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Long Distance Backpacking
After Speshul 41 took me to my first Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff, I started diving into more practical resources that’d help prepare me for the ins and outs of long-distance hiking on the (P)CT. I found these not-blog resources particularly useful. None of these folks are paying me, but note that your mileage may vary.
Backpacker Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike
“Every so often a book comes along, finds broad acceptance, and becomes the bible of a sport. This book is destined to rise to that position among long-trail hiking guides.” So say the judges of the National Outdoor Book Awards, and I wholeheartedly agree. Liz “Snorkel” Thomas, aka fellow hiker of color, aka badass Triple Crowner with 15,000+ miles under her feet, wrote a book about backpacking long distances that was so dope that said National Outdoor Book Awards gave it top honors in the “Instructional” category in 2017. It’s 300+ pages of advice, tips, and tricks from everyone from Heather “Anish” Anderson, speed record holder extraordinare, to yours truly, after finishing the Colorado Trail. If you’re just getting off the couch or looking to up your game, this is a useful book.
These guides – to the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Colorado Trail – are super, super useful for would-be thruhikers who have only a vague sense of how much planning can go into a thruhike. They contain multiple perspectives on gear choices, timing, resupply strategies, and everything in between. I couldn’t put my PCT copy down when I first got it, and I actually ended up doing a (vague) resupply plan for the Colorado Trail using Yogi’s CT guide. There are also updates for older editions every year, so you don’t have to wonder whether those phone numbers in your 2014 guide still work.
This book talks a little bit of everything: navigation, weather forecasting, fording rivers, choosing a campsite, gear selection, gear maintenance, gear repair… the list goes on. I found it to be a great introduction to backpacking by Justin “Trauma” Lichter – who has 35,000+ miles under his belt and who, alongside Sean “Pepper” Forrey, completed a winter thru-hike of the PCT in 2014-2015. I think it’s pretty safe to say that this gentleman knows what he’s talking about.
Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips
Two things about this book: first, it’s kind of hilarious, and second, if I didn’t have a certain Speshul 41 always pushing me to re-evaluate my gear and carry less, this book would’ve been that impetus for me. Clearly, I’m not what
a lot of people some people maybe anyone would necessarily call “ultralight” at a 15-ish pound baseweight, but left to my own devices, I probably would’ve carried waaaaay more stuff than I did on my Colorado Trail hike. I’m glad I didn’t, and I’m looking forward to shedding more weight as I get more money and get my pack contents down to a science.
I’m sure you fine folks know about the big and smaller box stores – Amazon, REI, Backcountry.com, Moosejaw, and suchlike – but here are some reviewers/retailers that I used while putting my kit together. None of these folks are paying me, either, but note that here, too, your mileage may vary.
Sponsor of my PCT hike, and purveyor of rad hiking and climbing equipment. I’m carrying some of their equipment, and have been really happy with my experience.
Outdoor Gear Lab
The best gear review and comparison site I’ve found, hands down. When I was looking for a coat to keep me warm, this was the site I stumbled across, and I’m glad I did. The awesome part about these folks is that they buy everything at cost, then review it – you don’t really have to worry about biases or beating around the bush when it comes to these guys. If they don’t like it, they’ll say. If they love it, they’ll say.
Ultralight Adventure Equipment
ULA is well-known and well-loved in the long-distance backpacking community, and I’m definitely a fan. My Circuit is kind of my baby – my bright blue and neon orange baby – and it’s still going strong after 3100 miles. I’m thinking about getting their Ohm 2.0 or CDT for future/shorter backpacks – assuming my base weight actually goes down and I can get my food dialed in.
Soooo this website looks kind of sketchy, but I got my Marmot Plasma for nigh-on $300 off when I shopped through these guys. They sell mostly discontinued items – so they don’t have everything or even lots of things – but what they have is sometimes heavily discounted. When I ordered from them, I thought I was getting an old model of Plasma, but I ended up with the latest, so it’s not necessarily all discontinued stuff.
While I just signed up for it, I’ve had a lot of friends get lucky on Massdrop’s Ultralight community, getting even cottage-industry gear for up to 70% off. I’m not a huge fan of the sign-in services – just another bit of spam in my inbox when I’m not looking to spend money – but the deals here might be worth it.
So clearly, anything linked here isn’t the end-all be-all in terms of articles, blogs, and suchlike you can find on the subjects of race/gender/sexuality and their relations to power/privilege, but it can be hard to find a place to start. This list is simply meant to provide a starting point curated by one brown girl with one particular perspective. I’m certainly not the end-all-be-all about any of this stuff, so if you find your interest piqued, by all means, keep surfing.
