Gear for the Camino
I start hiking the Camino de Santiago in six days. I’m posting this second blog entry from home in part to ensure that the blog process will work via my smartphone. Today’s topic is gear.
The Camino is a different kind of long distance hike. Certainly a lot of lessons learned from thru-hiking in the U.S. apply, but some adjustments are necessary too.
My base weight is coming out to 13+ pounds. Nearly a pound of that is “consumables”: guidebook pages I’ll dispose of as I go, and prescription medications I’ll consume. In fact, this is a pretty typical base weight for me for a summer backpacking trip.
More Clothes, Less Sleep Stuff
As compared to the backpacking trip, however, for the Camino I’m carrying a bit more than double the weight of clothing and about half the weight of “sleep system” stuff: no tent or sleeping pad as I’ll sleep in Hostels and Albergues. Since I’ll be hiking in October, however, I am bringing a 45-degree rated down quilt. Hiking in September of 2013 my wife and I found that some facilities offered blankets and some didn’t, and the ones that did sometimes ran out. I also find it worth carrying a nice inflatable pillow.
Hostels and Albergues require some sort of European style sleeping sack, both to protect you and to keep their beds clean(er). In 2013 I was glad that I had an insect proof version of that. I used a Sea-to-Summit insect shield bag liner. Bed bugs are a possibility on this journey.
So that’s the sleep system weight; why the increase in clothing? After all, I’m sleeping indoors!
Why So Much Clothing Weight?
Partly it’s because of how cold it could get in October (it is, after all, Northern Spain). Partly it’s because in the Albergues you absolutely have to have separate indoor footwear. But it’s also because of the “style” shift from normal U.S. type of backpacking. On the Camino you shower every day, wash clothes most days, eat in cafés and just generally act a bit more like a civilized human being (whether or not you actually are one).
For all that, the weight you need to carry is not bad. Given that October won’t be hot, not much water, a liter or less. With so many villages along the way, not much food either, though decent stores are few, so you can end up carrying more food for a while after you find one. But factor in that the trail is pretty flat most of the time and you can understand that the walking is quite pleasant.
Check Bag or Carry-on?
One decision I’ve been waffling on is whether I want to pack to bring everything on the plane as carry-on. That means in particular no knife and no trekking poles. But counting total number of “take off and then land” hops on this overall journey, I have six. And I’m using my Mariposa Plus backpack, not a terribly robust and durable unit.
So I’ll go carry-on. My recollection from 2013 is that there were only a few days when I really wanted poles, and they were more often carried on my backpack. If I can’t often enough borrow a knife from my gullible friends, I’ll buy a cheap one in Pamplona. A knife really is useful on the Camino, and one with a longer blade than the tiny one I use for backpacking: to cut bread, spread butter, that sort of thing.
I’m going with just one pair of pants and a pair of light shorts. Two long-sleeved button up shirts and two long-sleeved capilene 1 pull-on shirts. I figure I’ll wash clothes (mostly hand-wash) almost every day.
I fly initially to Paris on Sunday where I’ll meet up with Lucky and start to get over jetlag. Looking forward to it!
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