I don't drive, and road cycling around here is for braver cyclists than I, so I spend a lot of time walking through suburbia. I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned, as well as some of the conundrums I've encountered in case anyone's found a solution that works for them. If you have your own tips for hiking through the concrete jungle, let me know!
What's generally in my 20L day pack:
-Hand/foot warmers (winter only)
-Ultra light Crazy Creek camping chair for taking rests (my back doesn't like sitting without support)
-At least one more meal's worth of food than I'm planning to need
-External phone battery
-Lightweight foldable shopping bags that I can clip to the outside of my pack if I buy/find something bulky.
Things I've learned over the years:
-Take rests *before* you need to. If you take a rest when you're already tired, you're not going to want to keep walking. On a long walk, I'll take a short rest whenever I come to a public park or other convenient stopping place. It's also a good opportunity to refresh sunblock.
-When trying to find a restroom in unfamiliar territory, assuming you don't want to pay for something at a restaurant, aim for multi-tenant office buildings. Medical office buildings are often great for this. They generally have restrooms available somewhere on the ground floor, and anyone you run into will assume you're there to visit one of the other offices.
-When you run into an intersection with an extremely slow, badly designed, or non-functional walk signal, try going half a block up the smaller of the two roads. It's often safer to dash across the street in the middle of a block, where you have a clearer view of oncoming cars and drivers are less distracted by intersection complications.
-Some cities time traffic lights in such a way that the "walk" signal and the "left turn" signal happen simultaneously. Very few drivers know this, and they will not be checking the crosswalk before they turn.
-If a driver you're supposed to be crossing in front of is trying to make a right turn on red, consider crossing behind them instead. Drivers checking for cars before they make a turn are much less likely to see you, because you don't look like a car and that's what their brain is focusing on right now.
-Never assume that a driver will obey laws. If they haven't stopped at the red light, they might not. Have a plan to dodge if necessary.
-If you find yourself about to be hit and you can't dodge, try to jump onto the hood. It might not help at high speeds, but in a low speed intersection situation, it can make the difference between having a story to tell about texting and driving and ending up in the hospital with two broken legs.
-If you look "weird" to the culture that surrounds you, be prepared to occasionally have someone deliberately try to hit you. It's rare, but it's happened to me three times in ten years. (I'm a hijabi Muslim) Even if someone is inviting you to cross in front of their car, be prepared to run if you have to.
Conundrums I've run into:
-I find a really surprising number of discarded pallets in very random places. If I could disassemble them in situ, I could probably fit a decent amount of wood in my big 65L backpacking pack, but I normally go for the cushy power tool life and don't really know what the best hand tools for the job would be. If you were trying to efficiently disassemble a pallet at the side of a parking lot, what tools would be worth carrying 3-5 miles to do it?
-I haven't found a great way to stay warm while resting in cold weather. I've been toying with carrying a black umbrella that could be placed on the ground as a temporary sun scoop, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet.
1. Thermos with hot water or soup
3. Claw hammer, small crowbar, pliers, maybe a jar or tin to hold the nails for possible reuse, though any tools you carry to disassemble a pallet may be misconstrued as something else by Police!
4. A good quality rain poncho or coat has two functions - keep dry and stop windchill.
5. A bag of scroggin - the bushwalking fraternity often carry a snack bag with mixed nuts, dried fruit, assorted lollies (candy). Boosts energy and warmth.
'Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain.'