Long distance hiking, wilderness survival camping, and ultralight backpacking are some advanced outdoor activities tailor-made for the free-bird in most of us. But how to master the skills needed for these extreme outdoor activities?
If you are someone who has been day hiking or backpacking for quite some time and looking to get into some serious thru-hiking, long distance solo backpacking or some off-the-grid wilderness camping, then this article is just for you. In this article, we share our ten favorite instructional guides for advanced hiking, backpacking, and survival. (If you are looking for some beginner guides, you can check our article here.)
We also list out six popular classic books which are still as relevant as they were a couple of decades ago. We discuss some of the factors to consider while picking the top advanced guide-book for your needs and also share some additional resources available online for these types of outdoor activities.
It is worthwhile to mention that this list of suggested readings in no way covers all the best books available in the market on the subject. However, you will find these suggestions mentioned time and again in blogs, websites and bibliographies of other such books. So buckle up, and read on!
Best instructional guides listSome of the best books available in the market for advanced hiking, backpacking and wilderness camping are listed below:
|The Total Outdoorsman Manual||Paperback|
|- The instructional manual is authored by T. Edward Nickens and covers all aspects of outdoor exploration and survival.|
- In 320 pages, this book covers tips and tricks to master the outdoors and hunt, fish, and camp like an expert.
- Written in illustrative tips-and-tricks style covering over 400 skills.
- The current 10th Edition was published in Oct, 2013.
|Complete Outdoors Encyclopedia||Paperback||- This award-winning complete guide for Do-it-yourself outdoorsman is authored by Vin T. Sparano.|
- In 630+ pages, this book acts as a true reference point for all types of outdoor activities – backpacking, fishing, survival, boating and hunting.
- Filled with over 1000 top quality illustrations.
- The current edition of the book was published in April, 2014.
|America's Great Hiking Trails||Hardcover||- This compendium of the forty most prominent trails in the US is authored by Karen Berger and filled with photographs by Bart Smith.|
- In 330 odd pages, the book covers all details about each trail – history, scenic spots, photographs and maps.
- Winner of 2015 Lowell Thomas Travel Award for Best Travel Book and other recognitions.
- The book was published in Sept, 2014.
|NOLS Guide to Expedition Planning||Paperback||- This National Outdoor Leadership School guide is authored by Dave Anderson and Molly Absolon.|
- In 280 pages, the book covers all aspects of planning a long-term domestic or international outdoor travel trip.
- Contains useful information on how to plan, budget, prepare and execute a perfect outdoor expedition.
- The current edition was published by Stackpole Books in 2011.
|Backpacker Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike||Paperback||- This freshly published thru-hiking guide is authored by prominent woman hiker Liz “Snorkel” Thomas.|
- The book is an excellent resource for weekend backpackers who want to graduate into long distance hiking.
- In 320 pages, the book covers all aspects of planning, budgeting and executing a successful long distance hike, and is filled with a lot of breathtaking photographs.
- The current edition was published in April, 2017.
|Trail Tested: A Thru-Hiker's Guide To Ultralight Hiking And Backpacking||Paperback||- Published by Falcon guides and authored by Justin Lichter aka Trauma, this book details out tips and tricks for long distance thru-hiking based on the experiences of one of the most accomplished thru-hiker.|
- In 260 odd pages, the book covers all aspects of backcountry hiking – gear selection, ultralight backpacking tips, winter camping, camping with dogs and much more.
- The current edition was published in May, 2013.
|How to Hike the Appalachian Trail||Paperback|
|- This recently published book is authored by Chris Cage with specific sections by famous female hiker Heather Anderson.|
- Though written primarily for AT, in 220 odd pages, the book covers all aspects of planning, budgeting and long term trekking on a trail.
- Also covers the mental aspects of long distance hiking.
- The current edition was published in Jan, 2017.
|SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere||Paperback||- Undoubtedly the most popular survival book has been considerably enhanced by author John 'Lofty' Wiseman with additional information and tips.|
- In 670 detailed pages, the book covers survival techniques for not only the wilderness but also urban and disaster situations.
- The current third edition was published in Nov, 2014.
|Advanced Bushcraft: An Expert Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival||Paperback|
|- This second part of Bushcrafting bestseller Bushcraft 101 is authored by NY Times bestselling author Dave Canterbury.|
- In 250 pages, the book goes beyond the basics of wilderness survival and covers backcountry survival with little or no equipment.
