Books for Hikers and Backpackers (2021)


Updated and expanded because the final version in 2019, “Books for Hikers and Backpackers” now contains greater than 70 works separated into eight classes: 1. Educational; 2. Guidebooks; 3. Humour; 4. Inspirational; 5. Literature; 6. Memoirs; 7. Philosophy, and; 8. Ultralight. All of the books have a spot on both my conventional or cyber bookshelves, and the featured authors embody among the most skilled and educated hikers on the planet.

Outdoorsy bookshelf at Casa Honan.

1.   Educational

  • Auerbach, Paul. Medicine for the Outdoors (sixth version, 2015): I first picked up a duplicate of this guide within the late ’90s. Excellent reference textual content. According to Richard Carmona, seventeenth Surgeon General of the USA, Auerbach’s guide is the “most comprehensive and authoritative work in the field.”
  • Burns, Bob. Wilderness Navigation (third Edition, 2015): Clearly written, helpful for learners in addition to veterans searching for a refresher. Includes helpful sensible workouts behind the guide. Written by the co-author of the ‘Navigation’ chapter of the traditional, “Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills.” (see beneath).
  • Curtis, Rick. The Backpacker’s Field Manual (2005 version): Arguably nonetheless probably the most complete “how to” backpacking information available on the market. An glorious reference guide that deserves a spot on each hiker’s bookshelf.
  • Gonzales, Laurence. Deep Survival (2003): After listening to about this guide for the previous decade, I lastly acquired round to studying “Deep Survival” in the course of the pandemic. I discovered it to be a extremely readable mixture of survival tales, sensible recommendation, and the psychology of how individuals take care of excessive adversity. On the not-so-great facet, it was a little bit repetitive at instances, and the writer has an off-putting penchant for navel-gazing.
  • Hansen, Derek. The Ultimate Hang 2 (2017): Highly regarded illustrated information to hammock tenting. Recommended by serial thru-hiker and long-time hammock devotee, Brian “Beardoh” Ristola, who wrote “Hammocks for Thru-Hiking” for ‘The Hiking Life’ web site in February 2018.
  • Lichter, Justin. Trail Tested (2020; 2nd Edition). Lightweight backpacking strategies and kit recommendation from a man who has walked the stroll for over 40,000 miles, together with winter thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trails, and pioneering routes within the Himalaya, New Zealand’s South Island, and Mexico’s Copper Canyon Region (with yours actually).
  • Magnanti, Paul. How to Survive Your First Trip into the Wild: Backpacking for Beginners (2019). Full of sensible, to-the-point recommendation, How to Survive Your First Trip into the Wild, is good for these trying to make the transition from day hikes to in a single day backpacking excursions. Magnanti’s a long time of area expertise mixed with an usually humorous writing fashion, make this guide not solely a fantastic useful resource for learners but in addition brings residence the truth that so long as you might be effectively ready, heading out into the woods is an expertise to be loved, relatively than merely endured.
  • Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills (ninth version, 2017): This traditional mountaineering textual content (first revealed in 1960) additionally has a number of data related to hikers and backpackers (e.g. snow abilities, wilderness first support, knots, and navigation).

  • Skurka, Andrew. The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide (2017; 2nd Edition). A radical overview of light-weight backpacking gear and strategies from one of many sport’s main authorities.
  • Thomas, Liz, Mastering the Art of the Thru Hike (2017). Over the previous decade, Liz “Snorkel” Thomas has hiked many long-distance trails round North America, together with the Triple Crown (i.e. PCT, CDT, and AT). That effectively of ambulatory expertise mixed with spectacular consideration to element has resulted in a guide stuffed with sensible, hard-won recommendation which took out the National Outdoor Book Award in 2017 (Instructional Category).
  • Townsend, Chris. The Backpackers Handbook (4th Edition; 2011). An glorious backpacking useful resource written in a private, down-to-earth fashion by a person who undoubtedly is aware of his stuff. Over the a long time Townsend has revealed greater than 20 hiking-related books, and since 1991 has been the Equipment Editor for The Great Outdoors journal.
  • Waterman, Guy & Laura. Wilderness Ethics: Preserving the Spirit of Wildness (1993). This guide was beneficial to me by Paul “Mags” Magnanti (see above). I discovered it to be a well-written, balanced, and interesting examination of the moral questions round how we use wilderness. Written some 28 years in the past, its themes are extra related than ever right now.

2.   Guidebooks

  • Cicerone Press Guidebooks: For 5 a long time, Cicerone Press has been producing extremely regarded guidebooks for mountaineering, trekking, climbing, and biking. Traditionally their focus has primarily been on the UK (the place they’re primarily based) and Europe, nonetheless, in latest instances they’ve been more and more that includes different areas all over the world such because the Himalaya, Andes, and Atlas mountains.

