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What I’m reading in 2018 – The Complete Idiots Guide to Backpacking and Hiking

One of my many New Years resolutions was to get out and hike more and hike smarter, and in the spirit of this goal I picked up Jason Stevenson’s “The Complete Idiots Guide to Backpacking and Hiking.”

But hiking’s easy right? You just grab some water, a snack and hit the trail for a few hours. Well not exactly. As someone who grew up hiking on a weekly basis, I like to think I know a thing or two, but that doesn’t mean I know everything.

Stevenson’s guide tackles the subjects of backpacking and hiking from the standpoint of a beginner, making it easy for anyone to understand. He provides real-world examples of what gear you’ll need and why, and tips for making all your future hiking and backpacking trips a little more enjoyable and of course memorable.

Even if you’ve been hiking for years, you might be surprised by how much you don’t know or have always taken for granted.

The book’s short chapters are packed with insightful tips, tricks, definitions and warnings that demystify hiking and backpacking.

The book is packed with quick tips and sidebars that make even complicated topics like navigation simple and easy to follow.

Topics covered:

  • Training your body for the trail
  • Navigation
  • Essential gear
  • Finding shelter
  • Camp cooking
  • Hygiene on the trail
  • Basic survival skills and first aid

I’m about halfway through the book and I’ve already picked up some awesome tricks and made some major changes to my outdoor wardrobe.

My favorite chapter, so far, was on footwear, which in itself is a daunting topic even for those who never venture onto the trail. Choosing the right hiking boots can mean the difference between a trouble-free day and a callus and curse-word filled hike home.


Who is this book for?

hiking trip

Hiking and backpacking are sports anyone can enjoy no matter what your background might be. Photo credit: Austin Ban on Unsplash

The Complete Idiots Guide to Backpacking and Hiking” is a great resource whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just getting started. The book makes hiking and backpacking about getting out and enjoying all that the great outdoors has to offer.

If you’ve enjoyed the occasional hike and want to dive deeper into the sport, I can’t recommend this book enough. 

Further Reading

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Please comment and share

  • What’s on your reading list this year?
  • Do you have any plans for the new year?
  • Do you like hiking or backpacking? If so what words of wisdom can you share?
  • What is the best lesson you’ve learned about hiking or backpacking?
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  • VanMarmot

    “What is the best lesson you’ve learned about hiking or backpacking?” That you don’t need to take along nearly as much stuff as you think you do (or the outdoor stores want to sell you). Keep it simple, keep it light (without going spending $$$ to save an ounce), and you’ll have a more fun trip. While I don’t buy into all of the ultralight approach, I found Mike Clelland’s “Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips” to be helpful in thinking about what to take & not take and where there are sensible places to save weight.

    January 21, 2018 - 10:55 am Reply
    • tobiasmann

      I absolutely agree, gear shouldn’t be a barrier to hiking. It’s silly really. I never had those things as a child.

      I find hiking gear can be broken down into three categories: The things you need, the things you want, and the things that are nice to have.

      At the end of the day you can justify all the gear you want if you actually use it.

      Maybe that should be a blog post: Everything you actually need for your first hiking trip.

      Maybe you and I could collaborated that?

      January 21, 2018 - 11:14 am Reply
      • VanMarmot

        I suppose you could boil the potential pile of gear down to what you “actually need,” the problem being that everyone has a different view of what defines “need.” And that definition is highly personal and often idiosyncratic (at least to the outside world). I’ve seen some real fights break out over some seemingly minor (which it usually is) difference of opinion about gear.

        BUT #1: For a first hiking trip, I’d say you actually need (and I’m going old school here) the 10 essentials – an idea that has been around since the 1930s (and was updated in 2003) – (1) Navigation (map and compass, GPS), (2) Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen), (3) Insulation (extra clothing), (4) Illumination (headlamp or flashlight), (5) First-aid supplies, (6) Fire (waterproof matches or lighter or candles), (7) Repair kit and tools (knife or multitool, duct tape), (8) Nutrition (extra food), (9) Hydration (extra water), (10) Emergency shelter (ultralight tarp or bivy sack or emergency space blanket). I’d add a whistle and a daypack big enough to carry these 10 plus your regular food and water.

        BUT #2: Having these 10 in your daypack has no value unless you understand how to use them. I’ve heard this “essential” expressed as: “People talk about the 10 Essentials, but the most important essential is between your ears.” Taking a class from your local outdoor store or park & recs department or similar is also a good idea. We’ve lived all over the U.S. (and elsewhere) and – despite years of hiking experience – have often taken classes to familiarize ourselves with local conditions – bugs, poisonous plants, quicksand, weather, etc.

        Lastly, for a first hiking trip, I’d push for one that is interesting (goes to a waterfall, lake, summit, view, etc.) but not overly difficult or tricky or ambitious – no need to use the 10 on your first hike!

        January 22, 2018 - 9:49 am Reply
  • danaelizabethx

    Backpacking is a lot better when you figure out how to make your pack lighter! 😂 I learned that the HARD way- ha! Have fun on your backpacking/hiking adventures!

    February 1, 2018 - 12:02 pm Reply
    • tobiasmann

      So much of the industry is based in selling you on ultralight clothing. I wonder how much lighter backpacking gear has really gotten in the last 10 years. I get minimalism, but does 5 ounces make a difference. Maybe when you add it all up.

      February 7, 2018 - 10:22 pm Reply

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