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Environment



Out Alive: Struck by Lightning

A heart-stopping bolt hits one hiker and levels a group of his friends who then fight to resuscitate him.

Out Alive: Caught by a Strainer

A kayaker struggles to stay afloat when a tangle of trees pins her boat.

2013 Reader Photo Contest - Your Best Shots

For 40 years, BACKPACKER readers have explored the wilderness and returned with photographic gold. But we were wowed by the entries for this contest—more than 650 of them. Check out these finalists (and this year's winner), then go to backpacker.com/photos to submit your own images. We’ll showcase the best entries in upcoming issues.

Master Class: Read the Wilderness

Use nature's signs to orient yourself, pick your path through varied terrain, and predict the weather.

Out Alive: Chased by Widowmakers

A violent storm ravages a stressed forest, threatening to crush two dayhikers.

Weather Anecdotes: Explained

Mnemonics make it easy to remember weather sayings and make weather predictions, but is there any truth behind the prediction rhymes?

Out Alive: Trapped by Rising Water

Five hikers fight a raging river before attempting a dangerous bushwhack to safety.

Survival: Lightning Myths: Busted

Knowing fact from fiction can help you avoid—and survive—a 54,000℉ strike.

Escape Plan: Cross Summer Snow

How to safely traverse a small, seasonal snowfield.

Select a Safe Route: Study the Snowpack

Hidden layers are the key to stable—or slide-ready—slopes.

Survival: Unsafe Snow Conditions

Hard-won-lessons and tips about unsafe snow from the front lines of survival.

How to Use Online Weather Resources

Conditions mean everything when planning your weekend adventure. Check out our Rocky Mountain Editor's favorite weather sites.

Gear Review: Sky Tonight Star Charts

Chart your campsite's night sky with customizable maps.

The Birth of the Rockies

A new theory might solve the mystery of how these mountains formed.

How-To Slideshow: Install Leave No Trace Trekking Pole Tips

In this step-by-step guide, we'll show you exactly how to put rubber tips on your trekking poles.

Don't Get Burned: FDA Updates Sunscreen Regulation

Misleading sunscreen claims today could be causing tomorrow's skin cancer.

Skiing's Latest Eco-friendly Gear

The ski industry has gone green, from goggles to boots.

Super Scooper: GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel

This trowel is made from pounds of abandoned polycarbonate water bottles and accessories.

Stay Comfortable in Any Weather: Cold

Staying warm is easier than getting warm: Plan ahead.

Stay Comfortable in Any Weather: Heat

Think like a desert dweller to stay cool and comfortable.

Stay Comfortable in Any Weather: Rain

In the wettest conditions, learn to create and maintain a personal bubble of dry space.

Stay Comfortable in Any Weather: Wind

Read the terrain and use anchors to stay grounded.

Stay Comfortable in Any Weather

Sunny and 70 is nice, but makes for a mighty short hiking season. Hit the trail all year long by learning how to thrive–not just survive–in wet, cold, hot, and windy conditions. Here are 115 guide-approved tips.

Phantom Menace: Air Pollution Threatens Western National Parks

Invisible but dangerous, airborne pollutants are a danger to the West's most iconic national parks

Hike It, Save It

It's never been easier to help save the wilderness–no donations, no petitions, no pulaski swinging required. The only thing you have to do is go backpacking.

Zero Impact Challenge: The North Face Green Kazoo 15

How do you replace a legend? Cut its footprint without cutting warmth.

Zero Impact Challenge: Sierra Designs Verde 20

No bag in this challenge incorporated more recycled components.

Zero Impact Challenge: GoLite Starlite 20

Recycled materials and fewer trucking miles trim carbon weight.

Zero Impact Challenge: Feathered Friends Blue Heron 20

A winning combo: Make it light and local.

Zero Impact Challenge: Big Agnes Tumble Down 20

Less bag where many hikers don't need it makes a big difference.

Sleeping Bags: Zero Impact Challenge

5 manufacturers answer our call for eco-friendly sacks.

China: The People's Hiking Revolution

As prosperity spreads across China, so does a passion for the outdoors. But can millions of new trekkers save Asia's vast wilderness from the march of development? Welcome to the world's next hiking frontier. PLUS, check out China's Top Treks.

Eco-Friendly Gear Packaging



Wilderness Wonders: Tallest Waterfall

Think the Empire State Building is tall? Try this waterfall on for size.

Wilderness Wonders: Largest Crater

Zebras, wildebeest and rhinos all call this Tanzanian volcanic caldera just another place to eat.

