backpacking skills

A backpacker at Sapphire Lake on the John Muir Trail in Evolution Basin, Kings Canyon National Park.

Ask Me: How to Load a Bear Canister Into a Backpack


When carrying a bear canister, where and how would you place it in the pack? Toward the bottom above the sleeping bag? More toward the top of the pack just below the shoulderblades? Would you store it vertically and pack stuff around it, or just store horizontally across the pack? This is my first year going places that require a canister, and I can’t find an answer.

[Originally submitted as a comment at my story “Video: How to Load a Backpack.”]

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Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park, Canada.

Trail Foods My Family Devours

By Michael Lanza

One big lesson I’ve been reminded of many times in the backcountry (and have written about before at this blog, including in my “10 Tips For Keeping Kids Happy and Safe Outdoors”) is that a grumpy child is usually just a hungry child. But the challenge facing many parents who take kids out hiking, backpacking, floating rivers, or on any other outdoor adventures, is figuring out what to feed their children when there’s no kitchen or refrigerator handy. Here’s the approach we’ve used with our son and daughter through several mostly successful years of numerous wilderness trips.

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Glacier National Park, Montana.

Ask Me: What Camera Equipment Do You Carry in the Backcountry?

Mr. Lanza,

Been following you for a while, great site, great articles and amazing photography. I’ve been a lifelong outdoorsman and really enjoy hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and fly-fishing. I am also a professional photographer, working as a newspaper photographer. My question is: How do you juggle the obvious needs of equipment, time, and enjoyment of photography while doing things outdoors? I know you make your living this way, but I have been struggling with the choices of how much equipment to take, how much time to spend shooting images, and how much time the photography takes from my enjoyment of the outdoors.

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A backpacker hiking past Marie Lake on the John Muir Trail.

Ask Me: Advice on Lighter Gear

Hi Michael,

I wonder if you could help me shed a few pounds – from my pack, not off my body. I’ve been section hiking the AT, and over the years have gotten my pack weight down from about 45 pounds to the low- to mid-30s. This year, I’m thinking of upgrading/downsizing my pack and sleeping bag, hoping to trim another 3 pounds and some bulk.

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Video: How to Pitch a Tent Using Stones

On a rocky beach during a five-day sea kayaking trip in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park, I demonstrate how to stake out a tent using stones when the ground won’t accept stakes.