5 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcast Episodes of April 2020

If March was a time to process, April 2020 was hopefully a time for solutions.  Last month’s list included thoughts and feelings on the pandemic, and while the podcasts we listened to in April 2020 were indelibly influenced by the world around them, the podcasts we selected this month as our top five were overwhelmingly positive and hopeful.  These episodes and stories from around the world focus more on using the limitations we are under as bumpers or guardrails, and finding a way forward.  They are filled with video links, birdsong, and hopeful human stories that transcend separation. Below are the five best hiking and outdoors podcast episodes we listened to in April 2020, with a brief description of each podcast.

A warning – playing podcasts or music on external speakers while hiking is basically a capital offense.  Playing podcasts or music through headphones/earbuds while hiking is somewhere in the spectrum of inadvisable to mortally dangerous.  Just from a common sense standpoint, why would you want to have your hearing and attention somewhere else if you want to maximize the benefits of being immersed in the outdoors (or, more basically, fail to hear the bear you just startled)?  All that being said, hike your own hike.

Portland (Maine) Trails, April 2020
Forest City Trail at sunset, Portland Trails, April 2020

Shenanigans_TC_3-1536x15361. Shenanigans (April 24, 2020) from the Dirtbag Diaries

Mike Flanigan is the “most optimistic person” Scott Guinn knows.  The two men met several years ago in San Diego, and quickly became friends and climbing partners.  Through descriptions and interviews, Dirtbag Diaries hosts Fitz Cahall and Cordelia Zars recount the growth of Mike and Scott’s friendship, and the mischievous fun and connection they find in climbing and outdoor adventure. While their relationship was lighthearted, and built on shared “shenanigans,” vulnerability and trust created a layered friendship that survived the distance between San Diego and Colorado.

After Scott left climbing gear at Mike’s place, Mike mailed these items back to Scott, along with a written challenge. While the stakes were low (pride and a six-pack of beer), this ignited a series of counter-challenges and accompanying trash-talking correspondence.  The story is full of relatable details like unanticipated obstacles, productive suffering, and the unexpected difficulty of catching a thrown beer can from atop a rock face.

The challenges gave both men “an excuse” to get outdoors and accomplish things they would not have attempted otherwise.  The Dirtbag Diaries consistently finds the human element in nature, and provides topical, insightful stories of ordinary people finding extraordinary adventures and truths in the outdoors.  This simple story of friendship provides relatable lessons on connection and vulnerability, despite the challenges of separation and time (38 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: Shenanigans


Outside In2. Inside/In: How to be a Backyard Birber (April 16, 2020) from Outside/In

This short episode featuring Taylor Quimby (and his young son) and Sam Evans-Brown explores the possibilities of watching birds from a window or a backyard with suggestions from Bridget Butler (Vermont, “The Bird Diva” ), J. Drew Lanham, Ph.D (Clemson ornithologist), and Karen Purcell (Cornell, Project Director, “Celebrate Urban Birds”) on how to enjoy the spaces that are available to us.

Rather than a worldwide scavenger hunt to fill a notebook with birds seen, this episode looks at backyard birding as a mindfulness practice.  “Birding by ear” is prominently featured, and birdsong records are present throughout the podcast.  The Merlin application, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is a citizen science project that allows backyard birders to contribute to our understanding of birds, and Celebrate Urban Birds, another Cornell project, salutes the more common birds that survive alongside us. As spring arrives in the Northeast, this simple activity allows us to recognize what we have.  As Dr. Lanham says, a “warbler that ends up in your yard is your link to a tropical rainforest,” and “stitches the world together with feathers.” (25 mins).

Apple Podcast link: How to be a Backyard Birber


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

3. Episode 23 GOOD VIBES ONLY (April 4, 2020) from Hike or Die Outdoor Adventure Podcast

Broadcast from lockdown, after a hiatus due to Australian bushfires and the pandemic, this brilliant comeback from the Hike or Die podcast wasn’t recorded in the outdoors, but remotely by Tom Griffin and Craig Brinin from a studio (and a desk underneath a bunk bed). Unlike the others on this list, this is not a standalone audio experience.  This is a multi-media presentation from Down Under, best enjoyed by listening to the podcast while following along on the show page with links to videos and photos.

