I'm beginning to get depressed about my ankle. It feels like it will never heal.
I won't be walking this year but Joe is walking with a small group in May.
I'm back home in Portland.
There's no place like home.
My chickens missed me.
The following is a post by Peregrino "JoJo" made to the Camino Forum after his Camino. I thought this information and his experience and feedback might really be of help to anyone planning their own first Camino. I won't weigh it down with photos, except for the backpack. I also love Osprey Stratos Packs and a 26L is more than anyone needs for the Camino, imo:
When I was preparing for my Camino, I saw lots of gear lists and advice, but not too many people reviewing their own gear choices for what worked, and what they would do differently next time.
Note: our Camino was from July 3, 2014 to August 9, 2014, and we walked from St. Jean to Finestere. Much of what I have to say is from the experience of walking in the heat of the summer. I have a friend who walked in September-October 2013 and she did not have nearly the foot problems we did with wearing hiking boots in the heat. I am not certain that my suggestions would be helpful for a Spring of Fall walk, and might even be quite harmful.
What follows is the name of the item category, sometimes followed b introductory comments, then the name of the item, its weight in grams, and my comments. At the end of every category is total weight for that category.
Osprey Stratos 26L
Loved this pack. (My wife had the 24L model, which she also loved. I preferred the drawstring top rather than the zippers). The size and weight were right, and the back mesh ventilation system (“hammock”) was priceless walking across the Meseta. The other feature whose usefulness surprised me was the “stow on the go” system for trekking poles. When I came into towns with people around where using poles on the sidewalk was awkward, I’d just collapse my poles and attach them to my pack in a few moments.
Carried my camera and Kindle in this everywhere I went, including at night when I was sleeping. Put it into a gallon Ziploc when taking shower.
laundry bag/stuff sack
Useless. Took because was advised to help sort laundry when we shared a washing machine with other pilgrims. Because there were two of us, we usually took a whole machine, and we only had 10 pieces of clothing each. How hard could that possibly have been to sort?
security belt wallet
Worn under clothes with passports, credit cards, and most of the cash (in a small Ziploc—otherwise the sweat would soak then through in no time). The day’s spending cash was in a Ziploc in a zippered pocket of my pants, often together with my pilgrims credential.
Gallon size Ziplocs
Forgot to weigh
Priceless. I’m not even sure how many I took, but I used every one of them, especially after my pack cover failed and I had to keep clothing dry in the rain. Also useful for bringing all of your clothes into the shower with you (as there is often not a vestibule where you can leave dry clothes and they will remain dry).
I used my backpacking clothing system for hiking in the mountains. I use the short sleeve shirts under the long sleeve sunshirt and convertible pants. In my opinion, wearing short sleeves or shorts and then lots of sunblock (or not, and we saw some really bad burns) is just silly. The sun on your skin undoes any cooling effect of the shorter garments.
I would not use this system again on the Camino in the summer. Instead, I would have two sets of clothing—one for the mountains and one for the Meseta. The mountain clothes would be quick-drying nylon, as these all were. The clothes for the Meseta, however, should be like you would wear in the desert—the one place where cotton is good.
The mountain clothes would be a single layer long sleeve nylon shirt matched with long (non-convertible) pants. The desert clothing would be the same, except in cotton. Everything SPF50 or at least SPF25. I found that what I was doing was using one set of clothing for walking, then when I reached the albergue, changing into the other pair and washing the trail clothes. The summer sun was so hot that drying was not much of a challenge. And then I would put the same trail clothes on for the next day. The clothes I wore in the albergues did not get that dirty, and were usually washed about once a week when we hit a washing machine (wearing rain gear, so we could wash all of the clothes at once). When I do another summer Camino, I would start out wearing the appropriate mountain attire while walking, wearing the desert clothes at night around the albergue. Then I’d switch and wear the desert clothes during the day when it started getting hot in Riojas. Then I’d switch back when we hit Galicia.
Columbia orange nylon shirt
Good shirt, but not for the Meseta.
Terramar green nylon short sleeve shirt
REI long-sleeve Sahara shirt
REI sun hat
I’ve used it for years, and it served me well on the trip. 3.25” brim. Ventilated crown for the Meseta. Chin strap for the windy places in the mountains and by the shore. Light color to stay cool. The one piece of clothing I was very happy with.
