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Backpacking Gear List Template + 3-season Checklist

By Andrew Skurka / March 13, 2019 / 49 Comments

Completing a gear list is one of the most important and most beneficial steps in preparing for a backpacking trip. A fully featured gear list can be used to: Pack virtually (and avoid a gear explosion in the guest room), Organize systems (e.g. clothing, shelter, kitchen), Calculate pack weight, Budget and track new purchases, Prepare…

Tutorial || How to store & protect food from bears & mini-bears

By Andrew Skurka / December 20, 2018 / 34 Comments

You’ve set up camp for the night and cooked dinner. Now what should be done with the Snickers, salami, peanut noodle dinners, and the other calories that will sustain you for the remainder of your backpacking trip? Protect from what? Most backpackers seem to protect their food overnight because they’re worried about bears. In places…

Tutorial: How to predict backcountry weather conditions || Methods & sources for short & long trips

By Andrew Skurka / June 3, 2018 / 20 Comments

I have said this before, and continue stand by it: there is a right way to backpack: equip yourself with the gear, supplies, and skills that are appropriate for the conditions and your trip objective. Among the conditions that I consider (there are about 10; view the full list), the weather — specifically temperatures, precipitation,…

Tutorial: Methods to purify backcountry water || Pros, cons & my picks

By Andrew Skurka / March 27, 2018 / 52 Comments

How to purify water from backcountry sources There are four basic techniques for treating water: Boiling Filtration Chemicals Ultraviolet light Boiling is time-tested, but impractical as a regular treatment: it consumes time and fuel, and hot water is normally unsatisfying to drink. I rely on this method only when I’m heating up water anyway for…

Five strategies for hunting elk & mule deer in Colorado

By Andrew Skurka / November 20, 2017 / 14 Comments

You can’t shoot an elk or mule deer until you find one. Duh. And for a beginner DIY hunter, learning to find one is probably the biggest challenge — at least, that was my experience. Where will the big game be, given the location, season, current and recent conditions, and time of day? Otherwise, hunting is…

Stay warm when it’s wet: How to protect down insulation from moisture

By Andrew Skurka / November 7, 2017 / 24 Comments

When shopping for a sleeping bag, insulated jacket, or insulated pants, you will have a choice of insulations: Down, which is a commodity product measured by fill power, e.g. 800-fill; or, Synthetic, which is normally made of interwoven plastic fibers and which may be marketed as Primaloft, Climashield, or a proprietary version like TNF Thermoball.…

Tutorial: Backpacking in early-season conditions || Recommended gear, supplies & skills

By Andrew Skurka / March 13, 2017 / 6 Comments

Recently I explained how an exceptionally snowy winter in California will affect summertime backpacking conditions throughout the Sierra Nevada, including in Yosemite, Sequoia-Kings Canyon, and Desolation Wilderness, and along the John Muir Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Sierra High Route, and Kings Canyon High Basin Route. For all the details, read the post. In short, expect:…

From ultra(slow) runner to 2:3X marathoner || Training methodology, with coach David Roche

By Andrew Skurka / March 11, 2017 / 6 Comments

For the last three years I have perhaps been more serious about running than about backpacking. It’s a function of lifestyle and age: running 10-20 hours per week is more compatible with marriage than thru-hiking would be, and at nearly 36-years-old I have only a few years left in which to run really fast lifetime PR’s. I took…

Actually, there is a “right way” to backpack: The limits of “hike your own hike”

By Andrew Skurka / November 16, 2016 / 21 Comments

One interaction I distinctly recall from the Appalachian Trail was in Virginia, with a fellow thru-hiker who was outwardly critical of my approach. I had been moving at a relatively quick clip, in the hopes of finishing the entire trail in about three months, before the start of my fall semester. “You’re hiking too fast…

Buyer’s Guide + my Go-to Systems: Backpacking tents, tarps & hammocks

By Andrew Skurka / November 13, 2016 / 14 Comments

There are literally thousands of backpacking shelters — multiple styles of tents, tarps, hammocks, and bivy sacks, plus accessories like guylines and stakes — from which to choose. How is a new backpacker, aspiring thru-hiker, couple, Philmont-bound Boy Scout, or even a veteran looking to upgrade, supposed to sort through the paralyzing volume of options…