After an acknowledgement of the serious of the situation, and the need to be safe and responsible, Tom and Craig curate and comment on lighthearted and positive news stories touching on the outdoors – 4×4’s in lakes, feeding animals, dinosaur trees, helicopter evacuations, walking sharks, insane races caught on video, and amazing trail cam videos. The wide-ranging discussions include gear talk about K-Bar tactical sporks, using bush stoves vs. outdoor fire danger, irreverent listener emails, bushcraft, and great book recommendations.  This is a two-hour great escape outdoors for a rainy day  (1 hr 59 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: Episode 23 – GOOD VIBES ONLY


Out Alive Backpacker4. Mystery on the Mountain (April 6, 2020) from Out Alive Podcast from Backpacker

In October 2010, Pam Bales, a volunteer member of the Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue Team, was on a hike up the Jewell Trail, headed for New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, thinking about turning around due to deteriorating conditions, when she found a barely unconscious man (“John”) off a side trail.  Pam was confused about “John’s” situation, as he was so clearly unequipped for a fall hike in the treacherous Presidential Range, would not provide his name, and seemed completely unmotivated to rescue himself. Pam tried to get “John” warm with the food, gear, and clothing she had brought with her.

Pam pushed, motivated, and cajoled “John” during the descent down the mountain. “John” departed in his car after thawing out, and Pam was left wondering, “What the F just happened?”  We won’t spoil the ending, but an anonymous letter postmarked from Portland, Maine, shed a shocking light on the circumstances in which Pam found “John.” This is a great story about reaching out and helping others, even if they seem unwilling to help themselves (27 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: Mystery on the Mountain


Off Track - ABC Radio National

5. Whip it good [Earworms from Planet Earth xii] from Off Track

Off Track is always full of high-quality sounds of nature, and never more so than in this episode that begins with Australian whipbirds (“whippys”).  The Earworms from Planet Earth series are crowd-sourced, composed of sounds submitted from the podcast’s audience. Host Ann Jones introduces the whipbird sounds, and with the assistance of experts, provides background and explanation, including pulling individual calls from whipbirds (and many other birds) from a cacophony of rainforest sounds.

The curated audio then transitions to other wild sounds, including the growling and pecking of the crane-like brolga, and a mystery sound/call from the Sidney area.  You can hear the sounds of an island off Tasmania, seabirds from another Australian island, and many other places, animals, and birds (25 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: Whip It Good [Earworms from Planet Earth xii]


Back in 2018, we ranked our top ten hiking and outdoors podcasts of 2018.  In 2019, we changed the format, listing our five favorite hiking and outdoors individual podcast episodes of 2019.  We consume a lot of podcasts, and those focused on being outdoors seem to have proliferated exponentially since we started listening.  That’s why, in 2020, we are trying something new.  This year, we will attempt to pick out the five best hiking and outdoors podcast episodes each month (or at least our favorites).

Disagree?  Have suggestions?  Leave a comment or Contact us.

5 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcast Episodes of March 2020

Back in 2018, we ranked our top ten hiking and outdoors podcasts of 2018.  In 2019, we changed the format, listing our five favorite hiking and outdoors individual podcast episodes of 2019.  We consume a lot of podcasts, and those focused on being outdoors seem to have proliferated exponentially since we started listening.  That’s why, in 2020, we are trying something new.  This year, we will attempt to pick out the five best hiking and outdoors podcast episodes each month (or at least our favorites).

March 2020 saw a seismic shift in what we knew to be normal, with all conversations dominated by a global pandemic.  The outdoors became an escape, and then, in some cases, an impossibility, due to localized rules.  This “best of” list took awhile (yes, it’s almost mid-April), due to the disruption of routines.  But podcasts can help us process all these changes and share ideas, or simply let us escape for a few minutes.  Hopefully, we struck a good balance between useful advice and outdoor escapism (and humor).  Below are the five best hiking and outdoors podcast episodes we listened to in March 2020, with a brief description of each podcast.

A warning – playing podcasts or music on external speakers while hiking is basically a capital offense.  Playing podcasts or music through headphones/earbuds while hiking is somewhere in the spectrum of inadvisable to mortally dangerous.  Just from a common sense standpoint, why would you want to have your hearing and attention somewhere else if you want to maximize the benefits of being immersed in the outdoors (or, more basically, fail to hear the bear you just startled)?  All that being said, hike your own hike.

Mount Washington and the Whites from Hawk Mountain, Waterford, ME
Mount Washington and the Whites from Hawk Mountain, Waterford, ME

Rich Roll Podcast1. Lessons Learned and Empathy Earned (March 5, 2020) from Rich Roll Podcast

Rich Roll’s prolific, wide-ranging podcast explores the outdoors and the inner self, and Roll generated a podcast episode a week for seven straight years without a vacation.  Roll then took his own advice, and took December 2019 off, prior to appearing on the cover of Outside Magazine in January 2020.  This episode contains audio from Outside’s interview of Roll, in which Roll tells the story of his journey.

