PK Podcast 008: Chris Townsend, Backpacking Legend

by Paul Kirtley

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Chris Townsend

Chris Townsend – Backpacking Legend

Chris Townsend is something of a hero to me. When I was first looking to undertake multi-day backpacking trips more than 20 years ago, it was Chris’s book, The Backpacker’s Handbook that I referred to for information and advice. I’ve followed his work and his exploits ever since.

Chris has a huge depth and breadth of long distance walking experience – both on trail and off trail – and his advice and opinions are always practical and pragmatic.

It was a real delight to spend the day walking with Chris in the Cairngorms near to where he lives in the Scottish Highlands. We talked about wilderness journeys, wild places, gear, best practice and photography.

There’s a tonne of advice and perspective in this podcast for both the novice backpacker as well as the seasoned trail hiker.

How To Listen To This Podcast

You can listen to this podcast here on my website by using the player above. Just press the play button on the right of the player.

You can download the podcast episode .mp3 file by right-clicking on the download icon just to the left of the play button to save the .mp3 file down to your local machine/device.

You can also subscribe on iTunes and on Stitcher or via my podcast-only RSS feed.

Chris Townsend camping on the PNW trail

Chris Townsend camping on the Pacific North West Trail.

Chris Townsend collecting water from a stream

Chris collecting water from a stream on our day walk. Photo: Paul Kirtley


Click here to read or download the transcript of Paul Kirtley Podcast 008.

Chris Townsend PCT 1982

Chris Townsend on the Pacific Crest Trail 1982.

Connect With Chris Townsend

Chris Townsend on Twitter

Chris Townsend on Facebook

View of the Cairngorms from Meall a Buchaille.

A view from our walk. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Links To Other Items Mentioned In This Podcast

Pacific Crest Trail Gear in 1982 … and what I’d take now

How To Walk The Pacific Crest Trail

Chris Townsend’s Books


Chris Townsend’s Films


Thanks For Listening!

Thanks for joining me on this podcast. If you have any comments about this episode, please leave them in the comments section below.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons at the top of this page. Thanks!

And Finally…

Finally don’t forget to leave an honest review & rating on iTunes or on Stitcher.

Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated! They do matter in the rankings of this podcast and I read each and every one of them.

Chris Townsend in Rohan photo

Chris Townsend by the campfire on his trek of the Continental Divide Trail.

Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog

How To Leave No Trace Of Your Campfire

How To Light A Campfire With One Match

Water Purification: The Five Contaminants You Need To Know About

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Paul Kirtley is an award-winning professional bushcraft instructor. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions.


{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }


Legend !!



Fantabulous! Big fan of Chris!



Great podcast. Really cool to listen to Chris talking.
I just bought the Backpacker’s handbook, really helpful.
Keep up the good work Paul.


Jeremy Edwards

I read the Backpackers Handbook many years ago. Time to revisit I think.
Excellent podcast, as always. This one with a true legend. Thank you both.



Thanks for all your mails.


Jim Watkins

Fantastic Podcast Paul. Chris Townsend is a fascinating legend to listen to. To think he hiked the NW
Trail past my home across the North Cascades and Pacific Crest Trail. I got hung up in the Pasayten Wilderness for whole summers. I wonder if we passed each other-just a fond idea. Finally, to my
knowledge no one has attempted the Canadian Pacific Crest. There is no trail and to attempt this feat
would be indeed formidable.
Kindest Regards To Your Followers
Jim Watkins-Pacific NW


Matt Gumbrell

Hi Paul

Fantastic podcast.

Chris mentioned a petrol stove that he favoured in your Podcast.

Is there a link to this or could one be provide.

I haven’t finished the podcast yet but how fascinating is his experiences, opinions and thoughts.



I was curious…so I listened…was impressed by the passion, the insight, ….
I stopped the podcast for a while,,..and thought…what is that this person teaches me…
In this day and age of modern speed…walking and touching the earth…and knowledge of it….that which was known to primal man…..lost in centuries,…now back to us….to revive n learn in modern ways…
I think that’s why some are chosen to experience n write….deep philosophy, insights…along with practical wisdom…hand me down to next generation…so that knowledge is passed on.

