Andrew Skurka: “Ultimate Hiking Gear & Skills Clinic” | Talks at Google

Andrew Skurka: “Ultimate Hiking Gear & Skills Clinic” | Talks at Google

>>Male Presenter: Hey everybody. Thank you
for showing up today. I see we’ve got a full house, which is awesome. I can see you guys
are very excited about Andrew’s talk today, as I am. Andrew Skurka is kind enough to join
us today. He is a trekker, as many of you probably know. Described as “adventurer of
the year” by Outside and “a superman among trekkers” by National Geographic. He’s gone
on a number of long treks all across the country. We’re very happy to have him today to talk
about his new book and go over the clinic. Thank you, Andrew, and here you go.>>Skurka: Okay, cool. Thank you. [applause]>>Skurka: I’d said I never expected to get
a standing room only turnout at Google. Thanks very much for coming out. Thank you, Andrew,
for organizing it. I’m not sure how it normally works if you want to speak here at Google,
but I’m thankful that my sister and brother-in-law are friends with Andrew and Andrew was able
to push it on through the system and get this thing going today.
Today’s clinic is going to be mostly about backpacking gear, supplies, and skills. I
give another presentation where I tell a lot more stories, but today, I want to give you
guys some how-to information so that you guys can go out there and enjoy your own backpacking
trips a little bit more. Let’s go ahead and just walk through what
we’re going to do. The first thing, just quickly, a quick introduction. I want to understand
who you guys are and what sort of backpacking you do and what sort of backpacking you want
to do. I’ll just give you a little bit of context for who I am too. Then I’ll introduce
three questions that I always ask before I go on any backpacking trip. Those three questions
are really helpful in understanding the gear, supplies, and skills that I’ll need once I
get out there. And then, the bulk of the presentation will be on this stuff that I have in front
of me here, where we’ll come up with a hypothetical trip that everyone can relate to. For example,
we’ll say, “We’re going to go for a 4 day trip in the high Sierra in August.” We’ll
talk about the conditions that we’re going to experience on a trip like that. Then we’ll
talk about the gear that I would take with me on such a trip.
Let me start off with you guys. Why don’t you– would someone be willing to raise their
hand, tell me who they are, what sort of backpacking you do, and what you’d like to get out of
the clinic today. Yes, sir.>>male #1: My name’s Justin. I’m a hiker.
I have hopes and aspirations for a hardcore trip, but I have a 5 year old and a 7 year
old. [laughter] We’re mostly relegated to 2 mile round trips to try to keep the kids
happy. I would just love to hear the family aspects of getting out there.>>Skurka: Okay, I’ll do my best to address
some of the family– I have to say that without a wife or children, it’ll be a little bit
difficult, but I can wonder. Who else? One more person? Yes.>>male #2: My name is Spass. I’m interested
in a lightweight backpack. What’s the minimum gear you can take.>>Skurka: What was your name again?>>male #2: Spass.>>Skurka: Spass. Spass was interested in basically
knowing what the minimal amount of gear you need to take out there is.
I need one more person. Yes.>>male #3: EJ. I’ve known you for 5 years
on the forums. Ex military, ex Boy Scout, now a hiker and backpacker. I’m interested
in learning the more advanced technique for upper gear>>Skurka: All right. EJ is basically interested
in figuring out how to lighten up his load and still be safe and comfortable at the same
time. Just to give you guys some context about where
I’m coming from, I’m known for doing really long, really light, really fast, long distance
backpacking trips. This was my first mega long distance trip I did back in 2004-2005.
It was the Sea-to-Sea route. It was 7800 miles. It took me 11 months. I started up in Gaspé,
Quebec in August and finished in Cape Alava, Washington in July, which means I spent winter
on the trail. I snowshoed 1400 miles that winter, through Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota
during the months of January, February, and March.
My second mega long distance trip was the Great Western Loop. It was 6875 miles in 7
months. I averaged 33 miles per day for 208 days.
Then, my last big trip was the Alaska-Yukon expedition, which was 4700 miles in 6 months.
Skis, foot, and pack rafts. That was in 2010. I’ve done a bunch of short trips in between
all those, but that gives you a pretty good feel for where I’m coming at. I should point
out that even though I’m known for doing these crazy trips that not many people can relate
to, I also do a lot of these clinics. I also guide trips. I answer a lot of questions via
email from people who are much less experienced and who aren’t– who don’t have the ability
to go out for 6 months at a time. So I hope that I can relate to you and give you some
information that is valuable. Let me go over the three questions that I
always ask myself before I go on a trip. The first one is: what are my objectives? I think
it’s a really important question that not too many people ask themselves. I’ll go a
little bit into each question a little bit more in a second.
The second question I ask myself is: what are the environmental and route conditions
that I’m going to be encountering? Temperatures, precipitation, water availability, wildlife,
insects. Then the final question that I always ask
is: what are the gear, supplies, and skills that I need to help achieve my objectives
while keeping me safe and comfortable in those environmental and route conditions. The way
I think about it, gear, supplies, and skills are just tools. They’re just enablers. They’re
just means. But the whole reason I go out there is for that objective, whatever that
is. Let’s talk about objectives a little bit.
When you’re on a backpacking trip, you can basically break it down in two different types
of activities. There’s hiking, and then there’s camping. Hiking is literally just putting
one foot in front of the other. Camping is either camping or any extracurricular activity
that doesn’t involve hiking: birding, journaling, bird watching, hunting, fishing, photography.
When I look at all the backpackers out there, I put them into three different categories.
The first category I call an ultimate camper, which is someone whose objective is basically
just to walk between campsites in order to do something else. They don’t really– It’s
not really relevant that they know what sort of environmental and route conditions they’re
going to be getting themselves into because they can carry as much as they possibly want.
They’re not carrying it for very far. And they also tend to carry really heavy, luxurious,
extraneous items. These are the people you see set up in camp at like 2:00 in the afternoon
having a steak lunch. They’re basically mobile car campers, I think is maybe a better way
to describe them. They prefer, when they go for a backpacking trip, they’re in the pursuit
of type 1 fun, which I say is fun to do and fun to talk about later, which is very different
than the way that an ultimate hiker approaches a backpacking trip.
An ultimate hiker looks something a little bit more like this. When they go on a backpacking
trip, their primary objective is to walk. They need to know the exact environmental
and route conditions that they’re going to be encountering because that way, they can
take the gear, supplies, and have the skills that they need to be safe and comfortable
in those conditions. They optimize their pack for the on trail experience. They’re packing
light, but they’re not packing stupid light. Then, maybe more importantly, they rely on
the stuff between their ears to keep themselves safe and comfortable.
A great example of this is when an ultimate hiker versus an ultimate camper chooses a
campsite. An ultimate camper plods along the trail and, after a couple miles, finds himself
a campsite that’s right next to a water source, that’s been camped on by tens of thousands
of other people. It’s denuded of topsoil or of leaves or anything like that. They set
themselves up and they create this big sprawl of stuff. Then they get out their really thick
sleeping pad and their double-walled big tent. They hang out there and then they go to bed.
Whereas an ultimate hiker, they’ll hike all day and they’ll choose a campsite that very
few people have slept at, if any. It has this nice, thick bed of needles or moss or leaves.
They won’t camp near a water source because that’s where the bugs are. It’s also– The
water source or the drainage is usually where the cold, wet air accumulates at night. So
they’ll camp somewhere else where it’s drier, less buggy, and warmer. That allows them to
take less gear than they would need otherwise. Then, an ultimate hiker is in the pursuit
of type 2 fun. Not fun to do, but fun to talk about later. It’s kinda like the way an athlete
or a runner approaches a marathon. There’s nothing fun about running a marathon. It’s
type 2 fun. It’s something that afterwards, at night when you’re in the bars, you can
be like, “Wow, that was– remember, at mile 22, where I vomited all over myself? That
was [laughter] That was awesome, man.” [laughter] Then, there’s this third category of backpacker.
I call them a camper by default. This is a classic shot. This is a picture of a Boy Scout
that was sent to me actually last night. I just had to include it in this. They actually
