Hike Like A Pro: Avoid Hiking Woes With Tips From Andrew Skurka

Andrew Skurka is an expert in long-distance and fast paced hiking. He shared some of his best tips from his new book "The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide".
Andrew Skurka is an expert in long-distance and fast-paced hiking. After years of learning on his own, he shares some of his best tips in his new book “The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide“.

The sweltering summer is loosening its grip and pretty soon we’ll be welcoming fall’s foliage. It’s an ideal time to take a hike, but whether you’re a hiking aficionado that ventures out for long distances, or a novice that wants to take a day trip, it’s important to prepare. National Geographic Weekend spoke with hiking guru Andrew Skurka to bring you advice from his new book “The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide”.

There’s a lot to think about before you hit the trail: what to put in your pack, how to avoid getting eaten by bears, etc. With more than 30,000 miles of long distance adventures under his boots, Andrew knows a thing or two about hiking necessities. And don’t worry – we’ll come back to the bear thing.

1. H2O

There is such a thing as drinking too much water.

“You kind of end up feeling kind of drunk off of the water, which is a weird feeling. You’ll notice it right away and that can also lead to a dangerous situation. It gets worse and worse,” Andrew said.

He advises you drink about four to six liters each day. There are also some great water purifiers to lighten your load. Andrew recommends using ultraviolet light pens, Aquamira drops, or the Sawyer Squeeze Filter System.

(Hiker Hint #1: Don’t get your water downstream of a treatment facility or where people might be doing a numero dos nearby.)

Listen to Andrew’s hydration tips: Listen here.

2. Feet

Your feet are your main tool on a hike so it’s important to keep them blister-free for a comfortable adventure.

As Andrew puts it, “It is definitely tough to enjoy a trip when your paws are in the hurts shop.”

The best way to treat blisters – prevent them. Wear socks that won’t cause irritation. Socks are like the boxers or briefs scenario. Some like thin ones. Some like thick ones. Andrew prefers lightweight merino wool socks, but says whatever you choose, test them out beforehand. If you do feel a blister coming on, stop to treat it before it slows down the trip.

(Hiker Hint #2: Duct tape your heels before hiking)

Hear Boyd share his stinky story and the rest of Andrew’s foot care advice here: Listen here.

3. Navigating

“Personally, I’m still old-school when it comes to navigation. I rely on paper maps and a magnetic compass and I find that that is the most reliable and lightest weight system that’s available out there, ” Andrew said.

So, if you were thinking of just using breadcrumbs, you might be experiencing Hiker Intimidation Disorder* right about now.

Just remember these four steps: 1) Be equipped with the right tools, such as a topographic map, compass, etc. 2) Know how to use those tools 3) Be aware of your surroundings 4) Experience. Familiarity with the area helps.

(Hiker Hint #3: Beware of bears. Find out ahead of time if there are bears. If so, take precautions.)

So, while we all might not be able to hike a mega Alaska-Yukon expedition, Andrew’s tips are good for any voyage, big or small.

Listen to our third segment with Andrew here: Listen here.

*Disclaimer: not a real thing


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Meet the Author
Gina Cook is an intern for the weekly radio program National Geographic Weekend. She is a graduate student studying multimedia journalism at the University of Missouri.