Four of my Cicerone Guides from the 90s and 2000s.

  • Falcon Press: The largest writer of out of doors guidebooks within the United States. Their intensive mountaineering catalogue contains Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Joshua Tree National Park.
  • Trailblazer Guidebooks: Along with Cicerone Press, the principal mountaineering guidebook firm for the UK and Europe over the previous couple of a long time. As with their counterpart, they’ve additionally expanded their geographic horizons in recent times, and now additionally characteristic books for South America, Asia, and different locations across the globe.

3.   Humour

  • Bryson, Bill. A Walk within the Woods. The famed journey author’s account of his time on America’s most iconic long-distance pathway. Some thru-hikers complain about what this guide isn’t (i.e. the story of somebody who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail), relatively than specializing in what it’s – a witty and sometimes insightful account of an AT part hike by an excellent author.
  • Burns, John D. The Last Hillwalker (2017). A love letter to the hills. I picked up this completely pleasurable account of 4 a long time price of adventures within the British mountains (and past) throughout my 2018 journey to the Scottish Highlands. On the identical journey, I additionally learn Burns’ glorious, Bothy Tales – an ode to the characterful mountain huts which dot the Scottish Highlands.
  • Grinter, Lawton. I Hike (2012) and I Hike Again (2019). Collections of quick tales derived from greater than 15,000 miles of mountaineering on a few of America’s most interesting trails. Funny, poignant, thought-provoking, and entertaining, studying Grinter’s books makes you’re feeling like you might be sitting round a campfire, swapping yarns with a bunch of long-distance hikers over a beer or three.

  • McFarland, Boots. On the Trail with Boots McFarland (2019): Long-distance hikers are a quirky bunch. And hardly ever have these eccentricities been higher captured than in Boots McFarland’s great cartoons. Whether it’s our questionable consuming habits, debatable hygiene practices, or just the loopy notion that folks would wish to stroll hundreds of miles only for the enjoyable of it, Boots’ illustrations are a chafe-and-all celebration of what makes hikers tick.

  • Newby, Eric. A Short Walk within the Hindu Kush (1958). The (mis)adventures of a vogue govt and his mate who works for the British Foreign Service, who journey from London to Afghanistan with the aim of scaling a hitherto unclimbed peak (Mir Samir) within the Hindu Kush. One of probably the most entertaining books about climbing and trekking I’ve ever learn.
  • Twain, Mark. Roughing It (1872). Personal recollections and tall tales from the writer’s wanderings round America’s Wild West. My favorite of Twain journey narratives, simply nudging out The Innocents Abroad. Not precisely a wilderness guide, however what the hey; I like Mark Twain, I like the American West, and his tales by no means fail to convey a giant smile to my face.

4.   Inspirational 

  • Berger, Karen. America’s Great Hiking Trails (2014): An attractive espresso desk guide that options America’s 11 National Scenic Trails. It was considered one of Berger’s earlier works, “Hiking America’s Triple Crown” (2001), that first launched me to the thought of at some point mountaineering the large three of American long-distance mountaineering (i.e. the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails).
  • Honan, Cam. Wanderlust: Hiking on Legendary Trails (2017), The Hidden Tracks: Wanderlust off the Beaten Path (2018), and Wanderlust USA (2019). Odes to the sweetness and surprise of experiencing the pure world on foot. Each work options roughly 30 of the best trails and routes from across the globe, together with Tibet’s Mount Kailash Circuit, California’s Lowest to Highest Route, Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit, and the legendary Haute Route between Chamonix and Zermatt. The books include background historical past, path descriptions, overview maps, and most notably, scores of spectacular wilderness pictures (keep tuned for “Wanderlust Himalaya“; launch date May 2022).

  • Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild (1996): The cautionary, enthralling, and tragic story of Chris McCandless, an idealistic younger man who walked alone into the Alaskan wilderness. I learn this guide throughout my very own three-month journey in Alaska and the Yukon in 1998. From the time of its publication, the guide polarized readers, with McCandless being painted as every thing from a tragic hero to a reckless narcissist. Ultimately his story stands as a grim reminder of what can happen within the wilderness when desires and idealism aren’t balanced by objectivity, and the data and abilities mandatory to securely negotiate your chosen atmosphere.
  • Macfarlane, Robert. The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (2012):  In “The Old Ways”, Macfarlane traces the traditional pathways of Britain and past, and explores the connection between individuals, time, and landscapes. As with the writing of Nan Shepherd (see beneath), you get the sensation that the writer walks into landscapes, relatively than up and over them. I learn this extraordinary guide throughout my Alps journey of 2019, and as quickly as I had completed, I ordered Macfarlane’s first two works – “Mountains of the Mind” and “The Wild Places.”
  • Shepherd, Nan. The Living Mountain (1977): Nan Shepherd was a Scottish poet and nationalist who’s commemorated on the nation’s five-pound observe. “The Living Mountain” is Shepherd’s fantastically written testomony to the fun and wonders of strolling in nature, particularly in her beloved Cairngorm mountains:

