Trail running fall on Bear Peak: Why do accidents happen?

By Andrew Skurka / November 27, 2012 /

Last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, I took a bad fall while running down the steep West Ridge of Bear Peak, the 8,461-ft summit of which sits 65 minutes and 3,100 feet above my house in Boulder. A foot must have tangled with a rock, root, or another foot, and I went skidding down a…

Be Prepared? Absolutely. But against what? Why and how to assess environmental and route conditions.

By Andrew Skurka / May 30, 2012 /

On every backpacking trip, I have three primary goals. In order of importance, they are to: Survive, Maintain a realistic level of comfort, and Have “fun,” the definition of which is subject to personal interpretation. When I embark on a trip, I always try to abide by the Boy Scout motto — “Be prepared” —…

Sample: Environmental and Route Condition Assessment

By Andrew Skurka / May 30, 2012 /

Below I have included the Environmental and Route Condition Assessment that I assembled for a Backpacking Fundamentals course in Yosemite. It is a good template to use in assessing the likely environmental and route conditions for upcoming trips of your own. Read this post for or an explanation of why and how to assess environmental and route conditions. You…

Learning to backpack “the hard way”: How I wasted my money and (nearly) ruined trips through trial-and-error

By Andrew Skurka / April 26, 2012 /

Nearly ten years ago, on May 5, 2002, I started my first long-distance hike: the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail. The AT was one of my first backpacking trips as well — the first had been only two months earlier during Spring Break, when I’d gone to Yosemite Valley by myself and had gone on two one-night trips, to…

Authors@Google – Ultimate Hiking Gear & Skills Clinic

By Andrew Skurka / April 5, 2012 /

Earlier this Spring I had the opportunity to present at Google’s main campus in Mountain View, CA, as part of the Authors@Google program. Special thanks to Andrew de los Reyes for organizing and marketing the event — it was a huge success. The video below is fairly representative of the clinic with which I’m currently…

Minimizing the effects and aftermath of wet feet

By Andrew Skurka / April 3, 2012 /

“These are waterproof, right?” asked the customer to the Campmor sales clerk, as he walked around the footwear area testing out a pair of backpacking boots. Out of intrigue, I stopped to watch how the conversation would unfold, despite needing to get back to the area where my gear and skills clinic would be starting…

Nine skills that will allow you to go lighter

By Andrew Skurka / March 29, 2012 /

Two years ago my younger sister and her boyfriend went on their first backpacking trip together—a weekend-long summer outing in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Based on our shared genealogy, she apparently assumed she’d been blessed with comparable backpacking wisdom as her older brother, so she borrowed some equipment I’d left in my parent’s basement and…

Why “waterproof” shoes will not keep your feet dry

By Andrew Skurka / March 1, 2012 /

Here’s a reality check: if you are backpacking in wet conditions—which could entail prolonged rain, dew-soaked grass, melting snow, un-bridged creek crossings, or even just high humidity—your feet are going to get wet. So-called “waterproof” footwear will not keep your feet dry. Advertisements and marketing that makes such claims are false and disingenuous, and they…

Food planning for multi-day backpacking trips and thru-hikes

By Andrew Skurka / January 31, 2012 /

I plan for a trip in two stages: 1. The theory. On my computer, I develop, refine, and perfect every aspect of the trip, notably my gear, supplies, route, and logistics. To do so, I rely heavily on applications like Excel, Word, National Geographic TOPO!, and Google Maps. 2. The tangible. I obtain everything that…

Creating and printing a custom mapset with TOPO!

By Andrew Skurka / January 24, 2012 /

Are you planning a trip that is not addressed specifically and perfectly by an existing guidebook or mapset? Then you should learn to use TOPO!. Among this program’s shortcomings is the inability to export and print multi-page custom mapsets, so in this post I’ll explain an alternative and efficient technique.