Wilderness Wonders: Strangest Rock Formation

Millions of years ago, these crazy rock formations were formed in Turkey due to volcanic activity.

Wilderness Wonders: Most Active Volcano

You better stand back if this Sicilian island volcano starts to spurt.

Wilderness Wonders: Highest Peak

There is a reason the native's call it Sagarmatha, meaning "head of the sky."

Wilderness Wonders: Driest Desert

If your going to Chile's Atacama Desert, don't forget the sunscreen.

Natural Wilderness Wonders

Fiery volcanoes, 40-ton mammals, otherworldly caves–in this explorer's guide, we'll show you where to find the most mind-blowing backcountry features on the planet. By Marcus Woolf

Mount Rainier: Thunder on the Mountain

Two years after hurricane-force winds and rain ravaged hundreds of miles of trail in Mt. Rainier National Park, the true damage is finally becoming clear. And what it's telling scientists is alarming: Bigger, more frequent–and more destructive–storms may be coming.

How to Avoid Avalanches

Hike safely in avalanche terrain

Phenomenon: Crevasses

These gaping glacier cracks are dramatic–and deadly. Here's how they form, plus three safe places to see a crevasse up close.

Danger Signs - Winter Sun

UV rays are still harmful even when the temperature drops. We'll show you how to protect yourself against the sun, even when it's cold.

The Missing Lynx

In Colorado, wilderness hut managers recruit hikers to track an elusive wildcat.

Special Report: Alaska's Toklat Wolf Pack in Crisis

When senior editor Tracy Ross investigated Denali's wolf controversy, she expected to see a dead wolf--but not a skinned one. Go behind the scenes with video filmed in the field and an interview with Ross on the experience.

The Alaska Wolf Debate: Q&A with Tracy Ross

Author Tracy Ross discusses her feature story "Dogs of War" devoted to the debate raging in Alaska over the famed Toklat wolf pack.

Thoreau Slept Here: The Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail

Maine's newly minted Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail tracks the famous naturalist's 1800s expeditions. Good news: It's still wild.

Eco-Friendly Tent Poles

How do manufacturers make your trusty tent poles better for the environment? We discovered the magic formula right here.

America's 10 Most Dangerous Hikes - Barr Trail, Pikes Peak, CO

A hair-raising hike

The Danger Scale

How we rate risk, using a highly scientific formula

Green Scene: Eco-Friendly Wool

Learn how you can shop for ethical, eco-friendly wool to lighten your planetary load.

Never Fear: The Phobias

Use this step-by-step guide to beat 7 common backcountry fears. Plus, ideal hikes for overcoming–or avoiding–the source of your scare.

Never Fear: The Fix

Conquer any fear with this DIY guide to applying a proven treatment plan called cognitive- behavioral therapy. Think of it as training for the mind.

Never Fear: Q&A with Barbara Rothbaum



Never Fear: How to Beat Backcountry Phobias

Don't let groundless phobias ruin–or even prevent–your backcountry adventures. Here's a foolproof plan for overcoming your terrors.

Health News: Breathe Easy

What to know about hiking with asthma

River Keeper

Grand Canyon raft guide and Havasupai tribal member Shana Watahomigie becomes a paddling–and Hollywood–pioneer.

Bus Hiking: Don't Pay at the Pump

Gas prices are soaring. Glaciers are melting. What's a conscientious hiker to do? Take the bus, says Dan Koeppel, who did just that to escape downtown L.A.

Predator-Prey Relationships

Learn how carnivores and their quarry interact—and what happens when humans upset the natural balance.

Wind Power: Turbulence Ahead

Wind power offers clean energy–but how much will hikers compromise to get it?

The Red Zone: Wyoming's Red Desert

As conservationists and energy developers fight over Wyoming's Red Desert, one thing is certain: There's no time like the present to hike through its unreal geography.

Green Scene: Biodegradable Sneakers?

Lightening your planetary load - sneaker style

3 Poached Treasures

Backcountry crooks ransack public lands, stealing the natural prizes most coveted by collectors–and vulnerable species and hikers alike suffer when these icons vanish from the trails to resurface on the black market.

Road Warriors: Hikers Versus ATVs

Hikers and ATV riders hit the ground in a new battle over trail access.

The Ultimate "Survive This!" Archive

If you can imagine it, we've seen it-and offered expert analysis. From avalanches to volcanoes, this archive contains step-by-step plans for escaping a slew of mishaps that can befall weary travelers.

