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Map & Compass: Find & transfer bearings in the field & on a map

By Andrew Skurka / August 11, 2016 /

This is the second of a 7-video instructional series from Sierra Designs. This one, as well as the first, are dedicated to map and compass, which is a subcategory of navigation. If you haven’t already, learn to adjust for declination and to orient a map. Got it? Good, let’s move on to a more advanced…

My guyline system for tents, tarps, and hammocks

By Andrew Skurka / August 22, 2016 /

The guyline and tensioning systems normally found on backpacking shelters (including tents, tarps, and hammocks) share two flaws: Insufficient cordage is provided. This limits stake-out locations, which is especially problematic in rocky or hard-packed ground. Natural anchors like trees, downed logs, exposed roots, and large rocks cannot be used, nor can deadman anchors in the winter. These anchors…

Five-star backpacking campsites: Characteristics & how to find

By Andrew Skurka / September 14, 2016 /

Choosing a good backcountry campsite — or, in my parlance, “five-star” — is a critical but overlooked backpacking skill. Campsite selection is at least as important to my sleep quality as my choice of tent, bag, and pad. Even with appropriate gear, it’s difficult to sleep well in a campsite that:

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…

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…

Recommended clothing systems: Backpacking in the Mountain West

By Andrew Skurka / August 23, 2017 /

What clothing is necessary for backpacking in the Mountain West in 3-season conditions? Let’s discuss. I define the Mountain West as the semi-arid ranges of the Sierra Nevada, Intermountain West, and Rockies. Examples: Pacific Crest Trail in California and southern Oregon High Sierra, including the John Muir Trail and multiple high routes, e.g. Sierra High…

Tutorial: Dead-reckoning navigation | Basic but oft-used skill

By Andrew Skurka / September 11, 2017 /

Dead-reckoning is the simplest navigation skill. It’s much easier to learn than reading a map, or operating a compass, GPS, or altimeter watch. Yet I find it to be one of the most useful and frequently used, especially when hiking on well-maintained trails where a consistent physical effort yields consistent results. Such trails include well-known long-distance footpaths…

Tutorial || How to store & protect food from bears & mini-bears

By Andrew Skurka / December 20, 2018 /

You’ve set up camp for the night and cooked dinner. Now what should be done with the Snickers, salami, peanut noodle dinners, and the other calories that will sustain you for the remainder of your backpacking trip? Protect from what? Most backpackers seem to protect their food overnight because they’re worried about bears. In places…