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Research and Reading | Expect Delays

Research and Reading

Yesterday I went to the library to grab a couple books that might help me at least figure out what I don’t know about what I’m doing here.

Mostly I want somebody to explain to me what kind of shoes I need.

But anyway, I browsed the selection at the library to see what they had and picked up two beginning manuals. I’ve only just started to skim them, and I’ll have a more full review later.

The Backpacker’s Handbook by Hugh McManners

I’m not particularly thrilled with this book, even though I love how it’s mostly illustrated and has a lot of great pictures and charts. I’m very much a visual person, having a page of pictures full of recommended shoes and backpacks will work much better for me than a list.

But the book itself is very focused on traveling to backpack/hike. Quite a lot of it is focused on the perils of international travel and how to deal with problems in unfamiliar environments. Which would be very useful if that was my plan. However I picked the Appalachian Trail for a lot of reasons, one of which being that I grew up in a town that’s actually on the trail. Most of my practice hikes will actually be on the trail itself too. The most difficult part of my travel plans for the final thru-hike is going to be booking a plane ticket to either Georgia or Maine, depending on which way I decide to go.

One thing I really like though is that he has graphics for first aid kits, repair kits, and other packs I’ll want to make. That’s a huge help, because I definitely don’t want to purchase a pre-made kit. First because I already own half the stuff on this list. Second because I really think that a kit like that should be perfectly tailored to the person and the hike.

Hiking by Jacques Marais

My first impression of this book was much higher. The text is very easy to read, and very conversational. While they do touch on the idea of traveling away from home to hike, they concentrate much more on just getting you through the basics. This book is also very visual, though the graphics aren’t as detailed and broken down as The Backpacker’s Handbook.

Even just from reading less than an hour, I’ve already picked up a lot of things to think about and had a lot of those “I had no idea!” moments. Granted, a lot of this information is probably also in the other book, but it’s because the text is so easy to read and so much more focused on what I’m doing that I’ve gotten much more into this one and faster. I’ve already figured out that I need to be walking with a pack on, even with my one mile walks that I’ve been doing. I hadn’t even thought about that, and it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me.

They also mention using a hiking club or group to help you get started. I don’t think I’ll be ready for that yet, since I’m not really doing much more than walking. But it is going to be something I’ll be looking for in the near future. If you know of a hiking group in the Northern Virginia area, please let me know about it, I’m very interested!

Like I said before, the point of the books was to start really getting down to business about what I do and don’t already know, and making a more concrete plan of what I need to learn before I go out, and what order to learn it in. Both books have pretty decent ideas for how to get in shape for a hike, but they both are focused on shorter hikes (a few weeks tops) and not something like a thru-hike. They have plans for getting in shape over three months or so, and I’m taking longer because I’m just that out of shape that I think my baseline needs to be brought up before I can focus on their ideas.

But it’s a good start, I’m glad I picked these up. And I was very happy to see the great selection at the library. Fairfax County Libraries are so great, it’s one of my favorite things about living here.

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