Best Books About Backpacking – Your Ultimate Guide to Trail Literature

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If you’re looking to conquer the Grand Canyon or plan a trek through South America, a well-chosen book can be your guide to the galaxy of trails. Our picks for the best books on backpacking offer tales of adventure, practical advice, and a deep dive into the ethos of the trail. Whether you dream of scaling Mount Everest or simply yearn to hit the local trails with confidence, these reads will equip and inspire you.

These curated selections will not only prepare you for the physical challenges of backpacking but also immerse you in the transformative experiences that come with stepping out of your comfort zone. Each book is a companion that encourages exploration, teaches survival skills, and sparks a deep appreciation for the natural world, ensuring you’re well-read before you lace up your boots. Discover all about the best books about backpacking by reading till the end.

Trail Classics – Must-Read Backpacking Books

For those who pack their life in a bag and embrace the beauty of the outdoors, the following trail classics are as essential as a lightweight backpacking tent. These books on hiking serve not just as a hiking guidebook but as a source of inspiration and knowledge that transcends the pages. They are the companions that whisper in your ear, urging you to keep going when the trail gets tough.

From timeless tales that echo the call of the wild to comprehensive guides on navigating the backcountry, these must-reads belong on every hiker’s bookshelf. They don’t just tell you where to go; they challenge your spirit, expand your horizons, and deepen your connection with the great outdoors. Let’s embark on a literary hike through the classics that have blazed a trail in backpacking literature.

1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed – A Journey of Self-Discovery

Score 8.8 OUT OF 10
Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Among the best hiking books, “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed stands out as a modern classic that captures the essence of transformation through trekking. Strayed’s journey is one of shedding worldly possessions and confronting the inner wildness that parallels the ruggedness of the Pacific Crest Trail. Her memoir is a raw, honest, and captivating account that speaks to the wanderer in all of us.

This isn’t just a tale of physical endurance; it’s a narrative that weaves the threads of grief, healing, and empowerment into a backpacker’s odyssey. Strayed’s story inspires you to look beyond the map and compass, to find the trail that leads not just through the wilderness but also to the core of your being. It’s a reminder that sometimes, carrying the lightest load means letting go of the heaviest burdens.

2. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer – The Call of the Wilderness

Score 8.8 OUT OF 10
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

“Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer is often cited as one of the best hiking books, a poignant exploration into the life and journey of Christopher McCandless. Krakauer delves into the enigmatic pull of the wild that drove McCandless to abandon his worldly possessions and venture into the Alaskan wilderness. It’s a story that resonates with the adventurer who seeks to test the limits of self-sufficiency and solitude.

The narrative is a powerful meditation on the allure of the untamed and the intrinsic desire to connect with nature on a primal level. Krakauer’s investigative storytelling grips you from the start, compelling you to ponder the fine line between the quest for freedom and the ultimate cost of wandering too far from the trail.

3. A Walk in the Woods – Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Score 9.2 OUT OF 10
A Walk in the Woods

Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods” is an entertaining and insightful romp along the Appalachian Trail, filled with the humor and observations only Bryson can provide. As much a travelogue as it is a commentary on the American wilderness, this book captures the camaraderie and challenges of the trail. It’s a must-read for anyone contemplating a journey along this iconic pathway.

Through witty anecdotes and historical digressions, Bryson invites you into the heart of the Appalachian Trail’s majestic landscapes and the quirky communities that dot its course. His journey is one of rediscovery, not only of the land but of the joys and absurdities of undertaking an epic hike in middle age. It’s a tale that assures you that the trail, much like life, is as much about the journey as the destination.

4. On Trails: An Exploration – Understanding Our Pathways

Score 8.6 OUT OF 10
On Trails: An Exploration

Robert Moor’s “On Trails: An Exploration” is a thoughtful addition to any hiker’s bookshelf, offering a philosophical and scientific journey through the concept of trails. Moor examines the natural world’s networks, from ant trails to hiking paths, pondering their significance in our lives. His narrative stretches across time, exploring how paths connect us not only to nature but to our ancestors and ourselves.

As Moor traverses various landscapes, he weaves together natural history, biology, and personal experience to create a tapestry that illustrates the importance of trails. This book encourages you to consider the paths you choose in life and on your hikes, inviting a deeper appreciation for the trails that have been carved by countless feet before yours.