Beyond Destination Nowhere: Q&A with Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins, the author of "Destination Nowhere," discusses his Yellowstone assignment to find the most remote spot in the United States.

Don't Pay at the Pump: Photos and Mass-Transit Hikes

After reading Dan Koeppel's latest urban hiking adventure "Don't Pay at the Pump" (September 2008), we guarantee you'll want to crank "Magic Bus" and ditch the car on your next trip to the trailhead. We can help. Our map team has assembled more than 25 hikes you can access via public transportation. Plus, check out more of Michael Darter's photos and read Koeppel's 2004 feature, "I Climbed Los Angeles," to learn about his slightly insane 19-mile L.A. staircase route.

Wyoming's Red Desert: Story, Video, and Photo Special

Head to one of the last truly wild places in the Lower 48: Wyoming's Red Desert. Read the story, follow our author on the trail in our video report, see more photos of the journey in a gallery of outtakes, and download the GPS Track.

Green Scene: BPA-Free Water Bottles

Lighten your planetary load, water bottle style, with these BPA-free water bottle alternatives.

Packing Out Waste: You Can Take It With You

Hikers learn to leave (absolutely) no trace on high-traffic peaks and trails.

Secret Agent Man

Animals can't talk. But Ed Newcomer can. As an elite U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service detective, he goes undercover to protect threatened raptors, bears, even butterflies–and bring poachers and smugglers to court. Inside the agency's latest covert operation.

Nuclear-Free Hiking

How Cold War weapons sites are becoming America's most unusual new preserves.

Carbon-Neutral Costa Rica: How I Lost 5,400 lbs While Packing for the Trip of a Lifetime

In search of a guilt-free adventure in the tropics, Jason Daley discovers the line between saving the world–and seeing it.

Green Guide

In honor of Earth Day, we bring you the first industry-wide survey on which gear manufacturers are positively impacting the environment, plus much more.

Zero Impact Challenge

Is it possible to build a backpack that doesn't contribute to global warming? Not yet, but five pioneering companies gave it one helluva try. (Cue standing ovation.)

No More Peaks in the Distance

Rising treeline threatens the Northeast's best views.

Cascades Meltdown

The Lower 48's most glaciated region is losing its ice at an astonishing rate.

Digging for Clues: How to Prevent Exctinction

A big-picture biologist unearths threats to songbirds, salamanders, and a peak-loving furball.

Species We Can Kiss Goodbye

These dozen creatures are threatened by global warming.

Rising Tides Threaten Classic Trails

Headed for the coasts? Keep those Tevas handy. Swelling oceans are threatening to submerge classic trails.

Super Poison Ivy is Coming

More potent poison ivy is on the way, plus fast-growing weeds that will change the face of Eastern forests.

Carbon Dioxide and the Desert Midwest

Scientists say Nebraska's wild prairies could become the Western Hemisphere's largest sandbox in as few as 30 years.

The Brown Death: Pine Beetles vs. Forests

Pine beetles are felling more trees than wildfires and the timber industry combined.

The Future of Forests

As the earth warms, here's how higher temps will affect our forests.

How to Lighten Your (Planetary) Load

We found 17 pioneering products that will cut your carbon cost without sacrificing performance.

Phenomenon: Valles Caldera

Hike into the epicenter of a cataclysmic explosion in New Mexico's Valles Caldera

What Will Alaska's Future Look Like?

Alaska is the last frontier, but energy development and climate change promise to change the face of our wildest state in your lifetime. Here's how.

How to See More Golden Eagles

Find these hard-to-spot beauties on your next journey

Backpacker's Carbon-Neutral Project

Last fall, we showed you the many ways that climate change is altering the wild places we love. Now, a look at what BACKPACKER is doing to reduce the magazine's impact.

Editor's Choice Green Awards April 2007

Pacific Outdoor ECO Thermo 6 Sleeping Pad, REI Global Warming Initiative, and the Timberland Green Index are tops to the green eyes of Backpacker

Editor's Choice Green Award April 2006

Patagonia implements the Common Threads Recycling Program to reuse your old Capilene long underwear tops and bottoms

How to Buy PVC-Free Gear

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is waterproof and durable, but the manufacturing process creates carcinogens

Phenomenon: The Life Cycle of Wildfires

Global warming creates conditions that invite larger and more frequent forest fires. Here's how.

Phenomenon: Snowmelt

Rising alpine temperatures and polluted snow are threatening snowpack–and the water it generates.

