The nitty gritty: Route planning, pack list, first aid, food & water.
To answer Jimmy Eat World’s question, it’s going to take about 6 months. That’s a whole lot of planning! Shout out to PCTers, ATers, and other through-hikers that regularly organize such adventures, as it is no easy feat. With my longest backpacking trip coming in at 200 miles of well established trails, this walk’s preparation has been an awakening to a world of long-distance planning and route finding.
The first step in my planning was route finding, as it affects all other aspects of preparation. There are countless route options for walking across the country, an equally exciting and overwhelming fact. A few factors helped narrow these options, the most significant being the weather.
- Because of a November departure, it would be too cold and snowy to pass through Sierras, Rockies, and much of the high desert plains of the south west.
- Deciding which California desert areas to pass through – Death Valley, Mojave National Preserve, or Joshua Tree – based on distances between water.
- Planning daily milage, dependent on water supplies and finding safe shelter.
- Choosing roads based on access to resources, safe shoulder for walking, and ability to bail out in case of emergency.
Using google maps and a 2021 Rand McNally road atlas, I spent two and a half weeks straight (literally doing nothing else), exploring all possible routes while considering the above challenges. I landed on a route that takes me around Joshua Tree National Park, through southern Arizona, up through eastern New Mexico toward the Texas panhandle, and almost straight east through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina, with the possibility of veering north for Virginia Beach. I will be keeping my exact route private until completion for personal safety purposes.
The route that I laid out puts me no further than a two days walk from water, which has influenced what I will be packing for water storage.
This portion came easiest, as I already had with me most of what I would be bringing, including but not limited to my 50L backpacking pack, my tent, camp stove, water filtration system, and first aid kit. I invested in a few supplies for the trip such as a zero degree sleeping bag, a solar charger, and a few water pouches.
The contents of my bag:
- sleeping bag, tent, sleeping pad
- Three water pouches of varying sizes, for a total of 2.5gallons
- First Aid Kit & Other Essentials
- First aid kit similar to this one
- Face masks
- Emergency blanket
- Pocket knife
- Duct tape
- Toothbrush, paste, floss
- One MSR pocket rocket camp stove plus two 4oz IsoPro fuel canisters, matches
- 1 camp pot, 1 spoon
- Started with a few dehydrated meals, tuna packets, and granola bars, but will be resupplying food on the way at gas stations, markets, grocery stores.
- Winter jacket
- 1 top, 1 bottom base layer
- 2 pairs socks/underwear
- 1 pair rain pants, 1 raincoat
- 1 pair shorts, 1 light top layer
- 1 pair gloves, 1 winter hat, 1 sun hat
Accompanying me for the walk, usually in hand or on body will be hiking poles, a Spot GPS, laminated maps, hiking boots, and headphones. I’m sure this list will ebb and flow as I become more familiar with my needs during the journey. If you have specific questions about the gear I’m using or other aspects of my planning, please reach out!