backpacking skills

A backpacker on the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park.

5 Smart Steps to Lighten Your Backpacking Gear

By Michael Lanza

The fact that you opened this story means you already recognize a simple backpacking truth: Reducing the weight in your backpack will make this activity feel like an entirely different and far more enjoyable experience. But how do you navigate the transition from heavier to lighter gear—what should you replace first, second, and so on? This story will guide you through the most logical progression of steps to a lighter backpacking gear kit—and happier days on the trail.

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A backpacker on the Tonto Trail on the Grand Canyon's Royal Arch Loop.

How to Get a Permit to Backpack in the Grand Canyon

By Michael Lanza

First-time backpackers in the Grand Canyon quickly absorb two lessons about this one-of-a-kind place: Its infinite vistas and deceptive scale, the beauty of desert oases and wildflower blooms, the peacefulness and quietude of some of the best campsites you will ever enjoy—all of these qualities will hook you forever.

And you learn how difficult it can be to get a permit for backpacking there.

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A backpacker on the John Muir Trail in the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

Expert Tips For Buying the Right Hiking Boots

By Michael Lanza

Boots are the most important piece of hiking or backpacking gear you will buy. You can live with a mediocre pack or a cheap tent (as many of us have), but poorly fitting boots are often a trip killer. Trouble is, boots are also the most difficult piece of gear to get right. (First tip: Don’t settle for a mediocre fit—if they don’t feel good, they aren’t good.) This article will go beyond the usual boots-buying tips you’ll find at countless sources to help you figure out how to find the right hiking footwear for you.

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A climber on the Ptarmigan Traverse in Washington's North Cascades.

Training For a Big Hike or Mountain Climb

By Michael Lanza

When three friends and I decided to attempt to thru-hike the John Muir Trail—221 miles through California’s High Sierra, with numerous mountain passes ranging from 11,000 to over 13,000 feet in elevation—in just one week (backpackers traditionally take two to three weeks), the plan seemed like a wild dream. Hike 31 miles a day for seven straight days through some of the biggest mountains in the Lower 48? It was an agenda for lunatics. So we started training. Seriously training.

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A backpacker on the Continental Divide Trail in Glacier National Park.

12 Expert Tips for Finding Solitude When Backpacking

By Michael Lanza

Solitude has always reigned as one of the holy grails of backpacking: We all dream of finding that lonely campsite deep in the wilderness with an amazing vista, or hiking for miles or days encountering few or even no other people on the trail. Unfortunately, reality often conflicts with expectations for many backpackers when they discover that the dream trip they’ve been anticipating for months was apparently a dream trip for an awful lot of other people, too.

But the truth is that there are many ways to find backcountry solitude because the odds work in your favor: Most wilderness trails have few or no people on them most of the time. The search for solitude is less a needle-in-a-haystack conundrum and more a matter of thinking outside the box: You simply have to understand where and when to look for it.

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