Gear pick of the year 2016 – A library card

Peanuts by Charles Schultz


The end of 2016.

In the outdoor world, that means click bait listicles for gear used in the dog park as THE BEST GEAR OF 2016.

Here at, I try to keep the clickbait on the more practical side.  As a bonus, I may actually use what I write about more than once in a dog park. 😉

My gear pick of the year for 2016 came out of a recent life change.

Moving to a new town and establishing a new residency means I was bereft of that critical piece of equipment for my day-to-day life: A library card.


My gear pick of the year for 2016? A library card.

I am truthful when I make this statement.

I have a reading habit that is only affordable because of my local library.

And your local library is an excellent source for getting materials about the outdoors.

You can certainly plan trips using online-only resources very efficiently.

At least for the initial part.

But not everyone feels comfortable planning their trips.

Guidebooks are still helpful for that niche.

And with the wonders of the interlibrary loan network, you can check out books from other libraries across the country.

And for free!


Peanuts by Charles Schultz

Going to Big Bend and you live in Rhode Island?  Use your library and get a Big Bend guidebook delivered to your local library.

But more than planning, your local library lets you access books that provide a deep background of an area.

Whenever I visit an area, I am not just interested in the topo lines and trails.

I want to know the area.

The history. The culture. The people who inhabit it.

I have developed an undeniable love for the Colorado Plateau and the history of the people who created an amazing culture derived from that area.

It is one thing to walk past ancient dwellings in a remote desert canyon.

But to know where they came from, the impressive culture that surrounded the area and perhaps to speculate a bit about them? I go to the library.

At least for me, I simply can’t walk through the canyon, mountains or plains.

I want to savor the area as much as possible.

And the means of reading about it. Knowing the background. Getting a feel for the area beyond the contour lines.

My personal book collection is not too shabby

But it is only a small fraction of the books available at a library.

And not just print books either. Most libraries are typically part of a cooperative network that offers books in electronic format.

Beyond knowing an area, the library offers books that make you think of the greater questions about the wild places.

What resources are important to protect?  

What is wildness?

How do we balance outdoor recreation with the economic needs of the people who live in the area?

What is our impact on the places we love?

My personal rule is if I read a book more than twice, I will buy the book.  It is obviously a book I love.  And will probably read again or least refer to frequently.

But how do I read these books initially?

The library.

Peanuts by Charles Schultz

So, get a library card.

It is a piece of gear that will expand your outdoor skills, knowledge, and appreciation of where you walk more than the top ten clickbait pieces of crap you probably don’t need anyway.

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7 years ago

“It is a piece of gear that will expand your outdoor skills, knowledge, and appreciation of where you walk more than the top ten clickbait pieces of crap you probably don’t need anyway.”
Amen! I am currently reading my local library’s copy of The Complete Walker by Colin Fletcher (based on your recommendation) and enjoying very much his wit and wordcraft.
Knowledge superceded gear detritus!

Michael decamp
Michael decamp
7 years ago

Paul, your post are always informative and insightful, but this one, especially, strikes right to the heart of the truth. Made my day. Thanks!

7 years ago

Finally a “gear pick of the year” I can relate to! Thanks once again!

One of the best things about moving three times this year was getting three library cards. The bookmobile that served the remote area I was at last winter had a remarkable selection. And with downloadable audiobooks and ebooks, you can even check out new materials while traveling.

7 years ago

My duster is a librarian and I never would have thought of ILL for guidebooks from other areas. Thanks for a great suggestion.

7 years ago

I moved to a new city a little over a year ago and never bothered to get a library card. This was the push I needed to go get one today. I wasn’t able to find any of the references books I wanted, but I did check out a few audiobooks using Overdrive. Thanks for the suggestion!

Lisa Frugoli
Lisa Frugoli
7 years ago

I love libraries, too.
A couple of things. First, you can also find magazines at your library – both paper & electronic. Second, not all library cards are created equal. If you don’t live in a “big” city in your state, you might request a library card next time you visit. The digital collection could be much better. San Francisco will issue a library card to anyone with a CA address and their ebook catalogue is much better than my local library.


7 years ago

A timely post… I’m currently planning a Canyonlands backpacking trip (specifically to see some ruins and such) and will have to put in an interlibrary loan for that book so that I gain a better appreciation of the history

7 years ago

Great! There are so many benefits to the notion of not only the “card” but the utilization of local libraries as a resource for hiking. Research and internet access and a time to rest the feet and recharge the brain are key not to mention air conditioning or heat. A roof over your head in a monsoon or clean bathrooms have bailed us out more than once (as long as you use those perks with discretion, courtesy and subtlety.). There is no better way to discover the pulse of a town than to enter the library. Perhaps the first thing… Read more »