Reviewing “How to Survive Your First Trip In The Wild – Backpacking for Beginners” by Paul “PMags” Magnanti. 139 pages. 200 grams. PMags is a triple-crowner, trail guide, and writes prolifically about backpacking at PMags.com. I have the written review for his book below, but PMags and I also hopped on a zoom to talk about his book, the realities of backpacking, and some encouragement for those times on trail when we want to give up. You can find that interview right here.
I started this blog as a place to help answer the recurrent questions from new AT backpackers. I see a new cohort ask the same questions every year between my shuttle and social media and I wanted to help. I’ll tell you, if every new hiker picked up this book, I’d have zero views on my New Hiker Common Sense FAQ. In under 150 pages PMags condenses his many years of backpacking experience into an easily digested guide to how to walk, talk, and pack like a backpacker. Some things only come with experience, but this book takes the headache out of making so many unnecessary early mistakes. Even better, the book is small enough that it can easily be packed into the backcountry as a reference.
I have about 2,500 miles, a handful of hiking and backpacking guides, and many hard learned lessons under my belt, so you’d think I’d have outgrown this book. Nope! PMags’ book still fills in my knowledge gaps. For example, I aim to carry about 2,500-3,000 calories a day, but my food bag is often beyond bulky. I’ve been doing it the same way for about ten years, but when I read PMags say, “…to pack 2 pounds of food per person for each day…” aiming for about “…100 calories per ounce,” a trip to my food bag showed me I’m sitting closer to 50-70 calories per ounce. I can lighten my load or get more fuel in my food bag by better minding my calorie density. I’ll say I’ve never really cared to weigh my food, but I’m testing a Six Moons Minimalist V2 (review coming soon), and the volume really matters more with this pack than my 65 liter packs.
And, you’d think a book couldn’t make me feel dumb, but later in the book PMags recommends removing inserts from shoes to help them air out better. I read that tip and felt instantly stupid. It’s so common-sense that I feel like I need to start back at mile 0. I literally put the book down to write how dumb I feel right now. Why didn’t I think of that? Well, my friends will tell you I have no common sense, but I’ll chalk it up to the author’s genius for the sake of my fragile ego.
Worried PMags won’t get to your topic of interest? Don’t! The book addresses deep breath in:
- First trip considerations
- Permitting basics
- What to do in downtime
- Trail info
- Very basic navigation skills
- Getting in shape
- Practicing your skills
- Hiking form
- Trail etiquette
- Safety and hygiene
- Navigation tools.
- Per-state trip recommendations
- Clothing – what to wear, when and how to wear it
- Sleeping bags and pads
- Hiking poles
- First aid kit
- Toiletries and crapping in the woods
- Food, what, how much
- Cookware, types and cleaning
- Storing gear
- Drinks, water, treatment, and containers
But, not much on Hammocks. You’re heart isn’t in the right place PMags. Kidding, I agree that new hikers should start with tents, so its a moot point.
This book really does touch on everything well enough to get a new backpacker started. On top of the topics I noted down, PMags breaks up the reading with “How to Survive” and “Terrain Tip” pages that go into more detail on an issue. It took me three hours to read this book; so no, it doesn’t have EVERYTHING. BUT, PMags has you covered there too, directing readers to where to find more info on a topic either in a related section or in the resources section. This is great starting place for a beginner backpacker. You already have to analyze and select one of 10,000 packs and if you get the wrong one… a rift opens to the dark world or something bad. Seriously, no more information overload.
If you made it this far, I hope you enjoyed the read. Do me a favor and click the like button below. Feel free to join in the conversations with a comment or question below as well.