When I was twelve or so, I stumbled across Welsh hiker Colin Fletcher’s classic book, The Complete Walker. Its blend of practicality and lyricism helped inspire me to become a somewhat-nervous young backpacker, mostly with friends and family. Later I headed off on my own, which for Fletcher was always the best way to go. (Indeed, he had a certain disdain for those who had to have company.)
A lot of his tips have dated, thanks to the incredible advances in backpacking technology just in the past ten years, but his principles remain as sound as ever, and before going I still like to spread out a tarp and put everything on it and visualize the trip, day by day, which was one of his fundamental ideas. I remember seeing a picture of him with all his gear spread out on the tarp and thinking; jeez, that’s not very much, and no it’s not, and no, you don’t need a lot, really.
The Los Angeles Times has the best obit I’ve seen on this wonderfully cranky individualist, which included with a great line from his book River, about going down the Colorado, from its source to the sea, at age 67. Fletcher wrote:
"I needed something to pare the fat off my soul…. And I knew … there is nothing like a wilderness journey for rekindling the fires of life."
Colin Fletcher, Rest in Peace: