YOU ARE NEVER REALLY READY...
The last few weeks before our departure were... very busy! I don't think you're ever really ready to leave for such an adventure. Regardless of what form a great trip takes, between all the things you need to do before leaving, the goodbyes to your loved ones and the preparation of the trip itself, you need an unfailing organization or you’ll regret it!
On our side, we confess that we had some cold sweats when we saw the days running away before the start of our European thru-hike. It must be said that we set the bar very high in terms of the amount of work to be done!
Here, we would like to highlight 4 aspects of our preparation that can probably be used by all. What we won't tell you about is the preparation of our itinerary because we have already done it in 3 detailed articles that you will find here.
1. The gear: choose, test, change your mind, DIY, do not regret
Yes, gear! You can imagine that in order to embark on a small 10,000 km walk, we have chosen our gear with great care. We show you even the smallest items of our bags on our GEAR page.
Once selected, there is no way to leave without having tried it! Otherwise, you’ll find yourself with blisters on your feet or with a drone that doesn't work. Well, don’t worry, it happened anyway.
We have been able to leave for two preparatory trips this summer, but we have unfortunately not been able to do so with all of our final equipment because we didn't have it yet! So here we go for smaller outings, closer to home but which have allowed us to test our ultra-light hiking equipment: shoes, clothes, backpacks, tents, duvets, floor mats, stove, etc. In short: the essentials!
Thanks to these field tests, we identified what was missing, what needed to be adapted, what was eventually superfluous, what we could save a bit of weight on... So these outings resulted in adjustments to the contents of our bags and some do-it-yourself work.
In the team, Nil is the DIY expert. So he was the one who did most of the work, but it's a family thing, so his father, brother and uncle also put in two cents.
The four major parts of our customised equipment are the laptop case, the cell phones cases, the "multi-plug" and the tripod for photo and video.
For the laptop case, we needed something to protect it from shocks, torsions in the bag, dust, moisture, splashes... but it has to be extremely light. After a long search, we did not find anything satisfactory in the trade. Resistance and lightness are difficult qualities to combine! We even tried to convince an American guy who had once made carbon cases to make one for us or provide us with a prototype that might have been hanging around in his workshop. It was a waste of time, he had another activity and could not help us. Let's face it, we had to imagine ours!
Our laptop case is made up of two carbon plates cut to measure: a little larger than the laptop and with holes to save weight. On each plate, foam is glued, cut to form a formwork around the computer. The set is then slipped into a flexible and waterproof Aqua Quest pouch, which closes with a zip.
Our phones, the OnePlus 5Ts, had just come out when we received them. At the time of our departure, therefore, there were very few case options in order to protect them. Actually, there was only one: Armor-X. Although the brand specializes in the outdoor, we were afraid that our one-and-a-half year adventure would be too hard for our phones despite their protection, that's where Nil takes action again! With big reinforcements of insulating foam, strap and plexiglass, a few strokes of cutter later, we had new cases! Probably not the most elegant, but certainly the safest!
In order not to disturb too much when we stop in a coffee shop to recharge our devices and to save time and weight, we have (ok… Nil’s father did) elaborated an intake that can accommodate three chargers, each one having several usb outlets of all kinds. With a single plug, we are therefore able to charge almost all our devices at the same time, including computers. This represents a serious efficiency gain!
Finally, by combining our little Pedco tripod with three walking poles and a little bit of string, we're now with a real tripod, without getting any heavier!
A little bit of imagination and resourcefulness have therefore made us gain in weight and versatility of our equipment. The basics for an ultralight hiking trip!
With all the electronics we carry, we decided that we had to prevent rather than cure and we decided to have it insured. Quite naturally, we entrusted Pixel-Assur with this heavy task, the reference for photo equipment insurance for professionals.
2. Physical prep: do what I say, not what I do
We are often asked what physical preparation we followed in anticipation of our trip, so we devoted a full article to what we think is the ideal preparation, you can read it here.
You will notice the difference between "our preparation" and "the ideal preparation" :).
In theory, we had a very well-prepared physical preparation schedule that we would have followed scrupulously if we only had our body to prepare...
Well, even if we didn't do exactly all the training we planned, we're still of the sports type. As a result, we maintained our usual sports sessions, particularly climbing, and added cardio and stretching sessions.