Rich Roll, a competitive high school swimmer, was first introduced to alcohol during college recruiting trips.  Roll describes how his relationship to alcohol stunted his growth as a college athlete, then an attorney.  A 100 day stay in rehab began Roll’s journey, giving him the tools he would eventually use in recovery.  But Roll’s realization of his own poor health then resulted in big changes, as he overhauled his diet and returned to swimming and running.  One day, a planned, routine 5-6 mile run kept going, and Roll, trusting a faint but life-altering whisper, found his calling as an ultra-endurance athlete.  This episode contains great insights and anecdotes about Roll’s journey to self-actualization, and the help he received along the way (53 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: Lessons Learned & Empathy Earned: The Story Behind The Story


Foot Stuff2. Denali with Chris Lang (March 4, 2020) from Foot Stuff Podcast

Each Foot Stuff Podcast episode begins with the phrase, “A comedic deep dive into . . . ” In this case, the crew begins with a review of their own outdoor activities since last podcast, consisting of running, skiing, and ice fishing in and around the Adirondacks.  A funny discussion of lesser-known collective nouns (“prickle of porcupines, raft of ducks, parliament of owls”) then precedes detailed advice on navigating a slide in winter, including training, equipment, and going as a group.

The meat of the podcast is a discussion of Denali, North America’s tallest summit, as climbed by podcast guest Chris Lang.  Lang describes his introduction to winter mountaineering, starting with a winter ascent of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, and quickly accelerating to a twenty day guided trip with Alpine Ascents to Denali’s summit. The comedic deep dive includes both the soaring highlights and the less glamorous parts of this adventure, including a (shared) (disappearing) poop bucket, in-tent smells, extreme weather, heavy gear, substantial expense, and rigorous training.  “Dave,” a fellow traveler, is the big loser in this story, based upon numerous unforced errors and violations of unspoken outdoor ethics (“Suck it, Dave”).  This story about what it takes to summit Denali, and the entire light-hearted podcast, may be just what you need right now (1 hr 33 mins).

Apple Podcast link: Denali with Chris Lang


Cascade-Hiker-Podcast-Logo-B1.jpg

3. Socially Distant (March 20, 2020) from Cascade Hiker Podcast

Rudy Giecek’s hiking and backpacking interview show covers much more than just the Cascades.  In this episode, Rudy interviews Kindra Ramos of the Washington Trails Association (WTA), for a timely discussion of how to help people get outside safely.  Ramos focuses on social distancing as common sense – staying closer to home, not putting a strain on rural communities or first responders, and exploring lesser-known trails.

This description of trail management in Washington, from an area that took a heavy initial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, is a good analog for Maine and the Northeast, with positive, practical advice – pick trails with less trail reports/activity.  Stay with existing family/household members. If you are in the backcountry, take extra precautions, and be fully prepared. Busy trailhead? Have a second plan, and move on.  Ramos closes with a point that will affect all of us – how can we help build sustainable trails for the future, and what role can the people now getting outside play in being future advocates for the outdoors (18 mins)?

Apple Podcast link: Socially Distant


Firn Line Podcast4. In It Together (March 29, 2020) from The Firn Line

Evan Phillips’ Alaska-based podcast explores the lives of mountain climbers.  This listener-centered episode is a check-in with The Firn Line community during the Covid-19 pandemic, featuring interviews and clips gathered from March 22 to March 28, 2020 in Canada, Scotland, and the US.

People, particularly those used to the freedom of the outdoors, respond in different ways to isolation.  There are ideas here for connection with family, for donations, for community service, for exercise, for “play.” Topics include gratitude, getting to know neighbors, and how communities are supporting each other in different places.  Listeners also discuss self-care and lowering expectations for productivity, while maintaining connection during isolation, including a comparison to Alaska’s winter darkness, and resultant cabin fever (48 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: In It Together


Training for Trekking

5. Keeping the Adventure Alive (March 29, 2020) from The Training for Trekking Podcast

Australian trainer Rowan Smith’s podcast normally focuses on practical tips to train for hiking and mountaineering.  In this episode, Smith presents ideas for staying motivated and moving forward across a variety of circumstances and pandemic-imposed limitations.  Smith’s great introduction draws on his childhood and his imagination to provide an example on how to immerse yourself in an activity, even when there are barriers.

