9 Books about Thru-Hiking and the Outdoors to Read During Quarantine

Hello everyone, and welcome to our updated reality. Instead of trail updates and backpacking roundups, we’re doing yoga on our floors and realizing the Netflix selection is worse than we thought. Now that we’ve settled into some semblance of normalcy (however long it will last), we decided to do a roundup of our team’s favorite books about thru-hiking, backpacking, and other outdoor adventures. These are the books that inspired Trek bloggers and writers to plan a thru-hike, and they’re the books we’ll be reading as we dream about the time we can actually get back out onto the trails.

Did we leave out your favorite? Yell at us in the comments. We have plenty of time on our hands.

Maggie Slepian
Managing Editor

When You Find My Body: The Disappearance of Geraldine Largay 
Dee Dauphinee

Maine author and explorer Dee Dauphinee has written a gut-wrenching book that recounts in exhaustive detail the search that followed the disappearance of AT hiker Geraldine Largay in 2013. Gerry’s body was found in 2015, and with it, a wrenching note she had written to the people who would eventually find her body. The book is painstakingly comprehensive, covering Gerry’s early life, her thru-hike preparations, her time on the trail, and the community of the trail. Dee talks about the psychology of being lost, surviving in the woods, and the countless tips and leads that investigators looked into during their search for Gerry. This is the story of a competent hiker who stepped off the trail in the Maine woods and never found her way back. Our full review here.


Hiker Trash
Erin Miller

This is the story of an an adventurous nomadic couple from the Pacific Northwest and the allure of nomadic adventure that called them to hike the PCT. Their hike started as a crazy one-off idea while they was traveling abroad in Southeast Asia—they planned their entire trip from overseas, and threw themselves entirely into thru-hiking preparation. Hummingbird and Bearclaw didn’t have some sort of trauma or life event that lead them to the trail, which makes them highly relatable for the average reader. Hummingbird’s writing style is easy and interesting to read; she writes in a linear, journal-entry style that helps you picture the hike. She also includes entertaining anecdotes that keep keep the book from feeling repetitive. They also include their packing lists and recipes. This is the one thru-hiker book that I’ve read through more than once. Allison Perrine

Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail
Jennifer Pharr Davis

Before Jennifer Pharr Davis was a record-setting speed hiker, she was a young woman fresh out of college, with a massive external-frame pack and an inability to cook pasta in the backcountry. The tale of her first thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail is refreshingly relatable and full of the challenges most thru-hikers will experience themselves, along with some truly extraordinary events. She is the first person to happen upon a tragic event, she gets struck by lightning, and deals with some unsavory characters. The book is a fast read for anyone interested in thru-hiking, and gives a real sense of the trail and community. -Editors

Gary Paulsen

This Newbery Award-winning novel is perfect for the young adventurers in our lives. This survival story is the book that inspired my love of adventure and interest in the outdoors. Follow young Brian Robeson as he boards a single-engine plane to visit his father, only to find he would need to rely on his own grit and determination to survive alone in the wilderness. Shannon Quadres

Free Outside: A Trek Against Time and Distance
Jeff Garmire

Known by the trail name “Legend,” Jeff Garmire has over 23,000 trail miles under his belt, including multiple FKTs. In 2016, he became the fifth (and youngest) person to finish the Calendar Year Triple Crown, which means he hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail in 252 days. In Free Outside, Garmire writes about what it takes to hike 8,000 miles in a year, while doing each trail straight through and not jumping around based on the seasons. This is a fast-paced book in which Garmire gets attacked by a moose, nearly drowns in the Kennebec in the middle of winter, and encounters countless adversaries the AT, PCT, and CDT threw at him in every season of the year. –Editors

A Pearl in the Storm
Tori Murden McClure

This is one of my favorite adventure books. Tori was the first woman and first American to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Her memoir tells the story of two trips. Her tiny boat (The American Pearl) repeatedly capsized when a hurricane cut short her first attempt. She describes the torment of the moment she decided to die alone at sea rather than use her distress beacon and risk the lives of search and rescue personnel. Throughout the book, her sense of humor is apparent, even in the face of near-death. For example: “First the bad news. I am 980 miles from shore in a half-submerged boat without engine or sail. My body has been beaten to a bloody pulp. I have precisely one liter of fresh water. The good news is that I am alive.” Despite the terrifying conditions of her first attempt, she tried again, and she tells the story of successfully rowing alone across nearly 3,000 miles of open ocean. Open-water rowing has many parallels to long-distance hiking. There are moments of immense beauty interspersed with acute reminders of the power of nature. In a time when we’re all dealing with circumstances beyond our control, this book provides some comfort as a story of ultimate success when things don’t go as planned the first time. -Stephanie Grace

Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home
Heather “Anish” Anderson

Anderson’s poignantly written memoir of her time completing the self-supported FKT on the PCT in 2013 is a must-read. Heather’s book brings her struggles on the PCT, both physical and mental, to life. She faced dehydration, heat exhaustion, extreme weather, mountain lions, hunger, and self-doubt. Whether you’re new to the world of long-distance hiking or have been hitting the trails for decades, this is a book that you will not want to put down. Heather does a wonderful job saying just enough but not too much about her experiences on the PCT. Her book will most inspire you to want to push yourself both physically and mentally. Full review here.  Editors

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail
David “AWOL” Miller

This is the original thru-hiking book for me. I read it several times before I hiked the AT, then read each section from the book as I hiked it in real life. His story is familiar for many thru-hikers: Miller was working a desk job in tech, a life that felt stale and depressing after many repetitive years. With the blessing of his family, Miller took six months away from his life to hike the AT. Miller is funny, down-to-earth, and hugely relatable as a hiker and storyteller. This book heightened my excitement leading up to the AT, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the landmarks and reaching the towns I’d read about in the book.  Side note: “AWOL” is also the creator of the benchmark AT Guide.  –Maggie Slepian

Just Passin’ Thru
Winton Porter

After reading trail journal after trail journal, I went searching for something different and stumbled upon Just Passin’ Thru. What a refreshing change! Written by former Mountain Crossings owner Winton Porter, the book immerses you in the daily life  at one of the most popular Appalachian Trail outfitters and the first significant resupply stop on the trail for NOBO hikers.
From the seasonal employees to the thru-hikers who were starting or finishing their thru-hike journey, every character had a colorful story to tell, and Porter retold these tales with flair. I felt like I was there, part of the Mountain Crossings family. Just Passin’ Thru was one of those books that I wish would last forever but inevitably ended far too soon. A must-read for the aspiring AT thru-hiker. Kelly Hodgkins

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 12

  • Ruth Morley : Mar 25th

    Excellent list! Thank you for putting these book suggestions out there for us. I can personally recommend Hatchet. Don’t let the fact that it’s written with a young adult audience in mind. The story is compelling and the writing style unique. I recall being transfixed as I listened to the audiobook read by the author. This book sparked my initial interest in the great outdoors.

    Hang in there, fellow hikers. Our disappointment and frustrations about aborted hikes are minuscule in comparison to the huge health implications this virus has for our world. Stay home and thereby help yourself and everybody else stay healthy.

  • gmh : Mar 25th

    Six Moon Trail. The author hiked the PCT SOBO back before the internet. It started me dreaming about it and maybe someday I will actually do it.

  • Todd : Mar 25th

    I just finished reading Grandma Gatewood’s Walk. I highly recommend it. One thing that distinguishes it is that it is not autobiographical. I of course knew of Emma’s walk, but there was much more to her story and her. She was so much more than a novelty.

    • Gary : Mar 27th

      Great list but you forgot Where’s the Next Shelter and Balancing on Blue

    • Cherri mcgill : Mar 27th

      This was such a good book! She was an amazing woman!

  • deadpool : Mar 27th

    Just Passin’ Through is great, if you are going to hike NOBO, read it before you set out.

    I would also add American Wolf and Gloryland. Great books that will leave you feeling like you are with the authors on their adventures.

  • Marcus Seitz : Mar 27th

    What? You forgot my book? LOL. Great list, some good suggestions. Good time to get caught up on some reading.

  • Tichadog : Mar 27th

    Let’s not forget Colin Fletcher’s 1000 Mile Summer and The Man Who Walked Through Time! He did it without an app to tell him how to prepare for the trips or a phone to keep him on trail and entertain him with music and podcasts.

  • Angela : Mar 28th

    Planet Walker. So Good.

  • Taylor Francis : Mar 29th

    Great Books. Thank you SO MUCH for not including Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods…

  • Mirorg : Jun 25th

    I also have my top books to read.


What Do You Think?