v29 #6 Wandering the Web — Backpacking, Hiking, Trekking, and Running on Trails in the United States

by | Mar 2, 2018 | 0 comments

by Joseph Shankweiler  (Assistant Professor, Special Collections Catalog Librarian, Western Kentucky University Libraries) 

Column Editor:  Jack G. Montgomery  (Professor, Coordinator, Collection Services, Western Kentucky University Libraries) 

As outdoor sports activities continue to grow in popularity, two areas that have seen some of the most growth in recent years are trail hiking and running.  According to a 2017 study by outdoorindustry.org, “running, including jogging and trail running, was the most popular activity among Americans when measured by both number of participants and by number of total annual outings.”  Additionally, hiking has continued to remain one of the most popular outdoor sports in the United States.  The following resources have been selected with beginner and intermediate hikers and trail runners in mind.

Hiking, Backpacking, Trekking.

https://americanhiking.org/gear-resources/tips-for-your-next-hike/American Hiking provides information on virtually every aspect of hiking, trekking, and camping.  This page links to previously published American Hiking Society articles, fact sheets, and check lists which are well curated and organized into categories such as Outdoor Skills, Gear, and Safety & First Aid… etc.  A must visit for those new to the outdoors, and equally beneficial for those with years of experience.  The home page also provides information on advocacy, preservation, and volunteer options.

http://www.hikingbeginner.com/ — This site is dedicated entirely to new hikers.  With sections on equipment, hiking etiquette, safety and first aid — as well as information on using a compass and gps, and exercises & techniques — it is an extensive go-to guide for beginner and intermediate hikers.  The site also provides links to additional reading materials and resources on the subject.

http://www.backpacking.net/beginner.htmlThe Beginner Backpacker is an excellent resource for families and those with younger children.  Provides a lot of practical and pragmatic advice with strong emphasis on safety and preparedness, including sections on “Hiking with Children” and “Common Sense” basics.  Also includes a “Recommended Reading” list for further reading.

Trail Running

https://trailrunner.com/resources/ — The official website of the American Trail Running Association, this is a comprehensive site for trail runners of all levels of experience and skill.  The site features sections with tips on how to get started in the sport, as well as information on how to help preserve and maintain trails.  The website also maintains lists of running organizations and clubs, magazines and blogs (with links), and also provides a community event calendar where users can post race dates and signup links for events around the world ranging in distance from 1 kilometer to 100+ mile ultramarathons.

http://trailrunnermag.com/Trail Runner Magazine is a valuable source of both information and entertainment for trail running enthusiasts.  The site regularly features training tips and plans, gear reviews, recipes, nutrition and hydration tips, as well as news about major trail races and feature articles on professional and amateur runners from around the globe.

https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/trail-running-basics.html — Sponsored by REI, this site gives the basics for those new to trail running, including tips on choosing shoes that fit properly, first aid, and basic training guidelines.  While no means exhaustive, this site serves as an excellent starting point for those new to the sport.

https://runnersconnect.net/ — Provides resources for runners of all experience levels.  Features blogs and regular podcasts, training plans, free books and courses, also includes tips for nutrition and race day strategy advice.  Membership is free, though users must sign up and create a login to access content.  Additional content is available via premium paid subscription.

http://www.rrca.org/Road Runners Club of America provides networks and valuable resources for runners of all skill levels.  Local chapters exist in towns and cities throughout the United States and are an excellent way to meet other trail, cross-country, and road runners in your local area.  Local chapters are also an excellent way to hear about upcoming races and events as well.

Trails and Maps

https://www.nps.gov/index.htm — The National Park Service lists national parks by state providing a link to each park with information about local attractions, hiking, camping, lodging, sightseeing and tourist attractions, as well as maps and directions to national park trails.     

http://www.americantrails.org/resources/statetrails/index.htmlAmerican Trails provides a searchable database of national recreation, historic, and scenic trails in the U.S.  Information is organized by state and, within those results, by trail type.

https://www.trails.com/ — Features searchable maps and routes.  Browse-able by activity/sport and organized by state.  Hiking trails are also sorted by user rating, skill level, distance, and whether or not they are animal or child friendly.  *Search tip: when browsing by activity, users should search similar activities for additional results.  For instance walking, hiking, and trail running are listed under separate categories and occasionally yield different results.  


As safety and preparedness are integral components to outdoor sports like hiking and trail running, several of the resources already listed in other sections contain valuable tips and information about first aid and trail safety.  The following are two additional first aid supply checklists.

http://www.wta.org/go-outside/basics/like-your-life-depends-on-it-building-your-first-aid-kit — The Washington Trails Association supply checklist is an extensive list of first-aid supplies for extended hikes and excursions.

https://sectionhiker.com/diy-first-aid-kit/ — This “ultralight” checklist takes a minimalist approach to backpacking, including only what the author considers first-aid essentials for a 3-day trip.

Equipment Reviews

http://www.trailspace.com/ — Searchable reviews on hiking, climbing, camping, running, boating, ski gear… etc.  Powered by user reviews, anyone can submit a product review along with pics and explanation of their experience and why they would or would not recommend it.  Reviews include pricing information and links to multiple vendors known to carry the items.

https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/ — Reviews by professionals of outdoor gear for trails, camping, boating, cycling, and travel.  Reviews are compiled in a “Best of…” format (ex. Best Women’s Hiking Boots of 2017).  Each review uses an elaborate rating system that also takes into account price vs. perceived value and concludes with a “Buying Advice” section.

http://www.gearinstitute.com/ — In depth and thorough reviews of outdoor sports gear by professionals.  Reviews cover most major brands, though searching is not the most intuitive and budget brands are often not reviewed.  Nevertheless an excellent source for product reviews by professionals and athletes with experience.


The following apps are Android and iPhone friendly and generally work with most newer smart phones that have gps capability.

http://www.mapmyhike.com/ and http://www.mapmyrun.com/ — Users can map their route in advance, log food and nutrition, track stats such as pace, distance, calorie burn, elevation gain.  Interfaces easily with other health apps such as Apple Health to keep track of steps and other fitness data.  Both apps also feature a gear tracker which lets users track hiking boot or shoe mileage.

www.runkeeper.com — Similar to mapmyrun, but designed specifically for running, allows users to map out runs in advance, track fitness progress, and performance statistics.

www.Strava.com — Useful for running, hiking and cycling.  Tracks performance by keeping track of each time a similar route is repeated and mapping progress with valuable statistics such as pace, cadence, duration.  Has a powerful social networking component which allows users to compare their performance with one another.  Also features a gear tracker which alerts the user of when it’s time to replace their shoes.

https://www.alltrails.com/ — Helps users locate trails closest to them, provides driving directions to the trails and community reviews, and allows users to download topographic maps for most trails and backcountry regions.

http://www.sassurvivalguide.com/ — The app is based on the best-selling book SAS Survival Guide Handbook by John “Lofty” Wiseman.  It includes image galleries of animal tracks, knots, edible, medicinal, and poisonous plants and a survival checklist.  It also has the ability to type and convert messages into a Morse code signaling device.  


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