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Tips for the packraft-curious: How to get started

By Luc Mehl / November 8, 2021 /

[An introduction by Skurka] Luc recently published, The Packraft Handbook, a definitive how-to resource for this game-changing and rapidly growing mode of wilderness travel. It’s based on his thousands of miles of paddling experience and his swiftwater safety instructor expertise, and includes 150 illustrations to help convey critical information and skills. It reminds me of…

Long-term review: CalTopo || My go-to mapping & GPS navigation platform

By Andrew Skurka / August 9, 2021 /

Let me sound old for a minute. When planning the Sea-to-Sea Route in early-2004, I relied on USGS 30- x 60-minute paper maps at 1:100,000 scale to plot, measure, and follow a 700-mile route across North Dakota and Montana to link the North Country and Continental Divide Trails. Two years later, when planning the Great…

Toilet paper-less: My evolution in butt cleaning

By Andrew Skurka / July 7, 2021 /

When I began backpacking nearly twenty years ago, I used toilet paper exclusively for cleaning my butt after pooping, just like I did at home. I’ve pooped outside thousands of times since then, and now prefer to do the exact opposite: I use no toilet paper at all. Instead, I rely on natural materials, a…

Bear spray: Three proper carrying methods

By Andrew Skurka / June 8, 2021 /

Our Brooks Range trips start next week, so both clients and guides are in the final stages of their preparations. One question that hit my inbox this morning was: What is your recommended method of carrying bear spray? This is a great question to ask before a trip, because your options may be limited or…

Video tutorial: Research historical temperature & precipitation data

By Andrew Skurka / March 12, 2021 /

In a recent post on my favorite resources for researching the conditions that I will likely encounter on a backpacking trip, I plugged the Environmental Centers for Environmental Information, which tracks temperature and precipitation data for thousands of locations throughout the United States. It’s an extremely helpful website, but it can be difficult to navigate…

Template: Environmental & Route Conditions Assessment

By Andrew Skurka / March 2, 2021 /

Nineteen years ago at the start of my first real backpacking trip — an over-my-head thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail — I was simultaneously over-, under-, and mis-prepared, and had justified many decisions on the basis of what if and just in case. For example, I had three methods of purifying water but only “water-resistant”…

Considerations when flying to a backpacking destination

By Brandon Chase / February 26, 2021 /

If you need to travel long distances, perhaps over several days, to reach a backpacking destination, how you can assure that you’ll have all the necessary gear when you finally get there? I suggest two measures: Choose the most appropriate method of travel, and Plan around known restrictions. The easiest & fastest option: Fly and…

Trip planning research: My go-to resources

By Andrew Skurka / February 22, 2021 /

A six-week hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, starting at the US-Mexico border on June 6, 2006, sounded hot and dry to me. But fifteen years ago I had no experience with southern California or deserts generally, so I didn’t know how to properly prepare my gear, supplies and skills. What clothing, sleeping bag, and…

Trip Planner Template: Stay organized & track details

By Andrew Skurka / February 11, 2021 /

In preparing for a backpacking trip, especially outings that are beyond the normal weekend getaway in a familiar place, I rely on a handful of tools that collectively help me to be more efficient and thorough in my planning efforts. Previously I’ve posted about two of the most important: Backpacking gear list, and Environmental and…

Online course: Learn to (better) plan a backpacking trip

By Andrew Skurka / February 3, 2021 /

Eleven months ago the world was turned upside-down by Covid. For years I’d wanted to offer an online course, and last spring was an ideal opportunity — the expansive stay-at-home orders kept most people inside and also put a freeze on my guided trip program. Over a few weeks, Joe McConaughy (who was freshly unemployed)…