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2013 Year of the Reader: Meet the Winners

2013 is a yearlong celebration of BACKPACKER readers, with dream trips, gear makeovers, and other great prizes. Meet the lucky readers just like you who have already won this year.



Jeff Pang
This Berkeley, CA, reader wins 2013’s first photo contest.

An impromptu and unconventional Matterhorn masterpiece earned globetrotting trekker Pang the envy of our staff—both for his photographic eye and his choice of trails. He shot his winning image during a tour of the glorious Matter Valley in Valais, Switzerland, an alpine wonderland surrounded by soaring peaks. “I only had 10 minutes to shoot along the lakeshore,” says Pang, admitting that capturing the winning image involved good timing, artful composition, and a little luck. As far as we’re concerned, his lucky streak’s still going. Pang’s prize for outshining 650 other reader entries? PENTAX’s K-30, a $900 weather-sealed DSLR. The backcountry-ready camera will help him keep shooting BACKPACKER-worthy pics. Turn to page 10 to see the other finalists’ images and visit for details about the rest of 2013’s Year of the Reader photo contests.


Kelli Bullard
This Amarillo, TX, reader scores 2013’s first Dream Trip.

Bullard fell in love with camping at age 12, on her first trip ever: an overnight in the Texas panhandle with her church youth group. “Growing up, I preferred climbing trees to dress-up,” she says. “Being outdoors energized me—it’s what made me feel truly alive.” But after that trip, life intervened, and Bullard hasn’t slept in the woods since. Then she read Wild, Cheryl Strayed’s tale of a transformative journey along the Pacific Crest Trail, and Bullard’s long-dormant backpacking dream reawakened. With her kids in college, Bullard, 54, figures now is the time. “I want to be an inspiration to other women of my generation,” she says. Bullard’s winning entry stood out for the quality of her writing, the clarity of her goal, and because we’re suckers for stories about rekindling a lost passion.

Hike the PCT Inspired by Bullard’s PCT dream? Get out there yourself on an 8.9-mile shuttle hike near California’s Sonora Pass; you’ll cross a ridge with 100-mile Sierra views. We’ve deemed it the trail’s best dayhike.

Go to for more information.

Makeover Contest Winner
First Timer
Mark Podl, 40, St. Charles, IL

With his kids now at the perfect ages for backcountry bonding—14, 12, and 10—Podl is ready to take the leap from dayhiking to overnighting. “We’re fit and capable enough to hike with packs, but I don’t know how to lead my family into more remote areas overnight,” he says. “Will I be able to start a fire? How do we know there will be enough water? I’ve never had to hang a bear bag—what about wildlife?” That’s where BACKPACKER comes in: We’ll help Podl get equipped with core gear and set him up with private skills tutorials on basics like camp setup, water treatment, navigation, cooking, and more. At the end of the year, we’ll report back on how Podl and the rest of our makeover winners fared, and which gear and skills worked best.

Apply for your own skills makeover at Act fast—final entries are due February 1 (photography), March 1 (family backpacking), and April 1 (cooking).

Gear Sweeps Winners
»  Margaret Farley, San Geronimo, CA
Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Kit

“I’m a Boy Scout troop leader, and the week I won, my scouts were working on their wilderness survival merit badges, which require them to make their own personal survival kit. We used the Bear Grylls kit [which includes a firestarter, a fishing kit, and a multitool] to brainstorm ideas. On our major backpacking trip this month, we’ll compare notes to see how their kits stand up to this one.” (Above, Farley’s troop teaches Cub Scouts to make survival bracelets.) 

» Nora Davis, Index, WA
GoLite Jam Pack

“After decades of using an external frame pack, I splurged and bought a new women’s pack last spring, so my 12-year-old son gets the GoLite. Our family’s big goal for next summer is to hike the 75-mile section of the PCT from Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass, and this pack will be vital to that trip!”

To enter for this week’s prize go to

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