You can smell it in the air and feel it on your skin: summer is almost here. Exploring the outside, appreciating plants and flowers in full bloom, longer hours of sunshine and warmer weather are modus operandi for most at this time of year. Maybe you have low-key plans to relax on the beach, camp with your family or relax in your own backyard. Or maybe you have bigger adventures in the forest list on the horizon like hiking, long distance running or planned encounters with wildlife in distant landscapes.
Here are the best books that not only inspire and entertain you, but also teach you about the art of suffering and how you can push yourself to achieve your goals. Adventurers who love the outdoors will find these books worthwhile, either as a look into a world very different from your own, or as a travel card you would like to try. From climbing the world’s highest mountains in the winter to spending time with bears in Alaska to backpacking Pacific Crest Trail to walk and walk as an elixir of peace and healing, these books are all interesting readings.
The art of suffering
Readers new to the backpacking world will find much to learn from Diana Helmuths How to suffer outside: A beginner’s guide to hiking and backpacking (2021, 224 pages). This guide, written by an everyday outdoor woman, will guide you through the basics: equipment, clothing, shelter, shoes, food, water, navigation, hygiene and keep you cool when things go wrong. Fun illustrations by Latasha Dunston, helpful backpacking know-how and supply lists educate readers and hopefully inspire neophytes to cast caution against the wind and embark on their first major backcountry adventure. Do you have questions about using a pee cloth? Do you know the difference between a personal locator and a satellite messenger? What about medicine wilderness kits? Do you need a bear container? All these questions and more will be answered in this practical guide.
Learning to cope
An important reading, Walking for peace: Veterans heal on America’s trails by Cindy Ross (2021, 208 pages) is about the restorative benefits earned with time spent in nature. Whether you’re trying to navigate the world of PTSD or daily stressors, this book gives readers an insight into the world of “ecotherapy”. Learn about how the trail provides, reveals and heals through the personal stories of veterans who have found healing solutions through the outdoors. Access programs and resources that help veterans like: Higher ground, National Outdoor Leadership School, Operation Purple Healing Adventures, Outwardly bound, Sierra Club Military Outdoors, Veteran expeditions, War expeditionsand Wounded warrior project.
Sitting around the campfire
Ilyssa Kyu and Dave Kyu’s Campfire Stories: Calls to ignite stories by the fire (2021) is the perfect addition to any family’s overnight camping trip. This collection of 50 cards gets even the quiet member of your group to chat. The authors encourage storytellers to get in touch with family and friends by constructing a good story, one that is genuine and told with an engaging pace and rhythm. Items around the campsite (sticks, rocks, plants, etc.) can also be used as props. Each card has a story starter that begins with the words “Tell a story about …”, followed by a unique prompt. “Tell a story about an unexpected animal encounter.” “Tell a story about a time when you got lost or stranded.” “Tell a story about a time when you pushed yourself further than you thought you could go.” Everyone around the fireplace will love hearing these homemade tales.
Dreaming of Alaska
Alaska is one of the most alluring states in our nation for its pristine wilderness, wildlife, history and culture. If you want a practical guide to help you navigate your travel planning, one that includes suggested itineraries and activities by season, look no further than Fran Golden and Midgi Moores 100 things to do in Alaska before you die (2021, 192 pages).
For an in-depth insight into the lives of Alaska’s brown bears, read Bjørn Dihles A form in the dark: To live and die with brown bears (2021, 208 pages). The book is written by a professional wilderness guide and dives into environmental stressors that threaten the bears’ lives and violate the wild places that the author and fearless travelers love. These thought-provoking essays give readers an awareness of what it can be like to grow up with easy access to remote landscapes, to hunt and explore the land where brown bears roam.
Make it hard
Putting yourself out there, seeing what you are capable of and testing the limits of your body, your determination and your gravel teaches us that we can actually do tough things. Heather “Anish” Anderson has written another book on backpacking, called Mud, Rocks Blazes: Unleash the Appalachian Trail (2021, 240 pages). Anderson set the fastest known time record for her self-sustained hike on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013, and she pushed herself back into the game for her attempt to break another record on the Appalachian Trail. This book takes you through her emotional roller coaster of confidence, despair, and willpower as she embarks on foot for a solo adventure on the 2,180-mile trail. She learns to love herself along the way, while appreciating those who helped her achieve her goals, and she is one that you will root for as you read the book from the front and back.
You may not ever be the kind of person who hikes high peaks in the winter and puts your life in danger, but you may be the kind of person who likes to read about it from your own tent. Bernadette McDonald’s Winter 8000: Climbing the world’s highest mountains in the coldest season (2020, 272 pages) takes you on a global adventure with chronic winter ascent of the fourteen highest peaks on the planet. Learn the stories of what motivates and pushes high alpine climbers to summits in the cold temps struggling with wind, less oxygen, mishaps and insecurity. How do these explorers justify the astonishing risks? How do they ward off boredom and loneliness? What do their families think when they have to say goodbye? You will find some answers in these accounts, but many questions will linger in the ether. And if you find yourself breathing deeply and looking up to assess your surroundings while reading this book, you are not alone.
Bucket List Adventure
People have a great need to connect with others, create communities and feel included. The backpacking community is one of the most inclusive groups out there that welcomes people from all walks of life into the fold. In Barney Scout Mann’s book, Journeys North: The Pacific Crest Trail (2020, 320 pages), Readers learn the story of several hikers as they travel from Mexico to Canada on one of the most beloved through hikes in America. Barney is a hiker and a trail angel who has nurtured relationships outdoors. If you’ve ever dreamed of wandering long distances through various ecosystems along with a cast of unique characters where humanity is on full screen, then this is the book to open.