Most outdoors writing is terrible– pithy, handwringing, self serious, youth worshiping, and clinging to the memory of a lifestyle that never existed in the first place. Some isn’t. Here is a quick sampling of my favorites, in no particular order.
No words are wasted and BandP. Dave’s reviews are tight and to the point, honed from a great many years being let down by a great many products. His “essays,” or whatever you call the think pieces we all write, are sharp and don’t pull punches. His voice, which can be acerbic but is always honest, is the best antidote we have for the crushing oppression of #liveauthentic poptimism that dominates outdoors writing, a refreshing change of pace, indeed.
As an added bonus, the continuing adventures of Little Bear, Dave’s adorable child, are worth the read in and of themselves.
I’ve said it before– coming across Ben’s Arizona Wanderings was a revelation for me. After many many years of driving alone to many many empty trail heads, taking many many pictures and sharing them with exactly no one it was Ben’s site that made me realize there was actually and audience for all this. I’d thought about starting a blog for a long time, but it was AZ Wanderings that made me finally take the jump.
But my personal inspiration isn’t the reason I still read AZ Wanderings. Ben doesn’t usually share the location for his trip reports, but they are evocative enough that you’ll spend hours pouring over your map collection trying to figure it out. His pictures are top notch, without being pretentious (EDITORS NOTE: Something you could learn from, Wilson…). Ben is part of an increasingly rare class of renaissance men who do a little bit of everything outside rather than specializing, a trait I greatly respect.
Hiking in Finland is famous for This Week In Review, a weekly recap of the best outdoors writing. TWIR great, but honestly it isn’t the best thing on Hendrik’s site. His gear reviews are simply incredible. His Sony RX1000IV review, for example, should be required reading for anyone getting into blogging: it’s detailed without being wordy, technical without being boring, and most importantly, it makes a point beyond the scope of the specific product, in this case that light and small point and shoot cameras can do more than you ever needed or imagined. Come for TWIR, stay for everything else.
This one may come to a surprise to LP readers, as Andrew’s site is essentially the opposite of mine.
LP is a “why” site. Our trip reports spend most of their time on the narrative– why did we go, what did we learn, how did this change us. Our gear reviews spend more time describing why a product exists, it’s raison d’etre, rather than digging into the nitty gritty details. Hence the “Is Max Bloviating Index”:
Andrew’s site on the other hand, is a “how” site. His reports are deeply technical. His gear reviews go down to the specifics of frame construction, zipper selection, and whatever else you can imagine. He revels in the specifics, which should be boring. But it isn’t. It isn’t boring at all. Somehow he manages the high-wire act of delving into minutia and being genuinely educational without making you want to hit the scroll wheel. I don’t know how he does it, but it is incredibly impressive.
One of my favorite books this year has been Mark Spitzer’s BGFAW. Mark knows that he is a bit of an oddball, plays it for kicks, and makes it so that following along as he travels the West in search of the strange fish that inhabit our waters is a genuinely enjoyable experience for the reader. I’ll have a full review up in the next few days, but in the meantime, just buy yourself a copy. You won’t regret it.
*Special Youtube Bonus*
Not writing, per se, but no list of the best outdoors content would be complete without Dave and Amelia Jensen. Their videos are beautiful and informative, with perfectly paired music and excellent cinematography. Being a couple outside is hard. Jealousy seeps in as one hikes further, faster, catches bigger fish, or is constantly correcting the other. This is not the case with Dave and Amelia, who beam with mutual respect and genuine joy at the other’s success. Their channel is must see internet-TV.
That’s not everyone I read, but they are my favorites. Anyone I missed? Let me know in the comments below.
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Max Wilson is a graduate student studying ecology at Arizona State University. He writes here at Lesser Places, occasionally for Backpacker.com, and even more occasionally for scientific journals. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.