Step 7: Preparation: Equipment


You've got the plan.

You've got the money. 

You've got the clothes.

Now you need the goods...

A lot of the equipment I bought was from eBay or thrift stores.  A good portion of my equipment was donated to me, either by giving me money to purchase it or given to me directly.  Here's a break-down list of what I'm currently using; you'll probably have your own inventory of materials, but this should give you a baseline for what you may need.

- Cart

The cart that I'm currently is a retrofitted Runabout triplet baby stroller that my friends souped up for me by attaching a basket tray to the body with zip ties.  I bought the Runabout used from eBay; I was lucky, it was quite a steal and the owners happened to be in the same area as me.  The set-up is rather sturdy, and I'm appreciating the Runabout strollers more and more because they add a sexy hand-brake (MANY DISASTERS WERE AVERTED BECAUSE OF THIS).  The basket tray easily let's me hold my stuff down with bungee cord and compartmentalize each section.

The steel chassis has definitely taken a good beating from the road as well, and its still going strong.  I was originally worried that the wheels had rusted enough to fall apart, but I haven't had any problems so far.

A few advantages of having a cart rather than carrying a backpack are that you can reduce the stress to your back and shoulders, and you can carry far more weight (which will be critical for carrying water across 50 - 100 mile stretches of deserts).  The bad news is that unlike a backpack, you have to figure out where to park the damn thing without getting it stolen, and you need much more width along road shoulders to walk along highways.

 - Water Storage

When you're in a city or town, water storage will not be as much of a challenge because there will always be water available, whether from a restaurant, a grocery store, or a resident.  However, once you get out in the middle of nowhere, water storage becomes highly essential.

I brought along two 5 gallon collapsible water jug from REI, which were given to me by my walking friend, David, when he decided to return home.  These things are awesome because you can reduce their size while your water level creeps lower over time.  Also, they're square rather than cylindrical like the 5 gallon hard plastic jugs you get for drinking fountains, so they fit better on the cart.

The problem is that they're easily punctured, and on more than one occasion, I've had to repair them with duct tape and super glue.  I tossed one of the jugs after it had leaked after a repair, so now I only carry one water jug.  I supplement my water jug with 2.5 gallon containers from the grocery store if I need them.  Eventually, I'll have to go over to the hard plastic jugs because my current collapsible is starting to break down.

 - Backpack

Now, I don't know very much about taking only a backpack on a walking journey.  I believe that there have been many other cross-country walkers who've done as such, and you should be able to find blogs about them.

But even with the cart, I brought along a backpack just in case of an emergency or the cart breaks down.  I like backpacks because they have a lot of compartments, so it makes my life easier when I'm organizing my stuff.  It's also nice to park the cart and keep all the expensive electronics in the backpack, which I take in with me if I'm shopping or talking to someone.  I have nothing fancy, just a regular 'Trans' backpack that I've used since high school.

 - Hygiene

For mouth hygiene, I just brought along a toothbrush and floss.  I had some tooth damage in college, so I brush with toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth, but its nothing fancy, just whatever I can pick up at a Target or Safeway.  I have facial gel cleanser that I use to wash my face every night using a sponge and some water.  A bar of soap and a sponge does the job for my body.  I don't bother much with washing my hair because I shaved off a good lump of it before I headed on the road.

I wash my feet and nether regions with a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol to disinfect the areas.  It's overkill, but I'd rather keep jock itch and athlete's foot at bay for as long as I can.

 - Health

Get a check-up with a physician before you start.  It may be a good idea to have a feel for what kinds of allergies, injuries, and physiological imbalances you have so that you can manage them along the way.  You can be prepared with whatever medication or therapies you'll need as you walk; there's no reason to stress parts of your body more than necessary.

Pack the basic medications, like pain-killers, antibiotics, cold medicine, and indigestion medicine.  I'm not a big fan of poppin' pills to treat a symptom rather than a disease, but my dad was a doctor, so I took it for granted that the road can be fiercer than expected.

On the other hand, I've never felt in better health in my entire life.  When I get sick, it just seems to go away the next day.  And I'm more conscientious about what I eat, so I have fewer stomach aches than at home.  Each body will be different, each journey its own difficulties.

 - Sleeping Gear

Proper sleeping gear will be critical for a good night's rest.  If you're already used to sleeping on the ground, back support and cushioning may not important for you.  Otherwise, you'll need a portable pillow, a foam sleeping mat, and an inflatable sleeping pad.  The foam mat will also help to reduce heat loss into the ground during the night.

