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.
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)
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.
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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’
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
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
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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