Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide by Andrew SkurkaThe Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide
By Andrew Skurka
Published 2012
Full color, 224 pages
Publisher: National Geographic

This is the book I wish I had years ago when I first started backpacking. Read The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, and you may look at backpacking differently. This is not a day hiker’s book. It’s really for a subset of backpackers, what the author calls Ultimate Hikers. Ultimate Hiking is his term for those seeking a lighter and more distance-focused form of backpacking. Whatever you call it, there is wisdom here that anyone can take to back country adventures, whether overnight hikes or long-distance through hike such as the Pacific Crest Trail or Appalachian Trail. But there is something for any type of hiker here. It contains a wealth of knowledge that you rarely come across in just one book.

If you’re interested in lightweight backpacking, this book delivers. The author cuts through the mythology of lightweight camping and delivers sound advice not just on gear, but a whole approach. It provides a wealth of solid, field-tested advice that is up-to-date and practical.

The book is organized in to well-defined sections and is well-illustrated. It’s a pleasure to read and feels more accessible than other backpacking books that I have read.

I started backpacking as a Boy Scout, and we took the “be prepared” motto seriously, meaning we packed everything but the kitchen sink. I’ve lightened up a lot since then, but I still dread lugging my load and can’t wait to set up camp. Reading Skurka’s approach has inspired me. Next time out, I’ll be lighter and confident.


Why, When and Where: Here the author distinguishes his form of backpacking, Ultimate Hiking, from other forms of the activity. It’s thought-provoking and got me thinking about why I go out there, and the discomforts I’ve had hauling heavy loads.

Tools and Techniques: This section gets into the meat of the matter, discussing options for clothing, food, cooking systems, water treatment, shelter and packs. Read this to save possibly thousands of dollars on trial-and-error outdoor gear purchases.

Sample Gear Kits: Specific, detailed gear lists with weights listed out for Eastern Forests, Mountain West, Desert Southwest, Northern Winters and a specific Boy Scout ranch in New Mexico.


  • Great advice based on real-world experience including long-distance treks in very remote places.
  • Written in an accessible style.
  • Includes tons of specific gear recommendations, even down to specific manufacturers and products.
  • Goes beyond gear details to explain navigation, weather, layering systems, water treatment, etc.
  • Well-organized into color-coded sections.
  • Nice photography.
  • Includes detailed gear kits for five regional types of backpacking trips.
  • Includes tips for budget-conscious hikers.


  • The title is slightly misleading. This book is really for backpackers, and is not as applicable to day hikers.
  • Some of the specific gear recommendations may get outdated quickly.

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