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Best Hiking and Backpacking Skills Books

Becoming a skilled and confident hiker or backpacker is a lifelong endeavor that requires continuous learning and practice. While reading hiking books can’t give you the hands-on experience that only comes by getting your clothes dirty and boots wet, they are a useful guide to expand your horizons and help you understand what you don’t know.

Here’s my short list of hiking and backpacking skills books, the ones that I keep handy for reference and refreshers, and refer friends to.


Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide

Whether you’re a first-time backpacker or a weekend warrior, you’ll love this guide. Learn exactly what you need to carry – both gear and knowledge – for any length trip. Authored by National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, Andrew Skurka, this is the most current and concise backpacking manual available. Available for Kindle and in paperback at

Ultralight Backpacking Tips

Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips

Short, to the point, and humorously illustrated by famed outdoor illustrator Mike Clelland, this fun-to-read book presents everything hikers and backpackers need to be safe, comfortable, and well-fed while carrying a very small and lightweight pack. Available for Kindle and in paperback at

The Ultimate Hang

The Ultimate Hang

With more than 200 illustrations to guide you, hammock guru Derek Hansen, helps you get off the ground to discover the comfort and convenience of hammock camping. This book covers basics such as how to get a perfect hang and how to stay dry, warm, and bug free. Plus, it illustrates techniques and tips to assemble your own customized hammock system. Available for Kindle and in paperback at

The Essential Wilderness Navigator

The Essential Wilderness Navigator

This book is the clearest and best illustrated route-finding primer available, providing instruction and exercises for developing compass navigation, map reading, and terrain association skills. While compass navigation is central, the authors help convey a deep appreciation of the terrain clues available for determining position without instruments, if we learn to see and understand them.


The Freedom of The Hills

With over 1/2 million copies sold, this is still the best reference available for hiking and backpacking in mountainous terrain. For anybody looking to start climbing summits above treeline, winter hiking and backpacking, or mountaineering, this richly illustrated book explains the gear and know-how you need for safe wilderness travel.

Wilderness First Responder

Wilderness First Responder

Updated and revised, this teaching manual for the National Outdoor Leadership School’s Wilderness First Responder course represents more than a century and a half of combined experience in wilderness medicine, rescue, and education. It includes expert step-by-step instructions, clear illustrations, and “Signs and Symptoms” sidebars designed to help you provide immediate care in the wilderness?whenever you are more than an hour away from an ambulance or a medical facility.


AMC Guide to Outdoor Leadership

A must-read for anyone committed to becoming a professional guide, outdoor educator, or volunteer hiking leader, this book covers trip planning, effective decision-making, group dynamics and communication, backcountry ethics, and risk management. While the focus is on group leadership, learning how to apply these skills to your personal hiking and backpacking trips will increase your confidence and enjoyment of the wilderness.

Disclosure: The author has purchased all of these books with his own funds.

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  1. Great list! I would maybe like to add “Snow Sense”. Thank you!

  2. Great list.
    I thank you for it, as there are many skills I need to work on. Learn, and share.

  3. I would add Chris Townsend’s Backpackers Handbook to this list. That is probably the best backpacking “how to” book I have ever read.

    • Love Chris. But his book, which I also own, is getting a bit out of date. Same reason, Colin Fletcher’s Complete Hiker didn’t make the list. Skurka’s book really is the most relevant and updated and with the new edition coming out in March 2017….

      • If you’re going to cop that attitude toward Chris’ book, you’ll probably contend “Clubcraft: Ogg’s Complete Guide to Cave Camping and Mastodon Skinning” is outdated too. It was all the rage during the last ice age.

      • True – but Fletcher’s book is so much more than a gear guide. I would recommend it any day. Thanks for the info however.

  4. Philip any newer cook books on your list? Freezer bag or one pot .

  5. What about Winter camping?
    I have four of those, including one from Mike Clelland.
    Plus handouts from an AMC class ;)

  6. I underscore each of your choices and I would add one I just picked up:”Lip Smackin’ Backpackin'” by Conners.

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