Backpacker Magazine's True Survival Tales Struck by lightning. Charged by a grizzly. Swept into an ice cave. Lost and alone. Over our 40-year history, BACKPACKER readers have been obsessed with survival stories. On a visceral level, they’re dramatic, compelling reads. But even more importantly, survival tales have the power to inform us and move us deeply, cutting to the core of the human struggle. Almost 100 years later, it’s still a thrill to read about Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance’s death-defying Antarctic struggle, or the Donner party’s ill-fated journey through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We’re still captivated by the tenacity, innovation, and grit that survivors of all stripes show in making it home alive despite the worst of Mother Nature’s indifference.
The stories collected here are perhaps not quite so epic as Shackleton’s, but that doesn’t make them any less dramatic, dangerous, or real. They happened to real hikers and backpackers like you, and along with sending tingles down our spines, they remind us that in the wilderness, nothing is ever truly certain or routine—that’s part of the point of heading there in the first place.
And remember, these are BACKPACKER stories, so that means there’s a lesson in each one, and real advice that you can take with you into the backcountry, so you don’t make the same mistakes that these unlucky (or lucky) survivors made, and can find your way home.