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Andrew Skurka
(askurka) - F
Skurka Gear Book on 02/03/2011 12:29:54 MST Print View

There's been some chatter about books that I'm currently writing, so I want to be more specific about my plans. Please feel free to comment -- these projects are still in the works so good feedback can/will be incorporated.

Since the New Year I've been working hard on a gear & technique book. I'm over 32,000 words right now, which is about 50 pages single-spaced, no pictures, charts, diagrams yet.

In my head, the book's title is "A Walker's Guide to Hiking & Backpacking." It's not a "lightweight" backpacking book, and it's not a book for people who consciously car-camp on their backpacking trips. It's a practical guide to modern backpacking gear and technique; I make my preferences known, but I try to provide all points of view. Heck, I even tried defending double-wall tents the other day, though single-walls and tarps won the argument a few paragraphs later.

Consider this book a new "The Complete Walker." I don't think that lightweight backpacking should be presented as an alternative technique -- it should be positioned as the new technique, antiquating the old. I don't understand why the backpacking industry is so backwards -- it'd be like shops/magazines/manufacturers arguing that leather boots and skinny skis are still the way to go for downhill skiing, or that mountain bikes shouldn't have suspension or gears. So it's fundamentally different that other backpacking books. Versus other lightweight boos, I dare to get very specific about gear -- I include the broad same-old arguments found in other books, but I also fly just off the deck by giving specific examples of canister stoves, pocket knives, and trekking poles. Sure, I'll have to update the book again in a few years, but I think it's worth it.

My plan is to have "Section I: Gear" done within the next two weeks. I have a few presentations at end of Feb where I'll be selling this section, as an unpolished 8.5x11 print-out. I'm calling it a "pre-edition." I may put it up on my website too, TBD. I would like to have "Section II: Technique" done by the end of April. After the writing is done, it'll take about 2 months to edit it, lay it out, and get it printed. I'll start filling orders before I leave for the summer, I hope.

Once this book is up and running, I'll start working on the Alaska-Yukon book. That will be a longer and more difficult project -- I'll have to dig deeper to make it good. The gear & technique content rolls pretty easily for me.

Dan Durston
(dandydan)

Locale: Cascadia
Books on 02/03/2011 13:56:19 MST Print View

Sounds great....I'm particularly looking forward to the technique section.

Michael Schwartz
(greenwalk) - MLife

Locale: PA & Ireland
Skurka Gear Book on 02/03/2011 16:22:30 MST Print View

Have you considered combining the gear book and the Alaskan adventure story? The problem is, as you have said, that your book will become dated if you mention specific gear.

I'd be interested in reading about your insights into walking, your connection with nature (as you mentioned in your Banff podcast, looking after your body (eg., knees, feet, etc.) backpacking solo vs. with others, and reentry into society after a big walk.

Looking forward to reading the article on you in National Geographic. Will buy a couple of copies at your site.

Mike

Andrew Skurka
(askurka) - F
Re: Skurka Gear Book on 02/03/2011 16:50:21 MST Print View

Michael: I think it's best to have two books -- each subject (gear/technique & AYE) should be its own book. The gear book is strictly about that, with a few personal stories (1-2 paragraphs at the start of a chapter) to mix things up. The AYE book will address the things you mentioned in the second paragraph. I intend to write the AYE book after I'm done with this gear book.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Skurka Gear Book on 02/03/2011 17:15:44 MST Print View

That gear book will have to be printed on thin onionskin paper to cut the weight down. You could have it printed on TP, but then you would have Mike C. down on you.

--B.G.--

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Re: Skurka Gear Book on 02/03/2011 17:28:25 MST Print View

"Consider this book a new "The Complete Walker." I don't think that lightweight backpacking should be presented as an alternative technique -- it should be positioned as the new technique"

First those are big shoes to fill but shoes that need to be filled. New editions will be necessary but then as someone who has bought all 4 Complete Walkers and all of the editions of Chris Townsends books, it happens.

As an analogy, I am a farmer who practices sustainable principles. It is/used to be considered the alternative but is quickly becoming the way to farm, i.e. "the new technique".

I say go for it, but be thorough as Fletcher and then Rawlins were, knowing that it will change quickly.

Edited by abhitt on 02/04/2011 06:04:00 MST.

Chris Benson
(roguenode) - F

Locale: Boulder
electronic format on 02/03/2011 17:31:17 MST Print View

Content notwithstanding, how about offering electronic versions?

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: Skurka Gear Book on 02/03/2011 17:32:49 MST Print View

"I don't think that lightweight backpacking should be presented as an alternative technique -- it should be positioned as the new technique, antiquating the old. "

+1

Erik Danielsen
(er1kksen) - F

Locale: The Western Door
ebook? on 02/03/2011 17:55:51 MST Print View

I'll echo chris. In keep with the ultralight ethos, I'm hoping for an electronic (and therefore weightless, unless you want to count the molecular weights of extra electrons that might end up attached the molecules of my hard drive) version. If I had to carry all the books I want to read in paper form, I'd be walking around with a library on my back! A laptop is bad enough, but a man's gotta work. ;)

Though if I were traipsing around the backcountry I'm sure I'd rather just carry a paperback.

Andrew Skurka
(askurka) - F
Re: ebook? on 02/03/2011 18:25:32 MST Print View

It will definitely be available as an e-book too.

