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Why “waterproof” shoes will not keep your feet dry

By Andrew Skurka / March 1, 2012 /

Here’s a reality check: if you are backpacking in wet conditions—which could entail prolonged rain, dew-soaked grass, melting snow, un-bridged creek crossings, or even just high humidity—your feet are going to get wet. So-called “waterproof” footwear will not keep your feet dry. Advertisements and marketing that makes such claims are false and disingenuous, and they…

My sock systems for backpacking in 3-season conditions

By Andrew Skurka / January 17, 2012 /

In normal 3-season conditions, I carry just two pairs of socks on my backpacking trips. In wet climates I carry a “daytime” pair and a “sleeping” pair, whereas in dry climates I carry two “daytime” pairs. But there’s slightly more to it than that. This is the first of what I hope will become a…

Vapor Barrier Liners: Theory & Application

By Andrew Skurka / December 29, 2011 /

Occasionally during the FAQ portion of my slideshows, and frequently at the start of every winter, I receive questions about vapor barrier liners (VBL’s). The content and tone of these questions suggest a general misunderstanding of and slight mystery about them, so in this article I’ll attempt to offer a comprehensive review of VBL’s based…

Product Review: SPOT Satellite Messenger

By Andrew Skurka / December 23, 2011 /

My mother is not a backpacker or a hiker, and “outdoorsy” is definitely not among the Top 10 adjectives I would use to describe her. But, as a mom, she gets gravely worried and concerned when her hyper-outdoorsy son goes into the backcountry, usually alone, regardless of the season, and almost always with the intention…

Make your own: Fancy Feast Alcohol Stove Windscreen

By Andrew Skurka / December 21, 2011 /

Alcohol stoves are more susceptible to wind than conventional backpacking stoves, and therefore a good windscreen is a critical part of the system. I make my wind stoves from aluminum foil (e.g. Reynolds Wrap). Advantages It is ultralight, at just .3 oz. It is very inexpensive, costing just pennies to make. It can be made…

Food protection techniques in bear country

By Andrew Skurka / December 20, 2011 /

Disclaimer. Ultimately you need to make your own decisions on how to protect your food in bear country. And you are fully responsible for the outcomes of those decisions. In this article I have tried to be candid and realistic, and to cut through some of the BS, red tape, and conventional wisdom that surrounds…

Bear Canister Basics

By Andrew Skurka / December 19, 2011 /

Bear canisters are hard-sided plastic or carbon fiber cylinders with a removable lid that is designed to protect its contents (namely, food and other scented items) from bears. The canister’s shape, hardness, and lid seal mechanism (which require opposable fingers to open/close) make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for bears to access the canister’s…

Seven steps to lighten up

By Andrew Skurka / December 19, 2011 /

I spend most of my day walking, so I optimize my pack for on-trail ecstasy by keeping it light. However, I don’t go “stupid light” by sacrificing too much functionality, durability, comfort etc. for the sake of saving a few grams. Here are seven tips to lighten up: 1. Create a gear list. In a…

Make your own: Fancy Feast Alcohol Backpacking Stove

By Andrew Skurka / December 10, 2011 /

I received my first Fancy Feast stove from Ryan Bozis (aka Major Slacker), who attended one of my presentations in Virginia in Spring 2006. I of course thanked him for it, but given how simple the stove was, I could not imagine that it was better than the stove that I had used for most…

A Guide to Canadian Topographical Maps

By Andrew Skurka / April 2, 2010 /

When I am planning a trip in the United States for which a pre-produced mapset is unavailable, I usually make my own with National Geographic TOPO! software. In TOPO! I can pan seamlessly across USGS topographical map images, like how I can pan across a Google Map; I can markup the maps with symbols, text…