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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…

Assignment: Create a topographic mapset with CalTopo

By Andrew Skurka / March 18, 2020 /

*NOTE: This post has been updated to address the wholesale changes in CalTopo in 2021. You can read about these changes HERE and we have inserted links to key places in CalTopo’s training page throughout these instructions. If you notice an inconsistency, have your own tips, or find a better workaround, let us know in…

Gear List: Backpacking Foot Care Kit for blisters & maceration

By Andrew Skurka / February 19, 2020 /

How many hiking and backpacking trips have been set back, or even ruined, by blisters, maceration, and other podiatric woes? Quite a few — including some of mine, unfortunately. To eliminate or minimize these issues, I carry a dedicated foot care kit. This kit is a separate entity than my backpacking first aid kit. While…

Will I encounter snow? New snow survey tool

By Andrew Skurka / December 27, 2019 /

In early-December an alumnus, Rud Platt, shared with me a project that he’d been working on, snowEvaluator. Its chief function is creating snow coverage maps, i.e. where there is snow, or where there was snow on specific dates in the past. If you’ve ever been uncertain about whether you’ll encounter snow on an upcoming backpacking…

7 critical skills you could learn with us in 2020

By Andrew Skurka / December 16, 2019 /

On Sunday I began accepting applications for my 2020 trips. This will be our ninth year in operation, and the program has evolved since I started guiding under my own company in 2011. By the end of that first season, I’d made three realizations: The clients generally lacked the requisite backcountry skills for interesting routes,…

Wilderness medicine training: When have I actually applied it?

By Andrew Skurka / October 1, 2019 /

Originally published June 3, 2019. This past weekend I took my biannual wilderness first responder (WFR) and CPR re-certification courses. Between refreshes on the patient assessment system, prerequisites for a FSA, and rescue breaths, I thought about the instances over the past eight years when I’ve had to apply my training. As a new WFR…