- The current edition was published in August, 2015.
|Extreme Wilderness Survival||Paperback|
|- This advanced guide on wilderness survival is authored by Craig Caudill.|
- In 190 pages, the author focuses specifically on advanced tactics and gear choices for survival with little or no equipment available.
- A suitable choice for long term off-the-grid outdoor enthusiasts.
- The current edition was published in March ,2017.
Best classic guides listSome of the most popular classics available in the market for advanced hiking, backpacking and wilderness camping are listed below:
|The Advanced Backpacker: A Handbook of Year Round, Long-Distance Hiking||Paperback|
|- This advanced version of the popular The Backpacker's Handbook is authored by renowned outdoorsman Chris Townsend.|
- In 270 odd pages, the author covers advice, tips and tricks to master long distance hiking.
- While some gear advice may be outdated, still the book has a lot of still relevant information on solo-traveling and thru-hiking.
- The current edition was published in August, 2000.
|Woodcraft and Camping||Paperback "Classic"||- First published in 1884, this classic book among the classics was authored by George Washington 'Nessmuk' Sears.|
- The current reprint of the 1920 edition celebrates the true spirit of wilderness camping and bushcrafting.
- The classic edition is filled with original drawings.
|The National Outdoor Leadership School's Wilderness Guide: The Classic Handbook||Paperback||- A revised reprint of the popular NOLS classic wilderness handbook authored by Mike Harvey.|
- Covers all advanced aspects of wilderness backpacking and thru-hiking.
- The current edition was published in 1999.
|The Complete Walker IV||Hardcover|
|- This book has been a traditional masterpiece for backpackers since 1968 – beginners and experts alike.|
- The original version was written by renowned hiker Colin Fletcher, with the latest 4th Edition co-authored by Chip Rawlins.
- In 850 odd pages, this book also includes tips on wildlife, gears etc. in addition to detailed information on hiking.
- The current edition was published in April, 2002.
|Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel||Paperback|
|- This popular book about minimalist overseas travel is authored by Rolf Potts.|
- In 240 odd pages, the book covers all aspects of international travel for trips from few weeks to a couple of years, in 11 short chapters.
- Focused mainly on young and millennial outdoorsmen.
- The current edition was published in Dec, 2002.
|Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills||Hardcover|
|- This book is the All-time bestselling book for climbing and mountaineering enthusiasts since 1960. |
- Not a true hiking guide, still this book is one that every backpacker or hiker should read.
- Contains experience and guidance from over 40 experts of mountaineering.
- Written in simple, illustrative style, this book is equally useful for beginners and experts alike.
- The current 8th edition was published in 2010.
- The 9th edition is slated to release in Oct, 2017.
How to pick the best guides for advanced hiking, backpacking and survival camping?
Picking the best guide for thru-hiking, advanced backpacking or survival camping is not a very different from picking any other book. Still, you can keep the following factors in mind while considering the best choice for you or anybody else you are buying it for:
- Theme/Type of content
- Portability of the book
- Popularity, reviews and ratings
- Publication year of the edition
Theme/Type of Content
The type of content or the theme of the book is probably the only major consideration. In our list, we considered three major themes – generic advanced skills, long distance hiking/thru-hiking and survival camping and bush crafting. Generic all-rounder books such as The Total Outdoorsman Manual and Complete Outdoors Encyclopedia cover different outdoor activities and skills – fishing, hunting, camping, survival etc. but not in extensive detail. However, their brief treatment of these subjects is a good-enough skillset for a thru-hiker or backpacker.
Long distance travel books such as Backpacker Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike focus specifically on preparing a beginner for long distance trekking across the major trails in the US. You can use these as a reference point for general preparation and supplement them with specific trail guide books such as How to Hike the Appalachian Trail. Of course, there are a lot of other resources for other popular trails such as the Pacific Crest and the Ozarks.
If you are specifically interested in advanced survival skills in the wilderness (or the urban world to prepare you for the next Zombie Invasion!) and have already mastered some of the basic survival skills then you can consider getting an advance guide such as the hugely popular SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere.
When it comes to the classics, these boundaries around the theme/type of content are not that prominent. After all, we and almost every other list, consider Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, a book written specifically for mountaineering and climbing as a must read for every outdoor hiker or backpacker.