(NOTE BEFORE READING: The first rule of the internet is to never read the bottom half of the internet, also known as the comments section, particularly on articles containing any sort of opinion. The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory is about as accurate as the “theory” of gravity. I absolutely encourage you to engage with these articles in the presence of friends/loved ones/strangers in cafes [lemme know how that works out for you], but internet comments sections are wretched, echo-chamber-y hives of scum and villainy.)
5 Helpful Answers To Society’s Most Uncomfortable Questions
This is generally the article I share with people when they ask me for something approachable re: race/gender/privilege. Yeah, okay, this is a kind-of-all-over-the-place Cracked listicle, but David Wong is one of the better folks I’ve found for using broad context to get to the heart of the matter, particularly on harder topics. I also find that something serious interspersed with humor is one of the best ways to learn. Stick with this one all the way ’til the end.
Weeeell the titles got “inflammatory” real quick. This one’s still pretty amazing, though. Written in the wake of the Charleston Church Shooting, the author enumerates how hard it is to talk about race, but how important it is to do so.
7 Reasons Why Reverse Racism Doesn’t Exist
So since we’re blatantly talking about racism and racists, this article heads off cries of reverse racism by asserting that it doesn’t exist. What it elides, and what I’ll state for the record, is that people of color can absolutely be prejudiced, sure, but a majority of the time, they don’t have the power to exclude (partiuclarly) white people from… pretty much anything. Racism, as it exists in the US, is systemic, not personal, as the article suggests. There are also six other reasons the article gives, all of which are useful for structuring one’s thinking about race.
Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person
I grew up in the Midwest, where, shortly after my birth, manufacturing and other types of “honest” work jumped ship and floated off to other countries. As such, there wasn’t a ton of privilege to go around – at least, not class privilege, anyway. This article discusses – and, I believe, usefully critiques – Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by addressing the intersectionality of class and other types of privilege.
Why Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional (And 3 Ways to Practice It)
This is almost a 201 piece, but I think it dovetails nicely with the last piece, as it discusses intersectionality in detail. While it focuses on feminism in particular, I feel like it could just as easily be “Why Our Lives Must Be Intersectional”. Solid read.
There are sO MANY THINGS I WANT TO SHARE but a lot of them are 201/301 status – so maybe someday. I’ll definitely be adding to this section as time allows/as I find shiny new things to share.
Hiking while Brown, and other resources about the Outdoors+Brownness+Excellence
Hikers of Color Facebook Group
This group is a space to connect with other hikers of color, ask questions about hikes, find people to hike with, and see rad pictures of black and brown folk out on the trails. Similar to the Women of the PCT page, this space has been designated for hikers of color only. Both sites have good information with less trolling than I’ve seen on a lot of other hiking pages.
The Trail Posse
This site is great. This site is so great. It’s all about connecting people of color to the outdoors in general and National Parks in particular. I strive to be more like The Trail Posse.
A national outdoors organization dedicated to getting African American folks and families outside. I’m a little disappointed that there seems to be no way to get involved in Colorado as of yet – though there are meetup groups for several states/locations – but I’ll be keeping my eye out for ways to get involved.
Big City Mountaineers
This is an awesome non-profit organization operating out of the Front Range, the Bay Area, and Minnesota that strives to get under-resourced urban youth into the outdoors for day hikes, overnight trips, and 7-day excursions. My Colorado Trail and Pacific Crest Trail thruhikes featured a fundraiser for them, and I’m looking forward to maybe volunteering with them soon.
Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African-Americans to the Great Outdoors
This book is a good jumping-off point to many other great works that talk about why black culture as a whole doesn’t seem to be super keen on getting outside – and the ways that’s changing, and the people helping to change it. Carolyn Finney is one of my idols. Other works that are similar-but-different include Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape, and The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors. I’m always looking for book recommendations, so if you’ve got a good one hit me up.
Liz Thomas: Long Distance Adventure Hiking
Liz “Snorkel” Thomas, also mentioned above, is a generally badass hiker – in addition to that Triple Crown and those 15,000 miles, she also once held the AT’s women’s unsupported speed record. She does all sorts of awesome (thru)hikes all over, including urban thruhiking, where she walks all the different neighborhoods of various large cities. Her site also features her gear reviews, hiking film reviews, and general hiking news.