Kuhl convertible (zip off) long pants
I thought I was being clever by buying two pairs of convertible pants, but only bringing one set of legs that could zip onto either set of shorts.
Kuhl shorts (well, convertible pants without the legs)
Convertible pants are heavy, however, because of all the zippers. I should have just brought two pairs of lightweight long pants (one cotton, only nylon, as explained above).
Terramar compression shorts (underwear)
I like these for walking, and they keep my thighs from getting irritated.
Liner stocking hat
Worth its weight in gold.
Total Clothing Weight
When you are walking 500 miles, you become little more than a life support system for your feet. This is the most serious gear error you can make. I screwed this up, and it almost cost me my Camino.
leather boots (left behind in Santo Domingo)
Did not weigh
I have been backpacking for years, so I brought my well-broken in hiking boots.
2 Smartwool socks
With that system went the wool hiking socks . . . (should have been left or mailed home)
2 polypro liner socks
and the polypro liners (that turned out to be useful, but not in their usual capacity). See below.
Asics Running Shoes (left behind in Leon)
Did not weigh
My boots got wet in the Pyrenees and stayed wet. Then we walked lower and it began getting hotter. In the boots and wool socks, I began to get heat rash for the first time ever (I’ve been backpacking since 1980). Plus, the walking surfaces were much more concrete and asphalt than I expected. Moisture + heat + friction = blisters. The balls my feet and my toes became a metropolis of blisters.
In Santo Domingo de la Calzada, my wife found a pair of Keen sandals that fit her, and we donated our boots to the nuns. I was not so lucky because I have very wide feet. I found a pair of Asics running shoes that sort of fit (in Burgos, after a bus ride), and that allowed me to walk the Meseta.
Finally, when we got to Leon I found a pair of Keen Sandals and pair of Merrell trail shoes. The Keens worked best for the more rugged paths and in the rain (paired with a polypro liner—the only time those socks were really useful).
Merrell Trail Shoes
The Merrells worked better on the concrete and asphalt. If I were to do it again, I would keep the Keen sandals, but instead of the Merrells, I’d get well-ventilated running shoes designed for running on asphalt.
Coolmax socks (three pairs)
52, 62, and 78
I also had to buy different socks, settling on three different types of coolmax, with different thicknesses. The lightest ones turned out to be best.
I brought these instead of crocs to walk around in the albergues. They are lighter and I find them very comfortable. By the time I had both Keen sandals and the Merrell shoes, however, these became superfluous. At night I just wore whichever shoes I did not wear on the trail that day. I use my Sockwas around home all the time, and will take them backpacking, but not on a Camino.
Total Footwear Weight
Pockets and Hands
Useless. This is not backpacking. No stoves to light.
Completely unnecessary. Just follow the yellow arrows and signs.
You need one. My wife killed hers the second day by wearing it in the shower and regretted it every day thereafter. Just a cheap one that will not make you the target of thieves.
Priceless, especially on the Meseta. I use glacier glasses, with the side covers as goggles that go over my regular glasses.
Loved it. Had to buy this in Spain to cut cheese, meats and breads for lunches from the grocery store. Had to give leave it in a hotel room the last night because there was no way to take it in carryon luggage.
I like walking with them, and I especially found the clip-locks to work much better than the twist-locks. With the clip-locks it took me about 15 seconds to break down my poles and attach them to my pack, so I was never asked to leave them by the boots in the albergue (thereby avoiding forgetting them or someone walking off with them by accident). With duct tape wrapped around them (convenient storage) and tips (wore out three of them on the Camino).
Total Hands and Pockets
Marmot Essence rain jacket
I love this jacket. It was dry and breathable in the rain, and ridiculously lightweight. It was also only warmth layer I had with me, so I often wore it at night even when it was dry outside.
Too heavy and inconvenient to take on and off. I have since received as a Christmas gift much lighter rain paints (Mont Bell Torrent Flier, 179g). When I walk another summer Camino, however, I think I will follow my wife’s example instead. She had a Ferrino poncho that served as jacket, pants and pack cover (291grams, total). The coverage is better with pants and jacket, but the summer rains are not that cold and overheating is much more of a problem than in the American mountains.
