12:18 p.m. on January 12, 2010 (EST)
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I am new to backpacking. As a matter of fact, I haven't even purchased any gear yet!! Well, I have gone on "short" day hikes at my local nature center, have a good pair of hiking shoes, that is all. I have been taking some time to read as much as possible here on the web, but I was wondering if there are any good beginner books on backpacking/dayhiking? I know from other hobbies that I have been associated with, this is probably like asking which is the best car, a Chevy or a Ford! I just see so many books out there, that I would like to get one that is somewhat above the rest, a MUST read for a beginner. My plans are to only go on dayhikes, no over night trips. Any help?



2:43 p.m. on January 12, 2010 (EST)
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Here's what I'd suggest: buy a guidebook for hikes near you and let your hikes determine what you need. Field guides for local flora/fauna would also be helpful.

Also: find a hiking group, go out with them and see what they're carrying. I always picked up great tips and ideas from other hikers

And: talk to people on the trail about their gear and what they prefer.

So much of day-hiking is just walking on dirt and enjoying the world as you pass through it.

Books on survival and first aid would be helpful, no doubt, but if you stay on the main trails and avoid foolish risks, you shouldn't need a lot of instruction.

3:58 p.m. on January 12, 2010 (EST)
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I think that tommangan is right. Starting with day-hiking on good trails shouldn't be too technical and a guidebook for the hikes will be the second best thing after a hiking group/club. If you do want a good book to read that will give you a good all round but maybe a bit more Mt knowledge then you need then look at this one:

Freedom of the Hills

4:55 p.m. on January 12, 2010 (EST)
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To get back to the books question, the two most important kind are instructional and inspirational.

These books in our Gear Guide have all the instruction you'll ever need, but the adventure-narrative books like "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson and others of its kind will do you just as much good in keeping you psyched up for hiking.

10:52 a.m. on January 13, 2010 (EST)
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nirotem identified the main book for general all around information. Freedom of the Hills is an excellent reference and a great read on a wet day. Just pick a subject and read up on it. You will be able to 'wow' somebody on your knowledge of it. I am sure you will be drooling about other possible adventures as well. Another good reference and a fun read is The Complete Hiker, (Long and Hodgson).
Get a hank of 4mm rope and learn some climbing knots too like a figure 8, bowline, etc. Both of those books (and on the net) have some thoughts on knots.

There are many sites similar to this one. Dig them out and just figure that is your 'trap line' and sort through all of the posts that interest you daily. Keep a note on all the places you would like to check out, the gear that you might want to get more information on and just the general interesting stuff normally posted.

Depending upon what part of the world you hike in, there maybe are some excellent trail guides that give you a hint of what to expect and would like to see. Get a map of your area, stick it on the back of the garage door and mark the trails you went on. Give each a number and start keeping a trail log. If there are no trail books, you too could become a best selling millionaire when you publish. Or better yet, you can learn from mistakes and successes.

Another map resource for free is: takes a little fiddling to figure out how to find a spot.

Not a lot to say about day hiking except to stay within your current physical (and mental) abilities, carry the 10 Essentials (you can google that), mind the weather, dress accordingly and make sure somebody knows where you are and when to send the posse. One of the key things you might learn here is when it is time to turn around.

Start a fitness regime that includes a whole bunch of aerobics. Although you are not going to be climbing anything adventurous, it certainly makes the week ends more pleasant when you can gently jog everyday. And if you are in a group you won't be the one slowing them down. and look at the 'jog/walk' program.

There is most likely a Yahoo Groups (or other similar) loose organization of hikers that keep in touch during the week and plan hikes of all kinds for the weekends. The Sierra Club may have an active outdoor chapter in your area. If you have nearby outfitter store (like REI or similar) they might have a lead on others who are hiking AND they will have all kinds of books and recommendations. Tag along on these hikes and just be a pest in asking questions about - mainly - gear.

Other than this forum, one of many places where gear is cussed and discussed is:;f=832107219

Here in Southern California, there are some 'extreme' day hikers who will leave at 4AM for a 5 hour drive to a trail head that will get them to a group of lakes in the summer Sierra - 4 to 6 miles in; have lunch, goof off and nap then head down to make the car before nightfall. Then drive 5 hours back home arriving before midnight - usually. Still just a day hike, though. :) BUT, you talk about the stories that are told in those 10 driving hours, wired on coffee!!