don’t really understand the primary objective. They haven’t figured out whether they want
to go hiking or whether they want to go camping. And even if they did think about that, they
don’t understand how that objective translates into the gear, supplies, and skills that they
need. Then they don’t understand what they’re getting themselves into. They don’t understand
how cold it is, how likely it is that it might rain, what the insect situation’s going to
be. So they end up saying, “Well, I don’t really know what I’m getting myself into,
so I’ll take a lot of things just on the grounds of ‘what if’ or ‘just in case’ because I can’t
rule out those scenarios.” They take a lot of heavy stuff, stuff that’s really easy to
use, and just too much stuff. Unfortunately, they oftentimes experience type 3 fun, which
is not fun to do, and it’s not fun to talk about later either. [laughter] Which you might
say, “Well, then, how can that be fun?” But this is an outdoor educator thing. Everything
is fun when you’re outdoors. Okay. The presentation today, this clinic
here, is designed for any backpacker who wants to at least sometimes be more like an ultimate
hiker. I am here to help you enjoy your hiking experience more. I don’t want it to be an
arduous activity between campsites. I don’t want you to sacrifice your comfort or your
safety if you want to enjoy that hiking experience. [sighs] Okay, let’s talk about gear and supplies
for a little bit. This is where the interaction starts a little bit more. Put yourself in
the shoes of an ultimate hiker and think about the characteristics of gear and supplies that
you’re looking for. [pause] Please offer me some characteristics. What do you guys think
are the most important things?>>female #1: Lightweight, durable.>>Skurka: Lightweight, durability.>>male #4: Waterproof.>>Skurka: Depends, not necessarily.>>male #5: Multi-use>>Skurka: Multi-use. Come on. A few others.>>male #6: Just barely enough.>>Skurka: Yeah, sure. Sufficient. Okay. So
let me run the list down. Functionality is important. Comfort, efficiency, durability,
reliability, ease of use, value cost, and then lightweight, but not stupid light. These
characteristics aren’t that different from what every other backpacker looks for. You
still– I think the ultimate hiker thing oftentimes gets caught up in this lightweight backpacking
thing, which I understand. But it’s not all– Don’t be blinded by the weight of an item.
A great example of that would be I once did a– I was attempting a speed record on a Colorado
trail, which runs from Denver to Durango. I expected it to take me about 11 days or
12 days. To save weight, I didn’t carry a sleeping bag. [laughter] That’s a great example
of going stupid light, because I didn’t sleep at all the first three or four nights. I was
so incapacitated by not being recovered at night that it undermined my entire efforts.
The skills are what you carry between your ears. For the ultimate hiker, skills are really
important because we’re carrying a minimal amount of stuff. A lot of the stuff we use
requires skills. So I need some interaction here. What are the skills that you need if
you want to carry down insulation instead of synthetic insulation, either in your sleeping
bag or a parka, what’s the skill that you need?>>male #7: Keeping it dry.>>Skurka: You need to keep it dry. That’s
right. All right. If you’re going to carry just enough food
and water instead of extra, what’s the skill that you need?>>male #8: Planning.>>Skurka: Planning. And what was the other
one?>>male #9: You need to know where water is.>>Skurka: You need to know where water is.
Okay. If you’re going to use a modular tarp system
instead of a double-walled tent, what’s the skill?>>male #10: The right camp.>>Skurka: Campsite selection. That’s right.
Right. And how to pitch it. Absolutely. Because it’s not just as easy as putting one pole
in, another pole in, and then pop, the whole thing goes.
If you’re going to carry a minimal first aid kit instead of ambulance-worthy supplies,
what are the skills?>>male #11: Stay out of trouble. [laughter]>>Skurka: You know, everyone laughs, but that’s
the best one. I try not to ever use my first aid kit. I don’t want to be in a situation
where I have to use a first aid kit. So yes, it’s decision making. And then certainly,
if there is a first aid situation, being resourceful and trying to make do with what you have.
If you’re going to take a map and compass instead of a GPS, what’s the skill?>>female #2: Navigation.>>Skurka: Yeah. Navigating, knowing how to
find north, knowing what a contour line means. I think you guys get the idea.
But what about this one: if you’re going to carry a closed cell foam pad instead of a
plush inflatable, what’s the skill?>>male #12: Campsite selection>>Skurka: Campsite selection. Yep. [knocking
sound]>>male #13: Clothing. How to dress for it.>>Skurka: Right. Clothing would certainly
help. And then the other one I’ve always heard is how to take a sleeping pill, for that one.
[laughter] Which I wouldn’t recommend. But it works.
All right. Let’s talk about these environmental and route conditions. Whenever I go on a trip,
I do– [laughs] Before my Alaska-Yukon trip, I– It took me, so it was a 6 month long trip,
and it took me 6 months to plan. For about 5 months of that, it was basically: the entire
trip existed on my computer in an Excel spreadsheet, a National Geographic topo mapping file, and
a Google Earth file. But a lot of it was spent looking at these conditions and understanding
what I would need while I was out there. So we’ll go through this list again very shortly,
but these are all the things that I look at that inform my decisions about the gear, supplies,
and skills that I need. [sighs] So now we need to come up with a hypothetical
trip. I’m looking for suggestions about where we should go, what time of year we should
go, and for how long you guys want to go. Make a trip that everyone can relate to, so
don’t say, “Baffin Island in January.”>>male #14: Hiking Mt. Whitney.>>Skurka: All right. Mt. Whitney. Okay, and
how long do we want to go for?>>male #14: Two days?>>Skurka: Two days? Let’s make it three. [laughter]
How much vacation time do they give you guys around here? [laughter] All right. Three days.
What time of year would you like to go?>>male #14: Maybe August.>>Skurka: August. Does that sound good to
everybody? Let’s go in July. The bugs are worse in July, so that gives me a little bit
more– August, the conditions are so good in the Sierra in August. It’s almost too easy.
You can go up there with not much more than a pocketknife and some fire starter and you’ll
be okay. Okay. [laughter] I might have just exaggerated
that, sorry. All right. So let me go back to this slide. Okay. Now we’re going to go
climb Mt. Whitney and maybe do a little bit more of a trip around Whitney. Three days
in July. Let’s go in the middle of July. Let’s talk about the conditions that we’re
going to encounter on this trip. Let’s start with temperatures. What are we looking at?
70s, 80s? Probably. How would you find that out?>>female #3: [inaudible]>>Skurka: Exactly. You look up– there are
weather stations all over the Sierra. Look up– find a weather station that’s near Mt.
Whitney. Look at the historical weather data. Sometimes, you can find the range on it that
will give you a pretty good feel for what the temperatures will be like.
What sort of precipitation will we have in July near Mt. Whitney?>>male #15: [inaudible]>>Skurka: Well, maybe. If we do get rained
on, what kind of rain is it going to be?>>male #16: Thunderstorms.>>Skurka: It’s going to be thunderstorms.
So we have to at least be planned for that scenario.
How much daylight do we have? Quite a bit. The reason that daylight affects the things
that I’ll take with me is because I’m– In the summertime, for example, let’s say I’m
in Alaska in June. I don’t have to carry a headlamp with me. But then if I’m in Minnesota
in January, then the days are really short. I’m going to have to carry a lot of, a couple
of different lights, extra batteries. I’ll probably also take a slightly heavier sleeping
bag and clothing system because I’ll spend a lot more time in camp and I won’t be relying
on my body heat to keep me quite as warm. What sort of ground cover will we encounter
in terms of– Is it going to be snow covered? Is it a nice, groomed trails? Are they rocky,
or are they nice and soft? What’s it like up there?>>male #17: They have nice trails.>>Skurka: Nice trails. But they’re pretty
rocky. What about snow coverage in the middle of July around Mt. Whitney?>>male #18: Some near the top.>>Skurka: Some near the top. But enough where
you– Are you going to need skis or snowshoes? Okay. And again, you could find that out.
There’s a– The government runs a National Snow Analyses and you can look it up. You
can see where the snow coverage is at a given time of year.
What sort of vegetation is there? It depends on the elevation. You could get some pine.
A little bit higher up, what happens?>>male #19: Over the tree line.>>Skurka: Yeah, you’re over the tree line.
So what’s the sun exposure like up there?>>male #20: Hot.>>Skurka: It’s intense. You’re at 13, 14,000
feet. There’s no shading, so you better be prepared for that.
How much water is there in the middle of July around Mt. Whitney? Lots, yes. You probably–
You won’t have to carry much water, if any at all.
And wildlife?>>male #21: Mosquitoes.>>Skurka: I heard mosquitoes. You’ll definitely