Minnesota's Boundary Waters Face Extermination By Climate Change

As temperatures rise, Minnesota's North Woods will likely go up in smoke.

I, Citizen Scientist

Learn how you can help combat climate change by researching everything from Alaska's Bering Glacier to tracking pumas in Argentina through citizen scientist programs

Why Glacier National Park is Melting

Global warming is drying up Glacier National Park's rivers of ice. Learn how scientists are trying to prevent the Glacier demise from happening at other outdoor attractions.

The Impact of Climate Change on Florida's Everglades, Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias

What do Florida's Everglades and Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias have in common? Both face uncertain futures as temperatures rise.

Stay Warm On the Trail and In Camp

On the trail and in camp, beat the cold with these tips.

How to Survive A Night Without Gear

When a day hike turns into an overnight, learn how to take care of yourself.

How to Treat Poison Ivy

Beat the itchy stuff with creams or homeopathic measures.

7 Strategies for Keeping the Backcountry Pristine

Here are the seven guidelines to Leave No Trace

Green Gear Report Card 2008

The first industry-wide survey about which gear manufacturers are positively impacting the environment

How Climate Change is Affecting Our Alpine Environments

Thanks to melting ice and snow, climate change is effecting the future of our mountains

Green Guide Exclusive Online Materials

Information on 19 more "green" companies and an interview with Big Agnes's Bill Gamber

How to Survive Getting Lost In a Whiteout

Don't forge ahead when faced with whiteout conditions.

Backpacker Interview: The Trail Bandit

Rangers despise him. The law is after him. Yet in chopping down trees in an overgrown national park, Bob Garrison has become a hero to some hikers.

Where to See More Desert Wildlife

Spot lizards, wrens, and javelinas in the desert Southwest with these tips.

Powerful Plants and Animals In Your Backyard

The wooly bear caterpillar, wild leek, and yew have "magical" qualities, but live in your backyard.

The Wolf Watchers: Researching Wolves In Idaho

Inside Idaho's Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, humans and wolves learn to co-exist.

How to Avoid Sudden Thaws

Warming temps can wreak havoc on snow-packed adventures. Learn the conditions and warning signs that can cause a dangerous, sudden thaw.

Danger Signs: How to Detect a Winter Storm

Learning to determine winter weather signs depends on where you are.

Phenomenon: What are Sky Islands?

To see how animals stay cool in a hot climate, just look up.

How to Survive Winter Storms

New Hampshire's Mt. Washington is know for its evil weather. Learn how to survive a winter storm from one of the peak's experts.

Over the Rainbow: Finding Red Rock In the Navajo Nation

A rarely-attempted traverse reveals the Navajo Nation's vast red-rock wilderness.

How to Recycle Spent Fuel Canisters

Different cities have different rules for recycling your used fuel canisters

Phenomenon: Battle Quicksand With Quick Thinking

Quicksand isn't just in old Westerns, it's also a real backcountry hazard. Learn how to save your life when faced with the slippery stuff.

Backpacker Adventure Guide: Weminuche Wilderness

Try a stunning new hike–or two thrilling classics–in the Colorado Rockies' top spot for big backpacking adventures.

Cut Your Carbon in Half

A hiker's guide to fighting climate change

Sustainable Gear: Growing A Greener Jacket

Cutting-edge fabrics make outdoor gear eco-friendly.

Last Chance Adventure: Oregon's Umpqua National Forest

Can you see the forest through the trees? Join a bittersweet trek through an old-growth wilderness in its final days.

Hot and Bothered: Wildlife and Global Warming

Climate change isn't just melting glaciers--it's messing with wildlife everywhere

Preserving Paradise: Glen Canyon

Drought has brought the canyon back. Would national park status keep it that way?

Alaska, Colville River

Visit this remote section of the Arctic before climate change alters it forever

The Global Warming Tour 2003

The ultimate guide to greenhouse adventure, featuring 8 surprising new trips, acres of virgin terrain, and a peek at the future of North American wilderness.

Utah, Glen Canyon

Receding water levels mean more miles of choice desert hiking and kayaking.

Alaska, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Paddle blue inlets too new for any topo.

Montana, Grinnell Glacier, Glacier National Park

The most-studied glacier in the park lets you see global warming in action.

Wolves And Water: Arizona's Blue Range

With an abundance of wolves and water--two rarities in the desert--Arizona's remote Blue Range may be the Southwest's best kept secret.

