When I recommend any type of gear on any page in this blog, it is for two reasons.
- I've used it.
- I like it.
This does not include ads on the sidebar as I have no control over those.
It's not necessarily the best gear for the job as I haven't tested all the different types of gear to see if it is the best gear for the job. If there are limitations, I'll express them.
Every person has different experiences. If you feel strongly about a piece of gear, consider clicking the submit an article tab at the top and submitting a review. In the review, please include your personal experience with the gear.
The amount of gear taken should be kept to a minimum. It is surprising how little a person needs to live comfortably. Each person will make different choices, so this only one approach. Lightweight backpackers have an advantage as they have learned to do without many things. They are at a disadvantage when it comes to choosing clothes as the clothes for road walking can be less specialized. I don't have any final answers here. These are my brainstorming thoughts.
Nate Damm is convinced me to have a push cart in his book "Life on Foot: A Walk Across America."
A push cart is an essential piece of equipment for the 48 State Hike. It took me about three years to learn about push carts. Now that I've used one, I see many parts of the walk would be difficult without one. I even consider it an essential piece of equipment for shorter trips of a few days. Sure, a person can carry everything in a pack for shorter hikes, but why suffer from sore shoulders? On a reality hike, a person with a push cart can carry a few extra comfort items without noticing. For example, extra clothes. Think about it this way. If a person can travel 10% further each day with a push cart, they will be able to complete the 48 state hike about 36 days faster. This may make the difference between finishing the trip in a year or not finishing it. Another way to think about it is it allows for 36 zero days.
A push cart is also handy for virtual hiking when many of the walks involve going to the store. Many things I buy are either bulky or heavy and a pack isn't practical. Think of a package of 24 rolls of toilet paper or a few gallons of paint.
I've noticed people on long road walks wear what they like. Unlike backpackers, there doesn't seem to be any general standard. If a person walks most days in all types of weather they will learn what works for them.
For a real hike, weight and compressibility will be important. Weight because the walker will have to either push it or carry it. Compressibility because everything will have to fit in the cart or the backpack.
Surprisingly, clothes can be a large expense. Socks last a few hundred miles, and a good pair of socks costs $10 to $15. Many people recommend wool socks and are against cotton socks. Inexpensive cotton socks are uncomfortable, but I've found some cotton blends that work well.
Pants wear at the seam at the bottom of the legs. Putting a small patch there when they are new can significantly extend the life of pants. Light colored pants will be more comfortable in hot weather, but they show the dirt more.
As long as the night time temperatures are above about 50 degrees, and inexpensive 20 degree bag will work. I like the Alpine 20 for an inexpensive bag. It's available at many box stores. In cold weather, the choice becomes more difficult. An expensive down bag like a Western Mountaineering bag will be worth the money. For a reality hike, I think this would be my choice. It is lightweight and compressible. At around $500, it's a difficult choice to make. I'll start saving my pennies.
I think what I'd do for a reality bag is start with the Western Mountaineering bag for the cold sections. Once it warmed up, I'd mail it home and buy an inexpensive bag along the way. I'd have it mailed back once it starts to get cooler. The reason I like an inexpensive bag is I foresee cowboy camping without a tent on most nights. This is harder on sleeping bags.
There are many choices. I don't recommend going cheap with a WalMart tent as they tend to leak after a few uses in the rain. Still, if a person doesn't mind sleeping in their rain gear once the problems start, they may be a good choice for a budget-oriented person. The way the route is planned, there shouldn't be much rain in the first couple thousand miles.
Any tent should be free-standing so it can be set up on concrete if necessary.
A two person tent is a good size for one person unless they don't mind not having any extra space during the night. Generally, the tents that don't leak will have a bug screen and a fly that goes over it. This is because the fly is outside the bathtub that is a part of the bug screen. The fly doesn't have a seam at the bottom that leaks and directs water into the bathtub.
I wouldn't recommend using a tarp because it makes it easier for bugs, snakes and other nasties to come in during the night.
For a reality hike, I think I'd start out with an inexpensive tent such as the Timberland. This is only because of the route where I don't anticipate being in a rainy area for the first couple thousand miles. If it does rain and the tent leaks, I can spend an uncomfortable night dealing with it. Later on in the hike, like about in Nebraska, I'd buy a more expensive tent.
I've considered a bivy sack which is like a big waterproof sleeping bag that goes over the sleeping bag. Since I'd be stealth camping often, a bivy sack would be less visible. It's still an option, but I've noticed those who journal about long road walks tend to use a tent.
Note: As I've been studying the route closely, I'm finding areas where stealth camping with a tent would not be easy as there are fences on both sides of the road. It's hard to say with certainty by looking at Google Street View, but most places at least have dark places to sleep without setting up a tent. Taking a bivy sack as well as a tent seems like a good idea.
There are many stoves available, but the final choice will be driven by the fuel available. Alcohol stoves are the simplest. You can buy a alcohol at Home Depot, and probably WalMart. The yellow Heet bottles work, but they are expensive. The drawback to alcohol stoves is they are only good for meals that involve heating water. There is no good adjustment for simmering. The alcohol stove is my choice for local road walks a few days long.
The route goes through areas where alcohol may not be available. Oh, you can buy 90 proof or higher liquor, but even that may not be possible.
This leads me to white gas stoves. The SVEA 123R will burn gasoline, although it's not recommended. It's probably even dangerous to inhale the fumes. Another advantage to the SVEA 123R is it can simmer easily.
