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What to Listen to: Outdoor Podcasts

Athletes and Experts Reveal Their Favorite Podcasts

In 1851, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal about the sounds of the telegraph that had just come to his home of Concord: “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”  

Thoreau would have never fathomed how the dots and dashes of the telegraph he disliked have evolved into our ability today to bring the music and stories of the world directly to our ears wherever we may be. 

Over 48 million Americans listen to podcasts on a weekly basis, up 6 million from 2017.  One third of Americans age 25-54 listen to podcasts at least once a month. 

Here is a short list of favorite podcasts selected by outdoor-minded adventurers in the Blue Ridge:

Dan Mantena

Charlotte Running Club / Blue Ridge Relay 2018 team champion

Dan Mantena and his Charlotte Running Club team outran 200 teams to win the 208-mile Blue Ridge Relay last year.  Mantena prefers the mountain ascents, where “climbing builds toughness, teaches you how to suffer and to embrace the grind.”

He doesn’t listen to podcasts or music when training.

“There is a lot of noise in the world, so I prefer to either be with my own thoughts or talk to others if running in a pack. Quietness also helps build mental toughness and train the inner voice.” 

However, the Australian-born Mantena travels a lot for work, which led him to becoming an avid podcast-listener. His favorite, the weekly The Physical Performance Show by Australian physiotherapist Brad Beer.    

“Beer interviews some of the top athletes, coaches, and experts in the endurance world. His podcast aims to inspire the pursuit of your physical best performance, how the world’s top physical performers achieve their success as well as the highs, the lows, and the journey of getting there.”

Kayla Carter


29-year-old Kayla Carter doesn’t listen to podcasts outdoors for the most part, where she would rather be making connections to the natural environment and also building relationships with the people she’s with. 

 However, she did listen to a few podcast episodes while on her A.T. thru hike in 2014.

“But, that’s understandable when you’re on a six month journey to hike 2,000+ miles, right?” she said.  

“I’ve recently taken up running as a hobby and workout routine, so I’ll listen to them when I have an easy goal set for the day or on a walk by myself.”

Specifically, she listens to The Outdoor Biz Podcast because “it inspires my work in outdoor development with our regional economic development organization,” and Outdoor Industry Association’s Audio Outdoorist, which is an organization “committed to the outdoor industry and tracking its contributions to our nation’s economic viability, with the podcast focusing on politics surrounding the outdoor industry.”

Carter was instrumental in creating her own podcast, too: the Appalachian Trail Tennessee Network Podcast launched last spring and recorded 21 episodes in an effort to “document the trail’s positive impact on our economy while also highlighting the natural beauty here in Northeast Tennessee.”  

Gerry James


Music has become a fundamental part of experiencing the outdoors for many, including paddler Gerry James.

“I curate playlists to drive me as I glide through the water,” he says.  “When you’re out there on the water for three-plus hours marathon-paddling alone, it’s nice to have a companion,” said James, the American Canoe Association Volunteer of the Year in 2017 and one of BRO’s 30 under 30 last year for his work founding the Explore Kentucky Initiative and Kentucky Waterman Series.

His favorite is Joe Budden, whom he described as “more conversational than most podcasts… with three friends musing about navigating through life, critical reviews of the latest releases, hip-hop culture, and news in an unfiltered and deadpan format that is raw, real and hilarious.” 

James has even begun exploring the production side of podcasting.   

“I’m developing a podcast that will cover outdoor recreation, music, and environmental issues.”

Zach Davis


Zach Davis became an avid podcast listener after stumbling upon the Joe Rogan Experience while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2011.  “Boredom on trail is very real, and podcasts are my ideal solution,” said Davis, founder and editor-in-chief of The Trek, a platform for long distance backpacking enthusiasts. But he also adds,  “There’s immense value in practicing mindfulness, for which extended periods in nature without distraction is the perfect scenario for this pursuit.” 

Along with Juliana Chauncey, he co-hosts Backpacker Radio, a bi-weekly show featuring interviews with prominent long distance backpackers and adventurers, one of three active podcasts on The Trek.

Ellen Kanzinger


 Blue Ridge Outdoors Travel Editor Ellen Kanzinger listens to podcasts on her 30-minute walk to work every day, She also listens when driving to outdoor destinations around the region while on assignment for BRO.  Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting is one of her favorites. “It covers a wide range of topics including environmental issues like deadly wildfires, shark fishing, and lead in water sources.”

She also listens to She Explores and The Joy Trip Project. Both podcasts cover a wide range of outdoor activities and tell the stories of some “seriously inspiring people getting outside.” 

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