I — sometimes — think of other things …

Four days from now, I’ll have done my first day on the Bruce Trail! Sometimes, I have actually thought of other things over the past several weeks …

An Edible Trees presentation tomorrow morning for our Town’s planting of fruit and nut trees at our big community gardens; a choir performance tomorrow evening; dancing up the sun in High Park early Sunday morning; final check of packing Sunday afternoon, evening and Monday morning; and then heading down to St Catharines to stay over Monday night with friends.  And then I start walking …

Food Packing

A few weeks ago, we packed all of my individual food items into individual zippered plastic bags, and then organized the food for each day into larger plastic bags.  Then, each ‘set’ of daily food bags was packed into the various re-supply bags that will be dropped off at the four re-supply places I’ve arranged.

a day's food

a day’s food

Each day’s food includes so much plastic … Ouch!

Gourmet Boiled Water

A sample daily menu starts with a Clif bar when I wake up, downed with water. After striking camp and walking for an hour or so I’ll stop for breakfast. I’ve fortified my already nut-rich homemade granola with powdered Nido whole-milk, and more walnuts and almonds. I’ll probably heat enough water to put onto the granola to heat it to a porridge to warm my innards. I’ll also have a big mug or more of coffee. Yep, instant coffee … Until ‘supper-time’, I’ll eat and drink quite constantly, maintaining what some backpackers refer to as a ‘calorie-drip’. Each day includes a bag of nut-rich home-combined gorp; a bag of jerky or dried sausage; and a bag of what turns out to be usually Indian snacks, i.e., chana nuts or something else that’s somewhat carb-y but also protein-rich and fat-rich. I’ll stop for supper late afternoon, and ‘cook’. Many of my meals are already prepared freeze-dried meals, some of which are fortified with additives such as ramen noodles. Other suppers are of my own concoction. They’ll be interesting …

Each day, I’ll also mix up some protein powder, probably mid-day, as yet another way to get water into my body, and to increase the amount of protein I take in.

I’ll also be carrying plastic bottles of either olive oil or coconut oil to boost my caloric intake as I develop ‘hiker hunger’ along the way. Coconut oil has the distinct advantage that it remains a solid up to 25ºC+, so it should be less messy to carry than olive oil might be.

Depending on how I count calories, I’m carrying something like 3500 calories per day. That’s probably not enough once I develop my hiker legs. I’ve got ways of increasing my food intake that I’ll almost certainly have to use as I approach and pass home part way along the Trail.

My Kitchen

hiking kitchen

hiking kitchen

I’m using an alcohol stove, a Swedish Trangia, of an older design, somewhat heavier than many serious gram-weenies would use, but something that’s solid, that I can simmer with, that I can ‘turn off’ and that I can actually carry denatured ethanol fuel in. The actual Trangia stove is under the pot with the rings visible. The simmering part is the middle-front brass ring with the brown lid that moves aside. The storage cap is the brass lid upside and centre-front right. I folded aluminum from a disposable baking pan into a simple wind screen. The pot is new and smaller than the old aluminum coffee pot from our canoeing days. It’s a 1.1 litre aluminum pot with a good handle and a plastic lid. The orange cup fits down into the bottom of the pot and protects the pot’s non-stick finish.The blue-and silver thing in the back left is my pot cozy, version three. I made it from an old blue-foamy camp mat, and aluminized pipe wrap tape, and pieces of aluminum cut from disposable baking pans. Two spoons, one long-handled light-weight titanium, and the other a durable plastic are my eating utensils. I’ll start the stove with my min-lighter. The denatured ethanol (or sometimes, methanol) is carried either in these little plastic squirt bottles, or in bigger more standard fuel bottles. Way in the back is one of our old canoeing pot bags to hold all of the kitchen. That pot bag is one of the few pieces of old paddling gear that’s actually accompanying me — mainly for sentimental reasons …

My whole kitchen, including all the kit described above, plus water bottles capable of carrying 5 litres (which I’ll need several times up along the Bruce Peninsula …), and the kevlar food-hanging bear bag (the white Ursack in the photo below, shown filled with six days of food), and other miscellaneous food-related equipment, my kitchen (minus the actual consumables of food and water) adds just under 1.5 kg to my pack.