have mosquitoes. Anybody been in peak mosquito season up in the Sierra? Raise your hand.
Well, we can all sympathize for each other. They get pretty bad. So you’d want to be prepared
for that. Then, what about the wildlife?>>male #22: Bears.>>Skurka: That’s right. There are bears. Are
the bears problematic in the Sierra? They are definitely problematic. If you look up–
Go to the Sierra Kings Canyon National Park website. They’ll tell you, “Yes, bears are
a problem here. We require all people who are climbing or all backpackers who are going
up Mt. Whitney to carry a bear canister.” Etc, etc.
All right. How remote is Mt. Whitney? [pause] It’s more remote than here, but– Are you
going to have cell reception if you get hurt? Is someone going to come up on you within
half an hour? What’s the–>>male #23: Yeah.>>Skurka: Yeah, it’s a heavily traveled area.
You’re not going to need a satellite phone. Your cell phone actually will work from the
top of Mt. Whitney because you’re looking right down on Lone Pine.
Then, any natural hazards we need to be worried about? Big river fords, lightning, avalanches?
Anything like that?>>male #24: Lightning.>>Skurka: Lightning is definitely a concern.
I don’t think there are, depending on the route that you’re picking, there probably
are not big river ford problems on this trip. Okay, so let’s talk about everything that
I would take with me on this trip. I’m going to step away from this. So we’ll start off
with clothing. [pause] Clothing system typically has three different pieces to it. Each piece
has a specific purpose, but there’s always a little bit of overlap. You have active layers,
you have insulation, and you have shells. Your active layers are designed to manage
moisture, protect your skin against sun, brush, bugs, and also to give you a little bit of
modesty. The clothing system I would take with me on
this trip, or the active layer I’d take with me on this trip– I’ll start off with the
top part. Because I’m going to be dealing with bugs, I would take a woven polyester
nylon shirt. The bugs have a harder time biting through a woven fabric, which is different
[pause] which is different than, say, this knit shirt, like the polyester knit shirt.
The bugs will bite right through this. You can oftentimes find these woven shirts. They
look like safari shirts or travel shirts, but they’re great for bugs. I would also make
sure it’s long sleeved. Not only for the bug protection, but also to protect my arms against
the sun as well. On my bottoms, I would probably wear a pair
of lightweight polyester wool underwear. Boxer briefs would be fine, they’re really light.
And then a pair of nylon woven tracking pants like this. Again, this would be great for
the bugs. It keeps the sun off my legs. And, if I was going to be doing any off trail travel,
the pants are really nice when you’re beating through the brush as well. Your legs won’t
get all chopped up. If it were a different time of year, say if
you were going later in the fall, like the end of August or September, I might at that
point just go with a short sleeved merino wool or a polyester shirt like this one here,
or a long sleeve. This tends to breathe a lot better, so it’s not quite as stuffy because
the fabric isn’t quite as tight. But the bugs will bite right through this. I wouldn’t take
this out until the bugs are pretty much gone. Any questions about what I would wear during
the day? Okay, I’ll keep on moving then. The second layer that I’d take with me are
shells. There are two different types of shells. There’s what the industry calls a water resistant
shell, like this one here. And then there’s what the industry calls a waterproof breathable
shell, like this one here. Let me give you a different interpretation for these types
of shells. Water resistant, to me, means that it’s fairly breathable, which means that moisture
can move through the fabric. But it’s not water resistant. Just get over it. If you
get stuck in a rainstorm wearing just the wind shirt, you’re going to get wet. The reason
that they say that it’s water resistant is because when they make it in the factory,
there’s a coating on here that’s called a durable water repellent finish, but it gets
degraded very quickly due to abrasion, body oils, sweat, dirt. So it quickly loses its
effectiveness. This is nice for windy summits, for very, very light rain, for dry snow. The
wind shell works pretty well. Then the waterproof breathable shell, everyone
knows these by the brand name Gore-Tex. This I would describe as barely breathable, so
it’s like wearing a plastic bag. It’s water resistant for a while. It basically will delay
you getting wet. But this is a good time to point out that you’re outdoors. There’s no
way to control the climate. You have to have some realistic expectations about what your
gear can and cannot do. My experience is that when it’s wet outside, I’m going to get wet.
There are some things that I can do to minimize or prolong getting wet and also try to be
comfortable when wet, but I’m going to get wet. So just get over that.
For this trip here, I would probably take, in August, I would probably just take the
wind shell, or the waterproof breathable shell. If I get caught in a storm, that’s going to
be pretty short lived. I can put this on. It will keep me comfortable for an hour. After
an hour, the storm is going to leave and I can take this off. I probably won’t– I might
be a little bit wet inside, but no big deal. That night, I can start a fire and dry out.
Any questions about waterproof breathable shells, or shells in general? Yes.>>male #25: About hard shells and soft shells>>Skurka: You might have heard water resistant
shells described as a soft shell, and waterproof breathable shells described as hard shells.
It’s just synonymous. Yes.>>male #26: Related to water, people have
umbrellas. I heard some people using umbrellas and trading that way.>>Skurka: Right. Umbrella’s definitely another
way to go. Umbrellas work really well because of excellent ventilation. [laughter] But imagine
being caught say at 13,000 feet in a thunderstorm and you only have an umbrella. Remember Mary
Poppins? [laughter] Then, I also don’t like umbrellas because I like trekking poles. Trekking
poles aren’t compatible with an umbrella. But umbrellas are also great out in the desert,
just to keep the sun off of you. You can find umbrellas that have a– It’s a radiant heat
reflector. It’s that silvery space blanket material. What’s it called?>>male #27: Mylar.>>Skurka: Mylar, yeah. So I know a lot of
people who are big fans from there, but again, I don’t like it because, as I’m carrying it,
I can feel it holding me back. Like a race car at the end of a drag strip, where the
parachute goes out. I don’t want to lose– I don’t want to have my pace dropped down
from 3.3 miles an hour to 3.2. That’d be a tragedy. [laughter] Hey, that makes a big
difference when you’re hiking 6800 miles. Okay, then the last layer that I would take
with me is insulation. There are a couple of different types of insulated layers you
could take. Fleece, like this here. Or you could take a category I refer to as puffies,
which are– It’s a really thin or lightweight shell fabric, really lightweight interior
fabric, and then sandwiched between is either a synthetic insulation like PrimaLoft or Climashield,
or a goose down, which is just a little film of goose down. For the West, because it’s
so dry, I highly recommend down as opposed to synthetic. It’s a lot lighter for its–
It’s much warmer for its weight. It’s longer lasting. It’s more compressible. It’s also
not made of plastic. And then, the fleece layers don’t really make that much sense here
in the American West either because they’re pretty heavy for the amount of weight that
they– for the amount of warmth that they give you. The one time I recommend fleece
is in the shoulder seasons around here, where you could be up in the Sierras in October
and you can get cold and wet. In which case fleece will do a much better job of retaining
its warmth when it’s wet than a puffy jacket like this one here.
Now oftentimes you hear people talk about synthetic insulations, and they say, “Well,
they’re– synthetic insulations stay warm when they’re wet.” Nothing stays warm when
it’s wet. My experience is that synthetic insulations don’t– I’m sorry, down doesn’t
get wet from me dropping it in a river or not protecting the items in my pack from rainstorms.
Down gets wet because it absorbs ambient humidity. In humid environments like the East Coast,
they don’t work that well because they’re always absorbing that humidity, whereas here
in the West, it’s usually really low humidity, so down stays pretty dry and it’s a really
effective insulator. Any questions on insulation? No? [pause]
All right, let’s jump to footwear. The footwear I would use on a trip like this– Does anyone
have a pair of hiking shoes? [pause] Like a pair of Merrells. Probably not. I see. I’ll
take these. Okay. [laughter] All right. The pair of shoes that I would normally recommend
is a pair of lightweight trail running shoes. These are a little bit skimpy for a backpacking
trip, but the reason I like trail running shoes is because they’re comfortable to put
on right out of the box. They breathe really well so they’re not hot. They don’t trap all
my foot perspiration. They dry out really fast once they get wet. And they’re also much
lighter weight. In the militaries– I’ve seen the studies on this. The military has done
