Colin Fletcher is back (at 80 years old!) with a brand new fourth edition of his landmark 1968 book. It was last updated in 1984 — the Iron Age in terms of technological gear. A lot has changed, but the pleasures of walking haven’t. While Ray Jardine stresses efficiency and accomplishment, Fletcher and co-author Rawlins toast comfort and enjoyment. Like all past editions, The Complete Walker IV is astoundingly informative and insanely complete (843 pages, including 62 marvelous ones on the varieties of backpacks). These grey beards not only tell you about gear, they give you its history, and the history of its makers, and the current skinny on their prospects. You feel educated. They consider everything and anything remotely portable, and tell you what else a tool might be used for, where it comes from, and whether it could be improved or left behind. They get you to think about everything too. It’s wonderful to read, sly and humorous as the first edition. We don’t often associate civilization with backpacking, but that’s what Fletcher is trying to do. He’s offering wisdom on how to live on the trail, with the emphasis on live. I use the guide to help me.Colin: Yes, Unbearable Lightness offers huge advantages, but it s easy to gloss over uncomfortable facts. Although the lighter load helps helps a ton that s not the whole truth, so help me God. Backpacking isn t all traveling. It s also sleeping and loitering and eating, for example. So backpacking pleasure is also comfortable sleep, cozy warmth at all times, and perhaps a few heavy luxuries short of the complete works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (page 659) not to mention a full belly. I note that many light-gear enthusiasts seem to skimp on the food. Yet there s general, though not total, agreement that to stay healthy and fully active the average person needs a daily ration of around 2 lbs. of dehydrated food, and some stories of ultra-Spartan rations frankly sound harder to swallow than the food.
Colin: In civilized temperatures I generally try to wash most of my clothes at least once a week…This works out well because I find and I think most people find that about once a week you need a day s more or less complete rest from walking. (In really cold weather you simply don t do any washing of clothes or of yourself, which means that when you get back to civilization that first hot shower is not only sheer heaven but highly necessary).