Smith explores the ‘micro-adventure’ – doing what you can.  He recommends books to keep adventure in mind if you cannot be outside (I would wholeheartedly endorse his suggestion of “Breath” by Tim Winton), as well as movies.  Smith closes with two more ideas for keeping the adventure alive –  use the time to refresh or find new skills like navigation or first aid, and/or plan and research your next big adventure in depth, to be ready when this strange time is over (15 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: Keeping The Adventure Alive


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5 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcast Episodes of February 2020

Back in 2018, we ranked our top ten hiking and outdoors podcasts of 2018.  In 2019, we changed the format, listing our five favorite hiking and outdoors individual podcast episodes of 2019.  We consume a lot of podcasts, and those focused on being outdoors seem to have proliferated exponentially since we started listening.  That’s why, in 2020, we are trying something new.  This year, we will attempt to pick out the five best hiking and outdoors podcast episodes each month (or at least our favorites).

The best podcasts we heard in February focused on mindfulness – bringing wildlife to the forefront through art, to living purposefully, without technological input, to mental training and using the outdoor spaces we have.  Below are the five best hiking and outdoors podcast episodes we listened to in February 2020, with a brief description of each podcast.

A warning – playing podcasts or music on external speakers while hiking is basically a capital offense.  Playing podcasts or music through headphones/earbuds while hiking is somewhere in the spectrum of inadvisable to mortally dangerous.  Just from a common sense standpoint, why would you want to have your hearing and attention somewhere else if you want to maximize the benefits of being immersed in the outdoors (or, more basically, fail to hear the bear you just startled)?  All that being said, hike your own hike.

Icy mill dam outlet of Heald Pond, Lovell, ME
Icy mill dam outlet of Heald Pond, Lovell, ME

outside1. A Long-Shot Bid to Save the Monarch Butterfly (February 5, 2020) from Outside Podcast

Driving by Californa billboards, artist Jane Kim was inspired to begin creating large-scale public murals of animals along the migration routes they share with humans.  This idea, beginning with Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep along California highway 395, has recently culminated in a painting that includes a 50-foot-tall monarch butterfly, on a 13-story building in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.

This public art helps the viewer realize what is possible, places the animal in the conscious mind, and draws attention to the potential shared environment for these creatures in urban green spaces (37 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: A Long-Shot Bid to Save the Monarch Butterfly


Outside In2. Nature Has Done Her Part (February 6, 2020) from Outside/In Podcast

The title of this episode is drawn from a Milton quote favored by conservationist and author Guy Waterman: “Accuse not Nature, she hath done her part; do thou but thine.”  Guy suffered from depression, and died of exposure on Franconia Ridge in 2000.  Guy’s widow, Laura Waterman, tells her story in this episode.  Both Guy and Laura escaped office jobs, turning to the mountains of Vermont and a subsistence life in the woods.

At their home, they meticulously documented and recorded everything, from rainfall to temperature, to maple syrup, to the top-producing blueberry bushes, an accounting of nature’s minutiae that led to a heightened awareness.  The books Guy and Laura wrote, including Backwoods Ethics, explored timely issues like the capacity of natural places for human use, and Laura explains the progression of these ideas over time.

Apple Podcast link: Nature Has Done Her Part


OutThere_logo-variations-13

3. Brain on Nature (February 6, 2020) from Out There Podcast

In 2015, Australian journalist Sarah Allely suffered a mild traumatic brain injury after being hit by a car while riding her bike, and struggled to regain her former brain function. Allely documented her recovery in a documentary podcast series called Brain on Nature.  Allely began to notice the recuperative effect of nature, starting by spending time in her garden.

Allely interviewed experts, and found the results made sense –  mindful time in nature is the opposite of looking at screens, and can be stimulating to the brain, but also restful and restorative.  The overload on the prefrontal cortex can sometimes be alleviated by something as simple as a walk in nature (42 mins).

Apple Podcast link: Brain on Nature


Training for Trekking

4. Preparing For Uneven Terrain (February 3, 2020) from The Training for Trekking Podcast

This concise weekly podcast by Australian trainer Rowan Smith focuses on practical tips to train for hiking and mountaineering.  In this February episode, Smith relays specific advice for preparing to tackle hikes over uneven and rough terrain.  According to Smith, the best preparation is (obviously) hiking, followed by strength training.  Smith recommends single-leg strength and proprioreception training to promote stability and injury prevention.