studies where they figured out that one extra pound on your foot is equivalent to carrying
an extra six pounds on your back in terms of effort, because you’re always swinging
your feet. Your feet move a lot more, so there’s a lot more effort involved in moving them.
If you’re not willing to go to a trail running shoe, and again, I wouldn’t recommend something
this skimpy, but something just a little bit burlier, then you can go with a– this is
more of a hiking boot. But something like a low cut version of this works pretty well
too. It’s fairly supportive, good protection. It’s pretty durable, but still much lighter
weight than your conventional backpacking boots. Italian-made leather waffle stompers.
I recommend going with a non waterproof shoe. My experience is that when it’s wet outside,
there’s nothing I can do about keeping anything about me dry. For example, if I were to wear
a waterproof shoe, when it’s not wet, my foot is going to be– A lot of the perspiration
from my foot is going to be trapped in that shoe. And when it does get wet, like if I
have to ford a creek or if I’m in a rainstorm and water drips down my legs, then it takes
a long time for that waterproof shoe or boot to get dry. So it’s much better just to go
with a non waterproof shoe that dries fast and that squeegees the water out. And then
you have to deal with the issue of just having wet feet.
Let me skip a few slides. There are a few things that I– I wasn’t dealing
very well with wet feet that day. There are a few things that I do as far as foot care
goes. First thing, I always try to preemptively treat my feet. If I notice a hot spot coming
on, immediately, I stop and I take care of it, before it goes into a full fledged blister.
If you start getting blistered, your trip is greatly curtailed. It’s just too painful
to be walking on blisters. So really be proactive about your foot care.
I also try to keep my feet, to the best of my ability, clean, warm, and dry. I wash my
socks. Usually in the West here I carry two pairs of socks. I won’t show you these, I
won’t pass these around. But just a pair of thin cycling socks. I carry two pairs and
I’ll wear the first pair through midday. Then I’ll stop and I’ll put on my other pair. I’ll
take that pair I was wearing the first half of the day and I’ll wash it and I’ll put it
on the outside of my pack to dry. But the time I arrive in camp, it’s dry, it’s clean,
and I can wear it to bed. I also try to make sure that my feet are warm
at night. In this photo here, my feet– This was in the Alaska range. My feet had been
wet for about 12, 13 hours. I was wearing a pair of leather ski boots. My feet, when
I got up the next morning, were totally fine because I gave them 9 hours where they were
dry, they were warm. I was able to pound on them all day long the next day, despite them
looking like this when I pulled into camp. And then, because my feet are oftentimes wet,
I have to figure out how to deal with moisture. [rustling sound in background] The thing that
I recommend is– There are a couple of different things you can use. What I’ve been using recently
is a wax-based balm. It’s a company called Bonnie’s Balm. I put this on my feet at night
after they have dried out, and let the wax or the oils absorb into my skin. The next
day, what that does is it basically keeps some of the water out, and it also keeps my
foot moisturized. The problem with wet feet is that your feet get macerated. They get
pruny. They get soft. They’re prone to blistering. Wax like this will really help to minimize
that. It won’t eliminate it, but it will allow you to deal with wet feet like this.
Then the final thing about footwear: I always try– I never try new footwear in a high risk
environment. If I’m going to go on a long trip, I’m going to have gone on a short trip
before then, just to make sure that my footwear system, my socks and my shoes, are good.>>male #28: Quick question about that.>>Skurka: Yes.>>male #28: When you’re going on a 5000 mile
hike, I’m assuming you have one pair of shoes if it doesn’t hold up, that you have–>>Skurka: One pair of shoes is not enough
for a 5000 mile trip, correct. I rely on the US Postal system. Before my trip, I figure
out all these resupply points, and then I, before I leave, I box up a bunch of food and
new supplies and shoes and I mail it out to myself. The pair of shoes that I was using
on my Alaska trip would last me for about 450 miles, give or take, depending on the
conditions. I would just, approximately every 450 miles, find a place to ship myself a new
pair of shoes.>>male #29: Your mom helped you there, right?>>Skurka: Right. [laughs] If you’re going
to do one of these long distance trips, definitely find yourself a sympathetic spouse or mother
who is willing to send you all this stuff. Make sure that she’s a good baker too, because
receiving chocolate chip cookies [laughter] in the mail after a long, hard trip is really
wonderful. All right. I told you a little bit about the
socks, but I generally prefer real wool socks as opposed to polyester. They deal with the
funk a lot better than polyester does. Just a lightweight pair of socks. That’s enough
for me. But some people might need a little more, something a little bit thicker to give
themselves a little bit more cushioning. Then I’d recommend using a [rustling sound] really
small gaiter like this one here. Some people look at gaiters and they say, “Well, you’re
adding weight to your footwear system.” This is a good example where I’m being more efficient
by using a pair of gaiters, because I’m having to stop far less often to get stuff out of
my shoes. And also, it keeps my feet cleaner, so that’s better for long term health and
long term success. All right. We’re going to skip through here.
Any other questions about footwear? Yes.>>female #3: What if you’re walking through
the snow? Is that when you want the waterproof?>>Skurka: Right. If you’re walking in snow,
it depends on the consistency of the snow. If it’s really wet snow, like in the springtime,
if you’re wearing a pair of waterproof shoes, your shoes are still going to get wet. So
I would just go with non waterproof shoes. Your feet get wet, they get cold for a while.
It’s tough, but you’ve got to deal with it.>>female #3: So it’s more a question of comfort
rather than– like, comfort to your feet?>>male #30: Soft will make it more comfortable>>Skurka: I guess. Let me explain it this
way. If you have a pair of waterproof shoes, I would argue that in prolonged wet conditions,
your feet are going to get wet. It’s inevitable. You will have to ford a creek. You will be
walking on snow all day long or frequently enough. That waterproof breathable material
is not indefinitely waterproof. Water can and does move into the fabric. And you also
have this big hole for where your ankle is. So your feet are still going to get wet. At
that point, I’d just as soon have the non waterproof shoes, which would dry a lot faster,
they’re lighter weight, they’re not as hot, because they don’t trap all that heat and
moisture inside my shoe. I think the bottom line is instead of trying to keep your feet
dry, it’s better off trying to figure out how to minimize the effects of wet feet.>>male #31: What conditions are best for ankle
coverage?>>Skurka: Regarding the ankle support, that’s
always the thing with boots. The way I look at boots: if you have a really stiff boot,
let’s say you’re wearing a ski boot. Your body still has to react to any abnormality
on the surface. If you step on a rock and you’re in a ski boot, your whole knee is going
to go like this because some part of your body has to absorb it. So naturally or biomechanically,
our ankles are designed to absorb that stuff and to keep us balanced. If your ankles aren’t
strong enough yet to support you and walking on that trail with your backpack, then you
might want to go for something that does have some ankle protection. But the ideal thing
is definitely to let your ankles do that work.>>male #32: How do you know when your ankles
are strong enough?>>Skurka: How do you know when your ankles
are strong enough? That’s a personal decision. If you go up there– I don’t know, give it
a shot. Bring a pair of trail running shoes, and if you’re carrying a lightweight pack
and you feel totally comfortable, then you’re apparently strong enough. Maybe go on a day
hike with just a pair of trail running shoes and see what it’s like. Then maybe go on a
one week trip or two week trip with a pair of trail running shoes, after you’ve proven
them. [pause]>>male #33: Do you have any suggestion for
sole material? I find vibram very slippery.>>Skurka: So, recommendations for sole material.
You can’t really choose your– it’s not like tires, where it’s like, “Okay, I have a Toyota,
but I want Goodyear tires.” You take what you get. I think there are a lot of good rubbers
out there nowadays. There’re definitely some rubbers that don’t have the trade offs that
they used to. It used to be that if you wanted a sticky rubber, it wasn’t durable. But if
you wanted a hard rubber, then it wasn’t sticky. So there’s some rubbers that do a better job.
I tend to wear– I have been wearing La Sportiva shoes for a while now. They do a pretty good
job in that combination. But it’s something you have to find out the hard way. Then, once
you find a pair of shoes that you really like, buy 10 pairs of them, because you know that
they’re going to change the model next year. And you’ll be on the search again.
Yes.>>female #4: Could you still use like trail
