OK, here's an update on our gear situation. After researching a bunch on boots, and going to REI and spending two hours trying on Lowas, Danners, Keens, and several other brands and styles, we both ended up settling on the Vasque Breeze GTX 2.0's. They were the most comfortable, supportive, lightweight, and had the acclaimed vibram sole. They have great reviews online, and look well-made. I even blind-tested between them and the Lowa Renegade GTX's, and chose the Vasque. We have REI's fantastic return policy backing it up, so if they start to have problems after a few months' use, we'll return them for something else.
The Vasques are a good bet. I reccomend them to most newbs, I have friends who hike a *lot* and use them, but bear in mind they aren't all that durable. On mostly road walking they should last well, but if you like them, you may want to buy a second pair and mail them somewhere you can pick them up halfway.
Any tips on sleeping bag liners (homemade? or just buy them?) would be welcomed,
Don't bother - hateful things to get tangled up in.
as well as guidance on sleeping pads.
Thermarest neo-air Xlite, and a couple extra patch kits.
I'm thinking of getting the Emberlit Wood-burning backpacking stove. Super lightweight, packs into the size of a dvd case, and looks like it kicks great heat. That, combined with a magnesium striker/flint for starter, will be our cooking platform.
Assuming you have dry wood available. and you're allowed to burn wood where you are, and have you practiced starting fires with your choice of ignition device? Have you checked to see if burning wood is allowed everywhere on your route? will there be wood available?
My advice - 1) practice at home first, and on some camping trips. and skip the stupid bear grylls magnesium thing and take a couple bic lighters. that's all you need, and if you break it you can buy another.
2) Wood fires where allowed, can often be made as small twig fires with the pot sitting on three rocks. then you don't carry anything, just pick up a few rocks. Where permitted and appropriate, I do this, I don't mess with carrying a smelly wood stove.
3) You can buy gasoline and kersosene everywhere on earth. I'd be taking a multi-fuel stove (like a whisperlite international) that can burn gasoline and kerosene and practicing with it beforehand. Don't take a backpacking stove that needs custom canisters or other things as it may not be available where you are.
What are your thoughts on hiking poles? One? Two? Used ski poles? Wood? From what I've read, those who are used to them really like them and find them useful, but they seem to have more application in rocky, mountainous areas.
Get out and walk, with your pack on, and try them. I use them, and I use two, even on flat ground, but you need to try to find out for yourself. anyone giving you advice on it is just giving you their own opinion, and everyone's different.
He hiked 6,170 miles in 425 days, averaging 16.54 miles per hiking day and 14.52 miles per day including rest days.
I like trekking poles for walking on trails as they help prevent falls and make walking downhill on a slippery trail easier. They also absorb the impact while walking downhill. However, my suggestion for use on roads was not based on opinion. It was based on credible scientific studies that showed that the the most efficient way to walk on roads is to keep the upper body as erect and as motionless as possible. If a person was so inclined, the best way to learn the technique is to carry something on their head. This position increases the leg's efficiency from about 65% to about 85%. By efficiency, I mean the fewest calories per mile which is measured by oxygen use.
Since there is plenty of time to walk 20 miles in a day, there is no reason to increase speed too much. After practicing for a few hundred miles, a walker will probably average about 3.7 mph plus or minus a couple tenths. Efficiency starts to decline while walking above or below 3.5 mph, and this seems to be independent of a person's height for reasonable variations around 5'10 inches. I know this is counterintuitive, but that's what the studies show.
It may seem like over thinking to worry about efficiency, but if a person does not completely recover after each day before starting the next day, the effects will be cumulative. The least serious result will be forcing a rest day. The most serious result is an injury which could require surgery in time. In one of my first posts on this thread, I recommended starting to seriously train as soon as possible. It will take a year to achieve all the needed physiological changes in your body. By serious, I don't mean starting with high mileage. I mean starting with what you are capable of now, and gradually increasing your mileage.
Diet is another issue. I don't want to get in the middle of a diet discussion. I suggest reading "Eat and Run" by Scott Jurek who won the Western States 100 five times.
