Friday, August 06, 2010

Walking coast to coast, Rule #1

For anyone thinking about doing a continuous coast-to-coast walk/hike someday, here is the most valuable tip I can give you: Take only what you absolutely need.

You'll be tempted to take a few shirts, a camp towel, a laptop, maybe a book, and a bunch of tiny things that don't seem like much weight. DON'T DO IT. Instead, learn from my pain.

I'm probably much stronger than I was when I walked away from the Santa Monica Pier, but my body is totally beat up and everything hurts constantly, largely because I was carrying too much weight when I started. I thought I'd be a machine after a month or two, but that does not happen. Instead, the weight just goes down to your feet with every step, and it beats you up like you've never been beat up before.

After a few months, every day becomes tougher than the previous day. 50 lbs now feels like 70 lbs; tomorrow it will feel like 70.1 lbs. And it's all because I started out with too much weight. So just be smart and learn from my experience. It will make your long walk much less painful than it could be.

Shirts. I'm down to one short sleeve shirt and one long sleeve shirt, though I started with three lightweight short sleeve shirts and one long sleeve shirt. My shirt probably makes me smell like dog shit most of the time, but I don't care anymore because 1) I am almost always alone, and 2) There comes a point where you just stop caring. There is no need to worry about being a little smelly because that kind of thing happens when you're doing the most bad-ass thing anyone can do. Get over it and leave your shirts at home.

Socks & Footwear. Even though I walk in sandals, I had one pair of socks in the beginning, just in case I needed to get some shoes for whatever reason. And it did happen. I had to wear shoes for about 10 miles at Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado, at 10,850 feet. I paid $1.50 for the shoes at a thrift store, then ditched them in Walsenburg because I knew I'd never need them again. If I was walking in boots, I'd probably have to carry 4-6 pairs of footies, at 5 ounces per pair. Great reason to wear sandals. Also, my sandals are 2 lbs lighter than my last pair of boots. That makes a huge difference.

Essential Items
Backpack with at least an 80-liter capacity;
Sleeping bag rated below freezing;
Good, light tent and footprint;
Sleeping pad (I prefer inflatable, small);
Fleece top with full zipper;
Down or synthetic winter coat (doubles as a pillow in a stuff sack, though you'll send it home once spring is over);
Thin/light raincoat;
Rain pants;
Waterproof pack cover (if your pack is not waterproof);
One pair of convertible pants + shorts to wear during laundry;
A one-liter water bottle & collapsible water bladders amounting to about a 3-gallon capacity;
Maybe a few other things, too. (For some folks, weed.)

That's all for now. Much more to say about this stuff when I get a chance. Maybe I'll write about it in a book someday.

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