runner shoes for an extended trip, like a month of hiking, with a 30 pound pack.>>Skurka: With how heavy of a pack?>>female #4: Maybe 30 pounds.>>Skurka: Sure. Yes, I would still wear trail
running shoes with a 30 pound pack on an extended trip. I’m not sure if you were around for
that. That first slide was a photo from my Alaska trip. It was a 24 day stretch, 657
miles without seeing any other human being, without crossing roads, and I had on a pair
of trail running shoes that weren’t much more robust than this. When I left, when I started
that section, I was carrying two weeks of food. My whole pack weighed about 45 pounds.
So it’s doable, but– Hopefully one of the things I come across in the presentation is
that this isn’t my way or the highway. You need to make your own decisions based on your
own experience and your own strengths, weaknesses, comforts. If you want to try a pair of trail
runners for a month on that sort of trip, go for it. But if you’re really stuck on boots
because you know they work for you, I’d say just go with it.>>male #34: So it all relates to the issue?>>Skurka: We’ll get there. Let me– I’ll keep
going. It’s a few more slides. Let me keep on moving on on some of this stuff.
After my– We’ve done clothing, we’ve done footwear, so we’ll go to sleep systems. Unfortunately,
I– The sleeping bag that I would take with me on this trip, because we’re here in August,
it’s in the high Sierra. I would take with me a down insulated sleeping quilt, which
is a lot different than your traditional mummy bag. It’s got this open back. The reason I
like these sleeping quilts as opposed to the mummies is because it’s a lot more versatile.
It’s also a little bit lighter because you don’t have any of this material in the back
here. But the nice thing about a mummy is that say if it’s a really warm night, I get
to loosely drape the quilt on top of me. But if it’s a really cold night, [pause] then
I can button this up, and there’s a draw cord I can cinch tight. That would also keep me
comfortable. As far as the temperature selection of this quilt, this quilt, they say it’s technically
rated to 20 degrees, but that’s not quite true. I would say, if I were to sleep– Let’s
go back to my clothing system here. [pause] If I were to sleep, say, in my underwear and
my shirt, I’m comfortable in this sleeping bag down to about, say, 35 degrees. But then,
if I also wear my pants, and I wear my insulated parka, now I’m good down to about 20, 25 degrees.
I look at my sleep system as part of the system that keeps me warm at night, but it’s not
the only thing I rely on. I’m trying to eliminate some redundancies between these different
categories, between these different gear systems. Then, for a sleeping pad, I would– [rustling
sound] I’m not sure where it went. I had a– Usually, I recommend a closed cell foam pad.
The limitation of a closed cell foam pad is that they’re not that comfortable if you sleep
on a really hard surface, because they’re only, say, 5/8 of an inch thick. You need
to find a good, soft campsite. If you don’t want to do that, or if you just insist on
carrying a little bit of luxury, then you can take an air pad like this one. This weighs
9 ounces. It’s about an inch thick. You probably would still want to sleep on something soft,
even with this pad. Then you’ll notice it’s only a– [pause] It’s also only torso length.
At night, what I do is I take my backpack and I put that down at my feet. The padding
of the backpack will keep my lower half warm. And also, because I’m sleeping on a soft surface,
say, pine needles, leaves, moss, that’s not a surface that’s really thermally conductive.
It’s not like hard-packed, wet ground that seems to really just suck the warmth out of
you. Any questions on sleep systems?
All right, let’s jump to shelters. I’m going to need a few [rustling sounds] a few volunteers
here. Can I have one, two, three, four. Five, six. Or maybe, if you have your computer.
Can I get in here? There are a couple of different shelters that
I might use for this sort of trip. [rustling continues] Actually, I’m going to bring you
over here. [pause] All right. [pause] Hold this. This one here. All right. If we can
all raise it up. So this is an A frame tarp. It only weighs about 9 ounces. The great thing
about this shelter, in addition be being really light, you have a tremendous amount of coverage
area for one person, and also, great ventilation. You won’t have very many condensation problems
with this shelter. Unfortunately, there’s no protection against the ground. There’s
no protection against bugs. And it has two open ends, even if you pitch it down to the
ground. If you do want to use a shelter like this, you need to know where to camp. I usually
try to pitch it right up against a big bush. I try to camp away from the bugs, and in a
more protected area where there’s not going to be a whole lot of wind. Then what I’ll–
Okay, that’s probably fine. I think that’ll be good. But hang up here one more– I have
one more shelter to show. You can let go of this one. [rustling sounds]
Normally, what I’ll do when I use an A frame tarp is I’ll take a water resistant biddy
sack like this one here. This bivy sack has a waterproof floor, and then a very breathable
nylon top. This gives me protection against the ground. It provides bug protection, and
also provides a little bit of extra warmth, like 5 degrees. But a bivy sack like this
is really helpful with that quilt, because the quilt can be a little bit drafty. The
combination of these two systems is what I describe as the modular tarp system, because
it’s designed to work together. All right, one more shelter to show. This
is another shelter that I might use. [rustling sounds] It’s definitely a more robust shelter.
I need a center pole. Can someone jump underneath? [pause] All right. Hold this end here. All
right. Okay. This is a 13 ounce shelter. This is actually the shelter that I used with me
up in Alaska. When I started this trip in March– okay, thanks guys– I was 30 miles
north of the Arctic Circle. I had a 13 ounce tarp with me. Then I used the shelter for
the remainder of the trip, and the only time I needed to change it up a little bit was
when the bugs came out. Then, at that time, I added a bug nest like this one here that
fits right underneath the shelter. That shelter provided a complete protection, really robust,
360 degrees. The whole system only weighed about 22 ounces. [pause] I think I’m going
to skip it. Any questions on shelters? Yes.>>male #35: Does more insulation at night
help if you’re exhausted?>>Skurka: More insulation at night would definitely
help if you’re exhausted and can’t produce your own body heat. I’d say that the best
way to keep yourself insulated, though, is a heavier weight sleeping bag as opposed to
a shelter. A lot of people look at a tarp and they’re like, “Wow, it looks so chilly.”
Which, true, it is, but in order to– The better way to look at it is let’s say I need
an extra 10 degrees of warmth. You can get an extra 10 degrees of warmth in a sleeping
bag by adding, say, 3 or 4 ounces of insulation, whereas to get 10 degrees of warmth in a shelter,
you need to add probably 3, 4 pounds of material. So it’s much better to go with a lighter weight
shelter that is more functional to protect you against the wind and rain and bugs. And
then use your sleeping bag and your clothing system to keep you warm at night.>>female #5: Why would someone want to buy
one of the more tent-like things?>>Skurka: Why would someone want to take a
double– a traditional tent with them? I think that’s a wonderful question to ask. [laughter]
I don’t know. I think most people walk in and they see it’s all set up and it’s so easy.
You just slide a pole in that sleeve, then slide a pole in that sleeve, and pop, there
it goes. You don’t need to think about where to set it up or how to tie out some of the
guidelines. You don’t need to think about any of that stuff. But there’s a cost to that.
It’s a piece of foolproof gear, but unfortunately, it weights 3, 4 times as much as a system
like this does.>>female #5: [inaudible]>>Skurka: No, not really. It just doesn’t
have two poles. You have to use your trekking poles. With a tarp, you have to use– I mean,
you have these guidelines, but there’s a really simple way to do the guideline system. Could
I just have an arm? [laughter] Okay, just hold that. With the guideline system– Let
it slide a little bit. I just have a bowline knot here, and then I use this trucker’s hitch
system. Now I’ve got a 2 to 1 pulley. And then to tie this thing off, I just use a slippery
half hitch. That’s that system. I did it instantly. So it’s really fast and easy, but it’s a little
bit of a skill. People, a lot of backpackers, for some reason don’t want to learn the skills
that allow them to take pieces of gear like this.
Let’s keep moving through here: maps and navigation. I highly recommend learning how to use a map
and a compass. With a map and a compass, I can do everything that a GPS can do. I can
pinpoint my exact location, at least to a relevant degree of accuracy, maybe not within
3 meters. But in a backpacking application, that sort of accuracy doesn’t matter. Also,
by tracking my progress, I can figure out how fast I’m going and where I’m going. But
maybe the more important thing with map and compass is that there’s some big advantages.
It’s more reliable because it’s not electronic, it doesn’t rely on batteries. It’s also a
lighter weight system. And then, with a map– The maps that I print out are on– This is
