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: SectionHiker.com (Philip Werner) received a pre-publication copy of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide v2 for this review.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.