An authoritative and comprehensive guide to backpacking gear, supplies, and skills that will save you time and money by helping you determine what you need, both on your back and between your ears.
Download a 20-page preview to better understand the book’s philosophy, writing style, content, and layout.
Skurka’s updated guide is a masterclass in how to enjoy the outdoors comfortably. This isn’t just a list of stuff you should buy: it’s the information you need to become an informed consumer and expert user of gear. — Outside magazine
Andrew Skurka’s Gear Guide…is the most in-depth, well organized, and well researched book about backpacking gear available. — The Trek
I am no longer selling copies directly. Please purchase it from Amazon, or a local bookstore or outdoor retailer.
About The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide
Renowned hiker Andrew Skurka shares his hard-earned knowledge in this completely updated guide to backpacking gear, supplies, and skills. First-time backpackers, weekend warriors, and seasoned backcountry travelers will learn exactly what to carry — on their backs and between their ears — for all locations and seasons.
A show-and-tell of clothing, footwear, backpacks, sleeping bags, shelters, and cooking systems, plus recipes, sample gear lists, trip planning checklists, expert tips, and much more, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide covers the essential tools and techniques needed to hit the trail.
Where to buy
I recommend buying the Gear Guide from a local book store or outdoor retailer, or online from Amazon. I no longer sell copies directly, to simplify my e-commerce.
To read The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide on your Kindle, buy it directly from Amazon.
Where to buy outside the US
If you live outside the US and wish to place an order for multiple copies (and ask nicely), I can probably help you out. Otherwise, I ask that you obtain the book locally or from a retailer that can better manage international orders.
For the convenience of international readers, I have a list of retailers outside the US that I try to keep updated.
Differences between the First and Second Editions
If you already own the original book, should you purchase the Second Edition? For a lengthy answer to this question, read this: “Points of difference: The First vs Second Editions of the Gear Guide.”
The short answer will not surprise you: Unequivocally, yes. The First Edition is outdated, in terms of both its information and my point of view. Since I wrote the original manuscript, backpacking changed and so did I — new products and brands, and new personal experiences and insights.
The Second Edition is updated through September 2016, and it reflects all of my current thinking about backpacking gear, supplies, and skills.
If you would like to get a better feel for the content, writing style, and layout of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, preview 20 pages by downloading this PDF.
Testimonials & reviews
What are readers and the media saying about The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide?
“Just wow! So worth the price in gear savings alone. Don’t buy any gear until you read this. Hands down, your best investment starts here.” — verified Amazon customer
“This 2nd edition continues to provide the clearest thinking about backpacking for hikers of all ability levels.” — Tommy Hayes, on Goodreads
Wes Siler, Outside
“Skurka’s updated guide is a masterclass in how to enjoy the outdoors comfortably. The book teaches you how to pack light, obviously, but it also dives much further into how to select the appropriate clothing, shelters, sleep systems, and more for a variety of terrain, seasons, and objectives. Skurka explains the challenges you’ll face, how the gear works, and the differences between seemingly minor variables, empowering you with the knowledge necessary to make purchasing decisions across a range of budgets. This isn’t just a list of stuff you should buy: it’s the information you need to become an informed consumer and expert user of gear. While the book is clearly targeted at ultralight backpacking, it’s actually an excellent guide to all-round outdoor competence.”
Nick Gatel, PopUpBackpacker
“The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide is really not about the gear per se, but how to choose gear and how to use it so you can accomplish The Goal and enjoy the walking part too. The book is well laid out, presents a ton of solid and useful information, is easy to read and understand.”
David Chenault, Bedrock & Paradox
“The ideal audience for lengthy how-to tracts is the among the groups least likely to read them, they’re too busy out learning by doing. With this in mind one must weigh detail and a fair balance of the inherently subjective with paragraphs and pages that don’t strain the readers attention span too far. Skurka’s book is rife with bullet points, sidebars (unfortunately titled “How 2…”), and short paragraphs largely bereft of compound sentences. It also features terse but detailed discussions of vapor barrier liners, the limitations of WPB laminates, minimizing drafts in quilts, fighting condensation in single wall shelters, layering in cool wet weather, and many other topics that are difficult to discuss both clearly and well. The way in which Skurka deals with complex subjects quickly, but without being reductive, is the books second greatest strength.”
