September 28

Book Review – Backpacker Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike

Have you been looking longingly at journals, photos and videos of this year’s thru-hikers, wondering what it takes to put a trip like that together for yourself? There are so many factors – which trail, what time of year, what gear to take, how to resupply, how to get in shape – that it may seem a daunting task. Liz “Snorkel” Thomas has written just the book for you, Backpacker Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike.

Whether you’re dreaming of the Triple Crown or want to get out for a couple of weeks on a long-distance trail; this book is thorough, detailed and informative. It can be used as a workbook for every step of the planning process. The intro, Defining the Dream, even starts out with 10 questions to ask yourself to help figure out the meaning and purpose of your hike.

The book is split into three categories: Plan and Prep, Life on the Trail and Savoring the Experience.

A big part of planning a thru-hike is budgeting (both time and money) and there are helpful tips for calculating and lowering costs. The book stresses the importance of having a support team at home to mail packages, help with gear and provide emotional support. There’s a handy timeline for planning tasks that starts a year out.

Throughout the book, there are “Hike Your Own Hike” sidebars that give stories from thru-hikers that illustrate the chapters.

The Plan and Prep also includes how to prepare physically for the trail and there is an appendix with specific exercises for backpacking from Heather “Anish” Anderson.

16 long-distance trails are described, along with five international ones, to give an idea of the different types of thru-hikes available. Route planning and the different resupply strategies are discussed in detail, down to mileage calculations and exactly how to mail yourself supplies. Eating is one of the most crucial parts of a long hike and Snorkel gives 11 “food rules” to help maximize the quality, weight and taste of trail meals.

No book about thru-hiking would be complete without exploring gear choices! It tells you what questions to ask when putting together your kit, as well as tips for keeping your pack light. There are gear profiles describing different types of hikers with great gear layout shots with labels and descriptions.

The section “What to Expect from Life on the Trail” goes over meals and hydration, campsite selection, setting up camp, typical daily schedules, and how to use your breaks effectively.

The chapter on etiquette is important for people not familiar with backpacking or long-distance hiking. The more people who are out enjoying the outdoors, the more vital it is that low-impact techniques are maintained. In addition to the 7 Leave No Trace principles, waste management, electronics in the backcountry and town stop etiquette are all covered.

Safety, navigation and motivation are all key to completing the journey and the last part of the book, “Savoring the Experience” shows how to really take advantage of your time out on the trail.

Aspiring thru-hiker Phil Kelly: “As someone who is in the process of planning their first thru-hike, “Long Trails” provided me with a great framework to help organize my efforts. From planning and preparing mentally, as well as physically, to resupplying strategies and just outlining what a typical day might look like, this book was exactly what I needed. I know that once my thru-hike begins, that the daily accumulation of footsteps will add nuance and depth for future long trails, but as a person preparing for their first long distance hike, “Long Trails” is a comforting base layer that I find myself returning to over and over again.”

Backpacker Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike is available in paperback and on Kindle through Amazon and is an asset to add to any hiker’s library.