And then of course, there's the sleeping bag.  Depending on your route and season of departure, you'll need the proper temperature rating for your sleeping bag.  Expect to see colder weather than you'd expect, especially if you're going by the average temperature of a region in the country.  I use a military-grade sleeping bag that I picked off from eBay, rated at -10 F.  For what its worth, I walked through the California and Arizona deserts during the winter, and the sleeping bag has worked even better than I expected.

You may also want to bring along a small, cheap tent.  Snakes and poisonous bugs are prone to crawling into warm, comfortable areas, so a tent will be invaluable in keeping those critters out.  Also, you can keep your food inside, away from raccoons, rats, and other vermin.  Windy conditions can be pretty grueling without a tent as well.

 - Navigation

Maps and a compass are critical.  Even if you're sporting a GPS or smartphone, you'll still want to keep maps in the event you're out of signal or batteries.  Learn to read a compass and a map.  Unless you're a veteran at wandering, you'll probably want to know where you're going.

The Adventure Cycling Association carries excellent water-proof maps that each cover ~500 mile sections of various cross-country cycling routes.  They're highly portable and don't cost anymore than $16 a piece.  Plus, they describe details about lodging, elevation, amenities, stores, and water.  I was gifted one along the way to Arizona from a cyclist coming in the other direction, and its been a valuable tool in conjunction with my complete map book of the United States.

 - Electronics

You don't necessarily need any electronics to walk across the country.  Plenty of people had been doing it long before cell phones or laptops, so they're more optional than anything.

That being said, a cell phone is always nice to have to keep in touch with friends and family back home, not to mention the potential 911 call if you ever needed it.  A GPS is also handy to have so that you can keep track of where you're currently located in real time.  And of course, there's the laptop.  There's really not much you couldn't do with one; I'm sure you could even order pizza online to be delivered to you while you were walking down a highway.  A digital camera isn't a bad thing to take along either.  It's definitely great to be able to share a beautiful sunset in the Mojave Desert with friends.

You'll be able to recharge your electronics practically anywhere in a town or city.  All restaurants and residences have some form of electricity, and most people will be kind enough to let you recharge your equipment if you let them know what you're up to.  I was donated a Nomad 7 Solar Panel, which let's you plug in USB adapters to recharge your equipment.  I haven't had to use it particularly often, but its been helpful nonetheless.

 - Weapons

Given the dangerous nature of wandering through the country alone, you will want to bring some kind of weaponry, unless your purpose for walking prohibits it.  I'd say that the danger mostly comes from wild animals; I haven't yet met a single person who's been malicious towards me.  So unless you're a saint or a Disney princess, you're probably better off having some form of defense.

I started my walk without any sort of weapon, besides my blunt pocket knife.  A guy I met going into Parker, AZ gave me his bear spray, which is basically an upgraded version of pepper spray (think Siege Mode for Terran tanks in Starcraft).  He kept telling me about all the fights he'd be in at bars and how he'd meet with rather suspicious folk (think American Psycho-status).  So I've kept the spray around.  Just in case.

 - Illumination

Either a flashlight or a headlight will do.  I prefer headlights because I have to use both my hands to set up camp.  Plus, it makes it easier to write or read during the night.  Take your pick, there's a ton of different ways to illuminate your journey.  Just remember that bringing a brick of a flashlight won't do you much good.

You'll also need extra batteries to have around even before you start running low.  The Nomad 7 Solar Panel comes with an LED flashlight that contains four rechargeable batteries.  So every so often, I'll leave the panel out in the sun and know that at the very least, I'll have that for light and electrical power.

 - Emergencies

Bring a first aid kit and learn how to use it properly.  You'll also need some way to contact the police or fire department besides a cell phone.  The GPS I use comes with a way to call 911; since it's connected to multiple satellites, it's less likely to lose reception compared to my cell.

