Saturday, June 13, 2015

#26 [2015/CBR7] "The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide" by Andrew Skurka

The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide (2012) by Andrew Skurka is another lightweight backpacking book I picked up when I latched on to my latest obsession. I didn't know this at the time, but Andrew Skurka is somewhat famous in the backpacking world for the incredibly long and ambitious backpacking trips he's undertaken, including over 4,000 miles in Alaska. He has an incredible store of personal knowledge of backpacking gear and what works best in what circumstances and he's put it all together in this book.

When Skurka wanders into the backcountry, his focus is hiking, traveling long distances and seeing the world. For that reason, he is/was an innovator for ultralight backpacking. The less weight you carry, the farther you can travel more comfortably. He makes a distinction between "stupid light" and "stupid heavy." Carrying so little that you are uncomfortable or put yourself in danger is "stupid light," while carrying the empty weight of unnecessary or useless objects is "stupid heavy."

This book is exactly what it promises, a sometimes dry--but always useful--book with plentiful technical advice for backpacking gear necessary in various climates and temperatures. Skurka has the experience to personally know how different fabrics and equipment work, and what will leave you wet and uncomfortable in the middle of the woods. He takes the time to list the benefits and detriments of different choices, leaving his personal recommendations to the end of each section.

I read this book straight through and learned more about what I'm looking for as I gear up for my own trips. I was sometimes frustrated by the price and specialization of each piece of equipment. There is some amazing stuff out there, but, my god, it's expensive. And what works for the wet East Coast does not work for the dry West. Every once in a while there are some cheap do-it-yourself tricks--like Skurka's cat food can alcohol stove (see Youtube), but those are few and far between. For the most part, you get what you pay for.

Although this book was informative, my favorite parts were when Skurka briefly described his personal experiences while backpacking. He's been so many places and he must have some amazing stories. I wouldn't have minded a little more story and a little less shop talk. I'm hoping that will be the focus of his next book.

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