Portability of the book
So how important is the portability of the books? The answer to this lies in your intention to carry the book around while backpacking or just read it on your couch. While most of the books we listed above worth every ounce (in fact, every milli-ounce!), you may want to get the paperback version if you intend to carry the book around with you. Library editions, hardcovers and spiral bounds are a big no. And if you are brave enough to carry your e-Reader, you would like to have books which have a Kindle version available. Some of the books we listed above do have Kindle version available.
As a side note, if you decide to carry the book on your long trip, follow all the principles of leave-no-trace. That means no torn pages, discarded book covers or bookmarks.
Popularity, Reviews and Ratings
The popularity of the author, publisher, and book is often a great indicator of how the book would turn out to be. Most of the books listed above have been written by authors and edited by publishers with considerable experience in the field of survival, camping, hiking and backpacking. We have books from publishers such as Falcon Guides and NOLS publications to name a few.
But as one size does not fit all, you should look at the reviews, especially by other experts and authors in the field. A simple search can often reveal a lot about the popularity of the book. You can also check out the Look inside feature of Amazon or excerpts from the Google books section to determine the format of the book and see if it fits your needs.
Publication year of the edition
In the case of instructional guides, the publication year of the book is generally more important than the publisher. While the underlying basics remain the same, books which are more than 6 years older are generally not very suitable considering the changes in regulations and advancements in gear technology that have happened over the past decade. The publication year of the classics is generally not a consideration, as these books are virtually timeless. Consider this – we have the Woodcraft and Camping listed as one of our favorites, though it was published over a century ago!
Which are the best books for advanced hiking, backpacking and survival camping?
In our list, we have listed ten high-quality advanced books and six classic masterpieces on thru-hiking, solo traveling, long distance backpacking and survival camping. The pick for the best book depends on a lot on your requirements and preferences as a reader. Hence we would not be picking up a specific guide which can be considered as Editor’s choice, this time around.
If you are looking for a generic all-around book that gives necessary treatment to a bunch of outdoor activities – camping, fishing, hunting and survival then, our recommendation is to get The Total Outdoorsman Manual. You would find some great information in the book, including advanced tips and tricks to employ while in the wilderness.
If you are planning to undertake a long distance hiking trip, you can consider the 2015-award winning America’s Great Hiking Trails guide or the April 2017 released Backpacker Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike. Moreover, if your interest lies in survival techniques, then lay your hand on the hugely popular SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere.
Finally, if you are looking for some all-time classics and best sellers and do not have a lot of pre-conceived choices, then Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills and The Complete Walker IV would be the best choices.
Best websites and blogs for advanced hiking, backpacking, and survival camping
In addition to the guide books listed above, there are quite a few websites that provide excellent advice, trip reports and tips and tricks for advanced outdoor activities. Some of the popular resources that we love are listed below:
- Andrew Skurka’s Blog: The best outdoor blog out there. Covers everything from instructional advice to gear reviews and new advancements. Useful to beginners and experts alike.
- Chris Townsend Outdoors: An inspirational blog filled with a lot of interesting information and advice. Supplements the hugely popular books on beginner and advanced backpacking.
- Adventure Alan: A great resource for ultralight backpacking and hiking. Filled with some excellent information on picking the right gear and expedition planning.
- The Hiking Life: An excellent resource filled with specific information about popular hikes and trails in the Americas. Filled with lot of latest trip reports and planning advice.
- Paul Kirtley’s blog: A blog filled with lot of excellent information and videos on bushcrafting and survival skills for the wilderness
Final thoughts on best books for advanced hiking, backpacking and survival camping
Continuing our tradition to share best guide books for camping, hiking, and backpacking, we looked at some of the best advanced guides for thru-hiking, long-distance backpacking and survival camping. We also shared the list of six of our favorite classics on the subject. Some of these books are available in different editions as well such as Kindle, Hardcover etc. as indicated in the list. These books also make an excellent gift for outdoor lovers.
We also listed out some of the factors that you should consider while picking the best instructional guide for yourself or somebody else you are getting it for. Finally, we shared some of our favorite online resources on the subject. You should check some of them out while planning your next wilderness exploration.
Do let us know how you found this article and if you would want us to consider anything else by providing your valuable comment below. Until next time, best wishes for your next wilderness exploration!!