A quick look at my home-on-my-back

pack and gear photo

pack and gear

Actually, can you spot the one two-part item that I’m not taking? (Though that’s what I hiked in over Exmoor when I spent a glorious year teaching up on those wet and windy moors!)

I’m using an Osprey Aether 60 litre backpack. It’s one of the first items I bought when I started planning. In my large size, it’s actually supposedly capable of holding 63 litres. It’s very comfortable, though I have to work out how to keep the hip-belt from slipping quite so much. I adjust the pack to that virtually the whole weight of what I’m carrying sits fully on my hips, and very little on my shoulders. The drawback of the Aether is that it’s heavy compared to some serious gram-weenie packs others use. I could cut well over a kilogram and a half off my pack weight if I had access to trying out some of the amazing packs made by cottage-industry backpackers in the States. I’d also have to continue to cut down on what I carry. The Aether weighs 2.5 kg, including the pack-cover for rain, and the tough plastic bag I’m using as a waterproof liner. Were I to start again, I’d consider buying my other main gear first, and then ordering from the States the lightest most-comfortable pack that would suit my stripped-down needs. Always dreaming …

I’m sleeping in a Canadian-designed Hennessy Explorer Ultralight Classic hammock.  It comfortably fits my largish body, and packs light and small. With a large tarp to cover the combined hammock and bug netting, combined with ‘whoopee-sling’ suspension, and stakes for the tarp, my home weighs just over 1.5 kg. Add a 1.1 kg down sleeping bag for 0ºC, and a super-light inflatable mat, for a combined sleeping gear weight of about 1.5 kg, and my home weighs about 3 kg. Not bad for very comfortable nights up off the ground!

hanging in the backyard

hanging in the backyard

I’m taking one pair of Goretex-lined Merrill Moab low-cut hiking shoes (to be swapped out for the same shoes without Goretex when I reach home), one pair of merino-nylon above-the-ankle socks, one pair of ankle-height merino-nylon socks, and two pairs of two-layer shortie running socks (from my race-walking days). The shoes are a size-and-a-half bigger than I normally wear. I haven’t had blisters in them yet, and I’ve got perhaps 250 km on the two pairs combined. One pair of long nylon hiking pants, and two pairs of underwear, one long-sleeved merino shirt, one nylon long-sleeved shirt, one very light-weight fleece hoodie to sleep in, one bright chartreuse windshirt that I expect to wear much of the time below 10ºC, and the fabulous red wind-resistant and partly-water-resistant fleece hoodie that one of our daughters designed and made for me, and the tightly-knit and specially sized gloves knit by our other daugther — that’s all I’m taking for clothes. Oh, and a thick pair of loose socks and light-weight long johns in which to sleep.

I’m taking a very lightweight silnylon poncho and a lightweight flexible umbrella for rain protection. I’m expecting that by and large, the umbrella will suffice in the woods, where there will be a measure of protection from the extremes of winds. Seems strange to be carrying an umbrella, but that practice comes highly recommended as being the coolest and least sweaty way of staying dry. Umbrellas and ponchos are also regarded as the height of silliness by some hikers. We’ll see.

Other miscellaneous stuff, much of it quite heavy, adds up to another couple of kilograms. My 8*32 binoculars, my backup batteries for my iPhone, and my add-on iPhone lenses, all add up. As do my minimal repair kit and a minimal first aid kit. I’ve cut lots of stuff out of this category, but too much remains. My last gear-check on Sunday and Monday might lighten my load.

hiking pack ready to go

So many to thank, and so many who are going to join me!

I’m quite overwhelmed that so many of you are going to actually come along the Trail with me! Absolutely wonderful — I’ll highlight our times together. To those who are doing other things to support me, as hosts along the way, as providers of special foods, as encouragers, as advisors, as friends in every way — thank you so much!


“A person is never more than two feet from freedom.” Ray Jardine (one of the ultra-light-weight long-distance backpackers)

“If you really want to do it, do it while you can. Someday arrives too little, too late.”  anon.

Dwight Eisenhower said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is priceless.”

“It’s not about the miles; it’s all about the smiles.”  anon.

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