9000 km equipment update (almost)
This is going to be a short equipment update, covering the stuff I will be using during the rest of my walk across America. In many ways I suppose that it will be the stuff that I will continue using for the rest of my journey to Sydney. I have been on the road for 14 months at this stage , and walked somewhere in the vicinity of 9000 kms, so I have started to get a pretty good feel for what works and what doesn’t. As always, you should take my opinions with a bit of scepticism as this is what works for ME, and might not be the perfect solution for you.
Everything revolves around the Mule. The Mule is my ever dependable cart and is a Kronan Duo chassis with a Alu-box, aluminium storage box instead of the original baby carrier. It has proven to be great. Strong, sturdy, rolls well and has so far refused to give any problems. One of the reasons I chose a Kronan Duo was the optional 16” wheels with proper, industrial grade roller bearings. The chassis folds together to a reasonably small package, yet is strong and has survived despite at times carrying more that 3 times its rated load.
I get a lot of comments about the Alu-Box. It might look heavy, but is in fact as light, if not lighter than a waterproof bag of comparable size. Not only that, it is lockable and completely waterproof. I never have to worry about anything getting wet, even in the heaviest downpour! With its large lid, it is easy to pack and organise and as long as I take some care with my organisation, I can get at everything I need quickly and without having to pull everything else out. When you pack and unpack your equipment every day, that is very important!
The Alu-Box is mounted on a quick release, the same one that the original baby basket uses, to enable quick disassembly if needed and to leave plenty of room underneath the box for water. I knew from the start of my planing that I would need to be able to carry plenty of water during certain stages of the-walk. Especially as I have always planned to be more or less unsupported. During the last week I have had up to 20 litres of water with me, enough for 3 days for me, even in hot weather, and the Mule just seems to suck it up and keep going without complaint.
The water is carried in 2 coolers, one 2 gallon and one 1/2 gallon, plus assorted extra plastic pet bottles. The coolers have proven to be a great thing. With them I can buy ice at service stations, fill up with water and then enjoy cold water all day!
Ok, it only last one day, but it is so much nicer to be able to drink cold water and I have to have some sort of container anyway.
One of the modifications I have made to the chassis is to add the Jolly Motion arms. These are 2 arms with a bungee cord between them that are designed to enable you to jog with a baby jogger type of cart. The arms give me some extra leverage and a lot more variation in how I can place my hands but the most important feature is that I can push against the cord with my hips. This takes a lot of weight of my upper body and has proven to be almost impossible to live without in the long uphills. Not only that, on long down hills, I place the cord behind me and don’t have to restrain the Mule from speeding down the hill with just my hands. One modification I would consider for the Mule, is the addition of a brake. But not at the cost of too much complexity.
My Jolly Motion arms are modified. They originally come with an elbow to allow for height adjustment, but as the Mule already has that, I shortened them and clamped them above the elbows on the Mule. I have also replaced the original clamps with some nice quick release ones, so that I can pack everything down quickly if I have to. For loading in a car for example.
At the back of the Alu-Box, hanging on one of my walking sticks, is my food bag. It is a bicycle pannier bag, waterproof and reasonably big. I try to keep all my food in there to keep it separate from the rest of my equipment and I originally thought a separate bag would be a good idea as it can also be used as a bear bag. Hung from a tree or something to keep animals out and move the food away from your tent. If you look closely at my bag you can see the racoon damage it has suffered!
Although one walking stick is used to hold the pannier bag, the other one lies loose on top and is my “dog” stick. It’s my only weapon but is very useful, not only against dogs.
The sticks also serve as tent poles for my tarp. I have a tarp that I can pitch as a shelter or use underneath my tent as a ground sheet or just as something to sit on. This is something I have not used as much as I thought I might and I am starting to considering abandoning it ….
The top of the mule carries my Brunton solar charger and my cell foam mattress. The solar charger keeps my phone more or less charged and would be completely sufficient if I wasn’t using GPS tracking on it. The my path app draws a lot of power, but with the solar charger and an extra battery, I can get by without having access to mains electricity for at least 3 – 4 days.
I use the cell foam mattress to sit on when I rest during the day and as a back-up for my inflatable air mattress (which is much more comfortable).
