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Trail Tested – Justin Lichter’s Backpacking Gear Book

Trail Tested by Justin Lichter
Trail Tested by Justin Lichter

Wow! Justin Lichter, uber long-distance hiker, has published a book called Trail Tested which is a must-add gear guide for your backpacking book collection. It’s super readable and an excellent reference for beginners backpackers who are trying to figure out what gear to buy and why, hikers preparing for section hikes or thru-hikes on national scenic trails, as well as experienced hikers who are trying to match the appropriate gear for longer cross-country or expedition-style adventures.

Trauma Tip: Pre-soaking your food before you cook it can help you save stove fuel. 

Trail Tested  succinctly explains what to look for when buying backpacking gear, how to maintain it and repair it, with lots of Trauma Tips thrown in on how to survive in the backcountry. Beautifully laid out and illustrated, it’s easy to find the information you need to compare different gear options without a lot of reading and cuts through all of the confusing marketing propaganda you’ll encounter from product manufacturers and retailers.

Trauma Tip: Most people think mesh is lightweight since it has holes, but it’s heavier than many fabrics incluing ultralight silnylon and cuben fiber, especially when it gets wet and soaks up moisture. 

Who is Justin Lichter? Justin, known by his trail name Trauma, is one of the top long distance hikers of our time. He’s distinguished himself by hiking the triple crown twice (Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Pacific Trail), including one year when he did all three. Justin’s also hiked across the Himalayas, around Iceland, Vermont’s Long Trail, the Hayduke, the Sierra High Route. Heck, he’s even swum around Lake Tahoe unsupported without a wet suit!

Trauma Tip: When it’s raining, snowing, or cold, stash your poles on your pack and put your hands inside your rain jacket. It will keep your hands a lot warmer. 

One thing I like about Trail Tested is that it’s not myopically about ultralight backpacking, but about how to match the gear you bring with the conditions you’re likely to find on a backpacking trip or expedition. This is probably the most important skill for a backpacker to learn and Justin provides lot of examples from his worldwide hiking adventures.

How to Hike with your Dog
How to Hike with your Dog

Trail Tested also has a long chapter about how to hike long distance with a dog, tips for hiking abroad, and advice on campsite selection, weather forecasting, navigation, winter camping and leave no trace. It even has a number of Justin’s gear lists to help you understand how to match gear to specific locales and conditions.

Full of a gazillion awesome photographs from Justin’s hikes, Trail Tested can even be used as a coffee table book. Now that’s multi-use in action!

Disclosure: (Philip Werner) received a complimentary advanced copy of Trail Tested for this review. 


  1. I noticed this a few weeks ago. The timing seems to be a little unfortunate for Justin, with Skurka’s book coming out just a few months earlier. I know they’re quite different books, but they’re still two books by extreme distance backpackers with tips about hiking, and Skurka’s has been promoted so heavily in the past few months. I’d think they’re competing for the same sort of market, whether by design or just by circumstance.

    On a similar note, I just noticed something in the NY Times the other day about a forthcoming memoir about hiking on the PCT that seems either poorly timed (with Strayed’s book being so heavily promoted in the past few months, as well), or very well timed, if everyone finishes Wild and then wants more. Funny how things like this always seem to come in waves.

    • Both books are very complementary, and while Skurka has the National Geographic marketing machine behind him, I think that Trauma will also get good traction. The pictures in Trail tested are pretty incredible and the formatting, hence readability, is better for beginner hikers. Given the price points of the two books ($20), I think they’re both worth buying – and you can get them even cheaper if you buy the kindle versions.

      • Do you know if Trail Tested is going to be available in an e-book format? It’s not listed in the Kindle store yet.

        • I would suspect so, but the electronic versions usually lag behind the print ones by a few months. Justin sent me one of the first ones back from the printer to review, and I only just got it last Friday afternoon. You could email him on his web site and ask.

  2. I recently read Skurka’s book and as well, Mike Clelland’s new book (Ultralight Backpacking Tips) and although I enjoyed reading the former, I learned nothing new. Mike’s book, on the other hand, was excellent even if I believe in using toilet paper.

    Justin’s book is next on the menu and based on the couple of excerpts listed above, it looks like it will be excellent.

  3. Yes, Mike Clelland is way too extreme on the TP issue. I have medical conditions requiring the use of TP, wet wipes and a few other items, all to prevent infections of the nether regions. For a woman who has had several children, those regions are quite a bit the worse for wear! Rocks? Pine cones? Ouch!!! No thanks, I’ll use what I need and pack it out!

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