I really enjoy gear. I like to spend time comparing the merits of different brands and analyzing the performance of the kit that I take out on the trail. I might be a fetishist, yet I think that many hikers would agree that having good gear can make all the difference between a miserable slog and an invigorating hike. Gear can also be the only thing that stands between an inconvenience and a disaster. As such, I am always on the lookout for good books about gear. Trail Tested was written by Justin Lichter, who probably wears out more gear in a year than most people ever own. He hikes thousands of miles a year and he knows a thing or two.
Justin is pretty much a professional hiker. He hiked the triple crown (the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and pacific Crest Trail) in 2006. Since then he’s hiked just about every major trail in the world. He gets sponsorships from outdoor apparel and gear companies and works alpine rescue in the off-season. This is a guy who pretty much lives for the trail. This lends a lot of credibility to his tales of what works and doesn’t work on the trail.
His book is laid out in three sections for roughly beginning, intermediate and advanced topics. He covers both gear and technical skills in a no-nonsense manner. I really like that he covers gear choices with a fairly open mind, discussing the various merits and weaknesses of different choices. He is concerned with weight, without being obsessed with shaving ounces. He includes a lot of anecdotes to highlight the choices he has made and how they’ve served him on the trail. Similarly, there are cautionary tales of other hiker’s poor decisions.
The book as a whole is laid out a bit like a magazine with flashy color and gorgeous two-page photo spreads. There are even a few ads in the back of the book. Though Justin cautions about the usefulness of magazine reviews, which are beholden to advertisers and tend to only recommend the newest gear, he does make some nods to the brands that have sponsored him over the years. So, as with most guides, I’ll be taking his gear recommendations with a grain of salt. Luckily he tends to show his reasoning, which allows the reader to make informed decisions for themselves and develop a hiking style that works for them.
I definitely recommend this book for just about any hiker or backpacker. Even a seasoned hiker is going to come away with some great tips and ideas, excited to get back out into the wild. Trust me on this one, you won’t regret it!