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PSA | Hazardous High Sierra creeks: List, map & alternates

By Andrew Skurka / June 10, 2019 / 23 Comments

Every spring, creeks in the High Sierra rage with snowmelt. For one to two months, they are a grave danger, especially after wet winters like 2018-19. Backpackers can still hike, camp, and explore safely, but they should be aware of and respect this hazard. Swift and deep creek crossings will be found throughout the range,…

Wilderness medicine training: When have I actually applied it?

By Andrew Skurka / June 3, 2019 / 11 Comments

This past weekend I took my biannual wilderness first responder (WFR) and CPR re-certification courses. Between refreshes on the patient assessment system, prerequisites for a FSA, and rescue breaths, I thought about the instances over the past eight years when I’ve had to apply my training. As a new WFR in 2011, I remember being…

Snowpocalypse 2019: Expected “summer” conditions in the High Sierra & southern Rockies

By Andrew Skurka / March 28, 2019 / 47 Comments

California, Oregon, Nevada, and the Four Corners states have been drenched this winter, with snowpacks now about 150 percent of their normals. If you have scheduled backpacking trips in the High Sierra or southern Rockies in June or July, and to a lesser degree August, here is some reading for you: 1. Today on my…

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…

Reader Q: Where should I put my bear canister or Ursack at night?

By Andrew Skurka / January 15, 2019 / 19 Comments

In a comment to my recent post about the ineffectiveness of bear bags and recommended alternatives, reader Jim N. asked, I received a similar question via email from David N., so a standalone post on the issue seems warranted. But to give a more comprehensive answer, I’ll broaden the question to: Official recommendations Let’s first look…

Ineffective & outdated: Six reasons to not hang a bear bag

By Andrew Skurka / January 10, 2019 / 123 Comments

Bear bags are a stubborn fixture of the backpacking world. Hanging is recommended, taught, and practiced by influential organizations and individuals even though it is less effective, less foolproof, less reliable, less efficient, and less safe than other food protection techniques, notably hard-sided canisters and (to a lesser degree) soft-sided bear-resistant food sacks. I have not…

Just released: CalTopo app for Android

By Andrew Skurka / December 22, 2018 / 12 Comments

The website CalTopo has been my go-to mapping platform for four over years. I primarily use it to make and print topographic maps, including for all of my guided trips and high route guides. It has come a long way since I began to use it, with regular improvements to the user-interface and imagery database.…

Admission: Yes, I sleep with my food

By Andrew Skurka / December 21, 2018 / 28 Comments

In a post yesterday I shared my recommended food storage techniques. Some readers responded skeptically to my fifth method — sleeping with it — so I thought I’d discuss it more fully. I’m intentional about when and where I’ll do it, and I don’t have a death wish. First, a disclaimer Sleeping with your food seems riskier than…

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 || Wildfire & smoke management: Strategies & resources

By Andrew Skurka / August 15, 2018 / 7 Comments

For the past month I have been watching the Ferguson Fire, a 100,000-acre blaze on the western outskirts of Yosemite National Park, to assess and predict its effects on my planned backpacking trip there next week. I had to change my destination airport (to Reno instead of Fresno) and I’m expecting some smoke, but fortunately…