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

By Andrew Skurka / March 28, 2019 /

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…

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

By Andrew Skurka / January 15, 2019 /

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Ineffective & outdated: Six reasons to not hang a bear bag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

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…

Admission: Yes, I sleep with my food

By Andrew Skurka / December 21, 2018 /

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 /

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…

Backpack hunting: My evolving approach

By Andrew Skurka / November 26, 2018 /

Originally I thought that hunting would be an extension of the backpacking season. Like in the summer but now with a rifle in hand and in the pursuit of elk and deer, I wanted to roam deep in world-class wilderness areas and to camp in different spots each night. But I’ve learned that this approach is…

Pre-trip backpack hunt checklist: To do before you go

By Andrew Skurka / October 30, 2018 /

This weekend is the start of Third Season for elk and deer. Steve and I liked what we saw last year in the Flattop Mountains in northwestern Colorado, and will be going back, along with Noel, my partner on my first successful hunt four years ago. This is my sixth backpack hunt now, and each year…

Tutorial || Wildfire & smoke management: Strategies & resources

By Andrew Skurka / August 15, 2018 /

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…

My solution to over-training: Racing flat, fast, and short

By Andrew Skurka / July 6, 2018 /

For my Outside blog I recently wrote about the unexpected benefits of running flat, fast, and short this spring, a break from my more usual up/down, slow, and long. Read: How to Avoid Overtraining I was not suffering from over-training syndrome, which is a debilitating physical breakdown that seems to have no cure. But if…

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

By Andrew Skurka / June 3, 2018 /

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,…