Osprey pack cover (came with Osprey Pack)
Completely worthless. Leaked like a sieve. The ultralight backpackers just use trash compactor bags as liners on the inside of their packs, and that is what I will do in the future.
Utterly useless. As above, the summer rains were not cold enough to need these.
rain glasses (yellow)
Frivolous. I wear them for rainy, cloudy weather so I can see better for driving, and so I do not get so depressed. Would not carry them again.
.75L Camelbak water bottle
I split the difference between a water bottle and a bladder. I used the bottle with a tube from the same company that attaches to it. And I love it. All the convenience of a hydration tube so I can sip water while walking, yet just a small, easy to clean, easy to fill bottle.
Camelbak hydration tube
Coolmax sleeping bag liner and stuff sack
Sprayed with permethrin. For a summer Camino, this was just right. The only night I was cold was in Roncevalles because there are no blankets there. Every other albergue we stayed in where it got at all cold had blankets. Many nights it was even too hot to sleep in this almost weightless liner bag—slept on top instead. Snoring pilgrims stacked in bunk beds generate an amazing amount of body heat in small, confined rooms. I had bought lightweight, 1lb sleeping bags for the trip, but I’m so glad we left them home.
Don’t leave home without one. Often windows had to be left open for ventilation, resulting in light from the street pouring in. Also useful against other pilgrims with white headlamps.
Priceless. I use the silicon putty ones, not the foam ones (more comfortable for using the whole night through). Only the snores of one pilgrim one night kept me awake with these as a defense.
Petzl headlamp (w/ batteries)
Great, because I could switch it to a red light. Perfect for finding the bathroom in the middle of the night, or leaving the albergue at 6am if other pilgrims were still sleeping. Also useful for finding yellow arrows if you leave the albergue early to avoid walking in the heat of the day. Petzl makes a model called the e+lite that is about a third the weight of this one, and I’m seriously considering getting it.
I brought a dozen. What was I thinking? I should have brought TWO dozen for my wife and I (they are easy to lose). Used every day to hang laundry. Worth their weight in gold.
Only used a few times, but I would probably bring again because when there is no clothes lines (or they are all full), you still have to get your clothes dry somehow.
Netted Soap Saver
My wife got this from Amazon, and it worked great. It is a tough nylon scrubber that you put the soap inside. I used it both for showering and washing clothes. The drawstring doubles as a hanger to dry the soap out, minimizing the mess in your pack (you will still need a small Ziploc to carry it in).
One very small tube was enough for my entire trip.
Travel-style, that disassembles and the head tucks inside the body.
Small roll lasted the entire trip.
Did not weigh
We were going to buy soap once we got there, but we just kept finding bits of soap others had left behind, all of which went into the soap saver bag.
Small travel size.
In a small 1oz bottle from REI. Should have only filled halfway because I had some left over at the end.
With the highest SPF factor you can find
Because of my long clothing, only needed for face and hands. Small, 3oz bottle lasted the entire trip.
I had the wrong stuff. I needed a different footcare system. By the end, I was using Nok cream on my feet after the shower and again before bed to keep the skin moisturized and therefore more difficult for sweat to permeate.
Did not weigh
Priceless. Bought in Spain on the advice of the angels who doctored my feet. This in the socks while walking, and changing socks frequently, turned out to be key to keeping my feet dry and less prone to blisters. Obviously, do not use at the same time you are using a moisturizer on your feet (you will get a caked-on mess). This is for while walking; moisturizer is for after you are done walking for the day.
I brought intending to use as both wash cloths, towels, nose rags, and buff, as I do in backpacking. Did not end up being as useful on the Camino. I think I would just bring one next time. My wife brought a small Pack Towel (49g). That turned out to be a better idea.
Kindle Paperwhite in a hard case
This really was not entertainment because I had my guidebook in here. Actually, I had three guidebooks in here (Kelly, Brierley and Dinkman and Landis), plus the Bible and several books to read for leisure. All for the weight of Brierley’s guidebook. This worked great.
Kindle usb cable and electric plug
I did not have to recharge the Kindle but about once a week (and I probably could have gone 10 days—I rarely let it get below 50%). There were plenty of outlets in the albergues. No need for the multiple plug adapters some smart phone users recommend. If the outlet supply was spotty one night, no big deal. I could wait a couple of days to recharge.
