Skills

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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,…

PSA: Secure your permit now for Pfiffner Traverse

By Andrew Skurka / March 14, 2018 / 0 Comments

Public Service Announcement If you have not already, you should apply for your backcountry permit for Rocky Mountain National Park if you plan to attempt the Pfiffner Traverse this summer. The permit system in Rocky Mountain is similar to Glacier and Yellowstone: camping is permitted only in specific backcountry sites and a few at-large zones.…

It’s the vertical, stupid: How many days should I budget for a high route?

By Andrew Skurka / March 12, 2018 / 22 Comments

Last week on r/Ultralight, member u/TeddyBallgame1999 asked multiple questions about the Wind River High Route, including: The essence of this question — “How long will it take me?” — has been posed before, in the context of the WRHR and similar routes like the Kings Canyon High Basin Route, Pfiffner Traverse, Glacier Divide Route, and…

Six questions I ask before drinking unpurified backcountry water

By Andrew Skurka / February 27, 2018 / 35 Comments

They say to practice what you preach, but I’ll be honest: While I recommend that you purify backcountry water sources, I generally do not. But your mileage may vary. Normally I hike off-trail and in low-use corners of the Colorado Rockies and High Sierra — at the headwaters of the Colorado and San Joaquin Rivers…

Back in stock: Bonnie’s Balm || For wet feet, chafing, and cracked lips & skin

By Andrew Skurka / January 19, 2018 / 10 Comments

Last year the owner and founder of Bonnie’s Balm, Bonnie Searcy, had a host of health issues (among other things, two black widow spider bites) and the business seemed to evaporate. Orders went unfulfilled, calls and emails garnered no response, and the website even went down. As a long-time supporter and distributor of the products,…

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: Dead-reckoning navigation | Basic but oft-used skill

By Andrew Skurka / September 11, 2017 / 7 Comments

Dead-reckoning is the simplest navigation skill. It’s much easier to learn than reading a map, or operating a compass, GPS, or altimeter watch. Yet I find it to be one of the most useful and frequently used, especially when hiking on well-maintained trails where a consistent physical effort yields consistent results. Such trails include well-known long-distance footpaths…

Mailbox: My impact on crap

By Andrew Skurka / June 8, 2017 / 0 Comments

Recently, I received an email from Luke G., who had attended a gear & skills clinic at the flagship REI in Denver. It’s worth sharing: I field many emails from readers, most hoping to get some additional information, some expressing thanks for something that I had shared or done. But Felix’s story is one of…

No longer #snowpocalypse: Just an “average big winter” for the High Sierra

By Andrew Skurka / April 9, 2017 / 15 Comments

Through the beginning of March, California was having an extraordinary winter. Snowpack in the High Sierra was keeping pace with the wettest winter on record, 1982-83. If the trend had continued, conditions would have been very challenging for aspiring Pacific Crest and John Muir Trail hikers, due to extensive lingering snowpack and high run-off, probably…

The trail is just a tool: Navigation skills, resources & gear for early-season backpacking

By Andrew Skurka / April 3, 2017 / 1 Comment

Even if your itinerary is entirely on-trail, you should expect an occasional off-trail experience when backpacking in the Mountain West in early-season conditions. On trade routes like the John Muir Trail, a continuous boot-track across lingering snow will develop by July, especially where the terrain funnels the foot traffic (e.g. at a pass). In less popular…