an 8.5 X 11, but the maps that I print out are normally 11 X 14 inches. That amount of
map provides me way more information than a GPS with a high resolution screen that’s
this big. What do you want to be looking at if you’re traveling across a landscape? You
want to be looking at a hard piece of paper. And then, finally, the big thing with map
and compass is that a GPS can only tell you– If you’re at point A and you want to get to
point B, it’ll tell you the distance and it’ll tell you the direction, but it won’t tell
you how to get there. It might have you swim across the deepest part of the river, and
you might have to go in and out of a canyon, and it might take you through the thickest
brush. Whereas if you understand, when you look at a map, what all of that means, you
can pick a path of least resistance. So we asked a question earlier about trekking
poles. I always take trekking poles with me, especially on backpacking trips. They help
propel me forward, they help propel me upward. And then, on the descent, they help to take
it easy on my knees a little bit, because you’re always doing those one-legged squats
down, especially on steeper terrain. So the trekking poles are really helpful.
I also use them to set up my shelter at night. I’ve used them even to fend off grizzly bears.
[laughter] No joke. I should get the video. You guys can go to another slideshow sometime
about my– On my Alaska trip, I was up in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I’m hiking
along, at it’s midnight but there’s still plenty of daylight. I go on up this valley
and I just have this moment where I’m like, “Wow, you should really just turn around and
see if you can see a bear grazing on the hillside.” So I look up, and I look this way, and I see
a grizzly bear charging at me out of the brush. [laughter] I squared up to it, yelled at it.
It paused and then realized that I probably shouldn’t be messed with. Then it ran away.
Half an hour later, I have that same sense, so I– [laughter] I turn this way and there’s
a grizzly bear charging at me across these gravel braids where there’s a creek. I was
a little bit above it. I was probably 10 feet above it on the bank. The grizzly bear was
so close by the time I saw it, it was like at that pole. So I took my trekking pole,
and I threw– I was walking like this and I threw my trekking pole across my body because
I didn’t have time to square up and throw it. It landed right in front of the bear.
I was also yelling at the bear. Between me throwing projectiles at it and yelling at
it, it made a 90 degree turn. As it was running away, it crapped itself. [laughter] Then there
was this 30 foot long streak of red berry crap along the gravel braids. It was a great
video, which I like. I’m retelling this story. Halfway through the video, it just dawns on
me that I’ve scared the crap out of a grizzly bear. [laughter] You look at it and you’re
like, “Wow, that guy has been out there for a while.” [laughter]
All right. Food and nutrition. As far as food, one ounce of carbohydrates or protein has
100 calories. One ounce of fat has 240 calories. If you wanted to go with two extreme types
of diets– Every day, you need about 3000 calories if you’re going to be backpacking.
If you only want to take protein or carbohydrates, you could carry 30 ounces of gummy bears.
Alternatively, you could carry 12 1/2 ounces of butter. [laughter] The better thing to
do is find some balance of fat versus protein and carbohydrate. Usually, for most people,
it’s in the range of 125 to 150 calories an ounce. If you’re going to be on a really long
distance trip, you probably will need a little bit more. If you’re just out there for the
weekend and you’re a petite male or female or, say, a teenager, you probably will need
a little bit less. But that 3000 calorie per day is a pretty good starting point for most
people. [pause] All right. As far as food types, I’ve never,
ever, ever taken enough chocolate on a backpacking trip. [laughter] During the day, I’d say 2/3
of the things that I eat have some sort of chocolate in them. It’s chocolate-covered
raisins, it’s chocolate bars, it’s an energy bar with chocolate in it. Not like the fake
soy chocolate, but like chocolate chocolate. I’ve just found– I have the incinerator theory,
where basically, if I put nutrients into my body, my body will burn them. So I just feed
my body what it wants. And typically, it always wants chocolate. [laughter] Then, for dinners,
I make a hot meal at night. I just– The typical routine is that I boil water, throw in something
that cooks really fast, like potatoes, beans, rice, couscous, ramen, and then I add butter,
oils, cheese, and spices. Basically every night looks like glop in a bowl, but at the
end of a really long day, it still tastes really good. I would also point out it’s probably
possible if you’re going up to the Sierra just for a short trip, you might want to just
run over to the cafeteria and pick up yourself a couple of dinners. You can just pack them.
Because it won’t be that much weight, and it probably would look a lot better than glop
in a bowl.>>female #6: Do you ever bring meat?>>Skurka: I do bring meat with me, but it’s
always not like uncooked meat. It’s beef jerky, salami, that sort of thing. I usually eat
it during the day. Sometimes– Actually, this meal, this is one of the best meals I ever
made. This one here. It was cheese-filled linguine with some sort of fancy sausage and
pesto sauce and olive oil. What that doesn’t sound awesome? Come on! [laughter] Trust me,
it was. [clears throat]>>male #36: We’re spoiled a little.>>Skurka: You guys are spoiled at Google.
All right. [exhales loudly] It’s okay if I start a fire in here, right? [laughter] I’m
going to just clear some room. [scraping sounds] All right. The first– The stove that I recommend,
I actually made out of a Fancy Feast cat food can. This is it. Actually, this was the stove
I used on my Alaska trip. It weighs 3/10 of an ounce. It will never break. It will never
clog up. It only cost me $1.50, including the hole punch I had to by in order to make
it. It burns denatured alcohol, which you can get in the paint department at the hardware
store. Then I made a wind screen from Reynolds wrap. [scraping sounds] It just folds up nicely
in the bottom of my pot. The alcohol you can just keep in a water bottle like this one
here. I generally need about 3/4 of an ounce of alcohol per meal for about a cup and 1/2,
2 cups of water. I like the start the stove with matches because a lighter, you have to
get your finger down in there, and it’s a good way to burn your hand night after night.
It takes about 7 to 8 minutes for the stove to boil water. But basically– I don’t have
any water in here, but if I had water, I would just put a pot right on top, and then I would
cover the whole thing with the wind screen, let it sit there for 8 minutes or so to come
to a boil, then I’d add my meal. The only problem with this stove: you can’t put it
out, which is why I didn’t put very much alcohol in it. You can also see that the flame’s not
very bright. So if you’re going to use this in the daytime, just be careful. When you
start it, you’ll hear a pop when it lights up. Then, if you put your hand over it, you’ll
feel the heat. But just make sure that you don’t– I have had a friend who started her
stove, lit it up, and was like, “Oh, it hasn’t started yet”, then took her fuel bottle like
this. [laughter] [mimics squirting noise] It’s not a very explosive fuel, but you don’t
want to– it’d be easy enough to start a fire with it.
The first time I ever gave one of these lightweight clinics, I was in Boulder at the Eastern Mountain
Sports store. I started this stove. It’s a neat thing. It’s homemade, it costs you $1.50.
I put the pot on top and I didn’t have any water in it. The pot got pretty hot just sitting
there. After 30 seconds of just saying how cool the stove was, I took the pot and I put
it down on the carpet, [clanging noise] like that, and I hear [makes hissing noise] [laughter]
It’s this black smoke coming from the edges of the pot. I give the pot a tug and it won’t
move. So I really tug it hard, and I pull it up. There’s a bunch of carpet on the bottom
of the pot, and this black burn mark on the carpet. I look up at the store manager, and
I’m like, “Eee, sorry!” He’s like, “Oh, no big deal, no big deal.” After the presentation,
I’m like, “I’m really sorry about your carpet. I’d be happy to replace it for you, whatever
you need.” And he’s like, “Dude, it’s really no big deal” and he just grabs a rolling rack
and puts it right over the burn mark. [laughter] All right. All right. Water purification.>>male #37: I was wondering if you had an
extra box for the [inaudible]>>Skurka: Yes.>>male #37: That uses alcohol. Just like that
red adhesive tape around it so you know it’s not water.>>Skurka: Oh, right. The gentlemen suggested
if you’re going to bring alcohol with you, somehow mark the water bottle. That way, you
don’t try to drink it. I generally don’t have that problem because I use these soft sided
platypus bottles like this one. These platypus bottles are great. They weigh 1/6 the weight
of an Algium bottle for the same amount of volume. They’re collapsible, so they don’t
take up any room in my pack if I’m not using them. At night, they’re soft, so I blow them
up with air or water and I throw them in a stuffed sack, and I can use them as a pillow.
Pretty slick. Then, for water treatment, I use these Aquamira