I cam back….listened to the podcast again….bought his book…backpackers handbook….(kindle)
And was amazed to see the philosophy of his opening pages….it’s an amazing read…awesome experiencing nature through someone who’s known her well….and for all my excuses for it being cold…and not sleeping overnight …I might yet learn to trust nature through her rhythms to keep me warm.

Awesome podcast . Thanks Paul!



Hi Paul

Absolutely loved this podcast, Chris is an amazing bloke to listen to. It is a shame you didn’t have days to talk to him would have love to hear more of what he has to say. Thanks to both of you for putting this together for us, great work Paul, as always.

Cheers Toby



Great podcast Paul. It was a great listen and learned a lot I have recently been lighten my load for longer walks and many insights I have have picked up from Chris and others. I would love to do an epic challenge for a ultra long distance walk done a few long walks in UK and Europe such as West Highland way and Pennine way and across parts of the alps. I soon retire from the army so may have time now 🙂


Andrew Casey

Great podcast Paul/Chris. It was so interesting that I listen to it twice already and I’ll probably listen to it another two times again. I’ve never heard of Chris before, which now having gained a bit of knowledge about him I’m really surprised that I haven’t. I’ll definitely be looking into his exploits, as his journey are so inspirational! Keep up the great work a Paul. I don’t know how you find the time to do it all? Do you ever sleep?




Great podcast again Paul…..

I’ve really enjoyed all eight podcasts! This one was really interesting for me because I’m currently hiking and wild camping a lot in practice for hiking / camping the 270 mile Kungsleden trail in northern Sweden this summer! It really was a fascinating podcast listening and learning from Chris’s knowledge and experiences! The Pacific Crest Trail sounds like an incredable experience I’d love to also hike in the future 🙂 I can’t wait for your next podcast Paul….. Please keep up the great work and I’m also enjoying learning more of the camping etiquette that is a common theme in your interviews!


Jim Watkins

Hi Richard
Yes, Pauls recent podcast with Chris townsend was fascinating. Equally, regardless of our nationality
we share love of the wild places in common. Should you decide to trek the Pacific Crest Trail or
very nearby Northwest Trail I will be glad to assist you. I live in Northeast Washington about 60
miles from Pasayten Wilderness, far northern end of the PCT. this invitation extends to any of
Paul’s followers.
Kind Regards
Jim-Pacific Northwest



Great pictures, like from movie “Into the wild” 🙂



Carols comment made me smile…yes, we too get cold , at night.

I have tried woollen socks, and then layer them , base thermals, 4 season bag, thick mat, even a foil
Cover on top just to keep warm…and not succeeded getting a happy balance between being light weight and being warm… ( have a kid too, they get cold faster)

I ended up double bagging the sleeping bag ( 2 bags in one) , double layering the mats, or using a air inflatable one for insulation between ground and me…for a cold and wet night.
An ex -military bag helped….but this is heavy!

I gave up…and camp out when it’s dry and warm, and when cold….take resort in the vehicle.
My little one loves outdoors…yet come nighttime…after the evening fire n meal….comes the puppy eyed look…can we go back to vehicle to ke ep warm….the article. 4 horsemen flashes by….I think hypothermia and cave in….

Any pointers on being snug as a bug, warm…sleeping outside, and keeping it lightweight would be welcome. ..from a those who get very cold very fast point of view!



Sorry paul!

The above comment was for the podcast….lightening the load.



Thanks, very inspriring podcast.
By the way: Colin Fletcher (mentioned) was really ahead of his time in terms of using Trekking poles, when hiking in the 1960s.
You can even see him with his pretty long walking stick on some of the book covers!


Paul Kirtley

Thanks for your feedback Lars. I’m glad you enjoyed this podcast in particular.

Warm regards,




Very interesting conversation with Chris Townsend. Always enjoy hearing from the more experienced.


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