watch (better), or GPS watch (best), and Magnetic compass. As both a backup and supplement to these tools, my smartphone has a GPS app like CalTopo (good) or Gaia GPS (better) along with downloaded map…

Assignment: Create a topographic mapset with CalTopo

By Andrew Skurka / March 18, 2020 /

For at least five years, CalTopo has been my preferred map-making platform, and I use it exclusively for personal trips, guided trips, and guidebooks. The service was launched in late-2011 by Matt Jacobs, and its functionality eventually matched and then greatly surpassed my prior go-to, National Geographic TOPO! desktop software, which has since been discontinued.…

Book review: The Adventurer’s Son, by Roman Dial

By Andrew Skurka / February 25, 2020 /

Nearly six years ago, Cody Roman Dial went missing in Costa Rica on what was supposed to be a four-day solo hike through Corcovado National Park. Twenty-two torturous months later, his family — including mother Peggy, sister Jazz, and father Roman, the legendary Alaskan adventurer — and friends finally got closure, when a local miner…

Updated: First Aid, Foot Care, and Gear Repair Kits

By Andrew Skurka / February 19, 2020 /

I spent the morning updating three important backpacking gear lists: First Aid Kit Foot Care Kit Gear Repair Kit Since I originally posted posted them in October 2016, I’d tweaked them occasionally but hadn’t done a wholesale revision until now. “Wholesale” is probably an overstatement — they were all very solid still. If you sporadically…