“I believe that I now understand in some small measure why the Buddhist goes on pilgrimage to a mountain. The journey is itself part of the technique by which the god is sought. It is a journey into Being; for as I penetrate more into the mountain’s life, I penetrate also into my own. For an hour I am beyond desire. It is not ecstasy, that leap out of the self that makes man like a god. I am not out of myself, but in myself. I am. To know Being, this is the final grace accorded from the mountain.”

Yours actually mountaineering within the Cairngorms in September 2018.

5.   Literature

  • Snyder, Gary. Turtle Island (1974) & The Practice of the Wild (1990): Thought-provoking poems and essays. I didn’t get into Snyder till my early 30’s, after I randomly got here throughout a duplicate of ‘Turtle Island’ in a used bookstore in Queensland, Australia. I’ve been a giant fan of his writing ever since:

“Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility.” (The Practice of the Wild).

  • Tolkien, JRR, The Lord of the Rings (1954). The story of a various bunch of fellows who went out for a multi-month stroll, had a number of memorable adventures, met some cool path angels, took some zero-days, had some variations of opinion relating to route choice, misplaced considered one of their members as a consequence of chest pains, break up into separate teams, stood by one another when instances had been powerful, completed their journeys at completely different termini, and, lastly, all met up for celebratory beers on the Field of Cormallen at journey’s finish.

“I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains, and then find somewhere where I can rest. In peace and quiet, without a lot of relatives prying around, and a string of confounded visitors hanging on the bell.” (Bilbo Baggins, “The Fellowship of the Ring”)

The boys from the Fellowship of the Ring.

  • Wallis, Velma. Two Old Women (1993). An Inuit legend of braveness and survival. I first learn this guide whereas spending a summer season up in Alaska in 1998. Not about mountaineering and backpacking per se, however as a substitute about how spending time within the wilderness can remind us that when given no different selection, many people are able to greater than we consciously notice.

6.   Memoirs

  • Abbey, Edward, Desert Solitaire (1968): A thought-provoking compilation of vignettes about life within the wilderness. He is probably not everybody’s cup of literary tea, however there is no such thing as a denying Abbey’s love and fervour for America’s southwest:

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”

  • Fletcher, Colin. The Thousand-Mile Summer (1964) and  The Man Who Walked by Time (1968): Over the previous couple of a long time, there was an ever-increasing quantity of books about long-distance backpacking. None that I’ve learn are as compelling, thought-provoking, and inspirational because the works of Colin Fletcher. His guide, River, a couple of multi-month rafting journey down the Colorado River, is equally excellent. If I needed to choose simply considered one of Fletcher’s works, it will in all probability be “The Man Who Walked Through Time”, which chronicles his pioneering journey by the Grand Canyon. I learn this unbelievable guide throughout my Pyrenean Haute Route thru-hike in 1999 (Ed’s Note: Back within the day after I nonetheless carried paperback books whereas mountaineering):

“There is a powerful human compulsion to leave things tied up in neat little bundles. But every journey except your last has an open end. And any journey of value is above all a chapter in a personal odyssey. Its end is not so much a goal attained as another point in a continuing process. And the important thing at the end of a journey – or of a book – is to keep moving forward, refreshed, with as little pause as possible.”

Mike “The Gambler” Towne on the Nankoweap Granaries in the course of the Hayduke Trail (March 2012). Fletcher slept in these cliff-hugging granaries throughout his 1963 journey by the Grand Canyon.

  • Kerouac, Jack. The Dharma Bums (1958). Possibly my favorite Kerouac novel. I first learn it within the late Nineteen Nineties, not coincidentally throughout the identical interval I found the writing of Gary Synder (see beneath), who was the inspiration for one of many guide’s major characters, Japhy Ryder.

“I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling.”

  • Matthiessen, Peter. The Snow Leopard. (1978). I picked up a battered paperback model of this traditional guide whereas trekking in Ladakh in 2008. Recounting the writer’s seek for the elusive Himalayan ‘ghost cat’ all through Nepal’s Dolpo area, “The Snow Leopard” is finally a ‘journey of the heart’, that vividly captures the abiding high quality of the Himalayan vary and its individuals:

    “I grow into these mountains like a moss. I am bewitched. The blinding snow peaks and the clarion air, the sound of earth and heaven in the silence, the requiem birds, the mythic beasts, the flags, great horns, and old carved stones……….Also, I love the common miracles-the murmur of my friends at evening, the clay fires of smudgy juniper, the coarse dull food, the hardship and simplicity, the contentment of doing one thing at a time.”
  • Muir, John. My First Summer within the Sierra (1911) and The Yosemite (1912). The father of the conservation motion. I first learn Muir’s works as a teen rising up in Australia. More than thirty years later, he stays considered one of my favorite wilderness writers.

