Alan has a MS in Engineering from Swarthmore College. He worked seven years in aerospace engineering (yes, a rocket scientist) before going into the public sector. He currently does computer-based probabilistic risk modeling for the Environmental Protection Agency. Alan supported himself through college as a professional photographer. Environmentally concerned, in addition to his work at the EPA he does volunteer environmental fieldwork-water quality monitoring and bird surveys-and supports work on preserving the canyon lands of the southwest.

Alan grew up in northern California and at age five carried his own backpack into the Yosemite backcountry. In the ensuing 40 years he has been on a variety of trips in California including climbing walls in Yosemite, and many backcountry ascents in the Sierras including the Ritter range and the Palisades. Alan has also done a winter ascent of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Shasta, climbed in the Tetons, completed a winter traverse of the Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains, and winter climbed in the Presidential Range. He’s done sections of the PCT, CDT, and AT and been backpacking, climbing in the Rockies, Sierras, Cascades, and adventuring all across the US.

His most memorable climb was a 38-hour single-push attempt on the Middle Teton. He and Ryan Jordan, publisher of, made it to within a few hundred feet from the summit before a storm forced them to abandon the climb with an ensuing hallucinatory nighttime decent in snow and ice with inadequate clothing, no food and water, little hardware, and a very short rope. Both are glad they are alive.

A jack-of-all-trades, Alan has been a winning category III bike racer, and an accomplished free diver and flyfisherman. In the past year he’s completed a multi-day paddling trip in the Florida Everglades, a winter backcountry ski tour in Yellowstone, a traverse of the Wind River range in winter conditions, climbed volcanoes in Indonesia, and bagged Munro’s (summits) in Scotland. The canyons of the Southwest are a new interest and Alan’s spent considerable time learning the ins and outs of technical canyoneering and desert travel.

Alan loves to share his knowledge of backcountry travel. He’s guided trips and organized seminars on lightweight backpacking, climbing and canyoneering. Some of his favorite topics are couples backpacking and backpacking with children. Alan’s a navigational geek and spends quality time with his multiple GPS units and custom maps. He prefers mountainous routes that get him into remote and inaccessible palaces in the Sierras, Rockies and canyons of the Southwest. For his kit gear Alan is down to less than 5 pounds of gear for solo long distance travel. His favorite trips are very light and very fast sometimes covering 20+ miles a day off-trail.

Alan co-founded Backpacking Light with Ryan in the spring of 2001. He’s the editor and a contributor to Backpacking Light 101 and co-authored Clothing and Sleep Systems for Mountain Hiking. Alan’s latest article, Waterproof Breathable Fabric Technologies: A Comprehensive Primer and State of the Market Technology Review is already heralded as a classic of scientific analysis in a little understood field. Alan works as a consultant to Bozeman Mountain Works, a design and manufacturing company dedicated to bringing the lightest high performance mountain gear available to the consumer.

Alan has two children age 19 and 22. He lives in Washington DC with his wife Alison, their tandem bicycle and a ton of gear.