The Complete Walker: The Joys and Techniques of Hiking and Backpacking

There was something appealing enough about this 1968 guide to hiking that made me wade through the sexism that usually makes me choke. He starts out with a chapter rhapsodizing on “Why Walk?” to go over the many reasons walking is beneficial to the body and brain. Mostly he encourages solo hiking where he’ll frequently strip down to just boots and pack, au naturel; he states “the best dress for walking is nakedness.”  The bulk of this book is a fairly entertaining guide to how to go on days-weeks-months- long excursions, and what equipment you might want, and how to go about it. For the terrible parts, I knew what I was getting into when he notes sarcastically on page 17 that everything he had to say in the book about men applied equally to women. “Well, almost everything. And almost equally.” (Note: based on the names written in the library card from the book I borrowed, 60% of the people reading this book in the 1960s and 1970s were women, but no big deal.) But I pressed on because I was amused by his writing, like passages where he notes that dehydrated food “makes you fart like a bull.” Extremely detailed instructions on everything from boots to backpack to tent to sleeping bag to binoculars and film gear. Speaking of film gear, he has some great observations:

“Nowadays, most of us tend to accept that we are failing in some kind of duty if we do not record our outdoor doings on film. Chalk up another victory to advertising. But, brainwashing aside, we all want on at least some occasions to carry back home a thing facsimile of the marvel we have discovered.”

But later, after his camera breaks, he revels in the delight of non-photography: “… within an hour I discovered that I had escaped from something I never quite knew existed: the tyranny of film. Photography is not really compatible with contemplation. Its details are too insistent…. But that day in Grand Canyon, after the camera had broken, I found myself savoring in a new way everything around me. Instead of stopping briefly to photograph and forget, I stood and stared, fixing truer images on the emulsion of memory.”


Discovered via Whole Earth Catalog