When I first started hiking and backpacking back in 2010, I wasted a lot of money on gear. I knew that I loved the outdoors and exercise, but I had virtually no knowledge when it came to picking the best gear for my outdoor preferences and pursuits. I played college football, so my gear knowledge domain was constrained to the football field and the gym. As a reference to how far I’ve come, 5 years ago I hiked the Camino de Santiago with close to 30lbs of gear! If I were to walk the Camino tomorrow, my pack would weigh closer to 12lbs. It’s not just that I’ve been able to lighten my pack weight, it’s that every item I carry serves a purpose now. Every piece of gear that I carry in the present meets my preferences and needs. Experience with trial and error played a huge role in helping me optimize my gear list. I also credit Andrew Skurka’s 1st edition of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide. That book gave my brain a firmware upgrade of sorts to better process and categorize my personal preferences niche in a seemingly endless expanse of choices.
Andrew Skurka recently released the 2nd Edition of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, and I received a copy at no cost for this review.
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About Andrew Skurka
Andrew Skurka is one of the most well known personalities in the world of hiking, backpacking, and outdoor pursuits. He’s been named “Adventurer of the Year” by both Outside Magazine and National Geographic. He’s most well known for his 4700 mile Alaska-Yukon trek, the 6875 mile Great Western Loop, and the 7775 mile Sea to Sea Route. Skurka has also hiked the Appalachian Trail, Sierra High Route, and many other inspiring trails.
What sets Andrew Skurka apart from other adventures, in my opinion, is his ability to write to all of his readers. An expert backpacker will find just as much value as a greenhorn beginner. Another important thing about Skurka is his willingness to share and teach. If you’re not already, make sure to give Andrew a follow on his Twitter and Facebook pages. He’s constantly publishing new blog posts on skill topics like navigation skills, early season backpacking, and how to ford hazardous creeks, to name a few.
It goes without saying that an individual with this much outdoor experience would have a ton of quality advice to offer readers based on his findings. In The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, Andrew Skurka has organized his thoughts into three main sections that I’ll cover below.
The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide
Section 1: Why, When, and Where
On the first page of Why, When, and Where, Skurka poses a question that I wish I had asked myself when I first started hiking back in 2010. “Are you a hiker or a camper?” After this, he goes on to explain the various different styles or hiking, backpacking and camping. Like Skurka, I’m a ‘miles over smiles’ kind of guy. Take some time reading this section and try to define what makes you happy when venturing outdoors.
After this, Skurka adds a ‘Know Before You Go’ section with topics like temperature, precipitation and daylight.
Section 2: Tools and Techniques
In section two of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, Skurka uses 170 of the books 240 pages to cover tools and techniques. This, in my opinion, is the most valuable section of the book. Tools and Techniques makes for a nice overview reading to familiarize oneself with the subgroups of gear that’s needed while hiking and backpacking. The real value of the ‘Tools and Techniques’ section is that it acts like an encyclopedia for more in-depth reading when individual gear purchases are required.
My favorite subgroup in this Tools and Techniques section is ‘Shelters’. This is probably where I learned the most in the 1st Ed.
Section 3: Sample Gear Kits
In the third and final section of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, Skurka provides sample gear kits and a trip planning checklist. The gear kits are organized in tables by geographic region and season, covering the gear subgroups discussed in Section 2.
As Skurka write on the first page of Section 3, this section is the most instructive and useful when taken on it’s own.
Everything in this second edition is well written, with clear presentation and organization. My only real complaint is that I found the section on photography very limited. This probably won’t be a big deal for most, but as a lover of photography, I wish Skurka would have included more information on the options currently available. He lists smartphones and point-and-shoots as options, but neglects to include micro 4/3 and mirrorless APS-C cameras like Olympus and Sony. He could have also included multi-use action cameras like GoPro.
I also think an online component would be a nice added feature to accompany the sample gear kits. It’s nice to be able to plug and play with your gear items and get instant feedback on weight changes. Websites like Weigh My Gear specialize in this, and it’s very useful when planning trips and new purchases.
The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide is an invaluable resource for beginners and experienced hikers alike. The most important thing about The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide is that it doesn’t just tell you which gear items to pick, it gives you the tools to make an informed decision about which gear items will work best for your pursuits and needs.