drops. This is enough for 30 gallons of water, so I usually put these in separate smaller
dropper bottles so I don’t have to carry the whole thing out with me. You take the mixing
cap right here, 5 drops of A, 5 drops of B– I’m sorry, 7 drops of A, 7 drops of B. Let
it react for 5 minutes, put it in 1 liter of water. Within 15 minutes you have purified
water. I was just told, this week, that Aquamira is now approved as a water purifier if you’re
in the state of California, so you’d be able to find it at REI, among other retail stores,
in the water purification section. Yes.>>male #38: How would you– Thoughts on [inaudible]>>Skurka: Right. Another good option, especially
if you’re with a group, is to use these UV lights. It doesn’t rely on chemicals. It’s
also really fast. It’s like 45 seconds. That’s a great option if you’re with a group or you’re
doing a lot of purifying and you just want to do it fast. The problem with the lights
is that you can’t get them into these platypus bottles. You need a wider mouth. And it’s
also subject to failure, so you don’t– you still have to carry something as a backup,
because you might, if the batteries run out or if it malfunctions for some reason, you’ll
need something else.>>male #38: [inaudible]>>Skurka: Like I said, there’s some– you
definitely need a backup, because they are prone to failure.
Okay. Small essentials. I’m not going to go through all of this, but I have my foot care
kit and my first aid items up here, if you want to take a look. Inevitably, you need
a bunch of these tiny items. Try to keep them to a minimum.
Then, as far as first aid, there are four principles that I use. The first is that every
first aid item I take with me can’t be improvised in the field. I take with me, especially on
group trips, I take with me some latex gloves, because I can’t improvise these in the field.
I also take things that are multi-functional. Instead of taking [rustling noise] those square
pieces of gauze, I take roll gauze, because I can make square pieces of gauze out of roll
gauze, but I can’t do the opposite. Square gauze, a little bit more versatile. Also,
every first aid item is relevant to the trip and the environment. I’m not going to carry
altitude drugs for a hike in the Appalachian Mountains. I’m not going to carry a snakebite
kit for the Arctic. It’s just not going to happen. Then, finally, I have to know how
to use it. You’ll see a lot– A lot of the campers, by default, you’ll look at their
first aid kit, and they will have things in there that they have no idea how to use. They’ll
have a, not a respirator, a CPR mask. And you’ll say, “Do you know how to give CPR?”
And they’re all like, “No, but maybe someone else around will know how to give CPR.” Just
don’t– If you don’t know how to use it, just don’t take it. It’s the same reason I don’t
take a suture kit. I don’t know how to give sutures, so I’m not going to take needle and
thread for that. Generally, there are two types of first aid
scenarios. One scenario is that I can treat it in the field. That’s like small cuts, burns,
scrapes, maybe some minor infections. I can do all that in the field, and I have the equipment
to take care of that. But for those bigger medical emergencies, like, say someone– This
is always far-fetched, I hate using a scenario like someone breaks their femur while backpacking.
It’d be really hard to do. You’d have to do something really dumb. But let’s suppose someone
does. There’s nothing that I can carry with me out there that is going to help someone
with a broken femur. My job at that point is to stabilize them, to get them as comfortable
as possible, and then to get help. I need to get them out. In that case, I usually take
with me some sort of satellite communications device. What I’ve been using recently is one
of these Spot communicators, or Spot connects. It hooks together with my phone via Bluetooth.
I can call for help. I can call for help. I can also call 911, which goes to all search
and rescue teams. I can also send “Okay” messages, just the let the folks back home– “Hey, I’m
camped here tonight. Everything is good. Don’t worry about me.” Then, with the Spot connect,
I can actually send out messages. This was a 4 day trip I did up in Alaska last summer.
The last message that I– When I arrived at the trailhead I said, “Out. Safe and happy.
Excited about dinner.” My mom, she gets the message, and within 5 minutes I have a phone
call from her saying, “Hey, really glad that you’re out. Have a great dinner. Talk to you
later.” I can’t remember the Spot slogan, but it’s something about “rescue when you
need it and for all the other times, peace of mind.” It’s a pretty inexpensive investment,
pretty lightweight, and it works pretty well. Yes. Hold on one second. We have two questions.
Yes.>>male #39: Do you have to worry about batteries
running out? Do you have anything to charge them?>>Skurka: The batteries last a really long
time. With the newer units, there’s also an indicator about battery life. The first generation–
This was the second generation unit, but the first generation unit I had, I think I used
it for 2 to 3 years and never had to replace the batteries. So I wouldn’t be too worried.>>male #39: If you’re using your cell phone
with it–>>Skurka: That’s a– Yeah, it’s– I was doing,
last summer, I was guiding a bunch of one week trips, and my cell phone had no problem
for a week. In that case, just bring an extra battery, too. That’s not necessarily a bad
idea. It weighs 1/2 and ounce, maybe an ounce. Easy thing to do.
Yes.>>male #40: [inaudible]>>Skurka: The Spot works worldwide, but it’s
mostly only on landmasses. If you’re going to be sailing across the Pacific, this isn’t
the system for you. But it’ll work pretty much anywhere on the world’s landmasses.
Okay. Maybe, I think, last subject is backpacks. There are a couple of considerations with
backpacks. The first one is that backpacks– Let me rephrase that. Backpacks have to serve
two functions. They have to carry all my stuff, they have to fit it all, and also to support
it all. I pick a backpack at the very last minute. It’s like, “Okay, here’s all the stuff
that I need to bring with me. Here’s how much it weighs. Therefore, this is the backpack
that I need.” You don’t want to work the other direction, because you’ll end up getting a
backpack that’s either too big, or it won’t support the load, or it’s just too excessive
for what you’re using it for. There are generally two types of backpacks
that we use nowadays. Ignore this. This is a little bit of a funky backpack, but it works.
This backpack here is called a suspension backpack, or a framed backpack. It’s given
a rigid suspension system with these aluminum stays in here. There are two of them. But
you also might have a backpack that has a frame sheet, which would be like a plastic
sheet inside of here. There are also ones that have these peripheral rods. It would
be this metal rod around the perimeter of the backpack. The whole point of that suspension
system is to transfer weight from your shoulders to your hips. If I put this backpack on and
I take all the weight off of my shoulders, this backpack still sits right on my hips.
If I’m carrying a heavy load, I want it on my hips because my hips are supported by my
glutes and by my ab muscles. In comparison, my shoulders are really puny. I don’t want
to– having to support a lot of weight with my shoulders.
The other type of backpack is a frameless backpack like this one here. It doesn’t have
anything rigid in it at all. If I try to do that same exact thing, the backpack will just
fall over. Now, it doesn’t– Not all of the weight gets supported by my shoulders, but
I’d say probably 3/4 of it will get supported by my shoulders. But my shoulders are strong
enough to support 25, 30 pounds. But as soon as I go over that threshold, I want something
with a more rigid system. Then, to waterproof my backpack, I just take
a plastic trash compacter bag. You can buy a whole bundle of these. I think this was
years ago, I bought a 50 roll for 15 bucks at Walmart. They last about a month. They’re
very waterproof. I just put it on the– [pause] I’ll take my sleeping pad [swishing and rustling
noises] and by putting the sleeping pad in here and then putting this inside the backpack,
it gives my– [rustling noises] it gives what is otherwise an unrigid backpack some structure
and some shape. It also protects my back against anything that might be hard on the inside
of the pack. National Geographic did a beautiful 16 page
spread on my Alaska-Yukon expedition. There were signed copies available. Are there any
more left? No. Okay, that’s fine. You can all, if you’d like, you can grab– I still
have some for sale on my website. Then, finally– Here, let me give you that, I’ll pay for it.
I mentioned it a few times, but I do guided trips. This year I’ll be offering three 7
day trips up in the high Sierra in Yosemite Valley. I’ll also be doing one 3 day trip
that’s much more a beginner/intermediate trip out at Henry Coe State Park. It’s the middle
of May, I believe it’s the 14th through the 16th. It’s a Friday through a Sunday. The
whole objective is to learn about and apply the gear, supplies, and skills that we’ve
discussed today, plus a lot more. If you’re interested in one of those trips, on one of
the tables or one of the chairs back there, there was some pamphlets. But I’ll leave some
up here as well. Just some information. That’s all also up on my website. All right. Thank
you very much, guys. Appreciate it. [applause]

