The Hiker’s Handbook

Welcome to the first in a series of blogs that will break down many of the in’s and out’s of hiking skills. This series will function in the spirit of the adage, “teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime,” and it’s my hope that I what I share over the course of this series will give you some of the skills you’ll need not only to hike safely but to plan successful trips, recognize weather, find information related to flora, fauna, history, permits, campground reservations, and just about anything else you might want to know.

Why should you listen to me? Over the years, I’ve accumulated a decent amount of knowledge by hiking 8,000 miles in 8 years and writing multiple books on places like San Diego County, the Sierra, the desert, and southern Utah. I’ve also written hundreds of online descriptions on trails for Modern Hiker covering many destinations across the American west. And to accomplish that, I’ve applied research skills learned through undergrad and graduate programs; many of these skills are just as important in hike and trip planning as knowing which way to lace your boots.

This series will dabble in a little bit of everything, and it will focus on the following topics:

  • Preparation & Planning
    • Research
    • What to Bring
    • What to Wear
    • Footwear
    • Print Resources
    • Online Resources
    • Climate
    • Weather
    • Plants and Animals
    • Trail Conditions
    • Lodging and Campsites
    • Backpacking
    • Meal prep
  • Trail Ethics
    • Leave No Trace
    • Courtesy
    • Shortcuts
    • Music
    • Cairns
    • Off-Trail
    • Encouraging Good Behavior
  • Navigation
    • Features of topographic maps
    • Compass
    • Navigation by landmark
    • Caltopo
    • Nuts and bolts of traditional navigation skills
  • Photography
    • Techniques
    • Composition
    • Lighting
    • Processing
  • Land Management
    • Federal, State, Regional, Municipal, and Private Lands
    • Non-profit partnerships
    • Advocacy
  • Miscellany
    • How to use trekking poles
    • How not to smell bad
    • How to tell good information from bad
    • Recommended literature


I’m always open to suggestions on topics to cover. I don’t have much background in anatomy, physiology, or kinesiology, so I can’t offer much in the way of knowledge on injuries, footwear, or training. I also won’t plan specific trips for people (I write books on this, and I’d rather give you the skills to do it yourself).

Please stay tuned as I begin by churning out weekly articles on the how-to’s of hiking.

One Reply to “The Hiker’s Handbook”

  1. I am looking forward to your series. As an experienced hiker I find that one of the biggest issues I run across with newbies is inadequate footwear. People seem to refuse to get rugged hiking boots when they are going to be on rugged hiking trails, like most of our Omegamaniac hikes in the desert in the wither months. Also, even with lighter hiking boots, a good rugged sole makes life so much better when bouldering and walking on rocky terrains (like San Jacinto Peak which we just did last weekend). A twisted ankle or knee takes all of the fun out of a hike.

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