The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools & Techniques to Hit the Trail

Rated 5.00 out of 5 based on 8 customer ratings
(8 customer reviews)


A backpacking trip consists of two distinct activities: hiking and camping. In this how-to guide, I’ve shared the gear, supplies and skills that will allow you to love hiking, while still remaining safe and comfortable while camping.

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Supreme long-distance hiker Andrew Skurka shares his hard-earned knowledge in this essential guide to backpacking gear and skills. Described by National Geographic as “one of the best traveled and fastest hikers on the planet,” and named “Adventurer of the Year” by Outside and “Person of the Year” by Backpacker, Skurka recounts what he’s learned from more than 30,000 miles of long-distance adventures, most recently a 4,700-mile 6-month loop around Alaska and Canada’s Yukon.

Whether you’re a first-time backpacker, an occasional weekend warrior or a seasoned long-distance trekker, you’ll love this guide. Learn exactly what you need to carry – both on your back and between your ears – for all seasons and circumstances through a show-and-tell of clothing, footwear, backpacks, shelter and sleep systems, and more, as well as through detailed articles on foot care, campsite selection and hiking efficiency. Skurka’s practical and priceless recommendations give you all the tools and techniques you’ll need to hit the trail.


  • Publisher: National Geographic
  • Release date: February, 21 2012
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426209208
  • 224 pages
  • Full color
  • About 75 images


Each chapter has a strong narrative and consistent flow. For example, in the chapter on trekking poles I discuss their pros and cons, materials, adjustability/collapsibility, grips & straps, and baskets. To avoid making this text feel textbook-y, however, I broke it up with many ordered and unordered lists. Further, we added many stand-alone components, including:

“Versus” charts, where I summarize the similarities and differences between key materials and product types, e.g. down versus synthetic insulation, and water-resistant versus waterproof-breathable shells.

“How2” boxes, which provide step-by-step directions, e.g. how to make my four favorite dinners.

“Tips,” a short but helpful bit of advice that is related to but not covered in the text.

“Tried & true” techniques, which I think provide some of the most insightful text of the entire book, e.g. how to choose a campsite, care for your feet, and pack your backpack.

“Skurka’s Picks,” where I offer my exact recommendations, focusing on product types and also listing specific products that I prefer.

Personal anecdotes, where I give the text some color, character and historical context.

8 reviews for The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools & Techniques to Hit the Trail

  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    Phil Barton

    Wow. Andrew empowers the rest of us to have fun by applying his fusion of skills and gear on the trail. The ideas are practical. I
    gained a better understanding of the best gear available and how to use it. Plus this is the best looking gear guide I’ve ever seen.

    I like the tables that Andrew uses in each chapter to clarify the advantages and disadvantages of different gear. Each section also highlights “Skurka’s Pick” with an explanation of what works for him.

    I’ve already used this book (an early e-book version) to help me, Boy Scouts, and Scout leaders carry lighter loads on the trail.

    I’ve been on a trip with Andrew. He has captured the important ideas and tools that he uses in the backcountry.

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    Steve (verified owner)

    Best book on hiking/backpacking gear I’ve seen!
    Concise, right to the point discussion on every aspect of the gear you need to hike in the back-country.
    I think anyone looking for guidance on trekking gear, novice or experienced will benefit from reading this book.

  3. Rated 5 out of 5

    Howard E. Friedman (verified owner)

    Andrew Skurka is to hiking what Dr. Mehmet Oz is to health. Dr. Oz is a renowned heart surgeon in New York yet gives advice in his daily t.v program that is helpful to anyone wanting to get healthy even if they don’t need heart surgery. And Andrew, a renowned long distance light-weight backpacker offers in his new book advice that will be helpful to anyone who wants to hike smarter, even if they are not through-hiking the AT(although through hikers will get the most out of the book). While some of the advice contained in his book is most germane to backpackers (sleeping bags, shelters) much of his National Geographic guide is good advice to anyone who wants to hike more efficiently, even if only for a long day or a weekend backpacking trip. With lots of colorful tables, pictures and sidebars the book is easy to read and learn from. The chapters on clothing, foot wear, navigation and food are all stand outs, as are the five sample weekend to weeks-long backpacking trips with suggested packing lists. And despite his accomplishments the author is humble toward beginners as he frequently shares his own steep learning curve of mistakes on the trail. After reading this guide the backpacker and even the serious day hiker will be able to cover more ground traveling lighter, faster and further.

