Walking Distance #13 | Andrew Skurka

In this episode of Walking Distance presented by The Trek and hosted by Blissful Hiker (Alison Young), we are joined by Andrew Skurka, one of the best traveled and fastest hikers on the planet, and a National Geographic and Outside Magazine Adventurer of the Year. Skurka has hiked enormous distances, including 4700 miles on the Alaska-Yukon expedition, 6900 miles on the Great Western Loop. and 7700 miles on the Sea-to-Sea route. As a result of his travels, Skurka has developed a system for fast and light backpacking, with a kit weighing under 10 pounds; he’s also the author of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools and Tips to Hit the Trail

Blissful Hiker covers the phrase “Hike Your Own Hike,” how to protect food from bears while backpacking, and how to develop navigation skills for the trail.


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Interview with Andrew Skurka

0:59 – What does Hike Your Own Hike mean?

3:00 – Should you always Hike Your Own Hike? Is there actually a right and wrong way to backpack?

6:24 – Why did the idea of a right way and wrong way to backpack stir things up with some people?

8:40 – In your blog you wrote that “Backpackers should have gear, supplies, and skills that are appropriate for their trip objective and the conditions,” which is pretty obvious. You’re teaching a course on planning, which I struggle with, and I’d like to know why and how you’re doing it.

​​11:20 – I have a precursory understanding of trail conditions and researching this, and I find myself in unexpected weather. But you’re actually fine tuning that research to plan your trips.

​​14:10 – I am about to do the Continental Divide Trail, and I’ve been researching how to protect food from bears. You wrote something about that a while ago too, what’s your perspective?

​​18:15 – Andrew Skurka has huge miles under his belt from hiking and running. He owns a company that guides people through their own adventures; Andrew says that leading others has informed his own trips.

​​20:04 – Making the leap from roaming off trail and building orienteering skills is daunting for most of us, but Andrew has experience with navigating off trail. What is route finding and how do you do it?

​​23:03 – While hiking in Africa, we had to route-find in order to get where we needed to go. I found it interesting that European hikers were much more comfortable with a map and compass than the Americans. You spoke earlier about Guthook; do you think it would be better if everyone used maps and compasses?

​​25:50 – There’s a lot of discussion about people not using paper maps at all, especially during thru-hikes. Most people argue that paper maps are heavy and it’s easier to use Guthook. What’s your perspective?

​​28:50 – How do you print your maps?

​​31:30 – Going back to your clients, what was it like hiking your many miles of trail alone, to guiding others?

​​34:20 – How has it changed you as an adventurer to work with other people? Is it humbling? Is it satisfying?

Mentioned in this episode:

Andrew Skurka’s website and blog

“Actually, there is a ‘right way’ to backpack: the limits of Hike Your Own Hike”

Andrew Skurka on Instagram

The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools and Tips to Hit the Trail

National Center for Environmental Information

Andrew Skurka’s Tutorial on Temperature and Precipitation

Get all of the Walking Distance Podcast episodes.

About Alison Young

Alison Young, aka Blissful Hiker, is a former host and producer at American Public Media and professional flutist. She’s thru-hiked New Zealand’s Te Araroa and the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as long trails in South America, South Africa, Europe, Pakistan and all over the US. In her podcast Blissful Hiker, she shares personal essays from the trail along with collected sound. Her goal in life is to hike until she drops.

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