Necessary because Spanish electric plugs are different shapes. Cheap one from Ebay worked fine.
Native American flute
Infinitely worth it. I played at almost every church that was open along the way, and in the Cathedral at Santiago (getting permission for that one took a bit of doing. I should add that the Dean of the Cathedral turned out to be a lovely man). The sound in some of those churches was amazing.
Sony Nex-3 Camera
My old point-and-shoot would have worked, but I bought this camera for the Camino because I wanted pictures that would be really beautiful. And they are. The image sensor in this camera is huge, so you get very fine details. Figuring out the focusing system took some time, but after the first 2 days, I did and the pictures were wonderful. Action shots were a little blurry, but I think I now know what I needed to be doing to solve that.
polarizing filter for camera
A must-have for outdoor photography in the bright sunlight.
battery charger for camera
Camera would not charge straight from an outlet, so I had to carry this. It worked well
extra battery for camera
There were so many opportunities to recharge, this was a completely unnecessary rock that I hauled half way across Spain.
extra SD card for camera
A wise precaution, but unnecessary. I had a 16GB card, which was all kinds of space for my photos
lens shade for camera
Useful in some situations, but I mostly did not use this and would not carry again.
I had this system all wrong. My system was based on short (5 day) backpacking trips in the mountains. There, if you get a blister, you just put a moleskin donut around it and tape it all down. That way you do not risk infection in the backcountry by puncturing the blister
By day 8, however, I had a mass of moleskin on my feet that was no longer able to cushion anything and, worse yet, was trapping moisture in my boots.
The answer for me turned out to be the “nuns” method of sewing blisters, leaving a thread in them to keep the blister draining (you can take the thread out when you start walking the next day). Scissors were useful for molefoam and trimming my beard, but not really the tool I needed. I needed needle and thread.
This works much better than the old, white adhesive tape, but by the end we did not use at all. The trick was soaking feet in water fountains to cool them, and then changing socks (with Peusek footpowder) to keep them dry. Just taping over hot spots was too temporary of a fix for walking 500 miles.
Total Foot Repair
(weight included in trekking pole weight)
In bright orange. Wrapped around trekking poles. Used both to mark gear as ours, and at one point to tape Superfeet insoles into sandals trying to cobble together a footwear solution that would get me to the next big city. It did not work (as you might expect) and I had to take a bus to Burgos to buy better shoes.
See above. I had to get a smaller needle because the one I had was for sewing gear, not blisters. The gear did not need sewing; the blisters did.
ripstop nylon repair tape
Never used, but a good precaution.
Total Gear Repairs
Sack for First aid materials
I got these for backpacking in 1980, and they are still the best thing I’ve ever seen (zipper up the belly instead of a drawstring top).
Ran out of Ibuprofen, but bought some in Spain (600mg; Rx strength in the US, so we had to leave the extra in Spain because otherwise it is illegal to have in the U.S. without a prescription).
Never used. Bought Betadine in Spain, because it would flow into the blister better.
Did not weigh
A Camino angel gave some to my wife and it saved her. She was developing tendonitis from her hiking boots. Take some with you—this stuff was impossible to find in farmacias on the Camino.
Wished we had to weigh
Some things you cannot find for love or money on the Camino, and this is one. The Spanish food (lots of olive oil) was too rich for my wife’s stomach. Seriously wished that we had brought some tablets.
Wished we had to weigh
Another product we just could not find in Spain and wished we had packed.
Total People Repair
GRAND TOTAL WEIGHT
The total weight was equivalent to 18.5lbs. I weighed about 200lbs. when I left (about 175lbs. by the end), so this was within the suggestion of carrying no more than a ten percent of body weight. Actually, by the time you add in consumables (food, water, foot doctoring supplies), I exceeded that.
I’m glad I did not have any more—my feet took enough of a pounding as it was. Notable things I’m glad I did not take: a sleeping pad (I saw lots of these and they were unnecessary), and a sleeping bag.
I hope that this report helps other pilgrims to make their own gear selections. I saw far too many walking with unnecessarily heavy loads, and I wonder if they ever made it to Santiago. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to respond to this posting.