Scouting magazine

Read an excerpt from Andrew Skurka’s ‘Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide’

Editor’s note: In his new book, Andrew Skurka, National Geographic Adventure and Outside magazine’s Adventurer of the Year, shows readers how to efficiently and effectively plan for an adventure. The book, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools and Techniques to Hit the Trail, is available now from National Geographic Books ($19.95, paperback, 224 pages). Click here to order, and click here to read the Scouting feature about Skurka.

Below is an excerpt from The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide:


Tried & True: How to find a good campsite

Out of desperation I have camped in some awful places, including a vault toilet in Montana’s Purcell Mountains, a six-foot-by-two-foot bench that I chiseled from a 25-degree slope in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, and a rodent-infested lookout tower in New Brunswick. But usually I am very deliberate and selective about where I camp. A good night’s sleep is critical to enjoying tomorrow.

Select a general area

As the end of the day draws near, I identify several potential campsites on my map. I look for general locations that are:

Identify a specific location

Once I select a general area, I try finding a specific campsite that is:

Once I have identified a potential spot, I lie down to make sure that it is comfortable. If it is, I mark the location of my feet and head with small rocks so that I can pitch my shelter over this exact location. If it’s not, I will try different positions or a different spot. Given the importance of my campsite to my sleep, it’s worth being fussy.

Tip: So that all people in a shelter can sleep well, I have them all lie down on the proposed spot and ask, “Are you comfortable?” If yes, we pitch the shelter.


Tried & True: How to pack a backpack

On solo trips I aim to be walking down the trail within 15 minutes of waking up. To do so quickly I can’t just stuff everything into my backpack randomly, however. It must be packed so as to minimize the load’s effect on my center of gravity and maximize organizational efficiency.

Maintain your center of gravity

The location of one’s center of gravity depends on gender and body type. For a normal adult male, it’s around the sternum; for a normal adult female, it’s above the belly button. A backpack of any weight will affect my center of gravity (and a heavy pack much more so), and I will need to compensate for that with an unnatural walking form, hence the forward lean. My goal is simply to minimize the effect, specifically by:

Keep your pack organized

An unorganized backpack is frustrating and inefficient: I can’t find what I need, and I waste time looking for it. To organize my pack I keep:


Reprinted by arrangement with the National Geographic Society from the book Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide. By Andrew Skurka Copyright ©2012 Andrew Skurka.

To read more great tips on clothing, footwear, shelter, sleep systems, hiking efficiency, and much more, pick up a copy of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide by clicking here.