Andrew Skurka's "The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide"
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Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Andrew Skurka's "The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide" on 02/21/2012 11:47:40 MST Print View

i received Andrew's book today and while i'm not a huge fan of the layout, the book is easy to read and filled with all manner of tips.

i'll dig into it over the next several days and post more, but so far, i think it's a good addition to my library with up to date information on the newer techniques and technologies. my old standby book from Chris Townsend is a little long in the tooth and Andrew's book should serve as a capable update and explores methods and material Chris doesn't.

Edited by asciibaron on 02/21/2012 11:50:04 MST.

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
more info on 02/22/2012 09:21:13 MST Print View

i read through the bulk of the book last night and have come to a few conclusions...

Andrew divides backpackers into three groups, Ultimate Hikers, Ultimate Campers, and Campers-by-default based on several criteria. he then goes on to explain these groups in relation to the criteria and begins to explore equipment, technology, and techniques for the current or budding Ultimate Hiker.

i found some of the information to be interesting, some of it to be redundant, and some of it useless based on my background. if i were picking up this book with the goal to become an Ultimate Hiker with little background i'm sure i would have a different perspective on the informational aspects of some of the material. my wife laughed out loud at comparison chart of synthetics fabrics to wool - i guess some people don't know that wool comes from sheep and nylon and polyester are oil based products made in a lab.

i was hoping that the book would go into more detail on the skill set of the Ultimate Hiker, not simply saying that one possesses these skills. there was some basic knowledge on campsite choice, map and compass use, and use of trekking poles, but nothing new or profound that a backpacker with a few trips hasn't witnessed or figured out.

Andrew covers nearly every topic with an amount of information on the various techniques and technologies, and there are some "here's why i choose this" tidbits, but overall it seems the content presents items as a range of choices. this leads to a very real problem that i think goes to the heart of what has been discussed here previously, a cult of gear. for every trip in the book it seems there was a unique and new set of equipment required, from the base layer to the shelter to the footwear to the trekking poles.

i have only enough money and room for so much and for me that means a very modest core setup. i have selected a core gear setup that fits my main backpacking area, mainly the Mid-Atlantic region from the coast to the Allegheny Front. i'm sure others here have done the same, tailored their gear for what the area they frequent the most, for all seasons.

given Andrew's definitions, i squarely fall somewhere between Ultimate Hiker and Ultimate Camper, and i'm okay with that. hiking 30+ miles a day seems like a chore compared to my 14 to 18 miles per day. sadly, i feel there is an elitism in the subtext of the book for those of us that aren't mileage and gear junkies. i stopped a running total of the gear selection suggestions when it top $1200.00, and that was pretty early on.

i would not recommend this book to any backpacker that has a few seasons under their boots and has realized that one doesn't need to haul all the gear they own on their back for every trip. i'm clearly am not the intended audience, but i knew that when i bought the book, i bought it mostly for my son to read to supplement what his is learning in the Boy Scouts.

Edited by asciibaron on 02/22/2012 09:41:34 MST.

Andrew Skurka
(askurka) - F
Re: more info on 02/22/2012 10:03:03 MST Print View

This is the first negative review so I'm trying to figure out how to handle it.

I think you are correct in saying that, for you, some of the information is redundant or useless. The goal was to write a book that would be understood by beginner backpackers, but still have plenty of nuggets for more advanced backpackers too. And I didn't want the book to be relevant only to backpacking in the East, West, Alaska, etc -- I wanted it to be a one-stop shop. So if you do decide to backpack someplace besides the Allegheny Front, this book should offer you something. Until then, you are correct, it will contain info that is useless to you.

I dispute the contention that the book mostly ends up being "a range of choices." Every chapter has two parts: to start, the range of choices with their pros and cons, and, then, a "Skurka's Picks" section that specifies exactly what I use and when. As I was writing the manuscript I tried to blend these two bodies of information but the recommendations seemed to get lost in the general information, which I didn't want to skimp on. I would also point you to the gear lists at the end of the book -- they contain no choices at all, simply what I would take for different environments. If you wanted to follow my recommendations blindly without having any context for my decisions or knowing the techniques required by these selections, you could just read the "Skurka's Picks" sections and the gear lists. This makes it very different than a conventional "gear guide" that consists of voice-less and context-less listings of available gear.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Gear Guide on 02/22/2012 12:02:11 MST Print View

I just got my copy of Andrew's book in the mail yesterday and read about half of it last night. I'm impressed with the book - in my opinion it's as good as Mike C's Ultralight Backpacking Tips. It presents enough clear and concise information to be digestible by beginner backpackers while still being relevant for a more advanced audience. There were about 5 or 6 different tips so far that gave me an "ah ha!" moment and answered questions about equipment choices that I had been debating. There are many such pieces of wisdom that draw upon Andrew's experience and generally when he gives a recommendation it's backed up with a story that explains why he made that choice. In contrast to some other outdoor books that I've read through once and never pick up again, I expect that I will go back and use this book as a reference for preparping for future trips that are outside my current skill set (i.e. winter camping, or the desert, or Alaska, etc.)

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re more info on 02/22/2012 17:10:42 MST Print View

Andy don't sweet negative reviews, you won't please everyone.

When I picked up the book I knew that roughly 80% of the content would be stuff I already knew. Thats not a bad thing, its just that I already knew about the advantages and disadvantages of tarps, frameless packs, down insulation and so on. Andy did a great job describing these things but he didn't "reinvent the wheel."

What I was looking for were those "ahah" moments where I pick up something I didn't know before. I am pleased to say I picked up some valuable ideas that will be incorperated into my hiking gear and techniques in the feature.

Those of us who have done more UL hiking should remember this book was written for a broader audience than just BPL readers. Think of it as a book you would buy and give to a friend who wanted to thru-hike the AT. It does a great job of introducing hiking gear in a readable way. It gently steers you toward lighter gear without coming off sounding fanatical. However as I said above, even if you've been UL hiking for a while you can probably learn a lot of things from this book.

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
ah-ha moments on 02/22/2012 18:06:25 MST Print View

i didn't intend that my review be seen as negative, rather, one that the BPL community could use to evaluate the book given the high level of discussion that takes place here on many of the subjects presented in the book.

there are several reasons i bought the book, chief among them that Andrew's knowledge might provide an "ah-ha moment" as others have said as well as explore new techniques and methods i had not considered or have been versed on as of yet. i also bought the book for my pre-teen son who is just starting out in Boy Scouts and can use this book as an additional resource to help him learn.

Andrew has made several valid points in his comment, and i concur, that once i leave my region, the information will have more weight. my comment is that we all can't afford to gear up for every trip with a fresh set of gear and it seems that in many instances this is the case, even in the "Picks" sections there are choices given.

i understand that backpacking in Maine in June is a very different thing than backpacking across the Arizona desert that same month, both have unique challenges, but my choice of gear will first start with the equipment i already own. what i was hoping to find was a core equipment configuration that could be used as a foundation for multi-regional adventures. picking apart the sample gear lists will net the like gear, but it's cumbersome to do that.

i wanted to write more thoroughly but i am pressed for time this evening but i wanted to get some thoughts out and i also wanted to thank Andrew. i'm glad you took the time to write the book and i'm happy to have a copy. i'm positive the book will be a handy reference for many people, myself included.

Edited by asciibaron on 02/22/2012 18:40:02 MST.