  4. Rated 5 out of 5

    Graeme Lee Rowlands (verified owner)

    The Ultimate Hikers Gear Guide is a masterful text jam packed
    with so much information that you’d have a hard time thinking of one thing not covered in its colorful 223 pages. Skurka pairs valuable and current gear recommendations with practical hiking tips and techniques. The book is easy to read and well organized into tables, charts, and concise but eloquent text narrative. It is accompanied by vivid color photos of Skurkas adventures, hiking gear or wilderness areas one might travel with knowledge learned from this book.

    Usually one looks at a gear guide every now and then with something specific in mind and then puts it down. However, the style and quality of the writing in this book is such that I read it captivated start to finish the first time I picked it up without being bored once.

    Skurka humbly lets you in the things he’s learned over 33,000+ miles of backpacking without sounding high and mighty in any way and empathizes with beginners by sharing stories of his own first hiking blunders and what he learned from them.

    I have lent my copy to several friends, both novice and experienced backpackers, and everyone who read it echoed my thoughts and said they learned much more than they were expecting. My friends and I will use this book as our go to guide in preparing and hiking the John Muir Trail this summer.

    Whether you’re a beginner or experienced, If you’re going to buy a book about hiking and backpacking this is definitely your best bet.

  5. Rated 5 out of 5

    Glenn Thompson (verified owner)

    Terrific Book ! Easy read and easy to use guide. My pages are dog-eared already from reading it and thumbing through the sections.

    I am NOT an Andrew Skurka caliber hiker, and honestly, at 53 years old, probably won’t plan on it. But I am an avid hiker, camper and traveler and this guide has taken me to the next level in all three. Seriously, how much stuff is in your backpack and suitcase that never gets used? His multi use concept of looking at everything that goes into your pack has saved me a ton of weight, money and never (yet!) have I been caught short. It’s almost liberating.

    As a Boy Scout, and then a leader, we have learned “Be Prepared”, but I guess I thought that meant “bring everything you can think of” rather that “think, plan and be wise”. I now prefer the latter.

    Looking forward to the next book and soon I hope, a guided adventure.

  6. Rated 5 out of 5


    After several of months planning for a Rocky Mountain backpacking trip, a friend pointed me at this book. It’s hard to argue with the experience of Andrew Skurka, and the book was so well written that I spent a few weeks prior to my trip swapping all sorts of gear. Risky, yes. I replaced my hiking boots with trail running shoes, I picked up some trekking poles, and made many other substitutions. On day one of my trip it was immediately apparent that I had made the right decisions (thanks to this book) and on day 5 it was even more apparent. Andrew’s advice proved that I could hike light and still be comfortable, in fact even more comfortable. And while some of the light gear was more expensive, much of it was less expensive or in some cases zero (recycle something I already had or leave it out altogether). I finished the week with feet bottoms that were pristine, and never once groaned at the task of lifting my pack onto my back. I highly recommend this book to all backpackers — everyone is sure to find at least one or two nuggets of information that will revolutionize their experience and make their next trip even more fun and memorable.

  7. Rated 5 out of 5


    I love this book. I have been day hiking for years but just got interested in backpacking/overnight trips. When I ordered this book I had never heard of Andrew Skurka. After beginning the book I had to sit down the book and do research on him and his hikes. I am absolutely in awe of both his abilities, his journeys and his book. I have read the book cover to cover twice now and I am still going back and reading bits and pieces here and there. I plan to do my first trip (very small comparatively) in a couple months and this book has prepared me for it. I would hate to think how bad my first trip would be without this book.

  8. Rated 5 out of 5

    Craig Sweet

    The best book I have seen regarding outdoor adventuring. Down to earth, comprehensive, broadest reach, easiest to read, logical, extremely well organized, intelligently written. A must have for beginner or experienced outdoorsmen.

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