The Canadian Hiker's and Backpacker's Handbook: Your How-to Guide for Hitting the Trails Coast to Coast to Coast.


384 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 978-1-55285-917-9
DDC 796.510971






Photos by Lonnie Springer
Reviewed by John R. Abbott

John Abbott is a professor of history at Laurentian University’s Algoma University College. He is the co-author of The Border at Sault Ste Marie and The History of Fort St. Joseph.


While almost every avocation, even the most arcane, has generated a myriad of sources to initiate the novice and sustain the faithful, discerning practitioners know that in every field one or two masters have written handbooks that render the others peripheral or redundant. If you aspire to hike and, in particular, to backpack, your first (and possibly your last) how-to-do manual should be Ben Gad’s. He writes from long experience, as any reader of his Handbook of the Canadian Rockies knows. Here, experience, keen insight, the ability to organize advice, and present it in lucid English spiced with dashes of wry humour, combine to create a product that represents superb value for money.

Part 2, “What You Need” (clothing, footwear, gear, food, and drink), illustrates the merits of the text. Boots receive the attention they deserve. Gore-Tex seals water (sweat) in; put it in socks instead (“they defy the soggifying process…”). Shop for boots in the afternoon, not the morning; in the interval feet may have swollen a full size. Fit is more important than any “technical” feature, and getting the right fit is tricky. Wear hiking socks and follow his guidelines for boots to ensure that they are designed to prevent blistering of the heel and bottoms of the feet, have back seams that will not press on the tendon, that bend where they should, won’t cramp toes, lack lumps and bumps inside, and are appropriately flexible and have “good design features.” However, after writing over a hundred pages about the range and variety of “technical” stuff available, he rightly observes that it’s all “for people with means.” Those without can enjoy the benefits by wearing everyday stuff, including running shoes, if they choose regions “where the weather is moderate…and…go there at times when the bugs aren’t particularly interested in you.” His blessing on “backpacking on the cheap” is accompanied by several pages of advice on specifics.

Part 3 takes readers into the process of backpacking: choosing routes and companions, taking children and dogs, safety and emergencies, and a survey of diverse regions from Vancouver Island to Labrador.

Highly Recommended.


Gadd, Ben., “The Canadian Hiker's and Backpacker's Handbook: Your How-to Guide for Hitting the Trails Coast to Coast to Coast.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024,