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Crampons & ice axe: Recommendations for the High Sierra

By Andrew Skurka / May 26, 2019 / 12 Comments

In July I’m running six trips in Yosemite National Park, split between two guide teams: two intro-level 3-day courses, and four more advanced 5- and 7-day trips. We will be hiking sections of the John Muir Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Sierra High Route, and Yosemite High Route, in addition to other trails and off-trail routes. Because…

Reader Q: Do I need an ice axe or crampons on the Pfiffner Traverse?

By Andrew Skurka / November 27, 2017 / 7 Comments

A question from reader Stan P. of Alexandria, Virginia: This is a great question, because the answer is both nuanced and consequential. A multitude of factors are at play, and you want to be right — or else you’ll be carrying several pounds of unnecessary equipment, bailing off your intended route, or exposing yourself to excessive…

Backpacking camera shopping: Two helpful questions

By Andrew Skurka / May 3, 2017 / 14 Comments

In my buyers guide for backpacking cameras, I identified the pros and cons of various options and discussed the optimal user profile for each. The guide is designed to help you settle on a specific form factor: smartphone, point-and-shoot, enthusiast compact, or interchangeable lens. Camera shopping does not necessarily get any easier from there, however. Within each category,…

Buyers Guide || Cameras for backpacking: Phones, point-and-shoots, compacts & interchangeable-lens

By Andrew Skurka / May 2, 2017 / 66 Comments

Last week I spent many more hours researching and deliberating about the purchase of a new camera than any non-obsessive person ever would. While they’re still fresh and relevant, I’ll share some backpacking-specific buying and product insights that I wish I had found elsewhere. Personal context I primarily use my camera for backpacking, followed by…

Early-season backpacking || Merits of skis, snowshoes, crampons & axes

By Andrew Skurka / March 30, 2017 / 68 Comments

The early-season is a messy inbetween — it’s no longer winter, but not yet summer, either. Snowpack and cornices still linger in the higher elevations and on shady and leeward aspects, while snow-free trails are found lower down and on sun-blasted slopes higher up. This inconsistency presents backcountry travelers with a dilemma: What will be…

Preview: new Black Diamond 300-lumen Spot headlamp

By Andrew Skurka / January 14, 2017 / 11 Comments

The new Black Diamond Spot headlamp will produce 300 lumens, which is a 50 percent increase over the current version (read my review). Its weight and size appeared unchanged, as does its single control button, unfortunately. The current Spot will become the new Cosmos, which represents a 25 percent increase in light output (to 200…

Review: Black Diamond Spot Headlamp || Bright, lightweight, reasonably priced

By Andrew Skurka / December 14, 2016 / 25 Comments

While in the headlamp aisle at the local REI last summer, I wondered if other customers felt fortunate for the recent advances in LED technology. The three models I was deliberating between were all less expensive, lighter weight, longer lasting, and brighter (by several factors) than the lights I had used for my thru-hikes in the 2000’s and…

Long-term review: Coast HL27 Headlamp || Bright & quickly adjustable

By Andrew Skurka / November 10, 2016 / 3 Comments

While perusing the floor of Outdoor Retailer last year, I walked past Coast, which I had never heard of before and which appeared to have a nice line of lights. I spoke with a rep for a few minutes, and he sent me off with the Coast HL27 Headlamp. After more than a year of…

Backpacking Gear Lists || First Aid, Foot Care & Repair Kits (Downloadable)

By Andrew Skurka / October 5, 2016 / 3 Comments

If I were to drop my first aid, foot care, and field repair kits directly into my master backpacking gear list, I would fear clogging it up. Already, the master list can be intimidating, and these kits contain dozens of items on their own. Moreover, their exact contents depend greatly on whether I am traveling solo or with a…

Gear list || Backpacking Field Repair Kit for broken, lost & worn out gear

By Andrew Skurka / October 5, 2016 / 10 Comments

Due to extended use, hard use, and sometimes human error, backpacking clothing and equipment will break, tear, and wear out. Personally, in the field I’ve experienced: Torn trekking pants, rain gear, puffy jackets, sleeping bags, and backpacks; Leaking seams on shelters; Bent, splintered, and fractured trekking pole shafts; Cracked sunglasses; Punctured and cracked water bottles; Dead headlamp batteries; Slow leaks in air sleeping…