Following this strength advice, Smith pivots to belly breathing and a focus technique as an inoculation against stress.  The physical and mental strategies outlined in this short episode can be used to prepare your body for jumping over actual rocks and roots, or the more metaphorical uneven path we all traverse (15 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: Preparing For Uneven Terrain


Wild Ideas Worth Living5. Shanti Hodges: Getting Kids Outside from Wild Ideas Worth Living

In this episode, Shelby Stanger checks in with Shanti Hodges, who created Hike It Baby, which has become a nationwide network of parents and children hiking together and creating support groups through a shared activity.  Hodges, a new mother in Portland, Oregon, grew frustrated with the limited activities for mothers and babies, and built her own community from the ground up.

Hodges discusses the challenges of parenthood, and the benefits (and limits) of the outdoors.  Hodges then details her pivot from being consumed by Hike It Baby to her now spending more time with her son, and guiding and running womens’ retreats, while keeping involved with Hike It Baby.  Stanger and Hodges then close with a helpful discussion of the best tips and gear for hiking with very small children (39 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: Shanti Hodges: Getting Kids Outside


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5 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcast Episodes of January 2020

Back in 2018, we ranked our top ten hiking and outdoors podcasts of 2018.  In 2019, we changed the format, listing our five favorite hiking and outdoors individual podcast episodes of 2019.  We consume a lot of podcasts, and those focused on being outdoors seem to have proliferated exponentially since we started listening.  That’s why, in 2020, we are trying something new.  This year, we will attempt to pick out the five best hiking and outdoors podcast episodes each month (or at least our favorites).

January is a month when we reflect upon the past year, and look forward to the new one.  It is a time tailor-made for introspection, and we listened to a variety of great podcasts focused on new beginnings, winter reflections, and renewal through the outdoors.  Below are the five best hiking and outdoors podcast episodes we listened to in January 2020, with a brief description of each podcast.

A warning – playing podcasts or music on external speakers while hiking is basically a capital offense.  Playing podcasts or music through headphones/earbuds while hiking is somewhere in the spectrum of inadvisable to mortally dangerous.  Just from a common sense standpoint, why would you want to have your hearing and attention somewhere else if you want to maximize the benefits of being immersed in the outdoors (or, more basically, fail to hear the bear you just startled)?  All that being said, hike your own hike.

Winter sunrise on Hawk Mountain, Waterford, ME
Winter sunrise on Hawk Mountain, Waterford, ME

Dirtbag Diaries1. Mr. Hodges (January 24, 2020) from The Dirtbag Diaries

Can a schoolteacher have a generational impact?  Fitz Cahall and Cordelia Zars start by reminiscing about their favorite teachers, and memories of being trapped in school, when so much occurs outside the classroom.  Thus begins a fantastic oral history, recounting an epic summer break bike trip from the Alaska line down to southern California led by a unique teacher with 22 students in 1975.  The account, told by the nostalgic participants (including the surprisingly lively Mr. Hodges), is full of laughs, lessons, and misadventures, and reveals the lasting impact one unconventional role model can have for the rest of students’ lives (37 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: Mr. Hodges


Scotland Outdoors2. Nature is Good For You (January 4, 2020) by Scotland Outdoors

This podcast by BBC Radio, hosted by Mark Stephen and Euan McIlwraith, was new to us, and we were hooked from the very beginning.  From a roaring fire beside a Scottish river, Stephen and McIlwraith (“portly woodland elf”) oversee a variety of discussions and topics, focused on appreciating nature in the New Year, getting outside and active after “two weeks of waddlesome sloth.”  They introduce segments from contributors about medicinal and edible plants, planting and understanding trees, nature as a tool for PTSD, music inspired by the outdoors, and unlikely explorations.  The sounds of the crackling fire and the rolling burr of their voices create an intimate environment for storytelling (1 hr, 25 min).

Apple Podcast link: Nature is Good For You


 

G.O.

3. G.O. 092 – Roundtable: Embrace Your Discomfort Zone (January 1, 2020) from G.O. Get Outside

Get Outside’s Jason Milligan hosts a wide-ranging roundtable discussion by team Chick-a-Boom – Cyndi Wyatt, Marilee Valkass, and Saveria Tilden to discuss fears and misconceptions about the outdoors, and the benefits of working through these issues through education and perseverance.  This is a compelling and empowering examination of escaping the stresses and limitations of society through building a relationship with nature.  Throughout the podcast, the group provides tools and advice for all levels of outdoors exploration by using personal examples.  My favorite portion was a light-hearted discussion of risk management around dangerous animals, with the conclusion, “animals don’t have hospitals,” explaining the intrinsic decision-making conducted by predators (i.e. – it’s usually not worth attacking a human), and the importance of education.  The roundtable’s advice and common sense conclusions are the perfect way to begin the year with inspiration  (1 hr, 6 min).

