Lead Review

  • Book: The Unlikeliest Backpacker
  • Location: California, Canada, Oregon, Washington
  • Author: Kathryn Barnes

Review Author: tripfiction



The Unlikeliest Backpacker describes an epic adventure. Kathryn Barnes and her husband, Conrad Nicholas, decide to abandon their one bedroom flat in London and head for the great outdoors. They plan to hike the 935 miles from northern California, through Oregon and Washington, to the Canadian border – all along the Pacific Crest Trail (a sort of path that varies in quality, and varies in altitude from sea level to 7,000 feet). It promises to be gruelling… Even though they aim to leave in June, there is going to be to be a fair amount of snow on the way on the high ground. And a fair amount of heat (and mosquitos) on the low ground.

Kathryn and Conrad are not experienced hikers, but they learn quickly – and build up to covering around 20 miles a day. Not at all bad in the very adverse terrain.

The Unlikeliest Backpacker is an inspiring story. It shows how two people can learn very quickly to cope with the hardship they face. They make friends along the route, and learn a great deal about themselves and their relationship under stress. There is a section at the end of the book where Kathryn sets out some of the learning for us to share.

For me, though, The Unlikeliest Backpacker is more likely to be a specialist rather than a generalist book. To read once about the problems of peeing or pooing by the track (with bear and mountain lion paw prints in attendance), about the absolute – and understandable – focus on water and food, about the equal focus on showering and clean clothes, about the tribulations of trudging through snowfields or up ridiculously steep tracks, or about the weight of their backpacks, is probably enough to give me an idea of what they put themselves through. The constant repetition of such experiences is probably more for the hiking or camping aficionado. Although, they absolutely have my admiration and support for what they achieved.

Very interesting at the end when they try to re-orient themselves to London life. The noise, hassle, and crowds of the big city are very different to the peace they have recently experienced. They have both caught the bug for the outdoor life.

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