5. The Backpacker’s Field Manual by Rick Curtis – A Comprehensive Guide

Score 9.4 OUT OF 10
The Backpacker’s Field Manual by Rick Curtis


Rick Curtis’s “The Backpacker’s Field Manual” is a backpacking guide that serves as an indispensable resource for both novice and seasoned adventurers. This comprehensive guide covers the nuts and bolts of backpacking, from trip planning and packing to navigating and campsite selection. Curtis provides practical advice that’s grounded in years of experience, ensuring you’re well-prepared for whatever the trail may bring.

The manual is designed to be as useful in the backcountry as it is in pre-trip planning sessions. The detailed information on food, gear, and safety equips you with the know-how to tackle the wilderness with confidence. Consider this book the Swiss Army knife of backpacking literature – versatile, reliable, and essential for any backpacker’s pack.

Essential Guides for the Practical Backpacker

While the spirit of adventure may guide you, it’s the practical knowledge that sustains you in the wild. Among the essentials, medicine for the outdoors is a critical aspect often overlooked. A good guide can be the difference between a minor hiccup and a major ordeal. It arms you with the wisdom to prevent, recognize, and treat ailments that could arise miles from civilization.

6. Wilderness Navigation – Mastering Map and Compass

Score 9.4 OUT OF 10
Wilderness Navigation

Navigating through the backcountry of the United States, like the majestic Yosemite National Park, requires more than just a good sense of direction. “Wilderness Navigation” is considered one of the best hiking books for mastering the art of map and compass. This guide takes you beyond the basics, equipping you with the skills to read the land and chart a course through the most remote terrains.

Whether you’re a day hiker or a long-distance backpacker, the techniques and tips provided are invaluable for staying on track. The book goes beyond mere instruction; it instills a sense of confidence and respect for the land that will serve you well on any trail. With this knowledge, the wilderness becomes less daunting and more of an inviting challenge to be navigated and enjoyed.

7. The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide – Equipment Essentials

Score 9.2 OUT OF 10
The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide

Preparing for the trail means kitting out with the right gear, and “The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide” is your comprehensive source for outfitting yourself for the outdoors. This book, widely regarded as one of the best hiking books for gear advice, details everything from choosing the right backpack to selecting the best sleeping system for your adventures.

The guide not only offers product recommendations but also delves into the philosophy of packing light and smart. By understanding the function and necessity of each piece of equipment, you’re empowered to make informed decisions that enhance your hiking experience. It’s all about balancing comfort, weight, and reliability to ensure that your gear complements your journey rather than complicates it.

8. Medicine for the Outdoors – Your First Aid Companion

Score 9.8 OUT OF 10
Medicine for the Outdoors

When it comes to backpacking, being prepared for medical emergencies is as essential as a sturdy pair of boots. “Medicine for the Outdoors” is the quintessential guide that stands as your first-aid companion in the wilderness. It covers a wide range of topics from minor injuries to life-threatening situations, providing practical advice for treatment and prevention.

This book is a vital resource for anyone venturing into the backcountry, offering clear, easy-to-follow instructions that could make all the difference in a pinch. It encourages a proactive approach to health and safety outdoors, ensuring that you’re equipped with the knowledge to handle whatever the trail might throw at you. With this guide in hand, you can step into the wild with the assurance that you’re ready to care for yourself and your hiking companions.

9. How to Suffer Outside – A Beginner’s Guide to the Great Outdoors

Score 9.6 OUT OF 10
How to Suffer Outside

Embarking on an outdoor adventure can be intimidating, especially if you’re not familiar with the struggles that nature can present. “How to Suffer Outside: A Beginner’s Guide to the Great Outdoors” is one of the best hiking books for those who want to face the wilderness with a dose of reality and humor. It equips you with the knowledge to tackle unexpected challenges while preserving your sense of humor.

This book doesn’t sugarcoat the outdoor experience; it prepares you for the gritty reality of backpacking. From braving inclement weather to dealing with pesky insects, the guide offers practical advice for thriving in the great outdoors. It’s a must-read for anyone looking to step outside their comfort zone and embrace the wild with open arms and a prepared mind.

