Colin Fletcher made me do it

When I was in high school in the late sixties, a book came out that changed the world of backpacking. These were the early days of REI, when that company was run out of a smallish house in s Seattle suburb, and a person could wander the rooms in a glorious fantasy of compact tents, water-bottles, ponchos, and multi-bladed knives. And of course, books:

 Not, you understand, that I was a backpacker. This was fantasy, pure and simple, a fantasy that leads in a straight line to the random backpacks grabbed by the participants in the Hunger Games.
It was probably in one of those rare trips to REI that I encountered Colin Fletcher’s The Complete Walker. I almost certainly did not buy a copy, since it would have been a hardback and my family did not buy hardbacks, or books in general, really. That’ s what libraries were for. So I probably requested Fletcher’s book from my tiny local branch of the Tacoma library system, conveniently run (20 hours a week) by my mother. And from my rich memories of the book, I suspect I requested it again and again, as it came due and had to be returned.
The book was designed as a handbook for serious backpackers (Fletcher’s other excellent books included accounts of his long walks through the Grand Canyon and up the length of California–A Walk Through Time and The Thousand Mile Summer) and includes detailed analyses and recommendations of specific pieces of equipment. For a fantasist, it was a treasure trove, and I’m sure influenced my life-long adoration for tiny pieces of highly efficient machinery..
The closest I came to making use of Fletcher’s recommendations was my proposed bicycle journey from Tacoma to California. By myself. At eighteen. On a 5-speed bicycle. With my cat in a basket on the front. Yes, an insane idea, which fortunately I realized before actually setting off.
But more recently, as I began assembling my single suitcase full of stuff for the three week trip to Japan that begins next month, (I leave on April 1, which I refuse to take as significant) Fletcher’s book came back to me.
My search for the tiniest and sturdiest cover/keyboard to preserve the iPad I am taking instead of my laptop.

My satisfaction in finding that I can use the smart phone for such diverse purposes as alarm clock and Skype source without having to pay huge roaming fees. (I’m looking at translation programs, so let me know if you have any recommendations.) And although I can’t use my little Radio Shack recharger cord that has various snap-on ends for different devices, I was happy at least to discover–

–that although I resent the size of the battery recharger for the camera (the iPhone camera just doesn’t cut it) I will be able to get by with just two cords: one for the iPad and phone, another for the keyboard and Nook.
I think Colin Fletcher would have been pleased.

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  1. Erin on March 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I just saw a few recommendations for translation apps in last months Budget Travel magazine. I’ll have to hunt it down for you when I get home. …or now (duh, anything that exists can be instantly found on the interwebs!):,5681/

    Happy travels! I hope you’ll be sharing pictures and stories when you get back! =)

  2. Kim van Rijn on March 22, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Laurie,

    Love your books–all of them but I especially enjoy the Russell/Holmes series.

    I did do a bike trip with a cat. It was a three speed bike and the cat was only a kitten. I was 17 years old (only 2 months shy of my 18th birthday) and I ran away from home because my Mother wouldn’t let me keep the cat. Well, OK, there were some other issues involved but the kitten was the proverbial straw. The cat and I both survived the 120 mile trip through the hills of West Virginia. So…it is possible to do a long distance bike trip with a cat. I wouldn’t exactly recommend it but it is doable…with the right cat.

    Love Colin Fletcher too. I still have his book (paperback edition) and used many of his recommendations when I used to backpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains almost 20 years ago.

    Enjoy your trip to Japan. I was lucky enough to live there for two years. I was homesick for Japan for several years after leaving there. It’s a magical place.

  3. kate on March 23, 2012 at 5:26 am

    Mary Russell would be learning Japanese on her way over so would not require a translation programme…

  4. Laurie King on March 23, 2012 at 5:33 am

    Yet more proof that I am not Mary Russell, alas…

  5. Gail Lelyveld on March 23, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Enjoy your research in Japan.

  6. Sherri Mancusi on March 25, 2012 at 9:32 am

    I hope this trip to Japan is part of telling the story of the Russell/Holmes adventure there, mentioned in passing in earlier books!

    • Laurie King on March 25, 2012 at 10:15 am


  7. Gail Lelyveld on March 27, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Hi Laurie,

    Was the Rosamund Gifford for whom the lecture series is named come from the South Shore in Massachusetts, and did she graduate from Radcliffe when it was a women’s college. My Mom was friends with a Rosamund Gifford and they were in the Old Colony Radcliffe Club? I’m just curious because I thought of my Mom and this woman when I see you announce these lectures.

  8. Laurie King on March 28, 2012 at 5:54 am

    I don’t know, Gail, although I agree it’s an unusual name. Why don’t you write to the library and ask? If it’s the same person, they might have some interesting information about her.

    • Karen Wood on July 10, 2015 at 1:52 pm

      My mother, Mary E. Gifford, was related to Rosamund Gifford. I don’t know where she lived in Massachusetts — I do know she went to Radcliffe and lived abroad and settled in upstate New York, where she had an estate in either Bernhards Bay or Cleveland, New York. My mom used to visit her from time to time. There is a zoo in Syracuse named the Rosamund Gifford Zoo. Any information would be fascinating to me, too.

  9. a fan of deduction on March 30, 2012 at 10:03 am

    You like the hunger games??? or at least mentioned it. i am not a big fan of it, oh well. Hope you like the movie.

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