Camp Reads: Outdoor Work Edition

I’ve been thinking a lot about my career choices lately and sometimes feel like I should be working outdoors. So I found all the books I could find written by people who work outdoors. Well, now I am a bit more hesitant to give up my comfy cubicle- working outdoors is incredibly hard work. These people are a bit rough around the edges, often lonely, marginalized, underfunded and under appreciated. Most people think these jobs are easy and can be done by anyone with no particular skill. They would be very wrong. If you’ve ever considered working outdoors or think they have it easy, you should read these books.

51VwKUdi5wL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Ranger Confidential by Andrea Lankford
If you think that National Park Rangers have an easy job, you would be very wrong. Lankford dispels this myth as she shares her stories from 12 years as a Ranger at Cape Cod, Yosemite and Grand Canyon, some of the busiest parks in the country. Rangers are not only historians, plant, wildlife and trail experts, they are also law enforcement officers, trained first responders and rescuers. They are often misunderstood and sadly under appreciated. In a time when the Parks are suffering from understaffing and budget cuts, this is a must read.

Car Camp, Day Hike or Backpack?  Backpack
Read this book while visiting your favorite popular National Park and thank a ranger for their amazing and hard work!


Smokejumper by Jason A. Ramos
This newly released book is a timely memoir of a smokejumper in the Pacific Northwest after another summer of epic wildfires. Ramos traces his history in the field from the beginning including details of the rigorous boot camp style training program to stories from the field. He also pays tribute to other famous firefighters over the years and discusses the controversial shift in wildfire fighting, deciding when to fight them and when to let them burn. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like for the amazing smokejumpers that risk their lives in the fiery wild, this book is the complete package.

Car Camp, Day Hike or Backpack?  Backpack
This hardcover is small enough in slide in your pack for reading on the trails. You will certainly think differently about that burnt ghost forest you are traversing.

51uQ5sMPMgL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Lives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson
As a kid, I went through a phase when I wanted to be an archaeologist when I grew up. I don’t think I was the only one under the spell of the Indiana Jones affect. It seemed like such an exciting job in the outdoors and making breakthrough historical discoveries. But the truth is that life as an archaeologist requires the patience of a saint along with a high tolerance of dirt, uncomfortable locations and low wages. Johnson highlights some dedicated archaeologists and sheds a light on the realities of this fascinating field.

Car Camp, Day Hike or Backpack?  Day Hike
This hardcover is still in the realm of day hiking for now. Take it with you on an exotic day trip where you’ll be exploring old ruins, or just take it on your favorite historic trails. But be sure to put it down long enough to look around at your surroundings- you never know if you’ll find a fossil or an artifact!

51t-kNBu2BL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A Mile In Her Boots by Jennifer Bove
If you read only one book on this list, make it this one. This is a compilation of stories from women who have worked in all aspects of the outdoors. There are stories from forest service workers, park rangers, trail workers, ski instructors, hunters, smokejumpers, wildlife researchers and rafting guides. My favorite stories are about a cloud collector (yes, it’s a thing) and a story from a fire lookout who gets an unexpected late night visitor. I love these stories and I love that there are women out there doing these jobs. They are truly inspiring.

Car Camp, Day Hike or Backpack?  Backpack
Read these stories on the trail for a quick dose of inspiration.

51NA0A0T7GL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Now Go Home by Ana Maria Spagna
This collection of essays is a raw and beautiful rumination on what it means to work in the outdoors. Ana Maria doesn’t want a normal 9-5 job so she moves to Darrington, WA to work for the forest service and do trail work. She shares the ups and downs and contemplates how she ended up in this role. She often questions her career decisions but ultimately decides that her calling is to the outdoors and she moves to the isolated town of Stehekin to continue her life of service and to write. Ana Maria is an important outdoor writer and we are lucky to have a new book from her this fall, Reclaimers.

Car Camp, Day Hike or Backpack?  Backpack
This slim collection slips in your pack for some deep thinking and contemplation on the trails.

A Hunger for High CountryA Hunger For High Country by Susan Marsh
Susan Marsh worked 20 years for the forest service in the 1980’s and 90’s in Montana and Wyoming. She dealt with the usual sexism of the time, being singled out and undermined. She often struggled with the paperwork and the monotonous daily tasks that ate at her and many times she wanted to quit. But she didn’t quit. Instead she put everything into her work. She spent her days exploring and documenting places that she fought to save, she worked with conservationists and environmentalists to come up with solutions to problems of loving the outdoors to death and she became an integral player in the management of our forests and parks. She shows by example that it is important to fight for what you love, even if it takes sacrifice.

Car Camp, Day Hike or Backpack?  Backpack
Get inspiration on the trails from the words and photos of this important book.

41YziH8zwRL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Pickets and Dead Men by Bree Loewen
Bree’s account of her time as climbing ranger on Mount Rainier is harrowing and intense. As a women she is constantly battling for respect from the other rescuers and even those being rescued. She learns to keep her cool while recovering dead bodies from the mountains and when her colleagues put her in difficult situations. I was exhausted reading this book. I felt the aches and coldness she described while climbing back and forth to Camp Muir in the snow without a jacket. Bree’s efforts as a ranger were heroic, and as with most of these jobs, not appreciated nearly enough.

Car Camp, Day Hike or Backpack?  Backpack
This compact book is made to fit in your pack. Take it to read at Mt Rainier National Park while you watch the climbers make their way up the mountain. Maybe even say to a ranger, “hey, I am reading this great book. You have an important job. Thank you for your hard work!”

See Also: Camp Reads: Lookout Edition

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