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Actually, there is a “right way” to backpack: The limits of “hike your own hike”

By Andrew Skurka / November 16, 2016 /

One interaction I distinctly recall from the Appalachian Trail was in Virginia, with a fellow thru-hiker who was outwardly critical of my approach. I had been moving at a relatively quick clip, in the hopes of finishing the entire trail in about three months, before the start of my fall semester. “You’re hiking too fast…

How to poop in the outdoors || Part 4: The backcountry bidet

By Andrew Skurka / October 11, 2016 /

Most tutorials about pooping in the outdoors end with a butt wiping, a cover up of the cathole, and a hand-washing, as I covered in Part 3 of this series. But I will finish with something less conventional: the backcountry bidet. If you would rather watch than read, view the video embedded above starting at 5:18. Motivation…

How to poop in the outdoors || Part 3: Wiping, covering up, & cleaning up

By Andrew Skurka / October 8, 2016 /

It’s time for action! You have found a good location to poop and you have created a hole. (Refer to Part 1 and Part 2 of this series for details.) I normally squat over my hole and poop directly into it. If you care to get creative, you can straddle a fork in a downed…

How to poop in the outdoors || Part 2: Digging catholes & rolling rocks

By Andrew Skurka / October 7, 2016 /

The first step in pooping in the outdoors is finding a good location. Site selection was discussed in-depth in Part 1. But to quickly refresh, high quality pooping spots will be: At least 200 feet away from water, Inconspicuous, Biologically rich, and Conducive to a cathole. The next step is creating a hole. Notice my use of…

How to poop in the outdoors || Part 1: Site selection

By Andrew Skurka / October 6, 2016 /

Like real estate, pooping outdoors is all about location, location, location. Conventional wisdom mostly skips over this aspect, and puts more emphasis on the cathole — you know, the perfect 8-inch pit that, like the perfect bear hang, is much easier to draw than to accomplish in the field. By finding a good pooping location, more liberties…

Poop in the outdoors: Sites, holes, wiping & bidet

By Andrew Skurka / October 5, 2016 /

Pooping outdoors is easy to do: squat and wipe. It’s more difficult to do it well. A stroll around any popular frontcountry or backcountry area will attest that some fraction of hikers, backpackers, and campers struggle with this skill, due to ignorance of laziness, or a combination thereof. A good poop job will avoid: Contaminating…

Quick tip: Field-friendly Leukotape strips for foot care & first aid

By Andrew Skurka / October 4, 2016 /

A core item in my backpacking first aid kit and foot care kit is Leukotape P, a non-elastic strapping tape. I most often use it for hot spots, blisters, and other skin irritations; and on a few group trips I have made custom bandages and protected injured body parts with it. Leukotape P should not be confused…

Permit directory: Wilderness & backcountry camping in the Sierra Nevada

By Andrew Skurka / September 30, 2016 /

The Sierra Nevada mountains are world-class, encompassing two National Parks (Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings), the John Muir Trail, and a half-dozen Wilderness Areas like Desolation, Golden Trout, and Emigrant. The heart of the range extends from the Kern River in the south, to Lake Tahoe in the north. Backcountry use is accordingly significant, by residents of…

Reader question: Clothing & skills for backpacking in the rain

By Andrew Skurka / September 30, 2016 /

A reader — Steve B. from Laporte, MN — recently wrote me: Hi Andrew, I used much of your advice on my 300-mile Superior Hiking Trail thru-hike this summer. Many things worked well, like trekking poles, microfiber underwear, and my alcohol stove. One thing that didn’t go so well was getting wet. I used a…

How-to || Pack a backpack: Load distribution, organization, waterproofing, & canisters

By Andrew Skurka / September 20, 2016 /

When packing my backpack, I have two primary goals: Minimize its effect on my center of gravity, and Keep oft-needed items easily accessible so that I can hike uninterrupted. I’ll start by discussing these goals in-depth. Then, I will address special considerations like bear canisters and backpack styles. Center of gravity When not wearing a…