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Backpacker Magazine –
| BACKPACKER is a proud sponsor of Leave No Trace (check out our book, Leave No Trace, available from The Mountaineers Press). All articles and photos that appear in the magazine must adhere to Leave No Trace's ecologically friendly practices. Likewise, we do not promote motorized use in the wilderness or backcountry.
Our readers are knowledgeable and experienced backpackers, therefore we accept only authentic, well-researched, well-crafted stories (see the section on "Accuracy," below). We're not interested in slavish imitations of stories we've already done. As always, you should carefully study several issues of the magazine before submitting a query. The best articles have style, depth, emotional impact, and take-away value for the reader.
Good BACKPACKER articles contain the following attributes:
BACKPACKER features usually fall into one of several distinct categories: destinations, personality, skills, or gear. Gear features are generally staff written. In order to make the grade, a potential feature needs an unusual hook, a compelling story, a passionate sense of place, or unique individuals finding unique ways to improve or enjoy the wilderness.
Destinations: BACKPACKER uses pieces that go beyond a mere description of a trail or place. Our destination stories are almost always first person and based upon the author's recent trip experience. Readers should come away with a strong sense of that particular outdoor experience, a firm grasp of the location's character, and the inspiration to duplicate the trip. Journal-style articles are generally unacceptable. Word counts vary widely from 1,500 to 5,000 or more words but most contain a full Expedition Planner sidebar (contact, permit, season, hazards, map, guidebook, and other useful information; look at past BACKPACKER issues for examples and style).
Personality: Backpacking doesn't have star athletes like you find in bicycling or some other outdoor sports, but plenty of unique personalities exist to write about. Colorful, controversial, historically significant, amusing, unusual, or unique people are what we're looking for, especially those who have a direct impact on how or where others hike.
Technique: Skill-based articles in BACKPACKER feature high levels of take-away value. A good technique piece also has information relevant to all skill levels (e.g., beginner, intermediate, and advanced hikers). Often our technique pieces take non-narrative forms.
Gear: Our Field Tests and comparative gear reviews are always written by writers we've worked with before. If you're interested in writing such articles, start by querying our equipment editor about the Gear department (see "Departments," below).
Freelancers most often break into BACKPACKER's pages in the departments. These shorter assignments (100 to 1,200 words) have specific topics and focus.
Life List: 300-400 words. Short essay treatment about a particularly awesome big trip that every reader should add to their ticklist. On the inspiration<----->core-service spectrum, this falls decidedly on the inspiration side. Of course we’ll also deliver the tools a reader needs to start planning. This is BACKPACKER after all.
Top 3: about 500 words. One hike in each of our three regions that falls within an alluring, rewarding conceit. Hot springs, swimming holes, shooting stars, beach camping. There are cool rewards every backpacker wants to experience. This page adds a hike to their regional lifelist. These stories are deceptively hard: You need to have a case for why each one is TOP in the category, and tie the theme to the hike pretty tightly. Looking for pitches for 2013.
Rip & Go: This page is all you need to undertake a killer weekend in your region. Trips should be 1-2 nights, 6-10 miles a day, within striking distance of a major city, and seasonally appropriate for the month in which they run. These absolutely must have a GPS track, and we assign them early.
Trail Mix: For each region (west, central, and east, see map), we’ve got a new page with opportunities for freelancers. It’s called Trail Mix, and contains a mix of small items (100-150 words), most of which are open to pitches. Here are the types of stories that belong here:
Skills: The advice source for all essential hiking and adventure skills, with information targeted to help both beginners and experts. The section is divided into the following categories:
Technique-what you need to day-hike, backpack, or do just about anything in the outdoors, all digested into easily understood articles geared to every ability level.Gear: This department is filled with short reviews of gear that has been field-tested. Note: Gear, unlike the other departments, is done by assignment only. Instead of submitting a query regarding a specific piece of equipment, query the equipment editor with your qualifications for testing and reviewing gear. All gear reviewed in Gear is acquired by BACKPACKER editors only and shipped by us to assigned reviewers. All reviewed gear must be returned to us at the end of the test so that we may photograph it and return it to the manufacturer. This is not a way to fill your gear closet.
Most BACKPACKER departments take a single topic within the scope of that section and cover it thoroughly. Again, the more take-away value for the reader, the more appropriate it is for BACKPACKER.
BACKPACKER prides itself on providing outdoor enthusiasts with reliable information. It's important that our contributors check all facts and figures. A full set of guidelines for fact checking will be provided to you with your first contracted assignment for us. In general, however, we require:
We prefer queries to completed manuscripts. Please send emails with attachments and web links rather than mailing envelopes with letters and clips. We respond sooner to emails, and please include your own email address within the query. If you must mail a query and clips, include a SASE envelope if your samples must be returned. We are not responsible for unsolicited artwork, photographs, and manuscripts, so please don't send originals or anything that you can't afford to lose.
Allow 2 to 4 weeks for replies. All queries should be emailed to the appropriate editor (see below), or mailed to the following address: BACKPACKER, 2520 55th Street, Suite 210, Boulder, CO 80301.
Features & People: Dennis Lewon, Editor-in-Chief, dlewon-at-backpacker.com
ASSIGNMENTS AND PAYMENT
All BACKPACKER assignments are made in writing, and require a signed contract with you, the freelance author, in order to be valid. The contract will specify payment amount, payment terms, and rights purchased. In general, we pay on acceptance and buy all rights. We pay $.40 to more than $1.00 per word, depending upon the complexity and demands of the article, as well as the proven experience of the writer.
BACKPACKER uses stock photography and assigns photographers for magazine-sponsored trips. We prefer photographs that meet the following requirements:
Stock Requirements: While we use a large amount of stock photography to illustrate articles, we usually have very specific requirements (e.g., "overnight hiker on McConnell Lake Trail, Desolation Wilderness, preferably with Horseshoe Lake in background"). For each issue, our photo department sends out via e-mail a list of photos we need for upcoming articles. If you believe you have stock photos that may meet our needs, contact the photo department indicating your interest in receiving our monthly call list. We require a link to your website to be considered. If your work meets our photographic standards, you will be added to our database.
Assignments: BACKPACKER only hires professional photographers on a freelance basis and sends them out on assignment. We have very few assignments each year. These assignments are grueling, as they often involve lots of mileage over rough terrain. Not only that, but you have to get your pictures while moving through the terrain, carrying your own photo and backpacking gear. Because we're a small publication, our budgets and time restraints are quite restrictive in this area, thus we tend to work only with photographers that we know to be capable of always bringing back results, no matter what the conditions. Interested photographers should email the photo department and be prepared to present a portfolio of photographs taken in the backcountry.
Contact: Senior associate photo editor Genny Fullerton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Publishing frequency: 9 issues annually, one of which is the Gear Guide (March)
Circulation: 340,000 (2008)
Lead time: At least 6 months