Poetry books to bring out on the trail

Reading while backpacking and camping is an ideal pastime for many hikers. Being alone in the wilderness is a great time to sit down for a while and pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read for the last two years. However, if you are backpacking, the extra weight of book often forces them to be left on the shelf when packing. Poetry books are a great alternative! They pack in the intellectual density of a novel while maintaining the weight of an extra pair of socks. Check out these five recommendations for your next trail book!


Bright Dead Things – Ada Limón

Limón’s book has a little bit of everything; death, love, travel, innocence, and family. If you are new to contemporary poetry, this is where you should start. Her writing style is easy to follow and she doesn’t use obscure references or language that you would need to search for on the internet. With a variety of topics and creative language, Limón is perfect for a simple hammock-reading session in the woods.

The Abridged History of Rainfall – Jay Hopler

In his second collection of poetry, Hopler uses his investigation of the natural world to help him grieve over the death of his father. He takes readers on a journey across the globe; from the mountains of the American west to the streets of Rome.


Don’t let the heavy topic of death turn you off from this one though. Hopler is clever with his language and creates a bittersweet mood giving readers a chance to laugh through the pain.

The Local World – Mira Rosenthal

This book definitely falls onto the darker side but gains a spot on the list due to its investigation of travel. Rosenthal uniquely documents her travels across the globe while trying to create a path between the familiar and unfamiliar. If you are looking to fall into an existential crisis out on the trails this weekend, this is the book for you.

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude – Ross Gay

If you are looking for a poetry book of celebration, this is it! Gay’s book features celebration poems of the simplest things in life from the buttons on his t-shirt to a fig tree.

His stream of consciousness writing style is perfect for the trails, and his positivity in appreciating the small things brings a smile to any reader’s face.

Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman

We can’t have an outdoor reading list without including the father of free-verse poetry! If you can find a light version of Leaves of Grass you will be set for your next couple trips because this baby is long.


Whitman explores human’s interactions with each other and the world around them in this famous book, but all this knowledge adds up in weight. This is the physically heaviest of the five, so unless you can find a thin version I would save this for a car camping trip.


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rebecca-hext is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival