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Lightweight backpacking is safer, more comfortable, less expensive, and more fun than conventional/heavy backpacking. This engaging, colorful book demonstrates how and why. It is written by Andrew Skurka, the charismatic adventure athlete who has defined the light-and-fast style of backcountry travel and who was described by National Geographic Adventure as a "Gen Y version of Henry David Thoreau or John Muir." Skurka is a sponsored athlete, paid speaker, and writer who has created his own platform and is making a living doing it. He gives dozens of lectures a year, maintains a website and facebook page, and has thousands of followers. The guide begins with a big-picture discussion about lightweight backpacking: why go light, core principals, steps to lighten up, etc. A show-and-tell of lightweight gear follows, including an assortment of packs, shelters, stoves, clothing, and more. The author's personal vignettes are sprinkled throughout the book, making this is an intimate, inspiring, educational tome that might very well be worth reading for the stories alone. For years, hikers have turned to Colin Fletcher's bestselling classic The Complete Walkerfor sage hiking advice (dubbed the "Hiker's Bible" by Field & Stream). That book is now long outdated (last pubbed in 2002), and Skurka's guide is poised to take its place. There's nothing else out there on walking that's as all-inclusive or reliable.
I wrote this book from the perspective of an unapologetic Ultimate Hiker, which I define as a backpacker who simply loves to walk. We maximize our on-trail comfort by packing light; we move efficiently from dawn to dusk; and we consider the physical and mental challenges inherent in this style as part of our backcountry experience. Our antithesis is the Ultimate Camper, who hikes only a very short distance in order to do something else, like fishing, journaling, or birding. Neither approach is superior to the other—it’s simply personal preference—but our contrasting styles have major consequences for our gear, supplies, and skills.
My target reader is one who at least sometimes wants to be more like an Ultimate Hiker. You need not take this approach on every future trip or take it to the extreme that I do, but you must want to enjoy the hiking component of your back- packing trips more. This book may be most valuable for beginners and intermediates, who are too often relegated to the status of Campers-by-Default. These backpackers lack the knowledge and skills to pack lightly and move efficiently, which makes hiking more strenuous and less fruitful than it should be. To avoid a sufferfest, they instead opt to camp.
I have intentionally refrained from describing this text as a “lightweight backpacking” book. Although weight is an important consideration for the Ultimate Hiker, we must also be concerned with the comfort, safety, durability, efficiency, and best use of our gear. Moreover, it’s possible to go “stupid light,” whereby desperate weight savings can have adverse effects.
My hope is that this book will become the go-to manual for back-packing how-to, a modern successor to Colin Fletcher’s The Complete Walker. An original 1968 copy of that classic sat on the corner of my desk for inspiration while I wrote this manuscript. I wanted my book to be credible, informative, and occasionally just a good read. And while my recommendations are based on my extensive hiking experience, I’m not a backpacking guru—remember that you must always exercise your own judgment in evaluating the applicability and utility of the information in this book based on your own ability, experience, and comfort level. I readily admit that there are alternative tools and techniques that will achieve similar outcomes.
At the risk of outdating this text quickly, I felt that it was important to include specific brands, products, prices, and weights. On numerous occasions, I advocate the use of unconventional items—like frameless backpacks, tarps and tarp tents, and alcohol stoves—that are not made by conventional out- door companies or sold by conventional outdoor retailers. But by focusing on the gear type—not on the specific product—I hope that the information in this book will remain valuable long after the prod- uct itself disappears from catalogs and store shelves.