Healing The Badlands

How can we conserve South Dakota's Badlands?

Hike To Protect Wilderness From Drilling

How many miles of trail or acres of wilderness will we sacrifice for a tank of gas? Here's a look at eight threatened wildernesses and what you can do to stop the drilling.

Leave No Trace: Water Disposal

Here's how to Leave No Trace when you dump water in camp.

Scouts' Honor: Teaching Leave No Trace Ethics

Boy Scouts are at the forefront of teaching Leave No Trace ethics.

Your Politician: National Park Friend Or Foe?

How can you tell if your representative supports national parks?

Safe Trekking After Wildfires

Follow these tips when hiking in burned country.

Test Your Wildlands IQ

Your answers could mean the difference between a nice, quiet hike and one you share with ORVers.

Leave No Trace: Mind Your Footprint

Take a look at what your sole is doing to the ground.

Hot Hikes After A Wildfire

Seven places where you can walk through a whole new landscape, plus opportunities to help rebuild charred trails.

Leave No Trace Trash Tips

Help keep trails clean by picking up your own and other people's trash.

Clear-Cut Views

To understand the full impact of logging, you need to rise above it all.

David Brower's Last Interview

Activist and former backpacker David Brower reflects on his life in the political trenches and on the trails.

The Goods On Green Charities

How to track where your environmental charity money goes.

Bob Marshall's 100th Year

When venturing into country "untrammeled by man," we can thank Marshall's unlimited efforts to preserve it.

Sierra Club's David Brower Mourned

David Brower led environmentalists in shaping the America we see and hike.

Horsepacking: A New Breed?

Some well-meaning, leave-no-trace horsepackers are trying to rein in their environmentally uncouth brethren. The question is: can they change practices and attitudes that date back to the wild west days?

Horsepacking: A Leave-No-Trace Guide

Here's our guide to environmental etiquette while horsepacking.

Wilderness: Access For All

Should we pave the wilderness and install escalators for the disabled? No, says a former backpacker.

Dandelion Burgers: A Vegetarian Recipe

This vegetarian burger recipe will suit your palate and clean-up the environment.

Absaroka's Wildlife Needs Your Help

Montana and Wyoming's incredibly wild and beautiful Absaroka needs your help.

Bruce Babbitt: Not Your Average Bureaucrat

Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit knows he can't please everyone. So rather than try, he spends his time righting environmental wrongs and preserving wildlands.

Julia 'Butterfly' Hill Leaves Redwood Home

Protester celebrates victory in a two-year battle to save a giant redwood by coming back to earth.

America's Least Wanted Flowers

There's a reason why your field guide doesn't list some flowers: they're not supposed to be there.

Night Hiking: I Can See Clearly Now

Sometimes you have to turn off the lights in order to see.

BLM Hiking: Land of Opportunity

If you look beyond the occasional cow, you'll find the BLM has lots of ruggedly beautiful land to offer. No mining, no oil rigs, just lots of solitude.

Preserving Hiking Trails: Acting Selflessly

What have you done lately for the trails and backcountry you use? Join a Volunteer Vacation and save the trails you love.

Wolves' Long Journey Home

While the wolf reintroduction debate rages across the country, in Wisconsin the animals are simply reclaiming their rightful place.

Signs Of Foolishness

The need to know leads this editor on a wild goose chase.

ANWR: Postcards From The Edge

Journey to Alaska's far northern edge, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where the midnight sun shines like candlelight on the mountains.

Alaska's Glaciers: Going With The Floes

When gently paddling amidst the mini-icebergs that grace Prince William Sound, you ponder one question: why walk?

Alaska's Tongass: Take A Deep Breath

In Alaska's Tongass, the ancient trees have something to say...if you're willing to listen.

Theodore Roosevelt's Badlands

Theodore Roosevelt ventured into the North Dakota Badlands an East Coast city Boy. After the land got through with him, he had the fortitude to run a nation and the insight to preserve more wildlands than anyone in history.

The Trail Less Traveled

Sometimes you have to go where the guidebooks haven't been, but watch your step.

A Blank Spot On The Map

We travel to New Mexico's Aldo Leopold Wilderness to understand the roots of the preservation movement and see just how far we've come.

Grand Staircase-Escalante: The Last Best Place

Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante is huge, remote, controversial, and one of the finest destinations for backpackers in the Lower 48.

Mt. St. Helens: The Cataclysm and Beyond

A trek through the blast zone of a restless volcano raises questions about a father's legacy and a child's future.

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