Book Review: The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide 2nd Ed. By Andrew Skurka

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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.

Buy The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide 2nd Ed. on: and

Book Review: The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide 2nd Ed. By Andrew Skurka

*Fill out the from on the bottom of this page for a chance to win a free copy of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide!

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.

Book Review: The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide 2nd Ed. By Andrew Skurka

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.

Book Review: The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide 2nd Ed. By Andrew Skurka

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.

Book Review: The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide 2nd Ed. By Andrew Skurka

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.

Book Review: The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide 2nd Ed. By Andrew Skurka

Closing Thoughts

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.

Buy The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide on: and

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10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide 2nd Ed. By Andrew Skurka”

  1. The first edition was one of the first things I bought when I decided to start getting into backpacking in 2013. I credit it, along with, for helping me avoid having to go through too much trial and error and start at a relatively light weight.

    Is the 2nd edition all that different from the 1st?

  2. I heard Skurka talk (w/slides) about his Alaska-Yukon loop a few years ago. An amazing trip, no question! I had to ask him if he was carrying a firearm on the trip, and he said no. That’s some wild country with plenty of wild animals roaming everywhere. He’s young enough that if his adventures continue in such wild environs, unarmed, he just may end up as someones meal. Sometimes reality hurts… or bites! Hiking solo in Grizzly and Polar Bear country for thousands of miles is dangerous -best to be prepared for such ‘chance encounters.’

    • I’ll bet that was an interesting presentation! That is some very wild county. I think Skurka has pulled back from the extreme treks covering thousands of miles. He just ran the Boston Marathon this week and has been competition in ultra marathons. It looks like he’s still doing a lot of hiking and backpacking too, just not in the land of the grizzly 🙂

  3. Nice write-up, Drew! I bought the last publication before my JMT hike last year. His recommendations played a big role in my gear planning, particularly with regard to clothing. Skurka is a hiking beast, and I respect his knowledge and experience immensely. With regard to photography, I imagine he probably went light there for two reasons: 1) his readers are largely ultralight hikers who will give him hell for recommending anything other than a multi-use tool like a phone to take photos with, and 2) his excursions have been so arduous and long that he probably has very little time to indulge in the hobby himself. So I would venture to guess that photography is not his strong point, which means there’s an open niche for anyone bold enough to grab it 😉

    • Thanks, Robb! This is a great book for aspiring JMT hikers. I should probably add it to my recommended gear list on the JMT page. His clothing and shelter recommendations have helped me a lot, too. Which clothing system did you use on the JMT?

      I think you’re dead on with the photography analysis. My camera set up is light compared to a full frame DSLR, but still pretty heavy for ultra-light standards. I carry a mirrorless camera, metal body wide angle, multiple batteries, and multiple memory cards!

      • I paid particular attention to his clothing recommendations for hiking the High Sierras. I tend to cool off pretty quick and have a low tolerance for cold, so I also took note of some of his winter gear recommendations. Basically, I put together a modified version that suited my needs pretty well. The one thing I didn’t pay enough attention to was his recommendations regarding the right type of clothing for combating mosquitoes. I ended up having to wear my rain jacket at several points, which was not ideal.

        Sounds like your camera setup is pretty well dialed in. I’d love to move to a mirrorless in the future, but for now I’ve been pretty happy with my Sony RX100 M2 compact. I also carried a bunch of backup batteries. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that one 32 GB card was more than enough for the entire trip (3000+ photos) shooting in RAW mode.

        • Nothing worse than getting swarmed with mosquitos without the right gear! My camera setup is dialed in, but I’m always looking to lighten up. I’ve been shooting a lot with a 16mm pancake lens which saves a ton of weight and size. The RX100 M2 is a nice camera. 32GB is plenty for photos, where you’ll get into trouble is if you’re shooting video as well. Even at 1080p, the card fills up fast. The newer cameras go 4K at 60fps, and can hit 120-240fps at lower res for slow motion. Luckily, cards are light. I’ve also been looking at going full frame with a Sony a7xx model. More weight, but much better in low light.


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