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
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
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>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.
This would be a really fun thing to do and I imagine you would come back with so many stories. Do you have any <a href="http://www.arcfinancialllc.com" rel="nofollow">financial advice</a> for anyone considering such a trip.
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.
Wow, this is a great story! When you did this journey, did you hire a <a href="http://www.lvaccident.com/html/job.php3" rel="nofollow">accident insurance?</a>
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!
After me and my best friend graduate High school and before we enlist we plan on making our walking into a charity for war veterans.<br>
I'm 60 and at a cross roads in my life. Your description was very enlightening and gave me the encouragement to continue moving forward with a new career. Thanks for the instructable.<br>
Thank you all for your generous comments, advice, and emails. I'm a bit overwhelmed by the amount of viewership going on (considering that this is my second Instructable ever), but I'm learning to adapt with intermittent internet access.<br> <br> <p> Made it to New Mexico; hanging out at university in Silver City. Since I've got some proper communication equipment, I'd like to share a few more photos from the road with ya'll.</p>
Great writeup! I only have a couple of suggestions;<br><br>http://freecampsites.net/ maybe of help to you,<br>and I didn't see anything on having any kind of music for entertainment, what may work with your solar panel is to use a small USB powered speaker and a lithium ion battery. The speaker in mind is the Rosewill RNA-SYM 2.1, <br>http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16836280003<br>and a small battery like a backup battery for cellphone with a USB plug, and your good to rock out all day!<br><br>Good luck with your journey and I wish you the best!
Me, being a swede and just barely entering adulthood with all it's cons and pros... Well, this inspired me to make a similar journey. <br>After some years of studying and working I will walk the frozen north. After that, if the world will allow it, I would love to walk America!
First of, absolutely love this Instructable so far.<br>And for the question; i own a duster and a cowboy hat. Would this suffice for a cross country journey with some warm clothes under the duster itself?
Keep it up brother! Life is way too short to not follow your dreams.
After a bicycle tour I learned to swear by chocolate milk. It has all the necessary ingredients for such an endevour: fats, complex and simple carbs, and even some protein. You can find some even fortified with potassium which is good to keep those muscles from cramping up. <br><br>This has really made me jones for the road again. Keep on treking.
I second the chocolate milk recommendation! It is a quick way to replace 1000 calories and it can pack quite a bit of protein as well.
Your walk is giving you and education that you'll not get with a masters degree. Money can't buy that kind of education. God be with you!
I admire your openness and spirit of inquiry. This piece has been on my mind for a few days. If you are motivated, write a book! I'd read it. Doesn't need to have any overarching 'message'. <br>'In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few'. (Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind).<br>Stay safe and keep your beginner's mind.
Keep up the good work i am very interested altho i prefer Biking but costs would go way up for maint on the bike well here is a IDble i like <br><br>http://www.instructables.com/id/Backpacking-Cooler/ i found this and RobbySkateboard said Wouldn't it be nice if you could go backpacking for a week and be able to have an ice cold soda on that last day? Or to keep sausage and eggs cold for longer? Well for the total cost of less than 10 bucks you can! This is a cheap and effective DIY. The whole thing weighs barely anything even with 3 ice packs, you'll definitely be carrying more weight from the food you'll be keeping cold rather than the cooler and cooling packs themselves. This project will take you an hour or so and the payoff would still be worth it even if it took 10 hours.<br>
Truly Wonderful.<br>Really enjoyed reading this, <br>Thank you for producing something so inspirational.<br>I wish you good luck for the rest of your journey.
Sounds like a ball ! ! I've often thought about doing a walk about. It runs in my family. Both of my grandfathers were noted for going walk about. One of them went for a walk &amp; wasn't seen again for 18 years. Of course, he was declared legally dead in the meantime &amp; everyone was really surprised when he showed up again. The other one would only be gone for 2 or 3 months at a time.<br>Have a great trek. You'll have stories to tell for the rest of your life - - -
I really enjoyed reading about your experience so far and look forward to hearing more about your continuing adventure. Your instructable was very informative. It's dangerous in my town to try to walk to the store a mile away (no sidewalks, no shoulders and the drivers are crazy) so reading this made me long for the days when I didn't have a car and I walked everywhere in the towns I lived in. There is something about walking with a purpose that makes me feel peaceful and more aware of my surroundings.
Oh and I just wanted to add that when you say a backpack can cause stress on the back and shoulders, perhaps this is because it was fitted, worn and/or packed improperly. The hipbelt of a pack, when worn and fitted correctly, transfers almost all of the weight to your legs, so if anything a backpack might cause stress on your hips, knees, and/or ankles, but not your back or shoulders. By loading the pack with the heaviest items close to the body and between the shoulder blades, this creates a stable load where the shoulder straps are there merely for balance. The hip belt does all the work. Makes for some diesel quads and calves!
Ah, that must have been it then. As I'm looking forward, I'm finding that I would much rather prefer a lbackpack over a cart, especially once I get out of desert country. Like I say, much of the weight is in water for these week-long treks through the sand.<br><br>And yes, I thought about the odds of meeting another man on the road. Not to mention he was just about done with his trek, whereas I had just started.
I would modify that cart to have a skin on it add a couple solar cells and some batteries you would have lights and computer power. I would also add an alarm to it they make a bike alarm that will go off alerting a pager you carry. Look into hammocks they are light weight since you have this trailer you could carry an A frame this way you only need one solid spot to anchor to then you drive a couple stakes in the ground this way your camp could be set anywhere since you use a tarp to cover your hammock and cart. Some places you could probably add a sail to that cart and the wind from the semi trucks could very well propell you down the road. If you wanted to you could build a small frame to cover you as you walked for rainy days.
One thing about the tent, never, never, NEVER keep food in your tent to keep it away from critters. They can smell it through the tent, and will try to get it if they want it enough. You don't want a bear or mountain lion coming in to get a snack. Even smaller animals like raccoons can mess you up pretty bad, and can carry diseases.<br><br>Use a rope to suspend your food from a tree, out of reach of most of the critters. If they do get it, not a big deal, better than them getting you!
You met someone else who just happened to be walking around the country as well? The odds of that make it a bit hard to swallow, but I'll buy into the Forrest Gump aspect of it. I'm a total believer in &quot;Hike Your Own Hike&quot; but in regards to the cart, damn son! Wouldn't it have been much more practical to carry an average of 20 or 30 pounds on your back, 40 pounds at the very most (including food and water)? I've hitch hiked and tramped a bit, albeit not yet on the scale of your journey, but to me, the most beautiful thing about living this lifestyle is the simplicity of only needing a few things, and relying on your creativity and a dash of luck to take care of the rest. Beyond the Ten Essentials (knife, compass, first aid kit, shelter, extra clothing, etc), not much else is needed for humans to make it out there. But hey, like I said, Hike Your Own Hike brother! Hopefully I'll see you out there one day (from the front seat of a car, I save my walking for the woods!).

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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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