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Tutorial: Smoke forecasting in Yosemite & the High Sierra

By Andrew Skurka / September 16, 2020 /

For five of the past eight years, we’ve guided trips in Yosemite or Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks in September. Wildfires have occasionally affected us — like with trail closures and hazy air — but we’ve typically found ideal conditions: comfortable days and crisp nights, no bugs, and low backcountry traffic. September 2020 has presented us…

A women’s guide to backcountry hygiene || Menstruation, pee & poop, UTI’s, skin care

By Alexandra Lev / August 14, 2020 /

Has the fear of managing your bodily functions kept you from hitting the trail for a weekend of fun in the outdoors? Does the thought of dealing with your period in the backcountry prevent you from backpacking for several days in a row? Don’t fret! You are not alone in having hesitations about managing feminine…

Outdoor fitness & training for the female athlete

By Alexandra Lev / June 22, 2020 /

Since I never played sports in high school or college and since I don’t enjoy conventional forms of working out, I’ve never really considered myself an athlete. Yet everything I do in the mountains is a form of athleticism and requires training, especially as my mountain goals have become more technical and challenging. The first…

Tutorial: Plan a backpacking trip in these 7 steps

By Andrew Skurka / May 11, 2020 /

This year I will plan twenty-nine backpacking trips. They are scheduled June through October, run three to seven days, and are scattered throughout North America in the high desert, eastern woodlands, mountain West, and Alaska. In addition, I will also ready our 240+ clients, who are of mixed ages, genders, fitness, and experience. To pull…

Should I stay home or can I go? Navigating Covid-19 restrictions

By Andrew Skurka / May 8, 2020 /

Based on what we currently know about Covid-19 and on the best practices that you plan to follow, you may deem the risk of contracting or spreading Covid-19 acceptably low. And, therefore, you want to start your trip. I would generally concur with you: thoughtful behavior in a backcountry setting — which has constant air…

New normal: How can Covid-19 risk in the backcountry be minimized?

By Andrew Skurka / May 7, 2020 /

In 2020 I’m hopeful that my personal and guided backpacking trips will take place. But it won’t be business as usual — on both private and commercial outings, individual behaviors and program protocols must reflect the new risk of Covid-19. The preceding post is an objective assessment of this risk, and it serves as a…

Covid-19: What’s the objective risk to backcountry travelers?

By Andrew Skurka / May 5, 2020 /

To mitigate a risk, it’s essential to first understand it. For example, if I were planning to hike the John Muir Trail/PCT in the early-season, I’d want to know about hazardous creek crossings. And if I was planning to drink water from natural sources on that trip, I would want to be familiar with the…

Backcountry best practices in the coronavirus era

By Andrew Skurka / May 5, 2020 /

The novel coronavirus has upended life as we once knew it. With therapeutic treatments and vaccines, we’ll revert to our old normal eventually, but in the meantime we’ll have to learn to live with it — How can we still work and play without compromising our own safety or that of our family, friends and…

8-week course: How to plan your first trip, next trip, or dream trip

By Andrew Skurka / April 20, 2020 /

Successful backpacking trips are typically planned, not improvised. A thoughtful approach towards gear, food, maps, permits, travel, fitness, and skills will increase your safety margin and trip quality, and will actually create more potential for adventure — by solving foreseeable problems beforehand, you can respond fully to the true unknowns. Can you plan all aspects…

Assignment: Download maps in Gaia GPS for offline use

By Andrew Skurka / March 20, 2020 /

On most trips and in most locations, to navigate I rely primarily on my: Paper topographic maps, Watch (good), ABC watch (better), or GPS watch (best), and Magnetic compass. As both a backup and supplement to these tools, my smartphone has a GPS app like CalTopo (good) or Gaia GPS (better) along with downloaded map…