Apple Podcast link: G.O. 092 – Roundtable: Embrace Your Discomfort Zone


Off Track - ABC Radio National

4. The Burning Bush is Talking (January 25, 2020) from Off Track

Dr. Ann Jones presents a timely story inspired by a social media post by Adrian Murgo, who noticed that the leaves of the gum trees on his property turned red and fell to the ground prior to the incursion of Australian wildfires.  This podcast takes the observations of a layperson, and attempts to explain it through the expertise of Professor Peter Vesk, a University of Melbourne ecologist, Professor Adrian Franklin, a University of South Australia sociologist and Oliver Costello, of Firesticks Alliance, an indigenous corporation, punctuated by the sounds of the Australian outback.  Do gum trees have awareness of fire, and are they built to burn?  How have indigenous peoples lived with gum trees, and acted as stewards of these “ancestor trees?”  Dr. Jones avoids easy conclusions or soundbites, and tells a powerful and insightful story about the Australian landscape (25 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: The burning bush is talking


 

Foot Stuff

5. FSP 091 – Where You’ll Find Me (January 29, 2020) from Foot Stuff Podcast

We heard about this podcast directly from the presenters, and were instantly hooked.  Matt Baer, Tyler Socash, Wade Bastian, and Jeremy Utz host an “Outdoor Recreation Comedy” which irreverently meanders through outdoor topics, stories, interviews, headlines, and advice from the Adirondacks.  In January 2019 on this blog, we reviewed Where You’ll Find Me, a book by Ty Gagne about a deadly trip to the White Mountains.  So we were thrilled to find this shorter “Blue Blaze” episode (a nod to the Appalachian Trail’s side trails), in which the Foot Stuff crew reviews the book, providing insight and humor.  They discuss everything from the actual tactile feeling of the physical book itself to the historical context of the Whites, to the decisions made by Kate Matrosova in her ill-fated traverse.  The in-depth discussion is appropriately respectful of the mortal nature of this tale, but punctuated by the jokes and anecdotes that make this podcast great (47 minutes).

Apple Podcast link: FSP 091 – Where You’ll Find Me


 

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5 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcast Episodes of 2019

It is that time for end-of-year lists.  Last year, we listed our top ten hiking and outdoors podcasts for 2018.  For 2019, we changed the format, and drilled down further, zeroing in on our five favorite hiking and outdoors individual podcast episodes.  We focused on a few distinguishing factors. Was it interesting and inspiring? Was it fun, unique, new? Did it stimulate further discussion, reading, or research?

Based on those criteria, below are the five best hiking and outdoors podcast episodes we listened to in 2019, with a brief description of each podcast.

A warning – playing podcasts or music on external speakers while hiking is basically a capital offense.  Playing podcasts or music through headphones/earbuds while hiking is somewhere in the spectrum of inadvisable to mortally dangerous.  Just from a common sense standpoint, why would you want to have your hearing and attention somewhere else if you want to maximize the benefits of being immersed in the outdoors (or, more basically, fail to hear the bear you just startled)?  All that being said, hike your own hike.

Tree on Second Hill, Mount Agamenticus
Tree on Second Hill, Mount Agamenticus

Off Track - ABC Radio National

1. The Chase – Back From The Dead (February 9, 2019) from Off Track

“All this fuss about a little green bird.”  It’s a short mystery about a possibly extinct bird, but a story much more revealing about the humans surrounding it, all in a uniquely Australian way.  To be clear, this podcast was recommended by the consistently excellent Outside/In podcast from New Hampshire Public Radio, and we were hooked after hearing the story of the night parrot.

Audio quality is very important to host Ann Jones, whose whispered voice sets up the unique nature sounds of Australia’s bush.  The story of the night parrot occurs three to four days’ drive from the nearest town, a setup for the introduction of lively characters obsessed with a tiny, elusive nocturnal bird.  Jones presents the tale with a full 360 view of the conservation issues of the past, present, and future, and voices from indigenous Australians relaying both science and legend.

(Hint: if you are unable to find the episode on the podcast app you use, look for Outside/In Podcast episode “Hunting the Night Parrot” from March 14, 2019.)


 

10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

2. Leave No Stone (February 14, 2019) from Outside/In

Host Taylor Quimby starts this episode with the story of a small memorial stone engraved with a name atop a New Hampshire mountain, and proceeds to a surprisingly polarizing discussion of what Leave No Trace actually means.  In the backdrop of intensifying recreational use of the outdoors, what mark does human use leave on the land?  And with a larger and more varied segment of society using the back country, is Leave No Trace open to interpretation?

