The Best Podcasts for Backpackers and Outdoor Lovers
Since podcasts first appeared on the smartphone scene in 2004, they’ve filled a niche for listeners who want to laugh, be inspired, be educated, or all of the above. For long-distance hikers, podcasts can be a serious blessing. Not only can listening to an episode (or five) help the miles fly by, podcasts are arguably more educational and/or entertaining than zoning out to the same playlist for hundreds of miles.
This season, we aren’t doing much long-distance hiking. While we work to come to terms with that, it’s never been more important to bring the outdoors into your home. These are our podcast picks for thru-hikers, updated for this season with the idea of keeping the fire stoked for when we can travel and get into the backcountry again.
Did we miss your favorite? The comments section is open for yelling.
The Trek’s OG podcast is hosted by editor-in-chief Zach “Badger” Davis and 2017 PCT hiker Juliana Chauncey. This podcast is essentially two shows for the price of one. Backpacker Radio’s traditional shows feature an interview with a rotating list of interesting and accomplished guests, as well as advice and general Hiker Trash tomfoolery.
The “Trail Correspondents Series” features updates from thru-hikers directly from the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail. Each episode features a different “assignment,” or subject to chat about. Featured hikers record their thoughts and responses to the subject, and their answers are highlighted in each episode.
Co-hosted by author and 2014 AT thru-hiker Gary Sizer and fellow 2014 AT thru-hiker Megan Thompson, Stories from the Trail is a biweekly chat touching on all things long-distance backpacking. Whether it’s an interview with other thru-hiking authors, documentarians, or aspiring thru-hikers, Stories from the Trail is a fun and informal way to become indoctrinated into the wonderful world of thru-hiking.
The Attempt follows Benjamin Drachman during his attempted southbound (SOBO) thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2019. Highly produced, this podcast is a fascinating look at the on-trail daily happenings during a southbound PCT hike.
This is the first podcast to feature thru-hikers’ recordings directly from the trail. After three seasons, it is no longer recording new shows, but if you’re looking to get an intimate look at the life of a thru-hiker, you will find great entertainment from the archives.
Steve Adams, aka “Mighty Blue,” is a prolific podcaster with a show focusing on all things Appalachian Trail. This podcast features interviews with an eclectic, interesting group of AT hikers and those who are influential to its culture.
Everything you ever wanted to know about America’s Best Idea. Each episode explores a different subject about the history, culture, natural wonders, and human impact across America’s National Parks.
Hosted by avid outdoorswoman Willow Belden and assisted by Trek Writer Laura Johnston, Out There aims to captures the strength and inspiration we get from spending time in the outdoors. A variety of guests, topics, relevant outdoors-oriented world updates, and deep questions means each episode will leave you thinking.
Highlighting the world travels, hikes, van builds, and adventures we might dream about someday doing, but for now, have to live vicariously through this cast of characters. This podcast is conversational, mostly informal, and very entertaining.
Produced by REI, this show lets outdoorsmen and women who took a “hard left” interview each other. Some of them left careers, some of them drastically changed their lifestyle. Here’s what they have to say about the choices they made to dedicate themselves to the outdoors… all in conversation with each other.
A combination of stories, gear chat, current events, and inspiration, the Backpacking Light podcast covers all aspects o backcountry wilderness travel through stories, interviews, and investigative reports.
The campfire tale—it’s ubiquitous in mountain culture. As long as we’ve climbed, skied, boated, or traveled, we’ve been telling stories. In March 2007, Fitz launched The Dirtbag Diaries, a grassroots podcast dedicated to the sometimes serious, often humorous stories from wild places. What began as a solitary experiment has evolved into collaboration between writers, photographers, artists, and listeners to produce the type of stories that rarely find homes in glossy magazine pages.
Created by the folks at Outside Magazine, this wide-ranging podcast covers everything you can possibly imagine about the outdoors. Gear, outdoor recreation, current and past events, and up-to-date environmental coverage. Producers employ many of the same storytelling techniques found in the magazine itself, and you won’t be bored by a single episode.
For all women who take on adventures with nothing holding them back. Inspiring and sometimes humorous stories covering women in the outdoors, tales range from extreme risk-takers to the more low-key (but no less inspiring) everywoman. This podcast will make you want to get outside and stay outside.
For outdoors-oriented listeners who also care about the environment and how we relate to it. This well-produced show brings a different topic to light with each episode, employing stories with fascinating, strong narrative arcs as well as environmental lessons and discussions on how we use the outdoors.
By the time they get out of the first state, most thru-hikers wouldn’t be considered “beginner backpackers” anymore. However, this podcast (geared at new backpackers) is a fun, educational, and entertaining listen… especially pertinent before you hit the trail. They discuss gear, different trails, tell stories of adventure, and offer tips for backcountry travel. They aren’t currently producing, but their catalog is full of pertinent info.
99% Invisible is great to listen to while hiking! Not trail related, but they cover really interesting topics and have a TON of episodes so you never run out of anything to listen to. – Colleen Goldhorn
In normal life, Joe Rogan’s three-hour podcasts can be daunting, but they’re perfect for the trail and the interesting guests and laid-back atmosphere are really entertaining. -Tess Mullaney
Hosted by NPR’s Guy Raz, this fascinating show delves into the minds of entrepreneurs who started their own businesses—everything from Clif Bar to Starbucks to Zumba—plus the trials and tribulations along the way. It shows that bumps in the road are par for the course on the way to success, and will inspire you to nurture your adventurous, entrepreneurial spirit. -Maggie Slepian
Hardcore History might as well be a free audiobook. The best history podcast ever. Only a select few episodes are available for free, but there’s not a boring subject in the bunch and Dan Carlin is a master storyteller. -Zach Davis
I found myself getting sucked into My Favorite Murder. I didn’t think I’d like it, and it took me a few episodes, but it made for some hilarious listening. Their banter makes time go quickly, and the stories they tell definitely suck you in. I was spooked a few times on trail from listening to stories about murder at the same time that someone hiked up from behind.
The weekly NPR news quiz show is a fan favorite. Different guests each week play the hosts in a series of fast-paced quizzes, games, and challenges. You’ll get caught up on the news while laughing out loud.
This is a riveting seven-episode series from the producers of Serial. What starts as a straightforward phone call from a man who wants the producers to investigate a murder in his hometown takes so many twists and turns you won’t have any idea where it’s going until the end. Don’t read any spoilers. Just listen to this marvelously produced show. -Maggie Slepian
Radiolab definitely took the cake for best on-trail podcast. It was informative and had great topics. Often the people I was hiking near would happen to listen to a Radiolab episode as well that day, so it always made for good camp and lunch discussions. Sometimes on trail you’ve gotta talk about more than just poop, mileage, and food. -Brooke Eller
Educational and surprisingly entertaining. Each show is a 20-30 minute delve into a singular topic, ranging from tornadoes and mosquitoes, to bitcoin and murder. The hosts get somewhat tangential, but if conversational, informational podcasts are your jam, Stuff You Should Know will be up your alley. -Zach Davis
An expert delves into his or her area of expertise for a solid hour. This straight-shooting podcast packs so much information into each episode, you’ll finish the episode feeling like you could give a well-informed lecture on the subject.
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