8 Guidebooks for the Outdoor Jack-of-all-Trades

You can’t learn every­thing on the inter­net. And even if you could, you wouldn’t want to: that would mean you’re spend­ing your time sit­ting in front of a com­put­er. For learn­ing stuff for the out­doors, the best plan is instruc­tion. But after that it’s a good book. Here are some that will build your out­door skills.

outdoor books

book mtnMoun­taineer­ing: Free­dom of the Hills by the Mountaineers
The clas­sic and fre­quent­ly-updat­ed bible to safe­ty in the out of doors, this guide cov­ers the gamut of ice, rock, and mixed tech­niques, with equal­ly valu­able chap­ters on safe­ty, lead­er­ship, and leave no trace tech­niques. First pub­lished in 1960, it’s kept pace with chang­ing tech­niques, and in is in it’s eight edi­tion, each of which has added sig­nif­i­cant­ly to the length. There’s a rea­son why most climbers have a copy on their bookshelf—or, more com­mon­ly, in their rig somewhere.

book nolsThe Nation­al Out­door Lead­er­ship School’s Wilder­ness Guide by Mark Harvey
There’s no bet­ter place to learn all-around wilder­ness skills than NOLS, often called “The Har­vard of the Out­doors.” This tight­ly-writ­ten all-in one guide cov­ers every­thing from cross coun­try trav­el in deserts to leave no trace tech­niques to wilder­ness safe­ty and group leadership.


book kayakFun­da­men­tals of Kayak Nav­i­ga­tion by David Burch
Nav­i­gat­ing a sea kayak through a maze of sim­i­lar-island, with changes in tide, wind, cur­rent and fog can be a com­plex and nerve-wrack­ing process. Burch’s com­pre­hen­sive guide cov­ers every­thing from how to read charts to how to plan around cur­rents in tidal rapids and fash­ion func­tion­al nav­i­ga­tion­al instru­ments out of sim­ple tools that can be used, bat­tery-free, on the deck of a kayak bob­bing in steep swell. The writ­ing might not be the most fast-paced, but the infor­ma­tion is sol­id gold.

book photoPho­tograph­ing the World Around You by Free­man Patterson
Most pho­tog­ra­phy guides tell you what the dials and but­tons do. Free­man Pat­ter­son instead tells you what to do when you’re look­ing through the viewfind­er at an inter­est­ing sub­ject: how to make it come alive, dis­till the essence of an inter­est­ing per­son, or even make fas­ci­nat­ing images of rou­tine house­hold objects. You’ll fig­ure out what the but­tons do quick­ly any­way: Patterson’s guide will help spark your creativity.

book bearBear Attacks: Their Caus­es and Avoid­ance by Stephen Herrero
Any vis­i­tor to Alas­ka, Yel­low­stone or Glac­i­er will have to think about griz­zlies. And most of the bear books that line out­door shelves and Alaskan tourist stops are meant to scare you, not to help you camp at piece with bears that real­ly just want to do their own ting. Her­rero, a wildlife biol­o­gist, takes a dif­fer­ent tack, help­ing read­ers under­stand what goes on in bear’s heads. You’ll sleep better.

book canoePad­dle Your Own Canoe by Gary and Joanie McGuffin
Nobody loves the canoe like folks from the Cana­di­an north woods, and the McGuffins have mas­tered it. Pad­dle Your Own Canoe breaks down the black art of fan­cy canoe han­dling like no oth­er, com­plete with detailed expla­na­tions and over 600 gor­geous images. And you won’t just know how to do the per­fect Canadian‑J or cross-for­ward: you’ll by ready to load of up the gear and head for the near­est lake or riv­er for a few weeks.

book forkA Fork in the Trail by Lau­rie Ann Marsh
All this talk of climb­ing, hik­ing, pad­dling, and pho­tog­ra­phy prob­a­bly has you hun­gry. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, back­coun­try food advice falls into two traps: one that involves such elab­o­rate meals that they require you to catch fish or stay in camp all day to pre­pare, or that sim­ply devolve into freeze-dried mush that’s eas­i­er to process than it is to enjoy. March hits the sweet spot of a mid­dle ground: meals that can be pre­pared at home and dehy­drat­ed, that involve some cook­ery but not hours of work, and that also taste darn good.

book conditionCon­di­tion­ing for Out­door Fit­ness by David Mus­nick, M.D., and Mark Pierce, A.T.C.
Of course, moun­taineer­ing, sea kayak­ing, canoe­ing, and climb­ing require fit­ness. This is a great guide, com­plete with train­ing reg­i­mens, for both novices and seri­ous ath­letes whose bod­ies have adapt­ed to the demands of a par­tic­u­lar sport. More than just strength and endurance, they’ll have you work­ing on key func­tion­al train­ing, bal­ance, and sport-spe­cif­ic exer­cis­es to get you ready for the com­ing sea­son, what­ev­er sea­son it is.

book seaWeath­er At Sea by David Houghton and Fred Sanders
Weath­er is some­thing that hap­pens to us…and when the “us” are sea kayak­ers and sailors, the con­se­quences can be sig­nif­i­cant. Writ­ten by a salty Brit and a Mar­ble­head­er with years of expe­ri­ence on the sea and as mete­o­rol­o­gists, it’s by far the best con­cise guide to how to pre­dict weath­er when you’re depen­dent on it go get where you’re going.

Of course, books are only part of the way we learn. Friends, instruc­tors, men­tors, coach­es, and seri­ous exper­tise is need­ed to ful­ly thrive in the out­doors. But as Grou­cho Marx said, “Out­side of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. And inside a dog, its too dark to read.”