Through interviews and social media, Quimby and the Outside/In crew conduct a whimsical exploration of the deployment of decorative stones and painted “kindness rocks,” cairns, blazes, graffiti, and even a plastic skeleton.  There are those who create and disperse these items, and those who remove them from the landscape, and no matter which side you fall on, this is an interesting discussion.


Backpacker_Radio_new_art3. Episode 37: Jenny & Scott Jurek on the Appalachian Trail Speed Record, Parenting, and What’s Next (May 10, 2019) from Backpacker Radio

This is the longest episode on our list by far, at 2 hours and 28 minutes, but the time moves quickly.  Ultrarunner Scott Jurek has been interviewed before, but this Backpacker Radio episode, hosted by Tom “Jabba” Gathman and Zach “Badger” Davis, is fascinating, with a softer, humanizing touch, starting with Scott’s wife Jenny Jurek and their children in-studio.  Scott talks about his journey in ultra-running, leading up to his record-breaking (at the time) Fastest Known Time (FKT) of the Appalachian Trail in 2015.

Maybe it’s the family atmosphere, maybe it’s the common ground built between a jet-lagged Jabba and Scott Jurek over the “burly” state of Pennsylvania, but this episode hits its stride about 15 minutes in, and becomes a captivating discussion of the outdoors, family, fame, love, friendship, and grueling feats of endurance.


 

10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

4. Episode 117: Safer Alone in the Backcountry (June 19, 2019) from She Explores

Gale Straub’s series focuses on female exploration, and this episode provides perspective about the safety of hiking in relation to the daily life of some, and the freedom of the outdoors.  This is an interview of Sarah Grothjan, a survivor of stalking, alone in a new state, whose deeper excursions into the backcountry helped her through the ordeal.

Frustrated by the inefficacy of law enforcement, Grothjan relied upon hiking (and support from friends) to feel safe, to find community, to cope with a traumatizing time, and to reclaim independence.  The episode explores the differences between male and female perceptions of safety, the rise in acceptance of female solo hiking, and the skills and confidence built by the outdoors.


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

5. Episode 108: The Power of Choice with Edith Eger (May 20, 2019) from Wild Ideas Worth Living

Host Shelby Stanger enthusiastically interviews leaders who break the mold and live wild.  We have no idea what, if any, is Edith Eger’s backpack of choice, but at 91 years old, she is indisputedly, as Stanger says, one of the most “badass people” we’ve ever heard.  Eger grew up in Hungary, and was in training for the Hungarian Olympic Gymnastics team when, in May 1944, she was taken with her family to Auschwitz.  Eger survived, and eventually emigrated to the United States, where she earned her doctorate in psychology, using her training and experience to help survivors of trauma, and authoring the 2017 book “The Choice.”  Eger’s story, her advice, and her perspective are an enthralling journey of perseverance and grace, told in her own voice.


 

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10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018
Katahdin – Knife Edge 2018

When we aren’t hiking, we often consume content related to the outdoors.  Podcasts are a great way to maximize transition to the outdoors and spark discussion during long drives to trailheads.

Outdoor content can be uneven – we tried some hiking podcasts that were basically unlistenable, for reasons ranging from long-winded alcohol or cannabis-infused monologues to insufferable condescension regarding non-thru-hikers.  Also, the experiment of podcasting while hiking never seems to work, and devolves quickly into nonsense conveyed over heavy breathing.

But the best podcasts can capture unique moments, seen through the interesting lens of people new to the outdoors, or drawn from experienced adventurers through long-form interviews.  They can also illuminate topics in science or history in a relatable way, including land and wildlife management, lightning, wildfires, and climate change.  Listeners can also experience life-or-death situations in the safety of their homes and cars and gyms, taking lessons and inspiration with them when they venture out into the outdoors.

These are the ten best (and several honorable mention) hiking and outdoors podcasts we listened to in 2018.  These are unscientifically and unfairly arranged by our own unique interest and enjoyment, with a brief description of each podcast, and the best audience and suggested gateway episode for each one.

A warning – playing podcasts or music on external speakers while hiking is basically a capital offense.  Playing podcasts or music through headphones/earbuds while hiking is somewhere in the spectrum of inadvisable to mortally dangerous.  Just from a common sense standpoint, why would you want to have your hearing and attention somewhere else if you want to maximize the benefits of being immersed in the outdoors (or, more basically, fail to hear the bear you just startled)?  All that being said, hike your own hike.


