The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools & Techniques to Hit the Trail – A review

By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

I recently went to a very informative presentation by long distance hiker,Andrew Skurka, at Quest Outdoors. Andrew Skurka was the Adventurer of the Year voted by Outside Magazine, National Geographic’s Adventure Magazine and Person of the Year by Backpacker. Andrew has logged over 30,000 long distance hiking miles including the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, Continental Divide Trails and 4,700 mile Alaska-Yukon Expedition. Andrew was discussing his Alaska trip which took him 6-months. Because I used to live in Alaska and was hiking in Alaska last August, I was thrilled to attend Andrew’s presentation.

But better yet, I purchased Andrew’s new book, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools & Techniques to Hit the Trail.  I was actually looking for a guidebook exactly like this one because I need some help ensuring I have all the tools and techniques I need to do longer hikes in all sorts of weather. I have been doing day hikes for a number of years but in 2012 am planning some longer hikes in the Smokey Mountains.

Tools and Techniques

The guide details clothing, footwear, sleeping bags and pads, shelters, maps & navigation, trekking poles, food, cooking systems, water, small essentials and packing. The book is exceptionally written because it’s very readable. Andrew has added some interesting insights into what has worked or hasn’t worked for him. And he also discusses why he chose one type of clothing, trekking pole, or cooking system over another.

Andrew’s comments throughout the guide helps to explain why a certain type of gear or system works better in different environments. For example, he discusses different types of sleeping bags and how sleeping pads can help enhance the warmth. The section on Tried and True gives tips on how to pack a backpack, waterproofing your pack, and animal proof storage.

A better alternative to carrying a weapon against bears is a capsaicin based bear spray which is a potent irritant. The aerosol can has a 30-foot range and presents no risk to life and limb for its user and other humans in the vicinity.

Sample Gear Kits

Andrew has organized this section to include 5 different scenarios and seasons you might be backpacking with ideas on what gear he suggests. The areas include: eastern forests, mountain west, desert southwest packrafting, northern winter and Philmont Scout Ranch. Each section details the environment and route conditions from water availability to insects, from natural hazards to temperature, clothing suggestions, shelter and sleeping, cooking and waters, small essentials, packing specifics and even how much all these items weigh so you can get an idea of how much weight you will be required to carry.

Gearing Up on a Budget

This section is especially helpful if you are a novice and are on a shoestring budget. Andrew has given a table to Buy This (with the minimum price) Instead of this (detailing the more expensive cost).  

The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools & Techniques to Hit the Trail is a book that I have read from cover to cover but I will actually use it as a reference for an assortment hikes in the future. You can find the book at

Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N., is a registered dietitian with a Master’s Degree in clinical nutrition.  The former publisher of Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine, Kentuckiana Healthy Woman magazine and radio show host of Health News You Can Use, Barbara has over 30 years of experience in promoting healthy lifestyles to consumers.  Barbara worked as Nutrition Consultant to the Navy SEALs (8 years) and the University of Louisville Athletic Department (10 years). Barbara has private practice, DayByDay Nutrition,, where she counsels clients on weight loss, cholesterol management, performance nutrition and an array of other medical issues.  Visit Barbara’s new website which is an on-line health & wellness magazine, Barbara writes nutrition and health columns for as well as a weekly nutrition 

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