The Complete Walker
By Colin Fletcher
I read this hiking guide at 16, before my first backpacking trip. I remember staring at the cover photograph of the author's armamentarium—tent, stove, pot, sheath knife, Carborundum stone, compass, signal mirror, and about a hundred other items carefully chosen for their small size and light weight—and feeling such itchy feet that I could hardly sit. Four weeks later, I set off for the Tetons with my older brother. We ate exactly what Colin Fletcher ate (Maggi powdered soup, Wilson's meat bars, Kendal Mint Cakes) and wore exactly what he wore (wool socks, fishnet underwear). In later years, I stopped following Fletcher's advice so slavishly, but he was with me in spirit after college, when I worked as an instructor at a wilderness school in Wyoming, and on countless camping trips since then. I once calculated that, all told, I've spent more than a year of my life sleeping in tents. Colin Fletcher made me do it.