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The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide Review, 2nd Ed. by Andrew Skurka


Contrary to its title, Andrew Skurka’s backpacking book, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide is not really a book about gear per se, as much as it is about the skills and knowledge that very experienced backpackers develop for planning trips and deciding what gear is appropriate and safe enough to bring.

That might sound like a subtle distinction, but I think Andrew’s emphasis on skills and not the latest gear fad is a breath of fresh air in an industry that has become a bit too focused on gear and less on  the self-sufficiency and ingenuity that define an “Ultimate Hiker.”

Don’t worry, there is a huge section the strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of gear for you gearheads (updated to be current in the 2nd edition), but Andrew starts the book by diving into the details of how to plan a backpacking trip or expedition, which is often the most important prep phase of a journey. For example, he covers:

  • How to use historical weather information, precipitation and snowfall information to determine what the weather norms are for the region you’ll be hiking in, as well as the impact that elevation can have.
  • How the amount of daylight can impact your pace and daily mileage.
  • The impact that ground cover and vegetation density can have on your route and whether you have to stick to trail or have to bushwhack
  • How to assess the mitigate the risks of injury in very remote regions and avoid to natural hazards such as avalanches or flash floods.

It doesn’t matter if you’re going on a weekend trip, planning a 5 day backpacking trip as a scout leader, or section hiking a long trail, knowing what to expect and matching it with the gear you bring is one of the most important advanced backpacking skills you can master.

Personally, I learned most of this backpacker voodoo the hard way, wasting hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on the wrong gear for the conditions I had to hike in. Instead, Andrew distills the knowledge you need in a very readable book that is chock full of war stories, gear recommendations, and sample gear lists. Of course, reading this book is no substitute to taking a guided trip with Andrew or participating in one of his Ultimate Hiker classes, but much of what he teaches students in the field is included in this book.

While The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide is available in kindle and paperback formats, I’d recommend that you get the paperback. Andrew’s publisher, National Geographic did an exceptional job formatting the book, making it equally easy to read cover-to-cover or as a reference, the next time you plan your own ultimate backpacking adventure.

About Andrew Skurka

Andrew Skurka is an accomplished adventure athlete who has been named “Adventurer of the Year” by both Outside and National Geographic Adventure, as well as “Person of the Year” by Backpacker. Andrew is most well known for his solo long-distance backpacking trips, notably the 4,700-mile 6-month Alaska-Yukon Expedition, the 6,875-mile 7-month Great Western Loop, and the 7,775-mile 11-month Sea-to-Sea Route. In total, he has backpacked, skied, and packrafted 30,000+ miles through many of the world’s most prized backcountry and wilderness areas.

Disclaimer: (Philip Werner) received a pre-publication copy of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide v2 for this review.

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  1. Can you tell me, besides the gear, what may be different than the first edition. The first edition btw, is excellent imho.

    • Hard to know exactly since its been so many years since I read the first edition. I presume it’s mostly the specific gear recommendations, since they change their products so quickly these days. Must drive book authors nuts because their stuff is out if date by the time it gets printed.

      The Amazon description says there are 16 new pages on food and other essentials and updated gear recommendations, so that sounds about right. It’s not like the essence of backpacking skills have changed much in the last 5 years since the first edition was published, but it’s still a good beginner book.

      • I can attest to the utility of the first edition. Part of the confusion for a beginner is all the options available now. The information about pros and cons of different types of the same equipment is helpful for navigating all that confusing terminology in the store.

        • The problem with buying gear in a store is that they have so little choice in stock. I mainly use the store (like REI) as an inexpensive way to return things that don’t work or don’t fit. There are a few exceptions, like backpacks, boats, bikes, boots,and skis but I pretty much buy everything else online because it’s the only way to get what you want.

    • Skurka had a post on his blog a couple weeks ago laying out the difference between the versions. I’m on my phone so I can’t easily find it.

      • I looked it up. He basically says he updated the gear recommendations which are 5 years out of date and softened the “ultimate hiker” vibe because he has a better idea of what average backpackers are like now as a result of teaching. I communicate with him fairly frequently and I’d say that’s accurate.

  2. Heather MacDonald

    Will you be reviewing the SD Flex Capacitor pack that Andrew designed?

    • I’ll be publishing a review on Monday.

      • Your reviews are really helpful and an excellent resource, particularly for females looking at packs. Thank you for all you contribute to the community

      • I second that. I love my Granite Gear and was thinking about a higher capacity pack (dog stuff takes a surprising amount of volume in a pack) and looking at the Seek Outside divide, but there are virtually no reviews about how it fits women. There are a few posts about wide shoulders, which give me pause, and Seek Outside’s website makes no mention of anything women-specific either.
        Thank you for the thoroughness of information both about the pack(s) and potential audience, particularly for gear that you might not otherwise look at!

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