Dave Marcus, Engearment
“If you already have the first edition, should you get the second? Depends, but most likely yes. As Skurka discusses on his blog, there are some pretty big differences between the two. Two major things: he wrote the first edition in 2011 and gear has come a loooooong way since then; and he, himself, learned more about the needs of the average backpacker and how to translate his experience and advice into something both digestible and useful for that person. If you’ve become your own expert in the intervening years, maybe you can skip it. But, even for the expert, Skurka offers value. As far as I’m concerned, it’s always good to get advice from experts, even if you consider yourself an expert in the same field.”
Philip Werner, SectionHiker
The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide is not really a book about gear per se, as much as it is about the skills and knowledge that very experienced backpackers develop for planning trips and deciding what gear is appropriate and safe enough to bring.
That might sound like a subtle distinction, but I think Andrew’s emphasis on skills and not the latest gear fad is a breath of fresh air in an industry that has become a bit too focused on gear and less on the self sufficiency and ingenuity that define an “Ultimate Hiker.”
The Trek, by Caet Cash
Andrew Skurka’s Gear Guide…is the most in-depth, well organized, and well researched book about backpacking gear available. It not only advises gear choices, but also helps beginning outdoorspeople develop good systems of organization and safe habits while in the back country.
David Noll –
I just got my book on Saturday and finished it this morning. Another great job. I am a fairly experienced backpacker but always pick up something new from Andrew. I usually get something I can use from his clothing ideas and always from his articles on cooking. (If you haven’t picked up his PDF on “Backpacking Food” do it now). The book is well written with plenty of pictures and plenty of packing lists to use for most occasions.
Kovas Palubinskas –
For experienced and novice hikers alike, Andrew keeps it simple and straightforward, with suggestions and advice on how to make all your outings better.
Sam Dunn (verified owner) –
The latest edition of Andrew Skurka’s “Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide” is a must-have for every hiker from the newest Scout to the seasoned backcountry guide. It is especially useful to those, like me, who fall somewhere between. If your aim is to enjoy your backpacking experience, not just to survive it, you will do well to read and heed the collective wisdom in this terrific book.
Tommy Hayes (verified owner) –
I have hiked thousands of miles on our national scenic trails and consider myself an expert hiker…but I continue to learn new techniques and tricks from Andrew Skurka. The 2nd edition of his “Ultimate Gear Guide” is full of tried-and-true wisdom and suggestions. I guarantee that it will make you reconsider some aspect of your outdoor adventuring!
Nicolas Krumenacker –
Put simply, Skurka’s gear guide is the most efficacious written compilation of hiking and backpacking knowledge for outdoor enthusiasts (not just hikers) of all levels and ages that I have come across. I have learned a great deal from perusing the first edition and countless time referred back to it. I have recommended it to many friends and acquaintances. I have gifted several copies. I have even included it in a raffle for BigCityMountaineers. And if you already have the first edition, the second one is still worth getting as it offers a comprehensive update that makes this guide the most up-to-date on the market (e.g. to Cuben Fiber, or not to?). Sure, there are other good hiking books and lots of free online advice, but few sources are as concise, insightful, comprehensive and thoughtfully presented as this one. Best of all, the savings from the fewer and better gear purchases that you will make after reading this guide will easily pay for a dozen copies!
