Friday, August 17, 2012

Books for Ultralight Backpacking

During the hot and rainy Florida summer I have been stuck inside the air conditioning reading and reviewing two books which I find perfect for the Ultralight Backpacker.  In the evenings, just when the temperatures drop to the mid 80's, the lightning starts and the rains begin.  We got a very short walk in last week on one of the local paved trails before the sky opened up.  When we got back home, it had never rained.
The two books are the Ultralight Backpacking Tips by Mike Clelland and the Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide by Andrew Shurka.  Click the link to find the books on  I really like Mike Clelland's cartoons and the Tips format, and the read is light and enjoyable.  This is the one book you really need to get started with Ultralight Backpacking.  The first 10 tips are an overview of just about everything you need to know about UL backpacking. The rest of the book adds in the details and skills up to Tip #153 and includes a "10-day model trip", gear lists and food prep.  Mike's link is here for more information.  For a couple of my close 'traditional' backpacking buddies I've given them the books to help them appreciate Ultralight Backpacking and ultimately enjoy this activity.  I love my Kindle version except for some reason the packing lists do not change font size for easier reading.
Andrew Shurka picks up where many of us leave off with the manufacturing details of the gear we use.  I believe he has tried just about every item available at the backpacking gear store at some place just off the margins of the world atlas.  30,000+ backpacking miles gives him the experience to coach us neophytes in what we should do in the outdoors.  Andrew starts the book with the questions we all need to ask like,   "(1) what are my objectives, (2) what route and environmental conditions will I likely encounter, and (3)what gear, supplies, and skills will best help me achieve my objectives and keep me safe and comfortable?"  The rest of the book answers these questions based on the variety of locations and season you may be backpacking.  The meat of the book explains how the different varieties of Gore Tex are made and how they work (or don't), how different fabrics are constructed and in general, why gear works like it does.  Armed with this information you can make an educated guess when trip planning so you are carrying what you actually need in order to have a safe and comfortable trip while Ultralight Backpacking.  Plan to reread this a few times before planning your next adventure.  There is so much information to remember, I'll be referring to this book for years.  Also check out Andrew's web site here.  Especially read his blog called "Stupid Light" which was included in Gossamer Gear's online newsletter recently (and do read this before buying gear).  Andrew also leads group training sessions in the outdoors and I cannot think of a better person to learn from.
Both books should be required reading for new ultralight backpackers, and Andrew Shurka's Ultimate Hikers Gear Guide will benefit anyone backpacking or travelling outdoors.
I expect the Florida weather will be cooling off soon; we may even have to weather a peak-season hurricane next week to break the heat cycle (or not-we never know a few days out).  The best thing for me to do now is plan backpacking trips for the fall/winter season.  I really like Myakka River State Park near Sarasota, provided the water is low.  They have a huge and low back country prairie section with 20+ miles of hiking trails and 6 primitive campsites providing a few 2-3 day trip options.  There is no hunting allowed at Myakka during the cooler hiking season, perfect for Florida!


  1. Have you seen Skurka's talk? It is on Youtube, and is much like the one I saw in person. Well worth the trip to see.
    I've always considered the other book when browsing Amazon. Thanks for the recommendation. Cheers!

  2. Jeff,
    Thanks much for the link, I'm watching it now. You can't go wrong with reading Mike Clelland's Ultralight Backpacking Tips either!