Book Review: The Complete Walker IV

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At the top of the small list of backpacking books we like and recommend, is The Complete Walker IV  by Colin Fletcher and Chip Rawlins. Here’s why we like it so much.

This book will draw you in to its chapters with a fabulous combination of field-tested backpacking tips and advice, engaging real-life stories, and an authenticity that comes from the elder statesman of backpacking, Colin Flether, telling it like it is, nothing held back, but laced with earthy humor (occasionally blunt or “salty” but generally very entertaining).

Colin Fletcher, now deceased, was almost 80 years old when this 4th edition of his classic book was published in 2002. This edition is updated and enlarged, mostly due to the efforts and contributions of Fletcher’s co-author, Chip Rawlins.

In the preface, Fletcher states his hope that the book will live on past the end of his earthly life: “Perhaps I should admit my fragrant hope that by handing the walking staff over to Chip — partially this time, totally later, if all goes well — I’ve given the book a chance to live on, post-Fletcher.”

In our opinion, their collaboration was a great success, making this new edition ofThe Complete Walker IV a must-have for every hiker and backpacker.

Why you should read The Complete Walker IV

First, the contents of this book reflect the years of experience in “walking” — what we now call backpacking — by the man who years ago walked the length of the Grand Canyon and then wrote about it in a series of books, launching the modern-day backpacking movement.

Fletcher describes in detail everything from how to pack your backpack for crossing a river, to what snacks are best to take with you, to measuring humidity, to calculating the right mix of food for the energy output you need, to real-life example of the dangers of dehydration.

Second, Fletcher’s sometimes brutal reviews of the latest backpacking equipment don’t just give a simple Yes or No review, but actually go deep in discussions about the science of the fabrics and technologies used.

Sometimes, where the two authors disagree, you’ll find each of their opinions labeled with their names, and the back and forth dialogue is simply fascinating and very educational.

Third, we know of no other book on the subject of backpacking that is so in-depth and also so full of practical advice and examples from real-life treks as The Complete Walker IV.

We guarantee that you’ll find this book loaded with very helpful information if you can set aside some time to read it. At over 800 pages, you won’t finish it in a day or two, but you’ll find yourself coming back to it again and again, and it’s great for reading several months ahead of a major backpacking trip.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! If you can buy only one backpacking book, make it this one.