Inside the Pros Packs with Cam “Swami” Honan
To thru-hike one of the country’s three long trails puts you in rare company. The ATC recognizes such an individual as a “2,000-miler”.
Complete all three, and you’ve joined an even more exclusive club, known as a “triple crowner”. Doing so requires nearly 8,000 miles on foot.
There have been a select few to complete this incredible accomplishment three times. These individuals have been dubbed “triple triple crowners”, and their feat requires somewhere in the range of 24,000 backpacking miles.
And then there’s Cam Honan, known simply as Swami on the trail.
During the span of Honan’s backpacking career, he’s more than doubled this seemingly unfathomable distance, for a total of 54,000 miles (through 55 countries). For context, this equates to walking the Great Wall of China’s length 10 times, nearly a quarter of the distance to the moon, or two full trip around the earth.
If triple crowners and triple triple crowners get their own hiking distinctions, it’s only fair that someone who’s done a couple laps around the globe to receive some next-level honor as well. Cam Honan, we hereby declare thee a member of the Quarter-Moon Club.
So what does someone with such immense trekking experience carry in the their pack? Wonder no more…
Inside the Pro’s Packs with Cam “Swami” Honan
Since the early 1990’s, I’ve had the good fortune of hiking more than 54,000 miles in some 55 countries around the world. My journeys have taken me from Pakistan to Patagonia and from Tibet to Tasmania.
Between July, 2011 and December, 2012, I undertook a hiking trip through the wilds of North America known as the 12 Long Walks. It consisted of a dozen consecutive thru hikes, totalled some 14,342 miles and passed through 29 US states and 4 Canadian Provinces.
In more recent times (2013), together with Justin “Trauma” Lichter, I completed the first ever traverse of Mexico’s Copper Canyon region. A 380 mile journey in which we hiked, climbed, scrambled, rafted, swam, bushwhacked and crawled through one of the world’s wildest and most lawless regions.
In 2014, I made my way down to South America for a solo traverse of Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. One of the highest and most beautiful ranges on the planet, my 240 mile route took me up and over 23 mountain passes measuring between 14,000 and 17,500 ft above sea level.
Heading out into the woods with a pack on my back has been a big part of my life since I was a kid. It has enabled me to visit remote corners of the planet that are only accessible on foot. Often the folks you meet out in these far flung locales are colorful characters with wonderful stories to tell. I’ve always been drawn to such places and people.
Favorite AT Story
“During the final two weeks of the Appalachian Trail, I had almost convinced myself that upon reaching the finish I would turn around and walk back again. Physically I was still in good shape and mentally I was as fresh as ever. Why not head back? I was doing what I loved and the idea of heading north on the AT through the middle of winter was a challenge that definitely appealed to me.
My intuition, my internal compass if you like, kept whispering ‘time to begin another chapter; time to move on.’ It was late afternoon that I finally listened. The decision was made. I had hiked enough………..for now.
I smiled the smile of a relieved man. I would soon arrive in Neels Gap. A few beers, a big feed, a hot shower and a semi-comfortable mattress awaited me. Perhaps I would linger there for a day or two; take stock, organize transport, maybe even go for a day hike!
As I began the final descent from Blood Mountain, the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Temps were in the mid-teens and dropping fast, the wind was howling and the exposed rocky slabs on the aforementioned peak resembled an ice skating rink. I chuckled. Mother Nature was giving me a send-off to remember! The sun had set and the final two miles of my journey would be made in darkness. Sort of appropriate considering how much night hiking I had done over the past few months. As I made my way down, I suddenly encountered a day hiker by the name of Mark. He had become disorientated, had no headlamp, little in the way of gear and was becoming justifiably concerned as to his welfare. Over the next hour and a half I shepherded him down the mountain, cracking jokes, assuring him that all would be OK. We finally arrived at Neels Gap around 7.30 pm, just in time for dinner at the Walasi Yi Hostel. Mark was a very relieved man. He called his wife to assure her that all was fine and he would soon be driving home. I had helped to save someone’s life. Perhaps this was the real reason why I turned around and walked those extra thirty miles? The final and perhaps most important serendipitous encounter of my entire journey.”
Gear Packing Philosophy
I view backpacking equipment as a means to an end. And that end is to have the safest, most enjoyable experience I possibly can whilst out in the wilderness. With that philosophy in mind, I look for five basic attributes in all of my outdoor gear:
- Value for money
Depends on factors such as terrain, weather conditions and length of time between resupply points.
Winter: MLD Exodus
Tent / Shelter
Choice of shelter depends on what sort of conditions I am likely to encounter.
Three Seasons: Katabatic Gear Palisade 30
Winter: Katabatic Sawatch 15
Whilst tarping, I usually combine my quilt with a lightweight, water resistant bivy sack (i.e. MLD Superlight or Katabatic Bristlecone).
Thermarest NeoAir. In freezing temps, I will combine it with a foam pad for extra insulation.
Brief explanation of preferred layering system
The layering system is all about maximising efficiency and minimising duplicity.
Ideally your clothing selections should compliment one another, so that each layer works together as part of a flexible overall system. If the conditions demand, you should be able to comfortably wear all of your clothing simultaneously.
What I wear on any given trip will depend on the conditions into which I am venturing. See base/mid/outer layer below for details.
Depends on the conditions. In cold and dry conditions I generally use a down vest or jacket as my principal insulating layer (e.g. Montbell UL Jacket).
Shorts / hiking bottoms
Gloves / Mittens
Adapt-a-Cap (Australian brand) – Sun hat of choice for the past 14 years.
Rain / Wind Jacket
Depends on conditions.
In most three season conditions I go stoveless. When I do cook I usually take a homemade pepsi can alcohol stove.
Aluminium pot from Antigravity gear. Same pot since 2007.
When necessary, I carry a Platypus Hydration bladder (2 LT) or two.
Water purification method
Two 600 ml Gatorade bottles
N/A. Occasionally I’ll carry a Fizan Compact Trekking pole for river crossings and/or tarp setups.
Knife / Multi-tool
Victorinox Swiss Army Classic | Knife, scissors, tweezers | 1.3 oz
Not all calories are created equal.
I eat as healthily as I possibly can whilst out on the trail, generally working on the following “calorie breakdown”: 40-45 % carbs; 35-40% fats; 20% proteins.
For those interested in hiker nutrition, I highly recommend checking out Dr. Brenda Braaten’s site, “Pack Light, Eat Right”
A massive thanks to Cam for letting us peek into his brain and pack. Be sure to let him know how much you enjoyed this post by commenting below, visiting his site at thehikinglife.com, his Facebook Page, and following him on Twitter.
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Man, So glad this article introduced me to Cam/The Hiking Life, what an amazing blog/life you lead Cam! Thanks for sharing!
This guy is my new hero.
Just wish it would of been posted in January, love that hat idea bookmarked for our next big hike. Thanks so much Swami for sharing, you are awesome!
Any chance you could elaborate on what you typically eat eat on the trail? I prefer stoveless also, but am not sure I could realistically do it for a long distance.