Book Review: How To Suffer Outside by Diana Helmush (a beginner’s guide to hiking and backpacking)

It is very good.

Amazon suggested me this book because I have purchased almost everything single camping-related item on Amazon, and also I like books. I’m so glad I got this one.

It is filled with useful information, but it reads like an adventure novel. It is absolutely binge-worthy. I finished the 220 pages in two evenings.

The book is basically “backpacking from A to Z”. Diana has been backpacking since she was a teen. Over 11 chapters, she shares her knowledge and teaches you everything you need to know for your first backpacking trip. Seriously, everything. There’s a chapter about pooping outdoors.

I’m so glad I got this book while I’m still in the process of buying stuff for my 1st backpacking trip. It has definitely saved me from a few mistakes. I now know why I need to pack my rain jacket even if I don’t really expect rain, what is gaffer tape and why it’s better than band-aids, and why I don’t really need hiking pants (my leggings will work just fine).

If I had read the book before my first camping trip, or even hiking outing, I would have been saved from even more mistakes. If we had set up our new tent before going camping, we wouldn’t have discovered right at the campsite that the tent was missing poles…

The book’s Amazon rating, based on 77 reviews, is 5 stars. People call it “fun”, “informative”, and “inspiring”, and I wholeheartedly agree.

The very few critical reviews mention “unnecessary words”, “filling pages”, and “distracting the reader”. Well, it’s not a textbook. It can totally be used as a reference book, but it does have stories, examples, and anecdotes. That’s what makes the book charming!

It’s witty. I don’t know if Diana’s humour is for everybody, but it certainly worked for me. Reading it felt like chatting to a friend. Like, you tell them that you want to go backpacking, and they sit you down over a cup of hot chocolate and teach you everything they know.

I don’t know if it would be of interest to experienced backpackers because I am not one… But I think for stories and anecdotes alone, it’s worth picking up.

The book is sold on Amazon for $18.95.

It is also sold in selected REI stores, but I couldn’t find it in mine.


Small print at the very bottom: ha, I found a mistake! In chapter 5, she talks about shelters, mostly tents. She compares a tent to other alternatives such as a hammock, and says that if a hammock fails she would have to sleep on the ground without a pad because she wouldn’t bring one for hammock camping.

Well, this 🙋‍♀️ hammock expert whose experience is a whopping two-night car camping trip can say that you absolutely bring a pad for hammock camping! They make pads specifically for hammock use, or you can just deflate your usual one a little bit and use it in a hammock.

This is absolutely no reason to not trust the book. Diana does not do hammock camping, and she just gave a couple sentences overview that this option exists. She writes in-depth about tents, her preferred shelter, and that chapter is a great source of useful information.

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