Kevin Colwin (verified owner) –
I pre-ordered the 2nd Edition because I was so impressed with Andrew’s 1st Edition way back when. I read this in a day. It’s an easy read if you love learning about practical and effective ways to make hiking, camping and, most importantly, backpacking an easier and lighter process. Although the title lists it as a gear guide, it is so much more than that. You could research a multitude of expert hiker’s websites on recommended gear lists, but they still wouldn’t comprehensively provide the insight in a more thorough and attainable method than Mr. Skurka’s new edition to his book. It’s like The Wine Bible for serious and beginner backpackers alike. Picture America’s Test Kitchen and how much insight it has provided for the home cook. That’s what The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide (2nd Edition) can do for backpacking enthusiasts. Get yourself a copy. It will become your new go-to reference for all things backcountry.
Drew Holliday (verified owner) –
I too pre-ordered the 2nd edition. One of the best books I’ve purchased on the topic of gear. Too many books like this base their information and reviews on what people “should” or “can” do or what the industry tells people to buy. Andrew Skurka bases his thoughts on what DOES WORK because he has actually used these products and solutions. Enough cannot be said about the experience and background that supports the feedback in this book. HIGHLY recommended.
Nicola Ross –
What I’m reading
The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, 2nd edition, Andrew Skurka, National Geographic, 2017
I’m not really reading this book; after all, it’s a reference guide. But Andrew Skurka, who happens to be one of Outside magazine’s Adventurers of the Year, includes some engaging stories about his hiking experience, which are worth perusing. The real benefit of this book is that the author actually makes recommendations. It’s not simply a list of gear with a few specs that you are expected to interpret even if you know little about the intricacies of merino wool vs polyester. I appreciate Skurka’s advice and will definitely read through the guide before purchasing my next pair of hiking boots, or a tent or backpack or hiking poles.
Skurka focusses his recommendations on “backpackers,” as opposed to hikers. But don’t be put off, much of what you’ll find in this book is essential info for day hikers who spend a couple of hours on the Bruce Trail. For instance, he includes an excellent description of how to pick the right footwear. I appreciate this as what goes on your feet is likely the most important decision hikers make, and it’s certainly the question I get asked most often. Ditto about merino wool vs polyester clothing, hiking poles and fitting a backpack.
He also provides some quirky tips such as the benefits of hiking with an umbrella and how to make the best cookstove ever out of an empty cat-food tin that costs $1.50.
I highly recommend this book if you are in the market for hiking gear and what hiker isn’t?
Simply put, after reading this guide book, I felt as if I had been spared a lot of heartache in the outdoors.
By reading this guide you are standing on the shoulders of Andrew Skurka.
His pain is your gain.
Read it, apply it, and have a more comfortable experience when going on your next outdoor trip
Really good stuff. I hadn’t read a backpacking book since Colin Fletcher’s “The Complete Walker”, which led me to quit college and embark on a 2 year tour of the western National Parks in 1972, but I got a bug to get back into it last year,after I retired.
I bought several books, but most were either very shallow, or their authors seemed to think they had to end every sentence with a punchline.
Andrew makes a joke now and then, but he is all about information. Andrew, he just gone tell you how it is.
I have since followed his blog, and found him similarly honest there.
Buy the book if you are not skillful at backcountry stuff.
Hell, buy it if you are. I learned a TON, especially about new stuff.
Joe A –
I wish I read this book BEFORE I bought my gear. This book would have saved me a ton of money and taught me how to achieve the illustrious <15lb base weight. Now, if anyone ever mentions to me that they are interested in backpacking, I will recommend this book before they go an buy or rent their gear too. One small example is the difference between using a Jetboil and a fancy feast stove. In truth, it seems you never really need the features a Jetboil offers at 120 dollars, and it is much heavier than the fancy feast setup. Thanks Andrew and I will certainly be looking forward to any new publications.
Way more than a gear guide, it has lots of helpful tips and thoughtful insights into both the hows and the whys of backpacking. Needed a new large pack and got one from Sierra Designs reviewed in the book. One shake out hike and one weekend later I know I made the right choice. One note of caution is his recommendation of the BearVault canister. These apparently don’t work in the Adirondacks and so don’t meet bear proof requirements. Still for sale at REI where most recent reviews caution against.