54 thoughts on “Andrew Skurka: “Ultimate Hiking Gear & Skills Clinic” | Talks at Google

  1. Too bad he comes across as judgmental towards 'ultimate campers' for whom he clearly has disdain. So long as people out there enjoy themselves without directly negatively impacting their environment, what's the bother?

  2. Covered all the essentials for sensible lightweight backpacking. Excellent presentation, given with infectious enthusiasm. Auswalker.

  3. Great Video !!!! on Hiking gear and skills !!!! Thank You Google !!!! and Mr. Hard Core Adventurer Skurka !!!!! I bet that hike was a beast !!! the Sea to Sea Hike !!!!

  4. Hi Andrew, thanks for sharing this class! I just finished reading your The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide. I've been referring to it over and over again throughout the last 10 months of preparation for my 2017 A.T. thru-hike. I'm sure I'll be back watching this viedo, and reading the book at least a dozen more times before leaving for the trail. Well, thanks again, and good luck on your next adventure!

  5. Very helpful presentation covering all the little things most people would not realise or even think about. I have been planning a long distance hike for a few years and this video makes me question some of the things I have done. 10/10

  6. very much focused on 1 mission through hikers – taking a fishing rod to western scotland inbetween munros or a box stove to a Pyrenees cabane during the near empty shoulder season is not discussed

  7. Macho book of the bivy type viewpoints is but one aspect of the game ,bivy bag & tarp is not comfortable in driving cold rain – I will take my hillerberg either as a double or single wall outfit depending on conditions k

  8. This is a brilliant resource. I have not found a single video that is this comprehensive. Everything is covered clothing, shelters, sleep systems, navigation, footwear, and food. They guy obviously has a huge amount of experience! His take on shoes and foot care is especially interesting to me because it is so different to what I do. It was also interesting how he points out that you can save weight on shelters by bringing a warmer sleeping bag. There is so much to think about when you go hiking and camping!

  9. Hike your own hike sums it up!! Maybe this is not of you maybe you are a mobile car camper. Do what you do and do it as often as possible if it makes you giggle. But can't argue with his record…

  10. I have hiked to Mt Whitney twice and have trekked over many trails in the high Sierra.  The high Sierra can produce heavy storms that produce a lot of wind and rain.  Under such conditions, there is absolutely no substitute for a good tent.  Getting soaked by wind and rain can eliminate any chance of getting restful sleep and ruin a hiking trip.   My advice:  Pack a tent.  Yes, its more weight to carry, but it provides good protection against bad weather and bugs.  Additionally, a tent provides a very comfortable place to sleep.

  11. I take a little issue with your distinction with ultra hiker and ultra camper. Or maybe your distinction isn't clear enough.

    The ultra camper DOESN'T trod along.
    The average camper trods along. To the ultra camper, views are paramount. We're not trying to carry the least weight possible, we're trying to carry the most efficient weight possible.

    The ultra camper carries the least amount of weight necessary to have the best possible experience sleeping outside.

    I've watched a metric ton of thu-hike videos. Most of the people completing these thru-hikes are absolutely miserable when they aren't trekking, and half of them are miserable when they ARE trekking.

    So what gives? HYOH and all of that. I know you've hiked 40k miles. Give REAL advice. Please.

  12. I don't believe the point of wearing none waterproof shoes in cold condition, the cold water against your feet will leave you colder for longer periods than having damp waterproof shoes. I have to wear boots with ankle support as my ankles since I was a child have been really weak. I cannot risk damaging an ankle on a hike.

  13. Any questions?

    sound of washing machine mumble mumble sound of washing machine sound of washing machine footwear sound of washing machine mumble mumble ?


  14. Great video Andrew you captivated me with your back packing stories and about all the gear and clothing supplies was very detailed I liked your video!

  15. I'm getting too old for ground sleeping (50). Even if it is on pine needles and such. But since I have been using a proper large rain fly hammock with an under quilt and top quilt system, I can get back out there without worrying about throwing my back out in the early stages before I can acclimate to the trail. Did that once, never again. Once you get the hang of it (wink, wink) you'll never go back to a tent. So my biggest problem today is finding a rout that has lots of trees. The AT is perfect, but the CDT, not so much down south. Great video lesson though. Nice to get some feedback on some of the things that I have seen work over the years.

  16. every time he says type 1 or type 2 i think "Phish fan"

    (not expecting a lot of people to understand that, but if you do, you're awesome)

  17. I use a mix of instant oatmeal, Tang and Almond butter. no cook, no freeze, no spoil, cheap, compact, lightweight, tasty, available almost anywhere in the US. (wallys) Just eat it with a spoon, like it's cookie dough. You can vary it as to how much of which is in the mix, depending upon your mood, taste and perceived needs.

  18. Thanks for this vid. Never heard of you Andrew but it's great to hear the thoughts of someone doing it like you. I bet a super long hike and the constant planning and reviewing has sharpened you organisation to a sharp point. Cheers

  19. Okay, there's some nice information in this talk and I enjoyed watching it, but it could've done without the no true scotsman, "Virgin camper inefficient" and "Chad Ultimate Hiker" patter at the beginning, implying that to be a hiker you have to be purely focused on getting from A to B as quickly as possible.
    There is enjoyment to be had whilst walking that you just can't get sitting around a camp site, so I wouldn't consider myself a "camper".
    It would seem that the modern, fast paced mindset is just as prevalent among backpackers as it is in everyone else. No wanderlust to be found here :

    I'd say that there are only two types of backpacker; those who backpack because they enjoy travelling the countryside and those who backpack because they enjoy bragging about their exploits after the fact, or in his own words, "type 2 fun seekers".
    The latter are coming across to me a tad elitist. He's creating this dichotomy and trying to elevate himself above other hikers based on a completely arbitrary objective. It is coming across as self promotion.

    It's not the way I personally would choose to hike, as I feel it sucks the fun out of everything. I like to move at a pace where I can take in my surroundings and will gladly stop to enjoy a pleasant view. I wouldn't limit myself to a tight schedule, because I can never know what sorts of fun detours I could be denying myself later on.

    My tent may be heavy, but it stops water from the marshy ground, mold, mice, snakes, spiders and MIDGES from inhabiting my gear and keeping me awake at night.

    I have a pair of Salomon Quest boots, which aren't that heavy and they don't really let in water. If I'm crossing a deeper stream I can just take them off. The sweat which builds up inside them is easily alleviated by taking them off for ten minutes and switching my socks. I also don't use hiking poles. I descend by zigzagging and the added support saves my knees sufficiently. I'm not a long distance hiker, however, so I'm not sure of the difference it makes in the long run. I find that the boots protect my knees far more than a pair of trainers, because I don't have to tense my legs to stop my ankles from rolling, though.

  20. His kind can be irritating and condescending. These "prima donnas" think they are the ultimate survival experts and know exactly what to carry. It is called luck and modern technology.
    They bitch if one leaf is out of place. The moment ANYONE puts their shoes on the ground, they change the environment. Their damage may or may not be visible but it is there.

  21. Completely unimpressive. As usual it's all about who you know, only "invited" to give a talk to a captive audience because his family knows a Google Exec's family. This dude is the very definition and embodiment of White Priveledge. I wonder just how many talks he's given to inner city or trailer park kids?

  22. Very in depth and practical advice based on true experience. One of my favorite presentations on backpacking skills and essentials on youtube.

  23. I really hate the carpenters, they're always hammering for posterity. Thousands of people watch this video and they just have to be hammering constantly in the background? Andrew Skurka is easy to hear over the banging, cogent, and intelligent.

  24. If your a West Coast American thinking of hiking in the East your in for a treat. As a California native, I found colors in the East that I had never seen before in every season.

  25. Hey guys, you're not an "ultimate" backpacker unless you wear a thong and your pack and gear is made out of tissue paper. Oh and don't forget to run, er, hike 40 miles/day with your ski poles!

  26. We are about to hike 600 Miles! Join us.

  27. Great tips. Really! But if you live in a cold environment condensation is a big deal in a shelter. That`s why you use a dubble wall shelter so your gear and sleep system doesnt get wet, or you simply use a tarp, but not single wall tent. Skurka should know this.

  28. I'm an Asian, is PCT Trial allow. I'm 55 and planning for my dream hike in 2020. Physical still should not have any problem.

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