Backpacking for Beginners

“I enjoy walking,” said Paul Magnanti, a Moab guide and author. “I’ve been very lucky enough to do a lot of it over the past 20 years.”

That’s an understatement. Magnanti, an avid thru-hiker, has an impressive resume of walking. Magnanti holds the “triple crown” of backpacking, completing all three of the most prominent long trails in the country: the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail and the Appalachian Trail.

Completing all three of the trails adds up to over 8,000 miles on his boots, but Magnanti wasn’t satisfied.

In 2018, he hiked across Utah, making up his own 600-mile route crossing the Pine Valley Mountains outside St. George, Bryce Canyon National Park, the Henry Mountains and into the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park before heading to the Utah-Colorado border around Gateway.

Now he’s turned to another way to celebrate his love of the outdoors: getting you to do your first overnight backpacking trip.

Magnanti completed his first book, “How to Survive Your First Trip in the Wild,” and will be presenting photos, tips and stories from the trail at the Grand County Public Library on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 6 p.m.

Jessica Magleby, head of adult services at the library, said she was charmed by the book.

“A lot of how-to style guides are a little technical and can be quite daunting for beginners,” said Magleby.

“I like that this book is approachable. It makes overnight backpacking seem completely doable.”

“It’s nothing fancy, it’s a meat-and-potatoes book for people who’ve never backpacked. I want to help people get out there,” said Magnanti. He said that often those unfamiliar with hiking and camping overnight focus on expensive purchases that end up being unnecessary.

“A lot of people think that it’s all about the gear and buying expensive tools,” he says.

That’s just not so, said Magnanti. He’s a fan of going light and choosing simple tools to get you into the wild.

“Tools are important, but they’re a means to an end. Skills and knowledge are what’s going to get you to beautiful places, rather than the gear itself,” he said. Not only that, but streamlining your gear keeps your attention where it should be: the beauty of the place you’re hiking through.

“Sometimes I show photos of places in the Rockies or Canyonlands, and people ask me what pack I used to get there. It’s not the pack, it’s just my feet,” said the hiker.

Magnanti chronicles his journeys through vivid photography and writing hosted on his blog,

“We always have a good turnout for outdoor adventure events,” said Magleby. “It’s a big part of our community.”

There will be copies of the book for purchase at the event.

Before the Dec. 3 event, the KZMU Radio Bookclub will host Magnanti and Stephen Trimble, author of “The Capitol Reef Reader” on Dec. 2 for a wide-ranging conversation on the outdoors and local literature. For more info or to stream the conversation, go to

Local author guides backpacking newbies

When: Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 6 p.m.

Where: Grand County Public Library (257 E Center St.)

Cost: Free

For more info, go to