One thing I noticed while building my Top 10 list: Great writing is hardly a requirement of great blogging (though it certainly helps to be pretty good).
Here’s an example of great hiking writing, from the BigOutside blog.
I’m slogging up a long ramp of beach-like sand toward Cox Col, an off-trail pass sitting a few ticks over 13,000 feet in California’s John Muir Wilderness.
What makes it great?
- Strong, precise verbs: We all know what “slogging” is like: suffering your way up a slope.
- Vivid adjectives: “beach-like” sand — you know, unlike the sand of the Sahara.
- Careful word choice: it’s not “just over” 13,000 feet, it’s “a few ticks.”
OK, so this writer’s not the next Hemingway, but he’s got a firm grasp of how the best get it done.
So, who are the best writers among your favorite hiking and camping bloggers? I’m not talking about the ability to accurately instruct how to pitch a tarp in a thunderstorm — you have to be good to do that accurately, and being great would probably get in your way (you’d want to describe the 17 frustrations of getting it wrong when your reader wants one simple, declarative sentence about getting it right).
There’s more to great writing than savvy word choice. Sometimes it’s a matter of being able to find a great story and put it into words. The Cold Splinters blog does that all the time.
A lot of excellent hiking writing is happening on the Trish, Alex and Sage blog. The story’s compelling: a hiking mom whose 5-year-old daughter has climbed all 48 of the highest peaks in New Hampshire. Talk about no child left indoors. The videos are worth a look, too.
Who else is doing great writing out there? Leave a link in the comments.
While I’m not nominating anyone, in outdoor blogging there are two styles at least I look for. One is clear instructional blogging (the “How To” and DIY format) and the other is people that can draw you into the story.
Now I’m looking forward to the suggestions to start following.
Tom, thanks for working to create this list! There are definitely some great writers in the outdoor blogopshere, whether their talent manifests itself through storytelling or informative narrative.
That being said, I’d love to be considered for it! Adventure-Inspired isn’t just focused on hiking, but on all things adventure and outdoors related. Thanks!
Paul: those are good distinctions, sort of like the difference between consumer writing and narrative writing.
Katie: Thanks for telling me about your site — we’re following each other on Twitter but I neglected to click on your link. Wish I had sooner.
You’re doing great work on your site, the breadth of coverage is impressive.
What a great blog and list, Tom. I will certainly be adding these to my RSS. However, in my humble opinion, your blog is definitely in that top tier!
Well, I wasn’t fishing for compliments but I’ll keep any that flop into the boat.
I write good.
Seriously though, I always try to bring humor to my writing because often times I find that trip reports and gear reviews are rather boring affairs with things like “information” and “non-blurry photos” getting in the way. There should be more variety in writing styles for the online blogosphere.
ADK: one thing I left off my list in the main post: voice.
If you’ve got one (which is true in your case), writing well is a breeze.
If you haven’t, writing is hell, both for the writer and the reader.
Probably the greatest obstacle to becoming a great writer is finding that true voice. It comes naturally only to a tiny minority.
While I’m not nominating any blogger in particular I’d like to add this. Some of the best posts I have read, the ones I look for, are posts that walk the line between instructional narrative and storytelling.
Offer me a primer, review a piece of gear, write a trail report, but make it personal. Give me a back story, draw me in… Teach me something by telling a story and I’ll come back for more every time.
Good points, Day Hiker.
Another thing for bloggers trying to improve their writing: use active voice and use no extraneous words.
Sample: When choosing a pair of socks for hiking cotton socks should be avoided at all costs
Improved: Avoid cotton hiking socks.
Sixteen words cut to four with no loss of meaning. I might leave “at all costs” in there because it’s more conversational, but it’s also a cliche.
I’m glad you wrote this. I need to ramp up my game. I’m going to take a look at more of the other hiking blogs before answering your question. I do think, however, that most hiking bloggers do a good job describing gear and gear tests.
Strunk, White & Mangan all the way!
Hiking is for those liking walking.Kids are no exception.infact they are the passionate hikers.