“After ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light, the white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow, and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it still seems above all others the Range of Light.” (The Yosemite)

John Muir in his beloved High Sierra.

7.   Philosophical

  • Graham, Stephen. The Gentle Art of Tramping (1927): An exquisite guide for wandering spirits and outside lovers. Written some 90 years in the past, it comprises some memorable nuggets of knowledge reminiscent of:

The less you carry the more you will see, the less you spend the more you will experience.”

  • Fletcher, Colin. The CompleteWalker 3 (1984). I’ve re-read CW3 a few instances over time. Whilst the gear sections are understandably dated, Fletcher’s dry sense of humour and his ardour for the pure world stays as recent and poignant as ever.

“If you judge safety to be the paramount consideration in life you should never, under any circumstances, go on long hikes alone. Don’t take short hikes alone, either – or, for that matter, go anywhere alone. And avoid at all costs such foolhardy activities as driving, falling in love, or inhaling air that is almost certainly riddled with deadly germs………And never, of course, explore the guts of an idea that seems as if it might threaten one of your more cherished beliefs. In your wisdom, you will probably live to be a ripe old age. But you may discover, just before you die, that you have been dead for a long, long time.” (The Complete Walker 3).

For followers of Fletcher’s work, I like to recommend choosing up a duplicate of “Walking Man“, a wonderful biography by Robert Wehrman.

  • Gros, Frederic, The Philosophy of Walking (2014).  An insightful take a look at how the straightforward act of placing one foot in entrance of the opposite, can have an effect on our mind-set and high quality of life. Gros examines the important function that strolling performed within the work of philosophers and writers reminiscent of Thoreau, Kant, Rimbaud, Rosseau, and Nietzsche:

“When there is really nothing left to do or believe, except to remember, walking helps retrieve the absolute simplicity of presence, beyond all hope, before any expectation.”

  • Kephart, Horace. Camping & Woodcraft (1906): Although gear could have modified, the philosophy & abilities described on this wilderness traditional are nonetheless related:

“To equip a pedestrian with shelter, bedding, utensils, food, and other necessities, in a pack so light and small that he can carry it without overstrain, is really a fine art.”  

Horace Kephart – one of many OG’s of light-weight backpacking.

  • Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac (1949). I revisited Leopold’s traditional work in 2018, some 26 years after first studying it. For anybody within the nature of human’s relationship with the atmosphere (and I hope that encompasses most folk who observe this web site) I extremely advocate it. It’s a comparatively quick guide, and though it was first revealed some 70 years in the past, the themes it examines stay extra related than ever right now.
  • Thoreau, Henry David. Walden (1854) and Walking (1861): Thoreau makes probably the most eloquent of instances for the bodily, psychological and non secular advantages of spending time within the wilderness. I particularly get pleasure from studying Thoreau after I’m backpacking, relatively than after I’m indoors. The simplicity and directness of his phrases appear to resonate that little bit extra.

8.   Ultralight Backpacking

  • Clelland, Mike. Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips (2011) 153 tips about going lighter, courtesy of the identical man who did the superb illustrations for Don Ladigan’s guide (see beneath). Practical data combined in with liberal doses of quirkiness and humour. Makes ultralight backpacking sound enjoyable and pleasurable. Double thumbs up.

  • Jardine, Ray. Beyond Backpacking (2001) and Trail Life (2009). Basically the identical guide with a special title. Jardine was the person who popularised the present motion in the direction of going lighter within the early ’90s. Whilst a few of his concepts is probably not for everybody, there is no such thing as a denying that his modern strategy is based upon intensive private expertise in a variety of environments.
  • Lichter, Justin & Forry, Shawn. Ultralight Winter Travel. In 2014/15, Lichter and Forry accomplished the first-ever winter traverse of the Pacific Crest Trail. The abilities and strategies they used to perform this superb feat are encapsulated in Ultralight Winter Travel, an informative information that addresses worse-case eventualities, climate patterns, area repairs, and, in fact, methods to enterprise safely into sub-freezing circumstances with out carrying the proverbial kitchen sink in your again.

DisclosureThis submit comprises affiliate hyperlinks, which implies ‘The Hiking Life’ receives a small fee if you buy an merchandise after clicking on one of many hyperlinks. This comes at no further value to the reader and helps to assist the web site in its persevering with aim to create high quality content material for backpackers and hikers. 



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here