I'm also carrying along the following in the event of an emergency:

 ~ Two Emergency Blankets

 ~ Instant Foot and Hand Warmers

 ~ Waterproof Matches

 ~ Fresnel Lens (to start fires using sunlight)

 ~ Electrolyte Powder Mix

 ~ Protein Bars

 ~ Whistle

 ~ Water Purification Tablets

 ~ Sewing Needles
<p>my name is justin, im 26 and wanting to leave PA, anyone walking from or thru here email me if you want company.. Bowerz232@comcast.net</p>
<p>21 here from Northeast TN, going to South Florida then planning a bigger trip from east coast to west, would enjoy company and tips!</p>
Hey there! I don't know if you're planning on going still but I'm 20 from Central NJ wanting to head to the west coast, maybe if the journeys coincide we could meet up
<p>hey man, i'm also 20 from central-ish nj and am taking the american discovery trail this summer</p><p>http://www.discoverytrail.org/</p>
I live in the midwest and I need to figure out how I can get to East Coast and start somewhere so I can get to the west coast that's why I was scared to and how much money you need but otherwise that's it all planned out then
We an do it together
I'm in when are you planning to leave? I have a trip planned for next year if you want to join I also live in the midwest
Me and my friend are planning on walking from DC to San Fransisco if anyone wants to join us that is 18 and older we would love some company we are doing this for charity on March 26 2017 and the charity is autism speaks please pm me if you want to come along
Im a 42 yr old guy wanting to walk from arkansas to washington state...anybody wanna go just me and my dog...
I am 39 female and not in the best shape. I have depression and am becoming anti-social. I have always wanted to do this to see the world a different way/ slowly.my family all but my husband are for it. I'm a little scared but am buying small items, ie...stroller back pack, food for camping when it's on sale. I've been planning this for about 2 yrs. I plan to get closer to God by finishing the bible. And getting to know my limitations. I know I have rescue if needed. But I hope to make it when I start out. Signed scared but determined
Hi, where are you at regarding your plan for this journey?
I'm 40 and planning to do the same. Maybe our paths will cross.
<p>So, did you leave yet? I am also planning a cross country trip and I am leaving Oct. 7th, two days from now. Please check my site......Hawk's Walk across the USA..........it's on Facebook. Which route will you be taking? Take Care, Jim</p>
<p>So, did you leave yet? I'm not planning a cross country trip, but I am curious to know how it went for you. I didn't find anything about Hawk's Walk...</p>
I'm 3, live in Philadelphia and would love to walk across the country to San Francisco California. I lost my marriage and would do the walk in the memory of the love that I carry for this girl. Would any one join for this amazing journey?
I'm a 37 years old guy and looking for a walking companion.
Currently living in NJ amd i can't seem to find the most logical route to California been wanting to take this trip for a long time now I need help this article really put alot in perspective
I live in california and im planning to walk accross the us all the way to Charlotte north carolina would anyone like to join me? If you're in email me at vanessalupian798@gmail.com
<p>I am interested!! Something I have always wanted to do. I would like to do it for a cause, are you interested?</p>
I'm super scared I'm already but what should i do should I go for it
I'm 49, will turn 50 this year, and my life is utterly blah. I'm going to walk across the country to try to raise a few dollars for breast cancer research. My cousin, who is more like a little sister to me, was diagnosed when she was about 33, had all the chemo and radiation, and went into remission. A few years ago, the cancer returned. This time she did a double mastectomy - I think her comment was &quot;I'm not going to let my boobs kill me.&quot; I've got nothing going on in my life, so I thought I'd try to raise some money, even if it's just a few bucks, for breast cancer research. I figured that this stunt would be odd enough to get my acquaintances to donate something.
I'm a weekend walker. Today I decided I'd like to take a year to walk from Brooklyn to LA. I'm looking for a female partner. For religious reasons I must rest Friday night to Saturday night. Anyone interested
i actually attempted to walk around America last year. however, i wasn't conditioned enough and only got 55 miles in before my leg quit. <br>this walk was actually a precursor to my teshuva. <br>i wish you all the best and if you want to chat, my email is waterpenguin2@hotmail.com
<p>Hey I am entertaining the idea of walking across the country from east coast to west coast.... Only difference beside direction of travel will be that I am paralyzed. I have recently come across an alternate wheelchair that will give me the mobility needs to make the journey physically possible, but I was wondering if you could help me plan a route based on your experiences and a little input from my specific needs.</p>
<p>Lightning storms are not a bit rare in the East. Here in Ohio, they are a semi-regular thing from at least April through October. In Florida, it's a year-round thing.</p>
<p>How much money did it take you to do this? Did you get sponsorships? I want to do walk a cross America with my . How much money will we need?</p>
<p>how did you live unconnected (without internet) for months?</p>