3. 1KG FOR THE PLANET
Quickly, we decided to take advantage of our 10,000 km of hiking trails to make them cleaner, more welcoming and to do something for the environment. This gesture was so simple, even if for us every gram of what is in our bags is a major preoccupation, we wanted to invite and inspire people to do the same. As in the legend of the hummingbird, if everyone does his own part, we will move faster in the right direction.
Soon, we decided to take advantage of our 10,000 km of hiking trails to make them cleaner, more welcoming and to do something for the environment. This gesture was so simple, even if for us every gram of what is in our bags is a major preoccupation, we wanted to invite and inspire people to do the same. As in the legend of the hummingbird, if everyone does his part, we will move faster in the right direction.
So we created the Facebook group 1KG FOR THE PLANET and on Instagram the #1kgfortheplanet so that everyone could share their actions in the same "place”.
But we wanted to go further.
By having reusable, space-saving and easy-to-use backpacks produced, we gave everyone the means to do their part in every nature outing. 1KG FOR THE PLANET bags are made of RPET nylon, either from recycled plastic bottles. Resistant and reusable, they represent a positive step for the environment. To come along with the bags and explain the approach, we printed small leaflets in paper, also recycled. Finally, to be able to hang ones bag everywhere, on a backpack for example, we added a small carabiner.
Obviously, all these elements arrived independently and we had to assemble them. Here again, we had a little help! Lucky us!
All that remained was to organize the distribution...
We had no desire to develop this initiative on our own, quite the contrary. That's why we involved several of our partners in the free distribution of collection bags. The Fédération Française de Randonnée (French Federation of Hiking) has obviously responded, as well as the Rota Vicentina. With this last one, we even went further while hiking southern Portugal: we took part in a waste collection with a dozen other volunteers and helped to clean up one of the beautiful beaches of the Alentejo coast. We were joined by other outdoor actors, the ultra-mobility gear store High Mobility Gear and the I-Trekkings blog.
4. Thru-hike and logistics
Ouch, big subject... To answer a question that we are often asked: no, we do not have with us all the equipment for these 17 months of adventure. We do not transport our snowshoes and avalanche probe all year round. For our gear according to the seasons, we have therefore planned parcels to be sent from Paris.
But that is not all. We also have freeze-dried meals from our partners REAL and MX3, which we plan to receive particularly in countries where the cost of living is very high and in areas where we may find few replenishment opportunities.
Our NuPower vitamins, supplied by Nutriting, are also stored in Paris and will be shipped as we go along.
Finally, for some hygiene and health products, rather than buying a full tube of toothpaste or anti-friction cream when we don't have any more, and ending up with formats that don't always fit, bulky or heavy packaging, we have chosen to prepare all this in advance. Before we left, we repackaged a whole bunch of products to take away only small doses and take advantage of the material and food shipments to slide a piece of jersey wrapped around a small box that could contain a needle and thread or a few millilitres of essential oils.
The main difficulty of this exercise was our concern to make life easier for those who will have to send us these parcels. We have tried to find the best compromise between pre-prepared packages composed of what we need regularly and what we could hardly anticipate. It's hard to know if we will be running out of compresses when we would have no more arnica gel.
The organization and storage of all this material has been a real headache, especially when we know that we will always be on the move and it is therefore very difficult for us to predict where to send the parcels. The other parameter in this equation is cost. Even between European countries, the sending of parcels can quickly be very expensive, which adds a complication to our system... it's better to be sure! The future will tell us if our organization is viable!
In anticipation of the bigger injuries, we looked for the most suitable insurance for us. Marie had already used Chapka for long trips without, luckily, having ever needed to run the insurance. After comparing the different offers on the market, Chapka Assurances seemed to be particularly recommended for world tours and other long trips. After meeting them, we thought it was what we needed indeed!
Compared to the way we usually travel, we have prepared this trip with great care. It must be said that we had never undertaken such an expedition before. Despite that, we left with the impression that we were not sufficiently prepared for a lot of things, but I think it's inevitable and part of the discovery and fun of the adventure!
Talking about adventure, we have to go, ours is about to start!
Marie & Nil