If you are in the southwest let me know. We're always looking for new trail members and people who don't know everything there is to know in the world, but interested in finding out...and share gas money to get the information :)

12:08 p.m. on January 13, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks for your "lengthy" reply!! Lots of great info there that I did not even think of!!! And, of course, thanks to everyone else who posted a reply!!!! I will take ALL the info in this thread and research each one to find out what may or my not apply to my specific area of the country (Southeast Michigan).

I do have an REI store that is only about 4-5 miles from where I work. I think I'll stop by and talk with them, them might be able to help too.

Once again, thanks to EVERYONE,


8:45 p.m. on January 13, 2010 (EST)
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Falcon Guides Hiking Michigan might be worth a look.

10:05 p.m. on January 13, 2010 (EST)
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...probably like asking which is the best car, a Chevy or a Ford!

Get a Honda!


11:05 a.m. on January 14, 2010 (EST)
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The gist of it all is that a good book on something is all well and good, but there are so many other things to use and find out about such as: Learn how to use a compass; learn how to cook good trail meals and not carry freeze-dried all the time; start a side hobby of collecting maps of places you might want to walk into like Sierra, Rockies, Alaska, long trails (like LONG); read up on layering and what is available and where to get it cheaper; winter hiking snow shoeing and maybe backpacking with a pulk; the rest of the world and long hikes; bad butt hikes and other outlandish activities

2:33 a.m. on January 17, 2010 (EST)
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Look to see if there are classes offered at any outdoor store. They can give you really good starter advice. Much of what you read can be tough to glean as each person learns what is best for his or her style, needs, strength, likes, etc. Start simple. Go slow. BUT JUST GO! :) Shelter, food, bag, stove, good shoes/boots...the rest is just practice and preference.

7:44 a.m. on January 17, 2010 (EST)
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Second gear,

I completely agree with your statement " BUT JUST GO". The only thing that is holding me back right now is the weather, cold and snowy. That is why I have been looking for a good book, to keep me going in this "slow" time.

Thanks everyone,


9:00 a.m. on January 17, 2010 (EST)
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The Complete Walker by Colin Fletcher. Read any of the 4 editions. Gear advice is outdated but how-to and why-to remain unparalleled. Fletcher had more influence on more of us than anyone. I am an unashamed Fletcherite, even when I disagree with him. :-)

The Backpacker's Handbook by Chris Townsend. More up-to-date on ultralight and such. Again, gear recommendations get outdated quickly, but if you pay attention, you can learn how he chooses one over the other (same with Fletcher) and apply the principles for yourself, instead of just taking recommendations whole hog.

I've read a lot of others but these two stand out in my mind. Backpacking One Step at a Time by Harvey Manning was good, but I'm not sure if it is still in print.

Or go to your local big box bookstore and pick one that just looks appealing to you. Honestly, I've never read a bad backpacking book, so you can hardly go wrong.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is a great story by a great writer about his first venture into backpacking. Funny and humane at the same time. Learn from his mistakes, and take courage from his successes.

1:41 p.m. on January 17, 2010 (EST)
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I have a copy of "A Walk in the Woods" on its way, should be here any day!!! The others that you have mentioned are some that I have considered and still may purchase. All the books mentioned above have had great reviews rom what I can see. Thanks for reinforcing the reviews!!!


7:52 a.m. on January 18, 2010 (EST)
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Forgot the most recent addition to my "favorites" list: Lighten Up!: A Complete Handbook for Light and Ultralight Backpacking by Don Ladigin and Mike Clelland. It is fairly small -- 112 pages -- very well organized -- amusing illustrations -- lots of good advice and most of it inexpensive on how to get more function with less weight. For an old-style 45 lb. pack kind of guy, it was a very helpful guide to how to move, step by step, into the modern lightweight world (I'm not truly ultralight yet and not sure I want to go there yet. Old habits die hard.)

12:52 p.m. on January 18, 2010 (EST)
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Great advice and resouces have been listed above, but My #1 suggestion is to hook up with some experienced people- if you have any "outdoor knowledgeable" friends, that is the perfect place to start. If you don't know anyone, look up you local or regional hiking clubs. Reading about what you need and how to survive is great, but nothing brings it home and makes it real like learing it from others.

Good Luck!

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