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

1. Outside Podcast

Outside Magazine has long been the leader in outdoor storytelling, and they launched this podcast in March 2016 with Science of Survival (killer bees or hypothermia, anyone?), expanding it to include The Outside Interview and Dispatches.  Each episode is a stand-alone experience, and the podcast explores every conceivable aspect of being outside.

Best for: Everyone – wide variety of outdoor topics in a tight, well-produced format.

Episode to Try: A Very Old Man for a Wolf (April 24, 2018)


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

2. Wild Ideas Worth Living

Host Shelby Stanger enthusiastically interviews leaders in outdoor fields, with a focus on “how they’ve taken their own wild ideas and made them a reality.”  Listen to this podcast for insights on breaking the mold and living wild from skiers, surfers, astronauts, authors, climbers, runners, and entrepreneurs.

Best for: Dreamers.

Episode to Try: Scott Jurek – How to revitalize your purpose, tackle the longest trails, set records, and write best-selling books


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

3. Outside/In

Host Sam Evans-Brown “combines solid reporting and long-form narrative storytelling to bring the outdoors to you wherever you are.”  This show sneakily weaves in science to explain and explore the outdoors.

Best for: The intellectually curious.

Episode to Try: The Sky is Burning


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

4. The Firn Line

This show might be worth it solely for the intro and background music, created by host Evan Phillips, an outstanding musician.  Phillips’ goal is “to have meaningful conversations with extraordinary people; the folks who choose to live full-value lifestyles, in the most wild and rugged mountains on the planet.”  Phillips interviews notable climbers in this Alaska-focused podcast.

Best for: Lovers of Alaska (and music).

Episode to Try: Alaska Vibes: Conrad Anker


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

5. Dirtbag Diaries

This might be the most wide-ranging podcast on the list.  It’s a collaborative effort, best described by the creators as an expansion of “the campfire tale,” and each listener is guaranteed to find an outdoor story that will resonate deeply and personally.

Best for: Lovers of outdoor travel stories.

Episode to Try: Better Than Good Enough


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

6. She Explores

This podcast hosted by Gale Straub is focused on female exploration, and has a variety of interviews and stories covering the topic, as a gateway to longer discussions.

Best for: Adventurous women.

Episode to Try: Episode 80: The Musical Mountaineers


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

7. Out There

Out There, hosted by Willow Belden, “explores big questions through intimate stories in the outdoors.”

Best for: Reflective explorers of the inner landscape.

Episode to Try: How do I make my children fall in love with nature?


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

8. Backpacker Radio

Backpacker Radio, co-hosted by Zach Davis and Juliana Chauncey, covers thru-hiking and long distance backpacking, complete with trail correspondents, interviews, and recommendations.

Best for: Thru-hikers and aspiring thru-hikers.

Episode to Try: #22 | “Guthook” on Building the Most Popular Thru-Hiking App


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

9. The First 40 Miles

Hosts Heather Legler and Josh Legler focus on backpacking, with advice and content regarding food, gear, long-distance trails, and other hiking topics.

Best for: Couples and parents.

Episode to Try: 181: Raising the Next Generation of Hikers and Backpackers


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

10. Trust the Trail Podcast

Hosts Scott & Ariane use their experiences to convey lessons (and laughs) about the outdoors.  No topic is too broad or too small, and there are great insights in these episodes on hiking and backpacking.

Best for: Outdoor adventurers.

Episode to Try: Episode 72: Weighing in on Trail Magic


Honorable Mention:

10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

Tough Girl Podcast

Anyone seeking inspiration should check out this podcast, hosted by Sarah Williams, with stories of women overcoming great challenges.

Episode to Try: Susan Conrad – Kayaking ‘the Inside Passage’


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

The Adventure Sports Podcast

Unbelievably prolific podcast, with in-depth interviews twice a week with a wide variety of outdoor enthusiasts worldwide.

Episode to Try: Ep. 444: Winter Adventures in New England – Jay Atkinson


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018Hike Like A Woman

This podcast by Rebecca Walsh provides inspirational trail stories for and by outdoor women.

Episode to Try: The #1 Thing We Can Do To Raise Brave Children

 


10 Best Hiking and Outdoor Podcasts of 2018

Hike or Die

Hosts Tom Griffin and Craig Brinin talk about hikes and adventures in Australia and beyond, with realistic advice and insights, all in Australian accents.

Episode to Try: Episode 004: Hiking with girls (April 25, 2018)


 

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