Books, Podcasts, and Documentaries for All Things Outside

Camping & Hiking expert Hannah K. shares her top media picks for outdoor lovers to watch, listen to, and read.

Women reading a book on the shore of a tranquil lake
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I love continuing to learn about all things outside. And I love learning about that by reading some badass books, watching epic documentaries, and listening to experts share their experiences. So I pulled together some of my favorites that opened my eyes, made me laugh, or kept me on the edge of my seat. Here are my top picks and why you should watch, listen, and read them.

Books

Reading a book with a dramatic, misty wilderness scene in the background

Photo by Kourosh Qaffari

127 Hours: Between a Rock and a Hard Place Written and narrated by Aron Ralston, this book tells you his story of how he lost his arm mountaineering. Alone and hurt for 127 hours, this book takes you on an emotional rollercoaster of how everything could go wrong. Read this for some brain-blowing stories of how he almost died basically wherever he went, but never did (spoiler sorry). It was also made into a movie if that is more your scene.

Into the Wild Jon Krakauer writes about Chris McCandless, who threw everything away and walked into the Alaskan wilderness. Looking for enlightenment through nature, McCandless lived in a broken down bus after getting stuck for winter. Follow along as we see how McCandless survived for as long as he did and what his motivations were.

The Unlikely Thru-Hiker: An Appalachian Trail Journey Follow along as Derick Lugo, a hiker newbie, decides to leave everything and hike the AT. With a pack too heavy, a go-getter attitude, and a funky trail name, Derick tells us of the experiences he had, the people he met, and what he learned. If you want to hike the AT, read this book. Entertaining and educational, you won’t be able to put it down. This is a fun story of how an inexperienced hiker learned how to thrive on trail.

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail Emma Gatewood is a legend. She was the first woman to hike the AT (three times actually). And she did all of that after she was 65 years old. Mistreated for most of her marriage, she used the trail to escape. Author Ben Montgomery uses Gatewoods’s personal diaries and interviews people she met on trail and family members to tell us about her experiences. I also would like to note that she and I have the same birthday.

Podcasts

A camper van with forest and  mountains in the background

Photo by Daniel J Schwarz

The Dirtbag Diaries Now, I’m not a huge podcast listener in general, but I’m trying to be. If you are too, start with this one. From interviewing experts to outdoor culture to personal stories—this podcast covers it all. One of my favorites is a talk on the intersection of vanlife, social media, and racism. They also accept story submissions so if you got any story you think would be great for a podcast reach out to them on their website.

Check them out here.

She Explores Ladies! Needing to hear about some badass women? Check them out. There is a huge community around this podcast, all wanting to promote women in the outdoors. I found this podcast to be extremely comforting and helpful in a somewhat intimidating lifestyle.

Check them out here.

The Powell Movement Mike Powell talks to extremely accomplished athletes, asks some personal questions, and has lots of laughs along the way. Lovable and loud, this podcast will definitely brighten your day.

Check it out here.

The First 40 Miles This is a great podcast for those looking for more information on backpacking and hiking. Although it shut down in 2018, it is packed full of tips, stories, and tricks to help you thrive on trail.

Check it out here.

Documentaries

Mountains in Yosemite National Park

Photo by Lukas Schulz

K2: Beyond the Comfort Zone This was a really fun watch. The documentary follows Mike Horn and friends as they drive from Switzerland to Pakistan to climb K2, the cultures and people they encounter, and the challenges they face. Watch this when you’re looking for some inspiration on how to have fun—Horn and his friends sure do.

Watch it on Hulu.

Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story Filmmakers follow the happy couple Jen and Grant as they try to highlight how much food waste happens in the world. For three months, they do everything they can never to buy food. Dumpster diving behind grocery markets, gleaning, and friends giving away food help them along the way. Watch this to uncover how much food is thrown away and wasted.

Watch it on Hulu.

Do More with Less This documentary is a great compilation of hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail as they search out a wild time and escape from city life. Listen as hikers and trail angels talk about the magic of thru-hiking the PCT.

Watch it on Vimeo.

Free Solo Follow along as Alex Honnold attempts to climb a 3,000 foot wall with no rope and the challenges he faces along the way. With interviews from friends and the crew themselves, it will keep you on the edge of your seat. Need some inspiration? Look no further.

Watch it on Hulu and DisneyPlus.

The Biggest Little Farm Watch as two dreamers move out of the bustling city, buy 200 acres of dead land, and create one of the most eco-conscious permaculture farms in Southern California. Interested in learning about healthy soil and sustainable farmland? This documentary will answer all of your questions.

Watch it on Hulu.

Mile, Mile and a Half Five friends head out to the Sierra Nevadas during a heavy snow year, with the goal of getting to Mount Whitney on the John Muir Trail. Watch this for friendship, for laughter, and for inspiration,

Watch it on Amazon Prime.

These are a great start to learn as much as you can about camping, backpacking, and sustainability. Entertaining yet educational, these resources helped me fall in love even more with the great outdoors. Like Socrates mentioned, you really don’t know what you don’t know. Well now we can learn more about what we don’t know! Have any other suggestions? Hit me up and let me know.

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Written By
Hannah K
Hannah K
Camping & Hiking Expert
Although I've been hiking for most of my life, I didn't start backpacking and camping until college when I joined the University Outdoors Club at my school. My first backpacking trip was ambitious, the Batona Trail in the Pinelands in New Jersey done in two days. To do that, we had to walk a maratho...
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