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: ebook? on 02/03/2011 18:36:56 MST Print View

One word for the wise: back up the document(s)!

I'll buy it when it comes out. I like the full-frontal assault on the backpacking industry.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Skurka Gear Book on 02/03/2011 18:46:49 MST Print View

I like the combining the two books idea. Kind of like "the Man who walked thru Time"

Andrew Skurka
(askurka) - F
Re: Skurka Gear Book on 02/03/2011 18:57:56 MST Print View

Re The Man Who Walked through Time, there's a huge difference between that book and Fletcher's The Complete Walker. I don't think it's possible to successfully blend the two subjects while giving them both justice. Imagine me interrupting a story about Alaska's bitter cold temperatures when I started in March with a 5-page assessment of sleeping bags that includes discussion of clo values and sewn-through construction.

Gear and Alaska are different books, period. Of course, each will mention the other, but each will be primarily focused about one thing.

Here are some of the things I would like feedback on with regards to the gear book:

1- How geeky do I get? Is it reasonable to talk about R-values of sleeping pads, the water absorption rates of different fibers, and the nuances of LED technology?

2- How can I defend this book against inevitable attempts to dismiss it as a lightweight book?

3- Given the changes in the publishing industry, am I correct in taking the self-publishing route, and printing a pre-edition that will be out for about 3 months before the full edition is ready?

4- What are the major weaknesses of other lightweight books? How can I avoid them.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: Skurka Gear Book on 02/03/2011 19:13:49 MST Print View

1) imo, go real geeky

2) don't worry about those who will dismiss it as LW book - so don't defend it

3) i like your publishing plan

4) your book will be great because you have WALKED the TALK. you know what works and how it works. the weaknesses i've seen here and there are when someone writes about theory of LW bp versus a writer who has applied knowledge.

5) I'm looking forward to reading it.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Skurka Gear Book on 02/03/2011 19:20:55 MST Print View

Andrew,

Good luck on the books! I'm excited for you and hope that you can continue to build your career being location independent hiker trash!

Cheers,
Jack

Michael Richey
(beaverboymike) - M

Locale: Southern Utah
Skurka Book ideas on 02/03/2011 19:32:18 MST Print View

+1 for George's analysis!

. .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Re: Skurka Gear Book on 02/03/2011 19:56:46 MST Print View

1- How geeky do I get? Is it reasonable to talk about R-values of sleeping pads, the water absorption rates of different fibers, and the nuances of LED technology?

Charts, diagrams and photos help keep the sleepy readers awake. It isn't necessary to go super deep, but arming people with the ability to more objectively cut through marketing hype is quite valuable and eye-opening (such as CLO / R-values of insulations and systems and how to apply the info). Little "squares" with side-note info such as LED differences that act as on-page foot-notes or reprisals are quite handy and break up monotony.

2- How can I defend this book against inevitable attempts to dismiss it as a lightweight book?

By example: Mike C. seems to have done this well with his classic winter backcountry travel books. Marketing to stores like REI and having the right cover art can go along way. I won't pretend to know the recipe, but refer to Falcon Press, The Mountaineers, etc.. The title will go a long way to either appeal to or deflate a broad audience.

3- Given the changes in the publishing industry, am I correct in taking the self-publishing route, and printing a pre-edition that will be out for about 3 months before the full edition is ready?

I have no idea, but I am curious as well

4- What are the major weaknesses of other lightweight books? How can I avoid them.

Well, there aren't too many to compare with, but I would have to say the #1 is their marketing approach - this is where you have a real opportunity to reach a broad audience. Content-wise, I am confident that you can nail it, but be sure and keep the format enjoyable, with plenty of diagrams, depth, principle, quick-reference outlined summary propositions at chapter headings or tails, quick facts/statistics, anecdotes, personal stories, scientific beta, etc.

Hope that helps; thanks for sharing and best wishes moving forward.

Edited by biointegra on 02/03/2011 19:57:25 MST.

Chris Benson
(roguenode) - F

Locale: Boulder
some feedback on 02/03/2011 19:57:22 MST Print View

1- Geek = good. Helps cut through the massive amounts of gear industry tech hype. Consider augmenting the geek analysis with practical examples from your experience.

2- I wouldn't defend. Give them the geek info and your experiences and leave it at that.

3- Glad to hear there will be an e-version and like the self-publishing idea. Will pre-release buyers get a discount or some other incentive for the full release?

4- Honestly, I haven't read them. BPL and other net spots are my LW sources.

Jacob Linton
(gardenhead) - F

Locale: Western NC
Skurka Gear Book on 02/03/2011 20:03:15 MST Print View

+1 on most of the other recommendations

The only thing I would caution against is giving too much away in the pre-editions.
Personally I'll probably pick up both, but I have a feeling if that initial awe is gone, people may not commit and buy the pre-dition AND the final version.
So yeah, try and find a good balance there.

Andrew Skurka
(askurka) - F
Re: Skurka Gear Book on 02/03/2011 20:07:57 MST Print View

I was thinking about offering a rebate on the final edition if you purchase the pre-edition. My goal with the pre-edition is to create some buzz about this project, and to get some constructive feedback. (Of course, a pre-edition also generates cash 3 months before a full edition would.) I'm expecting the final edition to have at least 50 percent more content than the pre-edition -- all of it will be about technique.