Backpacker is a serious magazine for outdoor types -- so as an indoor girl, I feel uniquely qualified to critique it. Since the market crashed, I've found solace at home, provided I'm not watching CNBC. Between the Dow ticker and Jim Cramer's hysterical, bug-eyed outbursts, I now understand the virtue of leafy solitude. And for someone who considers Central Park country, it's a leap. So I'll let Backpacker lead the way.

As noted, this is not a magazine for the casual stroller. It's chock-full of colorful adventure trips and augmented by health tips and gear guides, as well as magazine-tested apparel. When the cover story promotes the "wildest, quietest, darkest places in the Lower 48" -- and it doesn't count Cheney's bunker -- it's talking remote. Middle-of-nowhere remote. If the road less traveled is your idea of fun, consider Mountain West in Yellowstone Park, Wyoming, rated No. 1 on the solitude scale, followed by an unnamed lake near Coyote Pass in Sequoia National Park, Calif.

Frankly, I'd have thought the boardroom at Bear Stearns or Lehman Bros. would qualify as the back of beyond -- in both spiritual and physical terms. Wading through its respective mud and muck would test anyone's grit and endurance. Those who survive earn the right to chuck ransacking CEOs into prison, where they get to play love slave to a guy named Bubba. Emerson and Thoreau, big believers in self-reliance and protesters of corrupt governance, would approve.

Certainly, these famed Transcendentalists, great fans of nature, would be Backpacker readers -- and possible participants on the 10 hikes you can reach via mass transit, including those starting from Albuquerque, Anchorage, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle and New York. The article helpfully lists the bus routes, phone numbers and prices. It's the ultimate in going green.

However, I paused at "The Fix," a story that addresses hiker phobias -- bears, snakes, scorpions, etc. I have many of the usual fears -- bats, bugs, bad penmanship. But when it came to curing them, the mag failed to assuage.

For instance, "go ahead and freak" isn't so much advice as common sense when spotting a bear. In the unlikely event that a bear does attack -- and the odds are 1 in 3 million in Yellowstone -- instructions are to a) play dead for a grizzly and b) fight back for a black bear. Fight back? Most of us would be in stroke mode by now. And fight with what? Our overpriced parka? Of course, if we go camping with the Palins, we can probably borrow the family's AK-47.

Assuming, however, that all you encounter is a sense of wonder, rest easy -- and pack Backpacker. The magazine enjoys a loyal following, including several people in my office. The reasons are twofold: First, it provides solid, useful info of the rip-and-read variety, and second, it tailors its edit to the committed camper/hiker. Purple mountain majesties is more than a lyric; it's a celebration of nature's magnificence. Out is the new In.


Published by: Active Interest Media

Frequency: 9 issues/per year

Web site 

Next story loading loading..