Inspirational Tales from the Trail

Inspirational stories of strenuous hiking and true story adventures fill the pages of trail literature, encouraging you to lace up your boots and follow in the footsteps of those who have traversed wild landscapes before you. These tales not only motivate but also provide valuable insights into the transformative power of pushing past your limits in the wilderness.

10. Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart – An Adventure of Perseverance

Score 9.0 OUT OF 10
Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart

“Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart: An Adventure of Perseverance” is a captivating narrative that takes you along the Pacific Crest Trail, a journey that challenges both the body and spirit. The author’s raw and honest recount of her thru-hike invites you into a world of intense physical demand and emotional upheaval. This book is an essential read for anyone considering the PCT, offering a glimpse into the highs and lows of long-distance hiking.

As you turn the pages, you’re not just reading about the trail; you’re living through the author’s struggles and victories. The Pacific Crest Trail serves as the backdrop for a deeper exploration of what it means to persevere when every step forward is a battle. It’s a testament to the human spirit’s resilience and a beacon for those who dream of undertaking their own epic trek.

11. Tracks – A Woman’s Solo Trek Across the Outback

Score 8.6 OUT OF 10
Tracks - A Woman's Solo Trek Across the Outback

“Tracks” is a remarkable story of a woman’s solo journey across the Australian Outback, a testament to the human desire for adventure and self-discovery. The author’s courageous escapade across the vast, unforgiving desert landscape challenges the conventions of what a solo female traveler can accomplish. This book stands out among backpacking books for its gripping narrative and vivid portrayal of the stark beauty and solitude of the Outback.

The journey is not just a physical one, but also an internal quest, as the author confronts her fears and learns to trust her instincts. “Tracks” is an inspiration for anyone who has ever yearned to explore the wild, offering insights into the transformative power of solitude and the raw beauty of nature.

12. Desert Solitaire – A Season in the Wilderness

Score 9.0 OUT OF 10
Desert Solitaire

“Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness” is an undeniably classic addition to the library of backpacking books. The author’s profound connection with the desert comes alive through his poetic musings and philosophical reflections on the natural world. His experiences as a park ranger in the American Southwest are more than just observations; they are an intimate dialogue with the land.

This book invites you to slow down and contemplate the beauty and brutality of the wilderness. Its pages encourage a deeper appreciation for the environment and a call to preserve the wild places that still remain. “Desert Solitaire” is a must-read for anyone who cherishes the untamed parts of our world and seeks to understand their place within it.

13. Neon Pilgrim – A Spiritual Journey on Foot

Score 8.8 OUT OF 10
Neon Pilgrim

“Neon Pilgrim” is among the best hiking books, taking you on a spiritual and physical journey along an ancient pilgrimage route in Japan. The author’s account of tackling the demanding trail while grappling with life’s complexities provides a raw and inspiring narrative. This book is a beacon for those seeking clarity and transformation through the act of walking.

As the author makes her way through temples and over mountains, her story transcends the physical act of hiking. It becomes a meditation on perseverance, self-acceptance, and the discovery of inner peace. “Neon Pilgrim” is an invitation to embark on your own journey of self-discovery, one step at a time.

Niche Reads for the Avid Explorer

For those who are deeply passionate about hiking and backpacking, niche reads provide a treasure trove of specialized knowledge. From mastering “Medicine for the Outdoors” to diving into the “Backpacker’s Field Manual,” the best books in this category cater to every explorer’s needs. Whether you’re preparing for an excursion in the national parks or looking to understand the effects of thin air at high altitudes, these guides are indispensable companions.

“The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide” is another essential read, offering detailed insights into selecting the best equipment for your adventures. These books are crafted to elevate your experience in the wilderness, ensuring you are well-equipped with the knowledge and skills to navigate the unpredictable terrain of the great outdoors.

14. Walks in the Wild – A Guide Through the Forest

Score 9.2 OUT OF 10
Walks in the Wild

Considered one of the best hiking books by Book Riot, “Walks in the Wild” is a guide that takes you beyond the beaten path and into the heart of the forest’s secrets. It’s a book that not only provides practical advice for navigating the woodland but also shares the lesser-known wonders and natural phenomena that can be discovered within its depths.

With each page, you’ll learn about the intricacies of the forest ecosystem and how to immerse yourself fully in its serene beauty. Whether a seasoned hiker or a curious novice, this book offers a wealth of knowledge to enhance your understanding and appreciation of the wild.

