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Does Andrew Skurka ever stay still? Sure, but not to rest. When he isn’t traveling, Skurka hosts backpacking clinics, speaking in packed auditoriums and cramped church basements. He especially likes addressing Scouts and Scouters, which he did recently in Escondido, Calif. (above).


vate yourself while making dinner and setting up camp.


SCOUTING: Any suggestions on tents and shelters?


AS: The standard backpacking gear is a tent. But for many conditions, a tent is not needed. Tarps actually provide better coverage and are less expensive. They weigh less, and they’re cooler in the summer. Plus, there are fewer condensation prob- lems with a tarp. One caveat: Bugs can be a problem, especially if you’re in an area with West Nile. In those cases, use a tent or add a “bug nest” net product to your tarp setup.


SCOUTING: Let’s talk about packs. How much should a kid’s or adult’s pack weigh?


AS: For three-season conditions anywhere in the Lower 48 states, 15 pounds of equipment is a good goal. This is not counting food and water weight you’ll have. With groups you can often go less in each pack, as you can divide up the shelter and cook gear.


SCOUTING: Is ultralight gear afford- able for the average Scout?


AS: Lightweight gear can be extremely affordable. Tarps, foam pads, frame- less packs—all those items are more affordable than the heavy-gear alter-


native. You don’t need gear made of carbon fiber and titanium. That stuff is pricey. But simple gear is often inex- pensive and lightweight as well. One thing I often recommend to kids: Buy used ski poles for $10 or $15. They can stand in fine for trekking poles that would cost 10 times as much.


SCOUTING: If you could instill one thing to make backpacking easier or better for people, what would it be?


AS: Backpackers often simply take too much and there’s a lot of redun- dancy. I audited one kid on a trip, and he had five T-shirts packed along. The key thing is to think about your entire gear kit. Break it down to kitchen, sleep, clothing, and shelter components, and then eliminate any redundancies between these catego- ries. You can also use some items in two ways, like sleeping in your clothes or a jacket for added warmth, or using your trekking poles as a part of your shelter system instead of tent poles.


SCOUTING: Any final random camp or gear advice?


AS: Hand sanitizer is a great idea for groups. Make kids wash with it every time after they go to the bathroom and before meals. I am a believer that poor hygiene, not bad water or food, is how lots of kids get sick outdoors.


SCOUTING: Switching gears, can you talk about motivating young people to get outside?


AS: Kids need to see your passion for a place. If you expose kids, they will


GET INTO‘GEAR’ Wish you could hire Andrew Skurka to personally pack for your next big adven- ture? Get the next best thing with his new book, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools and Techniques to Hit the Trail (National Geographic Books, $20). Skurka, Outside magazine’s 2010


“Adventurer of the Year,” packs his com- prehensive guide with practical information about the best cloth- ing, footwear, trekking poles, backpacks, sleeping bags, knives, shelter systems, and cooking gear that will help you plan your next trip. And if you’re


gearing up on a budget, don’t miss Skurka’s money- saving tips, including


inexpensive alternatives to pricey gear. For example, he recommends buying pots made of aluminum ($15) instead of titanium ($80) and fleece jackets ($50) instead of down-insulated parkas ($200). There’s even geographic-specific packing lists for trips through the Sierra Nevadas, Minnesota’s backcountry, and— hey!—Philmont Scout Ranch. Before you pack for another trip, read this.


READ AN EXCERPT from Andrew Skurka’s book to prepare for your next adventure at scoutingmagazine. org/skurka.


 2012 ¿ SCOUTING 29


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