Book Review: The Backpacker’s Field Manual

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The Backpacker’s Field Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Mastering Backcountry Skills, by Rick Curtis, now with a revised and updated edition, is a small, handy-sized, but information-rich paperback book that is so full of useful information that it has been used as a training manual for outdoor leaders for several years. Here’s why it’s on our list of recommended backpacking books.

Written by the director of Princeton University’s very successful Outdoor Action program, this little book will astound you with the huge amount of practical advice for planning and carrying out your next backpacking trip.

Whether you are a backpacking beginner or an experienced backpacker, you will learn and benefit from this book. Don’t be fooled by the low price — reading this book is like taking a training course in how to plan and successfully lead a backpacking trip.

The 10 chapters cover the following topics:

  1. Trip Planning
  2. Equipment
  3. Cooking and Nutrition
  4. Hygiene and Water Purification
  5. Leave No Trace Hiking and Camping
  6. Wilderness Travel
  7. Weather and Nature
  8. Safety and Emergency Procedures
  9. First Aid and Emergency Care
  10. Outdoor Leadership

Why you should own The Backpacker’s Field Manual

First, Rick Curtis has invested over 30 years into leading groups of college students in adventurous outdoor programs, so his approach to the subject of planning and carrying out a safe backpacking trip comes from that perspective. This fact alone makes this book ideal for anyone planning a backpacking trip for a group, such as Boy Scout leaders.

The chapter on outdoor leadership is particularly important for a group of any size, even just a few friends planning a trip, because the principles of leadership and decision-making can make the difference between life and death in emergency situations.

Likewise, the extensive chapters on safety and first aid include practical tips for leadership and decision-making and “closing the circle” by analyzing what has happened. These are essential principles that should be clearly understood by everyone participating in a backpacking trip.

Second, the chapter on First Aid and Emergency Care (Chapter 9) is 130 pages long and covers literally everything you might encounter, from snake bites, to dehydration, to other life-threatening injuries. This chapter alone is worth more than the price of the book!

Third, every chapter contains multiple useful tips, reference charts, explanations and illustrations, plus you get an appendix full of planning forms that will insure that you don’t miss anything in your planning process.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Without any reservations, we can state enthusiastically that this book belongs on your short list of must-have backpacking books.

GREAT GIFT IDEA: This book makes a fabulous gift for Scout leaders or key Scouts in a leadership position in the troop.