Saturday, August 11

The Complete Walker IV - Colin Fletcher

I'd not come across Colin Fletcher's work before. But following his death in June and the widespread acknowledgement of his influence from a number of writers across the outdoor world I started to track down his books. I'm generally not a great fan of US writers as they can be quite parochial at times. If I need to deal with that sort of thing I'd rather it related to experiences in these islands of ours.

Similarly most gear guides are poorly done, soon becoming irrelevant with the changes in technology and design. An exception of course being Chris Townsend's The Backpacking Handbook a long standing example of how to successfully match experience, gear advice, and practicality. And keep it current.

On first glance the 2006 version of 'The Complete Walker' is not a book to pack on one of your lightweight trips. At 850 pages and weighing around 1 kg its a meaty piece of work. And this weight inadvertently led to the sudden and irrecoverable demise of my Psion 5 PDA after a small accident. But that's another tale.

Despite my initial foreboding I got dug in earlier this week, and what wonderful material it turns out to be. I've heard it called the "Walker's Bible" and although I'm still in the early stages of the book, I would say that title is very justified.

It's not just about gear; Nor is it just observations based on years of experience; Not even that its recent revision bringing Chip Rawlins on board brings the gear discussions up to date.

It's more a deeply emotive expression about human experience in the wild areas, and even the not so wild, that we escape to from time to time.

The opening chapter "Why Walk?" is a beautifully expressed piece that still resonates for me long after I read it. If the book stopped there, I would have bought it for that piece alone. Not easily achieved for as Fletcher writes
"I've had an unholy awful time with this introductory chapter. I wrote it a dozen times, over a period of several moths, and a dozen times it utterly refused to say what I wanted it to say....I don't say that I'm yet satisfied with what I've written. But I think it will do"

It will indeed. Timeless words.

I don't tend to recommend a book until I've finished it. But this ones so special. And all for around a tenner.

Just don't but it in a bag alongside a Psion 5, and then rest it momentarily on a car roof. Ahem. I'm off to E-Bay. Again.


I knew about Colin Fletcher but somehow have never got round to reading him. I will now. Thanks for the tip-off. Agree about the Chris Townsend. The 3rd ed is looking at me from my bookshelf as I write. A classic - meticulous, as is everything he does.
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