Book Review: The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide

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The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide By: Andrew Skurka. $22.95. 223 pages. Made by National Geographic in 2012.

Get ready, because the author, Andrew Skurka (who was named "Adventurer of the Year" by Outside, and "Person of the Year" by Backpacker) is going to throw a lot of questions your way as soon as you start reading this book. You may think you are in the clear after the first two questions...

  1. What are my objectives? (i.e Why am I going on this trip?)
  2. What are the environmental and route conditions? (i.e. When and where am I going?)

But then Andrew wants to pinpoint (and clarify) what kind of hiker you are through four followup questions.

  1. Pack Weight?
  2. Skill level?
  3. Daily Itinerary?
  4. Preferred type of fun?

Finally, before you complete the first 20 pages there are some trip specific questions. *phew* Now that we're through the question period... what did it accomplish? Well it will help you to determine if you are more of a camper, or a hiker, and armed with that information you can tackle the rest of this book. Reading cover to cover will help you make better decisions with the clothing you should wear, gear you should bring and pointers, to help you become a better hiker. You will also find out if you prefer to be a backpacker, lightweight hiker, or an ultralight hiker.

Whether you fired off answers to all of Andrew's questions, or you weren't sure how to respond, reading through this book helps to clarify and revisit these points throughout. Thought you knew everything about layering? Need to brush up on food, navigation or materials in your footwear or tent? This book will take you through it all.

The second part of the book starts off like any outdoors book... looking at layering, but it outlines one key factor throughout. Weight. When hiking, you can't "cheat" by throwing everything in a canoe and making numerous trips, and you don't want an oversized pack which will burden your journey. The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide leans towards keeping your pack and it's contents lean and nimble for a long journey ahead.

Andrew keeps the book interesting with it's small handy format, and every page has a photo, diagram, comparison table or gear suggestion by Andrew himself. There is a lot of information packed into it, so the book is handy as both a introduction to new hikers, and a reference when buying gear or looking up key differences in a subject such as waterproofing.

Andrew's trials and tribulations (and over 30,000 miles of hiking) helped him find the nuances of gear. We're not talking about a gingerly hike in the woods, Andrew hikes 14 to 16 hours a day when he's out on his expeditions.

This is more of a "Just the facts Ma'am" type of book. Even if you don't read this book cover to cover, it makes a great resource. It is very current (Printed February 2012) and is bound to help you curb the weight of your gear and allow you a safer, more comfortable hike the next time you set out.