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Hiking/Backpacking/Camping/What book would you suggest for a beginner backpack hiker


I am retired for 6 years and in the process of getting myself in shape by going to the gym twice a week and walking a minimum of 10 miles each day.  I will start slow.

Is there a book that you would suggest for a beginner?  I am a survivor of many "incidents" including surviving in the jungle for 2 weeks after escaping a POW camp so I do have some skills in the wilderness..I am very interested in having zero impact on the environment.

Thank you very much for your time!

Hi Steve,

There are so many books that I could not recommend just one.  It sounds like your experiences could lead you to write a book instead of learn from one.  I have an interest in the Appalachian Trail and I take my Boy Scouts hiking a section of that every other year.  For that reason, I have many books on long distance hiking (although most of the hikes that we do only last 5 days).  I also have trail guides for the AT which include maps and items of interest along the way.  These trail guides show where water and shelters including latrines can be found along the trail, where roads cross the trail and distances to towns are along the trail.  This is important for us to be able to resupply.

I also have a couple of videos that talk about equipment to take on your hike as well as how to make equipment lighter.  For instance do you need a tent or can a tarp and a section of rope between two trees work as well as a tent?  Can you use a tarp if you are above the tree line or hiking in very rocky mountains?  Do you need a bear bag or can you suspend your whole pack.

Many questions are dictated by the area that you are hiking.  Water might not be a problem unless you are hiking in a desert.  

I might be able answer a little if I know...
  Where you want to hike (information is very different between Nebraska and Western Colorado)?
  How well you can get food in the back country (It sounds like might be very strong in this area)?
  What kind of equipment you currently have and if you want to get new stuff or use what you have?
  How long of a distance you want to cover and how long that you want to hike (a two day hike is very different from a 4 month hike).

If you can give me more background I might better be able to give you more of a hint on any books that might interest you.  You can also look into magazines like Backpacker or Camping Life or The Great Outdoors.  These types of magazines feature much more current equipment than a book would.  There are also many web sites dedicated to specific trails, from the Appalachian Trail Conference at to web sites of avid hikers who wish to share their adventures, to youtube where there are thousands of videos of hints and aids on hiking and camping.  Books can be from very general like the Boy Scout Handbook to very specific.  Of all the lessons that you can learn, there are two that are the most important...
  1. An ounce of equipment in the morning feels like a pound in the evening.
  2. Protect your feet.  Get the best wool socks and waterproof boots that you can afford.  Foot problems leads to a miserable experience 1 step at a time.

I will be happy to follow up on your specific question if you give me more detail on your desires and experience.  


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Tom Newman


Scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 43 in Fort Wayne, IN. We have an outing every month. Most months involve tent camping, usually in State Parks. We have made 4 trips where we have hiked 50+ miles on the Appalachian Trail. We expect to continue this until we have hiked the whole trail... (40+ years).

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