At the moment there is also an umbrella on the top of the alu-box. Perfect for not only keeping the rain off, but also against the sun! I have not been much of an umbrella user before, but especially in hot weather, it is great. Much better than rain clothes as they just get hot and you end up getting soaked from sweat from the inside!
A new modification is the small handlebar bag I have mounted to the push handle. I was being very lazy and not stopping to get my small camera out and take photos whenever I saw something interesting. At the same time, I did not want my camera to be exposed to the sun on top of the box, so I bought this handlebar bag and it is working great. Room for some valuables, the camera, the phone (with cable from the charger) and some small odds and ends. It has a small rain cover when needed and if it really starts pouring, I just unhook it (quick release) and put it in the Alu-Box.
Hanging behind it is a small bag for a water bottle. I have a stainless steel water bottle but have more and more just started to use a plastic pet bottle. In fact I would recommend not spending your money on an expensive water bottle, just use a soda bottle and replace when it gets to worn. Perfect excuse to buy a flavoured drink every now and again!
A very important modification to the Mule are my Greentyre solid tyres (swedish link). If you have been following me from the beginning, you know how much trouble I had with punctures, especially in England. Since I mounted the solid Greentyres, I have had no problems at all and the peace of mind that gives is worth a lot. Add to that the fact that I no longer need to carry a pump, repair kit or extra tubes and they become a must for anyone considering a longer walk using a cart.
I started the-walk using a Hilleberg tent and used it a lot during the first 6-7 months. It was a great tent and after heavy use, it still looked brand new. But I decided to try a lighter tent (after struggling with the Mule in the hills of Spain) and am now using a Terra Nova Equipment Solar Competition 2.
It is a very lightweight tent that packs into a small size. It actually weighs less than 1 kg! I was a little bit sceptical in the beginning, as the materials felt a bit flimsy compared to the Hilleberg, but everything has held up great so far and I am becoming more and more confident in it as time goes by. The one thing I was most sceptical about in the beginning was the tent pegs.
The tent comes with these very small, lightweight, titanium pegs that look like small pieces of wire. I almost laughed when I first saw them and said, oh well, I can buy some real pegs later on. But the pegs have been great. Because of their small size, they work well even in very hard ground and it is usually possible to use them in situations that seem impossible. I have to say that I am a convert.
Another advantage over my old tent is that the Terra Nova is self supporting (more or less anyway). That means that I can set it up on concrete if I have to. There is a slight problem as the outer tent needs to be pegged but the inner tent is self supporting and it does work in a pinch. The one problem I have is that the tent is just a few inches to small. I’m 6 foot (183cm) and could use a few inches more in length and a few inches more in height to be completely comfortable.
If I was to start looking for a new tent, the changes I would like are, slightly larger, completely self supporting and a green inner tent. The inner tent on the Terra Nova is white, which is not great for stealth camping!
My sleeping bag is a summer one (which was not great in Spain during the winter) combined with a thermal liner. I can use the liner, the bag or both together to cover a lot of different temperature ranges. If anything, I would ideally change the sleeping bag to a warmer one, but what I have works down to about 8 degrees and I don’t think I am going to experience anything colder than that for a while.
If it’s warm enough to sleep without any cover, I use the thermal liner, in its stuff sack, as a pillow. If I need the liner as a cover, I use the sleeping bag. If it’s cold enough for the sleeping bag, I again use the liner as a pillow and if I need both the liner and the bag, I stuff some clothes in the liners’ stuff sack.
I carry my electronics and valuables in a small daypack, along with a gorilla pod for the camera. That way I can take the valuables with me quickly and easily if I have to. Great when I have to leave the Mule outside a shop or something. I have a wire to lock the Mule up with, but try not to leave to much valuable stuff in it even when locked.
I’m down to 3 pairs of shoes at the moment, 2 sandals and a minimalist running shoe. Works well here in the heat but could possibly need to be complemented with a slightly sturdier pair of shoes in colder weather.
That’s really about it. Add some tools (as few as possible), spare parts, duct tape, toiletry and a first aid kit and that’s it.
For a list of clothing, check out my packing article on Houdini Sportswears’ news blog.
Would love to hear any comments or suggestions you have, just post them on the Facebook page.
What I do know is that this equipment is what has evolved after almost 9000 kms of walking during 14 months and 2 continents. It works for me.
Whatever works for you, remember that the important thing is to keep walking!