I think I'd take both the alcohol stove and the SVEA 123R. My choice on the alcohol stove is the Trangia 25 with a homemade windscreen.
Butane stoves are out because it will be difficult to find cannisters. Still, Nate Damm used one on his hike.
A person can get away with junk food for a few days, but eventually, a steady diet of junk food will make a person sick. The results may not show up for years in the form of heart problems or other diseases.
A reality hiker will burn somewhere around 6,000 calories a day. That's 40 bowls of oatmeal, or 60 potatoes, or 40 servings of rice or 60 bananas or equivalent size fruit. It takes about three pounds a day of dehydrated food to get this number of calories and in most places dehydrated food may not be available. In other words, a person will have to carry lots of food.
I've found I can reduce my intake about 500 calories a day below what I burn. This will make me lose about a pound a week with no adverse effects on fitness. Here's the deal. Once a person burns the carbohydrates in their digestive system, the body starts burning muscle first -- not fats. If a person has insufficient carbohydrates, they will go into ketosis and start burning fats. Meanwhile, they will be physically tired.
People may think meat is the answer, but meat gets its calories mostly from proteins and fats -- the two worst sources of energy. The answer for strength is carbohydrates in the form of what we call starchy foods.
The best diet I've found is from the book, "The Starch Solution" by Dr. McDougall. It's a vegan diet.
I still haven't solved the equation of obtaining and carrying enough healthy food. I think the answer will be eating as healthy as I can and eating what I can find when there is no other choice.
Note: Since I've been studying the route more carefully, I've found it passes a supermarket every two or three days. These are good times to eat until full and eat some more. Bring some extra food for the first day and eat it early so you don't have to push or carry it. Many of the supermarkets will be in the middle of the day.
I think it would be beneficial to practice "shop and eat" at home. By this, I mean shop every two or three days and practice your hiking diet. This includes using the stove you plan to take with you.
There are some stretches 75 miles long without water. Water weighs about 8.3 pounds a gallon and I figure a person will need three gallons a day for these stretches. That's 72 pounds of water. It's tempting to carry nine one gallon jugs, but I don't think they will distribute well in the push cart. I'd use the .7 liter water bottles that come with free water. I'll have to do more testing with this to see if it's a reasonable estimate.
Wear what works for you.
I use Gorilla Tape on the bottom of my combat boots so my soles don't wear out. It can also be used to patch a tent or temporarily seal any areas that are leaking. It can even be used to patch split pants. It can be used to cover hot spots before they turn to blisters or to cover torn spots in the lining or inserts of shoes.
A couple needles and a spool of tough thread is plenty.
It's difficult to find one map that will do everything. For planning this route the only mapping program I found that would work is Streets & Trips. Unfortunately, Microsoft is going to stop selling it next year. The reason it was the only mapping program that would work is it was the only one that could handle about 800 points.
Now that the route is planned, I recommend printed maps. Microsoft Streets and Trips will print a map that is large scale where that is enough and small scale when it is needed. It packs the maps into about 150 pages.
Nate Damm used a road atlas on his walk across America. I haven't looked at one, but drawing the route in a road atlas may be the best option. It is time consuming. Planning the route in a road atlas would be difficult because it has no link to services.
I've toyed with the idea of keeping the maps on a Kindle, but if the Kindle broke, I'd be out of luck. I feel paper copies are the best option. If a person wanted to, they could email files to themselves and print them along the way at libraries.
Yes, pedometers. A pedometer like the Fitbit is great for virtual hiking at home, but the batteries need replaced frequently. I've found inexpensive mechanical pedometers work as well as three-axis pedometers. They need to be clipped on the belt near the side of the waist. The advantage to the inexpensive pedometers is the batteries last a long time. I have one that is a couple years old and still working. They are also easy to replace along the way.
I have one pedometer I wear when pushing Wilson and another I wear all the time. When on a reality hike, the walker should limit the non-productive miles. It's easy to add another five miles a day through walking without a purpose. This hike is planned so closely that extra walking may result in failure.
Unless I find a better system, I plan to log the number of miles the pedometer shows while pushing Wilson. I'll adjust this when possible by measuring the distance on the map.
There may not be many places to charge a camera, so I recommend one that uses AA or AAA batteries. I use rechargeable batteries. Eventually, I'll try a solar system for recharging batteries.
A headlamp for that rainy night when the tent blows down. A small solar powered flashlight for the rest of the time.
Note: Since I've been walking more at night, I consider a headlamp essential for those who plan on walking at night. Three AAA batteries last at least 20 hours with the light on low. Getting the brightest headlamp may not be the brightest idea since it will use the batteries faster.
There is more glare road walking than there is hiking off trails as even a black road reflects light. Sunglasses are probably a necessity to prevent eye damage. The other function they serve is to prevent eye injury from dust or rocks kicked up from passing vehicles. I'll probably get prescription sunglasses so I can read the map without putting on my reading glasses.
Toilet paper. Washcloth for marine baths. Whatever soap is available along the way. Toothbrush, etc.
5 gallon bucket with lid (washer and chair)
This is my only comfort item. It can be used for doing laundry. Mostly, I intend to use it as a seat.
Because of the battery issues, I've decided a GPS isn't useful for a long walk.
Many people have made trips like this using tablets. However, I plan to get a small laptop or a tablet with a real bluetooth keyboard.