Book Review: “A Backpacker’s Guide to Making Every Ounce Count” by Steven Lowe (2015)

Lately my wife and I have been getting into The Discovery Channel‘s series, Naked and Afraid, and think of ourselves as potential experts. Now I haven’t gone camping in eleven years, and I don’t think my wife has ever been (I think that’s a PSR of zero-ish), but I’ve got plans for “someday,” so entertainment like this feels more like research than anything. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. So when I consider these two extremes—the psychotic circumstances of Naked and Afraid and my own mostly-sedentary lifestyle—I find that the happy medium between them is a well-planned backpacking trip, with the possibility of getting lost somewhere off the trail. For that reason, I really enjoyed the basic introduction to backpack-packing and “Gram Weenieism” of Steven Lowe’s A Backpacker’s Guide to Making Every Ounce Count.

This short volume is filled with tips and tricks for shaving off grams and ounces and pounds from your pack in order to make your trek a bit lighter a lot more efficient. Lowe shares such common survival ideas as The Rule of Three:

The average person, in average situations, can survive about this long:
• Three minutes without air
• Three hours unprotected from harsh elements
• Three days without water
• Three weeks without food (6)

and The Rule of the Five Cs for what every backpacker should have in his pack:

• Cover
• Container for water
• Cutting tool
• Cordage
• Combustion device (8)

He makes such practical recommendations as trimming gear weight immediately after every hike, finding as many multi-use items in your gear as possible, and figuring out how best and most cheaply to DIY the items in your bag. He also gives a handful of trustworthy products and websites that he has found indispensable during his own hikes and that a newbie might want to consider.

As great as the information in this book was, there were times that I thought it were nothing more than a series of blog posts strung together with anecdotes and illustrations in order to fill the pages. It was entertaining, yet I felt like the whole thing could have been edited down to a squat 50 pages or so. But the guy’s got to make a living, and 100 pages just feels a lot better than 50. I get it.

If you’re a seasoned backpacker, then this book might not offer anything new for you. If you’re either a newbie or a “someday” type of backpacker like me, though, I’m sure there’s plenty from this book that you could learn. I recommend it.

©2016 E.T.

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