When a guy gets named “Adventurer of the Year” by both National Geographic Adventure and Outside magazines, chances are he knows a thing or two about getting out there and exploring.
Such is the case with speaker, writer, guide and adventure athlete Andrew Skurka. From Yukon expeditions to ultra-marathons, the 33-year-old’s exploits are too numerous to list. Just know that his adventuring has covered more than 30,000 miles all over the world.
We asked the author of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide about heading out on your own—or with your best friend.
“People tend to pack too much. They pack their fears. So, for example, if they’re hiking on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire in July, they might pack a coat and a four-season tent just in case it might snow.”
What can a guy do to add some adventure to his hikes, whether it’s a weekend trip or a weeklong excursion?
Wherever you’re planning to hike, do some research beforehand to make sure you’re up to the challenge, then build up to something new. Talk to others knowledgeable in the community, like local outfitters or guides, to make sure you can handle what’s in store on the hike. Also, start slowly and work your way up to the challenge in a low-risk environment. For example, if you have a multi-day backpacking trip in mind, try out all your gear on shorter day hikes first to make sure you’re familiar with all the equipment. Use the stove, use the water purifier, set up the tent, things like that. You don’t want to get out in the middle of the wilderness and realize your stove doesn’t work right.
How do you decide what gear to bring along with you?
I tend to go the opposite of most people when it comes to packing. Now, obviously, you should pack what you need, and I’m not going to discourage that. But people tend to pack too much. They pack their fears. So, for example, if they’re hiking on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire in July, they might pack a coat and a four-season tent just in case it might snow. I’ll pack exactly what I need, no more, no less. I’ll do an environmental assessment of the area, so I know exactly what to expect when it comes to the temperature, precipitation, flood risk, insects, wild animals and other factors. Then I can pack accordingly without packing too much stuff.
What are your favorite places to hike that you might recommend to other guys looking to try something new?
My favorite hikes really depend on the season. In early spring, I was out in the canyons of southwest Utah, and it’s really tough to beat the beauty of that terrain at that time of year. I’m doing this interview from the trails in North Carolina, and it’s in full bloom and absolutely beautiful here right now. In June, the weather is perfect for heading out to the high country in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and California. The season that you choose for your adventure is almost as important as where you decide to go.
We hear you’re passionate about bringing a dog along. What are your top tips for hiking with a dog?
Hiking is a great opportunity to bond with your animal, and recent research by Petco has shown that hiking is one of the top activities that “pet parents” enjoy doing with their dogs. The real key for me is making sure that both you and your pet will be safe during the hike. That often comes back to planning and preparation before you set out. First, make sure your dog is allowed in the area that you want to hike. Next, research what the terrain is like to make sure both you and your dog can safely traverse the area. It’s also a good idea to get medical clearance for your dog from a veterinarian before embarking on any outdoor adventure.
What should you bring along for the dog on your hike?
The most important thing I tell people to bring along is their brains. By thinking critically, you can keep yourself and your best friend out of danger. Beyond that, make sure to have all the pet essentials: a good leash and a harness and plenty of food and drinking water. Some people don’t think about insect repellant or sunscreen for their dog, but these are a good idea as well, particularly if your dog has light fur and you’ll be in an area with a lot of sun exposure. Also, consider bringing booties for your dog’s paws if the terrain is going to be rocky or sharp.
How can both you and your dog stay safe?
Planning a hike with your dog should be treated just like taking on a new challenge yourself. Build up to it gradually and make sure that both you and your dog are up to the challenge. Remember, you’re responsible for another life when you bring your dog along, so it’s very important to take that responsibility seriously.