Sunday, May 20, 2007

Joy of Backpacking

While I was working on Sex in a Tent, there was another book in progress over at Wilderness Press called Joy of Backpacking. The author needed a few 'experts' to contribute tips to print in the book on various subjects, and I was asked to write a couple. After begging so many people to contribute their stories to my book, I could hardly refuse a bit of contribution karma.

In return for my contributions, I was sent a copy of the book, which was just released. I've had a read through it (yes, I flipped to the pages with my tips first - you would too!) and thought I'd give it a bit of a review here.

If you are just starting to backpack (or tramp) this is a great resource. It covers all of the basics, from what gear you need to buy (and just as importantly what gear you don't need) to how to find your way using a map and compass, what kind of food to bring and how much, what clothing is best, what different kinds of footwear are good for etc. There is definitely an American slant to everything, but I think readers elsewhere would still get enough out of it to find it very helpful. (They can just skip the stuff about coyotes and perhaps bears.) You'll just need to add some local advice to your collection so that you understand the possible difficulties you'll experience. Wildlife, climate, water availablility and track quality vary greatly from one country to the next, and within countries too.

For more experienced backpackers, there are still bits of advice that could be useful. You'll already know most of the basics, but there are some good meal and snack ideas, some interesting tips about treating blisters, staying warm and so on. For those of us who mostly know what we're doing, the value is in the details. If you already have a collection of backpacking books about first aid, cooking, navigation etc., then you probably don't have any need to add this to your shelf.

On a final note, I wanted to mention the cover photo. It's a picture of the amazing Vermilion Cliffs area in northern Arizona. I had the good fortune to hike there in 2004, and it is one of the most surreal, beautiful and unique landscapes in the world - picture Dr. Seuss on Mars. If you get the chance, don't miss it! (You need a permit to go, and numbers are limited.)

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