15. She Explores by Gale Straub – Stories of Women in the Wild

Score 9.4 OUT OF 10
She Explores by Gale Straub

“She Explores” is a beautifully written addition to the best hiking books, featuring the stories of women who have found empowerment and self-discovery on hiking trails around the world. The author, Gale Straub, captures the essence of adventure and the unique perspectives of women who venture into the wild. This book is a celebration of the strength and spirit of female explorers, inspired by authors like Cheryl Strayed.

Each narrative delves into the personal journeys of these women, showcasing the transformative power of the outdoors. “She Explores” is more than just a collection of travel tales; it’s an anthology of inspiration, courage, and the unbreakable bond between women and the natural world.

16. Campground Hound – The Camper’s Companion

Score 9.2 OUT OF 10
Campground Hound - The Camper's Companion

For those who find their solace in camping under the stars, “Campground Hound” is the ultimate companion. This guide is brimming with tips and tricks for campers of all levels, from selecting the perfect campsite to mastering campfire cuisine. It’s a comprehensive resource designed to make your camping experiences as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.

Whether you’re a first-time camper or a seasoned outdoor enthusiast, this book ensures you’re well-prepared for your next wilderness getaway. With “Campground Hound,” you’ll have all the knowledge at your fingertips to create lasting memories in the great outdoors.

Selecting Your Next Read – Tailoring to Your Trail Taste

With a plethora of books at your fingertips, selecting the best books about hiking and backpacking can feel as challenging as ascending a peak in thin air. To ensure your choice aligns with your interests, consider whether you’re seeking practical advice, like that found in the “Backpacker’s Field Manual” and “The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide,” or if your curiosity lies in the delicate art of “Medicine for the Outdoors.” Those drawn to the narratives of natural wonders may find solace in memoirs set in national parks or untamed wilderness.

Contemplate the type of experience you’re after; do you yearn for the thrill of adventure, the acquisition of knowledge, or a combination of both? Your preferences will guide you—whether it’s the technical know-how for your next excursion or the inspiration to dream up one. Reflect on the trails you wish to explore, and you’ll find your next epic read to accompany you on the journey.


1. What are some essential backpacking books for beginners?

For beginners, the best books include “The Backpacker’s Field Manual” for comprehensive guidance, “Wilderness Navigation” to master map and compass skills, and “How to Suffer Outside” for a humorous take on overcoming outdoor challenges. These provide a solid foundation for anyone starting their backpacking journey.

2. Can reading about backpacking improve my on-trail skills?

Absolutely! Books like “The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide” offer practical advice on equipment essentials, while “Medicine for the Outdoors” prepares you for handling medical situations. Reading can significantly enhance your knowledge and confidence on the trails.

3. Are there any books that focus on backpacking in national parks?

Yes, there are numerous guides and narratives centered on national parks. These range from detailed trail guides to personal memoirs that reflect the transformative experiences within these protected landscapes.

4. What’s a good backpacking book for understanding trail history and culture?

“On Trails: An Exploration” delves into the historical and philosophical aspects of trails. It’s an excellent read for those interested in the cultural significance of hiking and backpacking paths through the ages.

5. How can I choose a backpacking book that’s right for me?

Consider what aspect of backpacking most interests you: the challenge, the scenery, or the solitude. Select books that align with your interests, whether it’s guides for practical skills or memoirs that stir the soul. Reviews and recommendations from fellow backpackers can also guide your choice.

Concluding the Best Books About Backpacking

As you close the cover on this guide, remember that the best books about backpacking are those that resonate with your spirit of adventure and thirst for knowledge. Whether it’s a stirring account of a solitary trek on the Camino de Santiago or a comprehensive guide to surviving the elements, each epic book is a stepping stone to greater explorations—both on the page and on the path.

As you lace up your boots and prepare to explore the trails, remember that the best books are the ones that resonate with your spirit and inspire your steps. Whether it’s a guidebook that becomes as essential as your map or a book that mirrors the grandeur of your aspirations, each volume carries a piece of the trail you seek.

And when the last page turns and the final word fades, the stories and lessons from these pages will continue to echo in your heart, like the distant call of the wild or the soft rustle of leaves underfoot. May your backpacking journey be as rich and rewarding as the tales that trailblaze the path ahead.

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