I'm not optimistic about the idea of averaging 20 miles a day. Although people do it on the Appalachian Trail, I haven't found many modern road walkers that can do it. There are modern runners that can average this distance, but most of these have had various operations as a result of injuries.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
A burro pulling a cart is a very feasible idea, but not to carry you and your wife, just your gear and supplies, so keep following that line of thought.
The reason I joined this forum was to learn about lightweight gear and apply that to how I'd pack my burros. The lightweight cart idea is a great one, and there's a lot of tech out there to look at, like those horse racing carts. The same goes with all the gear you'll be using and a cart would be a primed place to innovate for a trip like this.
If it were me, I'd design a cart that would make it easy for me to help the burro tote the load.
A burro might get you further just because you have one too. They have a strong heritage there and I think the locals would be hard pressed not to admire you're embracing that.
To get this thing done, or to decide not to attempt it, I'd recommend breaking it into small pieces and getting to work on planning.
I looked at a walking route on Google Maps by entering Juarez and Cancun. There are two slightly different routes for walking and driving. Both follow what would look like a four lane state highway in the United States. The good news is, there is a dirt "road" along all the parts I looked at.
In the areas I looked, there were rest areas or small stores where water might be available.
The bad news is it is completely open, and there weren't any places to stealth camp. I wouldn't go over the fence as you might find someone who doesn't like it.
I have no idea if it's legal to walk along these roads, and I have no idea how to find out. It may change randomly along the way. I'd hate to end up in a Mexican jail somewhere.
If I were doing this, I'd take a drive down there to see what you are getting into. You may decide it's not doable in the first few hundred miles.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Gershon, I got a pair of Sicilian Donkeys, commonly called "Miniature Donkeys". They are 36" or under at the shoulder and weigh up 350 lbs in good shape. Smaller ones are more expensive, and anything over 36" doesn't make the cut to qualify as a "mini" so bigger ones can be purchased for quite a bit less. Mine are at the big end of their size.
The reason I chose minis is because I wanted them to bushwhack with me, and I figured the shorter minis would do better in the undergrowth here.
They are pretty amazing bushwhackers too. They'll go just about anywhere I can and they'll always pick the route with the least resistance. If they knew where we were going I'd almost always be better off following them than leading.
Though the minis can pull a cart just fine, and a pair of them can be hitched together as a team, on the trip being described here I'd use a standard burro, and maybe two. They're herding animals and do better in pairs than alone, and we're talking a long trip here.
Burros are really better suited for these kinds of trips than a horse. They're a lot less picky about their diet, don't need to be shoed, and have a much calmer demeanor than horses.
Unlike horses, who think all food should be free and available and therefore don't respond to treats, burros will learn fast to do a double summersault backwards if they know there's an edible reward for their efforts.
Every evening Lewis & Clark bray at me to come give them their sweet grain. If I drive around to the bottom of the fenced in pasture they're in and yell for them they'll come running to find me. I play "hide and seek" with them like this. The point here is that they're not likely to wander off far, generally no further than the next bit of good forage, and if they think they'll get some kind of tasty treat when you call them they'll come running to you every time.
I have no idea about the laws for this type of trip in Mexico. When I've been there I've seen a lot of people walking along the roads, and some of them were a long way from any town. Quite a few times I've seen people come out of the fields/forest where they must of been camping and start walking on down the highway. But I've only been in Yucatan, I don't know much at all about the western states. The people and the police I met there were all good to me. That's not to say they won't take advantage of a gringo, but most won't, and the others won't if they know you're on to them.
The best advice I can give for a trip like this is be humble. Apologize for not knowing the language if you don't, and try hard to learn how speak to them in their language, don't expect or even ask them to speak ours. Everyone down there knows about us jabbing them with "Learn to speak english" when they're up here. Generally speaking we're pretty obnoxious about that and they'll have fun returning that given a chance.
When I've been there I carried the pocket book "Spanish For Dummies" with me. I take it out and show it to whomever I'm trying to speak with and say "espanol for loco gringos", and then point to words and try to say them. That's never failed to break the ice. That totally got me out of a traffic ticket in Merida, the officers just busted up laughing and told me to be careful and move on.