Posts Tagged ‘Backpacker’

National Geographic won big last night at the Ellies, the National Magazine Awards presented by the American Society of Magazine Editors. This is an event I’ve never attended, but it sounds like a lot of fun, especially based on all the hashtag Ellies tweeting I saw going on late into the evening!

One magazine that was recently reviewed here, New York, won for a special section, called “Strategist,” that it ran in three issues during 2010. Another magazine that was recently reviewed here, Backpacker, got passed over for awards in General Excellence and for Magazine of the Year.

AdAge reported that National Geographic got those two major awards, while magazines such as The New Yorker — long accustomed to award sweeps — took home only one trophy.

One great pick was ESPN The Magazine for feature photography in its Bodies issue, which if you’ve never seen it, you’re really missing out. It’s everything about bodies, from the beautiful (semi-nudes) to the grotesque (injuries), and it’s mesmerizing to look through. In another photography category, W won — and W does have captivating photography, but it really beat National Geographic, which is known for its photos? The only way that can make sense is that National Geographic won two other such major awards. The rest of the winners and finalists have made my short list for reviews coming up soon!

Click here to see a complete list of the finalists, with links to content available online.

–Tyler W. Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

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Backpacker (

Issue reviewed: November 2010

  • Published in Boulder, Colo., by Active Interest Media
  • Circulation: 340,000
  • 104 pages, perfect bound


  • median HHI: $73,476
  • median age: 39.6
  • 66% male
  • hikers, campers, outdoorsy folks


The tone of Backpacker is snarky — and really fun to read! Interspersed with trail information, gear reviews and hiking how-tos are self-mocking quotes like this one: “From 2002 to 2003, we seemed to have sex on the brain. Some high (or low) lights: To promote ‘proper care of the family jewels,’ ‘Healthy Hiking for Men’ (5/02) delves into unsavory topics such as rashes, testicular torsion, and chafing. For the latter, it introduces the (drumroll, please) Bandanna Harness. … Our deepest regrets.”

If you want to read or see more of this magazine, you can look at every issue of Backpacker, from 1973 to 2009, at Google Books. How cool is that? I mean, you can look at every single page of every single issue. I love living in this time!


Backpacker is masterful at integrating its design and editorial — which is not such an easy task. The maps are illustrated with copy interspersed throughout and with each graphic really meaning something, with a related key that’s easy to follow. I’m especially happy to be reviewing this issue because it’s “The Best of Backpacker,” and it has the staff picks of the best photos and articles, a cool contents page, and tons of lists. It’s all-in-all a very well-planned and exciting issue.

What’s Best

  • Contents: What a fun idea for a different way to organize a contents page for a “best of” issue: Show the covers of the issues referenced throughout with the page numbers directing the reader! What’s especially neat about that is the opportunity to see all the different treatments of the nameplate, the photo and the cover blurbs over the last four decades.
  • Photography: This is too obvious. It’s the best photos in the history of a magazine that has cherishes nature photography, so there’s some really beautiful photos. I imagine most of Backpacker’s readers fantasize about the opportunity to capture one of these masterpieces while out on the trail (or to at least see one of them), and that’s what keeps many going back.
  • Where are they now?: This is a small chunk the editors used throughout this issue that is a great element. It gives readers an update on people Backpacker reported on years ago. Examples are an 8-year-old hiker who accomplished the goals he set in a 1997 issue; a teenager profiled in the first issue of the magazine who’s now retired an worked on a hiker association’s board; and a persona from 1999 who now has his own TV show.
  • Dissenting opinion: This nugget is at the end of some of the hikes in the article covering the 20 best trips ever. Instead of just listing each of the 20 as if they are truly 100% the best hikes, they show you why some people disagree. Here’s one: “The green tunnel is best for hippies and post-grads who want to be able to cell-phone in a pizzy delivery from a trailside hut.”

What’s Worst

  • Editor’s Note: I like reading editor’s picks as much as the next guy, but I wish the Editor’s Note in this special issue had not been reduced to a list of the editor’s favorite articles. Because the rest of the issue is so list-y, it would have been nice here to read why the editor, Jonathan Dorn,  liked ONE article so much or what accounts for Backpacker’s longevity or when the first time he read Backpacker was and what impression it made on him. Insight here would have been better than a Top 10 list.
  • The Master Chef: This section should be awesome, and the information in it is. But it’s not appetizing to look at. It has four great photos, and the rest is really gray copy. It feels like this page should be opened up more to show off how good the content is. (One of the recipes, if you’re interested, is Earthworm Patty Supreme. Nasty!) It’s not really designed differently than sections The Mileage Monster or The Intrepid Explorer (which look good), but it felt to me like The Master Chef needed more space.

Overall Opinion

I’m not an outdoorsy person, but I still really enjoyed going through Backpacker. For the most part, it’s a feast for the eyes and the articles and silly comments beg a smile. I can’t imagine a backpacker enthusiast who doesn’t read this magazine because it really is chock-full of interesting and informative pieces. For these reasons, I give Backpacker Magazine an A.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine or its website (which is an incredible complement to the magazine) and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review