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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