<p>dear bryan</p><p>i'm in the beginning stages of planning my first coast to coast walk and would like some of your imput on the following questions. i'll continue reading your guide - perhaps the answers are there but in the meantime:</p><p>what type of cart did you use? </p><p>what were the pros and cons of it?</p><p>do you have other cart recommendations</p>
<p>My friend,</p><p>I am planning a long backpacking trip through our country, the United States. I have been studying, budgeting and learning for half a year, and am now beginning the process of mapping my way and getting a somewhat good idea of the parts I will walk through. The first issue I will have to tackle is walking out of the desert. I see you got both in, and out, of Arizona alive. The first thing I need to learn is how to walk out of the Arizona desert, where I reside. Could you give me detailed accounts and useful tips for walking through the desert? I would greatly appreciate it. Congratulations on your endeavor, I can't wait for my walk.</p>
Wow that's a long journey!
Harder not either, and help not hell xD
I read your entire article maybe a dozen times. I don't know why, but it speaks to me. I'm leaving mid December to start back packing across the country for love and to find some inner piece I've been wanting. I have questions, and I can't find answers, but I'm glad you posted this. My trip will be either than yours, but maybe I can find Hell on the way. Get back with me sometime! maniac5123@yahoo.com
<p>I have wanted to walk across the country for some time now. You have given me some ideas on how I would go about doing it, but I have one thing that is stopping me from accomplishing my goal, and that is my dog. If I make the trip with her, I have to plan for her as well, which makes the trip at least twice as difficult.</p>
sorry about rockwell
Thanks for sharing.I read every bit your instructional. Im leaving from ocean city maryland in march expecting to reach san francisco by october. I may have some more questions for you over the next few months but i thought id reach out now. Thanks
I live in Warsaw, Poland and currently I'm trying to translate your instructable. One day I want to walk across U.S. too. :) <br>Best wishes <br>-J.
Well thanks Bud for sharing all this with us. I have been trying to find out about walking from East to West of the USA. I am from England. I guess originally I wanted to walk around the globe. The idea came to me after I had done the Camino to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. Something triggered inside of me as if it's the first time in my life I have found what I really want to do. I more I walked the more I was in touch with my real feelings. So walking across the USA would be the experience of my life and then we will see what the future holds. Your story is touching.
I had a friend who walked the Camino to Santiago de Compostela - it was an inspiration for my walk to some extent. My hope is that you get a chance to come across the pond and continue on. Best of luck to you, friend.
You rock! Thanks for sharing the wonderful story and all the great info--I'll be using a lot of it.
good job! i wouldn't even drive across country let alone walk or bike.
Go denmarrk
Curious about the cart. Do they actual sell carts like this? I'm not very crafty would I be able to find one at a camping store or somewhere else?
What we used was a run-about brand stroller, and took away all the seats and miscellaneous extras that we didn't need. <br> <br>You can find the one we used here: <br> <br>http://bergdesign.net/triple.htm <br> <br>They're a bit pricey, and we bought ours used on eBay for about $100. Try to shop around to see if you can get a good price - you may even get one donated if you let them know you'll be journeying with it.
I enjoyed reading this story, and was so sad to learn that Rockwall had died... Thank you for sharing your story, and for reminding us of the gift of feeling love and gratitude.
A good meal for training is rice and eggs.<br> <strong>2 1/2 cups steamed rice<br> 2 eggs<br> some butter<br> a splash of soysauce<br> a wooden spoon</strong><br> fry the rice with the butter<br> mix the eggs with the soysauce<br> put the rice in a bowl<br> fry the eggs<br> then when the eggs are almost done throw in the rice<br> mix and put the rice and eggs in the bowl and enjoy.<br> perfect it as you cook it each day.<br> I like to put in a small amount of rice viniger in the rice while it cooks.
Given their weight, cost and power consumption, I'd think twice before bringing laptops and smartphones to this kind of journey. A cheaper, older phone (think along the lines of Nokia 3310 or a bit more advanced) can go for a week without charging, survives nearly everything that could happen, and still can be used to make emergency calls or get vital information from the net.
Hey, This is something I've been contemplating doing for a while, and just have a few questions. 1) How do you find a place to sleep every night? Do you run into any legal problems sleeping on the side of the road or other places? 2) How much water do you bring at one time, and how do you keep up a steady supply of it? And lastly, a weird question, but for travelling across the country it seems kind of important - on long stretches where there really arent' any towns, or it's night time and nothing's open - what about restrooms? haha. if you can answer any of these it'd be a huge help.... :) Thanks for the instructable, awesome information, and inspiring!

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Bio: I recently graduated with a BS in Chemistry and am currently pursuing a masters in Chemistry at University of California, Irvine. After returning from an ... More »
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