Going outdoors is college. You learn all the time. You learn from Nature of course, and you learn from yourself. It sounds typical but it’s how it works. I remember my first “real adventure”. Of course I was a total rookie in terms of hiking, and beginning from nothing, you learn a lot. The first thing I learnt is how important the gear is. Having the proper gear is a necessity on a trip, it success depends on it. Needless to say I had no proper gear on my first trip. But I loved it though, I was so happy to get myself “lost” in the wilderness, enjoying every minute of the trip. Well to be fair, it’s not true. During this first trip I almost froze to death, my backpack seriously wound my hips, and I had no waterproofs. I learnt a lot on this trip… about gear you should avoid. For example I carried an electric shaver and a massive knife, my sleeping bag was rated +15°c and my budget hiking pants got torn on a rainy day. I was hiking in Lapland. Of course it sounds like a big joke now, but these mistakes were necessary to me. I was aware that my gear was not the one required for such a trip in such a place. I learnt a lot studying other hikers. Swedish hikers are well equipped. I was seduced by the Swedish hiking style, a comfy one. So I did the same. I bought the right equipment, spent big bucks on different items… And got an average 26kg load on my back. At first I was happy, I was able to handle almost every kind of weather and situation I could possibly encounter, but it was heavy. Super heavy. And one day, I had an accident. Because of the weight of my backpack I lost my balance crossing a stream and fell into it on sharp rocks. I was tired and paying less attention and it happened: I broke a finger on my right hand and got plenty of cuts. Not a sweet memory. I came through, went back to civilization to get patched up and reflected on that episode.
Hiking by an average of 30 km a day with a 26 kg backpack is definitely not a good idea. First of all, it’s not safe. As seen before, I experienced it. You’re slow and you weaken your body, big time. So I had to rethink all my gear. Getting the proper gear regarding my activity. As a gear addict and under no duress I started to seek information on ultralight gear. Internet is a fantastic tool for that purpose. Outdoor blogs and web communities such as Backpackinglight.com are a blessing. Books are more unusual for many reasons. First you can find loads of reviews and good advice on Internet for free, then outdoor gear is high technology nowadays, every year new items appear and it’s hard for a paper publication (other than magazines) to give advice on gear that last a long time.
The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide by Andrew Skurka.
I’m a big fan of the National Geographic. I love their magazines and movies, I never been disappointed. This book makes no exception. Andrew Skurka is the kind of guy you can trust when it comes to gear. He’s an experienced hiker and has a lot to say about gear. His writing is methodic. I find his description of the difference between a hiker and a camper very interesting.
This book gave me answers. Answers I did not find anywhere else. It helps you to build your personal kit. There’s no ready-made solution. Every hiker is different and has to find the right gear that will suit him/her. Outdoor activities are getting big, so the outdoor market is growing too and there are plenty of gear companies that try to sell you a huge range of stuff, useful or not. Adapted or not. They call it business. Anyway. It’s an ocean. An ocean you try not to drown in.
Andrew Skurka gives down to Earth examples of use and I like it. Going light yes, but not stupid light. Safety is the main idea here. He explains systems that work: footwear systems, cooking systems, sleeping systems and so on. It basically covers all the gear you could possibly need. Of course you’ll find gear references, but you’ll find more on gear from cottage manufacturers than from big established companies. Cottage manufacturers keep it real and I love it, they offer smart gear.
the ultimate hiker’s gear guide is a great book, it helped me out a lot and I keep referring to it every time I wonder about a new piece of gear. This book is great knowledge.
So, if going outdoors is college, this should be your lesson book.
Andrew Skurka is to be trusted. If you want to pack smart, be sure to get this book. It’s a must.
Other book reviews to come:
-A Long Trek Home by Erin McKittrick
-Packrafting! by Roman Dial