Best Books For The Big Outdoors

By Karen Berger
Photographs by John R. Fulton Jr.

These titles will help outdoor adventurers quench their wanderlust and sharpen hiking, camping, and cooking techniques.

Dog Is My Co-Pilot: Great Writers on the World's Oldest Friendship

By the editors of Bark (Crown, $25 hardback).

The title is not a misprint. These essays, selected by the editors of Bark magazine (a hip literary quarterly about dogs), explore man's closest inter-species relationship. The literary quality makes the tales worth a long, quiet read; the subject matter lends itself to sharing around a campfire.

The Complete Walker

By Colin Fletcher and Chip Rawlins (Knopf, $39.95 hardback).

This classic tome is passionate, readable, funny, and packed with detailed information about every aspect of hiking. In the newest (fourth) edition, Fletcher takes on a co-author, Chip Rawlins, whose younger, hipper viewpoint provides an interesting contrast to Fletcher's perspective as the grand old man. The two discourse on everything from boot soles to hats.

The Letterboxer's Companion

By Randy Hall (Falcon Publishing, $14.95 hardback).

Letterboxing is a game—a cross between hiking, treasure-hunting, and stamp collecting—in which participants follow clues posted on Web sites. Hidden "letterboxes" contain logbooks and rubber stamps. Finders sign the logbook and stamp their personal passbooks, creating a record of their adventures and discoveries. Randy Hall describes this new twist on orienteering, which makes a perfect project for young hikers.

Wilderness First Aid: A Pocket Guide

By Paul G. Gill Jr. (Ragged Mountain Press, $10.95 paperbound).

When you are faced with an emergency in the field, the last thing you need is a 500-page tome packed with dense information that you don't have time to absorb. This quick reference guide, written by a board-certified emergency room specialist, fits into a pocket and describes 125 typical wilderness emergency scenarios and their treatment. Put it in your first-aid kit.

The Appalachian Trail: Calling Me Back to the Hills

By Earl Shaffer and Bart Smith (Westcliffe, $39.95 hardback).

In 1948, Earl Shaffer completed the first documented through-hike of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, a feat thought to be impossible at the time. His account of the journey, Walking With Spring, became a trail classic. Calling Me Back to the Hills is an appropriate sequel, a combination of narrative and poetry that documents Shaffer's third through-hike, at the age of 80. The writing is sparse and straightforward, but the breathtaking photographs by Bart Smith demonstrate why an Appalachian Trail through-hike remains one of the most compelling dreams among adventurers of all ages.

Day Hiker's Handbook

By Mike Lanza (Mountaineers Books, $16.95 paperbound).

Most outdoor guides are geared to the multi-day adventurer. Lanza's handbook, published in cooperation with Backpacker magazine, addresses issues as they pertain to day hikers, including trip planning, equipment, and emergency management.

At the Grave of the Unknown Fisherman

By John Gierach (Simon & Schuster, $22 hardback, $13 paperbound).

If you liked A River Runs Through It (either the book or the movie), you'll enjoy this book also. The author takes us on a yearlong journey as he fishes for trout, carp, and grayling, sometimes in waters as cold as a Wyoming winter. In between, he muses on the vagaries of fishing, although never so seriously that he can't slip in the well-timed wisecrack.

Best of Colorado

By John Fielder (Westcliffe, $29.95 paperbound).

John Fielder is Colorado's pre-eminent wilderness photographer. After decades exploring the state's wild places, there may not be a grove of aspen or a herd of elk he hasn't photographed from a hundred different angles. The combination guidebook/photography book shares Fielder's picks of the best places in a state many consider the premier outdoor destination in America.

Walking the World's Most Exceptional Trails

By Eloise Napier (Abbeville Press, $29.95 hardback).

This is a sourcebook for dreaming and planning. With 240 color photographs and detailed descriptions of walks from Scotland to Patagonia to Wyoming to Morocco, this book gives you dozens of ideas about where to go—and how to get there, including information about daily itineraries, maps, and guide services.

Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography

By Galen A. Rowell (W.W. Norton, $40 hardback).

The late Galen Rowell was one of the 20th century's premier outdoor photographers. In this book, published shortly before he was killed in a plane crash, he shares his techniques as well as an exploration of the creative process as it applies to out-door photography.

Backpack Gourmet: Good Hot Grub You Can Make at Home, Dehydrate, and Pack for Quick, Easy, and Healthy Eating on the Trail

By Linda Frederick Yaffe (Stackpole, $10.95 paperbound).

You probably already know about freeze-dried foods and the kinds of simple one-pot meals you can make with basic supermarket ingredients. This book shows you how to bring your favorite home-cooked meals along, too.

Highpoint Adventures: The Complete Guide to the 50 State Highpoints

By Charlie and Diane Winger (Colorado Mountain Club, $15.95 paperbound, $9.95 pocket edition).

A small bump in Florida's Lakewood Park rises to an elevation of 345 feet. Alaska's Mount McKinley towers over the state at 20,320 feet. Both are the highest points in their respective states. In between are 48 others, including some of America's best backpacking treks: New Hampshire's Mount Washington, Massachusetts's Mount Greylock, Virginia's Mount Rogers, California's Mount Whitney, and Oregon's Mount Hood. Whether you want to visit all 50 highpoints or just cherry-pick the best hiking destinations, this book is an intriguing guide for those attracted by the lure of high places.

The Hard Way: Stories of Danger, Survival, and the Soul of Adventure

By Mark Jenkins (Simon & Schuster, $22 hardback, $12 paperbound).

The oxymoronic idea of armchair adventure travel starts to make a lot of sense when you dive into Mark Jenkins's latest tome: These are journeys that most of us would rather experience from the easy safety of our favorite recliner. Jenkins's descriptions of his globe-spanning trips are exciting, but even more interesting are his probes into the nature of adventure and the reasons we find it so compelling.

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills

(The Mountaineers Books, $37.95 hardback).

The seventh edition of this classic guide to mountain travel covers all aspects of this activity, including techniques for rock, snow, and ice; safety procedures; geology and weather; navigation; and ropes and knots.

Hiking Light Handbook

By Karen Berger (Mountaineers Books, $16.95 paperbound).

Written for anyone who has ever groaned under the weight of a too-heavy pack, this book (the latest by the author of this column) shows how to cut pack weight without sacrificing safety or the gear you need to enjoy your trip.

Karen Berger is the author of 10 books about outdoor adventure. Visit her Web site at

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May - June 2004 Table of Contents

Copyright © 2004 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.