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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Pelgrimspad in ENGLISH - Coming Soon!

Today I finished reading the English version of Pelgrimspad: Through the Eyes of Hans Brinker.

This guide is being written by Jan Gerritsen, who has graciously asked me to do the editing.

The Pelgrimspad begins in Amsterdam, Netherlands and continues to 's-Hertogenbosch, a distance of about 210 kilometers.

The Pelgrimspad 2 continues to Vise' in Belgium and from there a pilgrim can take various routes on their way to Santiago.

Although there are plenty of little places to rent a bed, there are also lots of camping spots along the way for the frugal pilgrim or the one who just enjoys sleeping under the stars.

Until now, all the guides have been in Dutch or German. This will be the first ENGLISH version and this route is sure to become a favorite, based on what I've read so far!

It was so exciting to read these notes!
My feet are itching to walk!

I plan on starting in May, if all things go my way.

So stay tuned, Pilgrims!

An English Guide to the Pelgrimspad is on the burner!

Buen Camino!

* * *
Note:  If you are interested in walking the Camino Santiago, 
or the Pelgrimspad, 
but are not quite ready to go it alone, 
consider joining Annie
on one of our small, affordable Camino walks. 
For more information see our website 
at this link: AnnieWalkers Camino

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Your Walking Stick: Where the Rubber Meets The Road

Walking sticks and whether or not to take them on the Camino is a question often asked on the forum.

There's just something about a walking stick.  Sometimes refered to as wands or staffs, there are many examples in history and legend where walking sticks played an important part in a person's life:

Asclepius, Greek God of Healing, carried a lovely staff!
A shepherd's crooked staff
Another shepherd and his staff
Moses' staff could do tricks!
It also was used to find water!
Some carry a BIG stick!

Other sticks are more discrete.
Over and over, there are examples of famous staffs and sticks, important to their owners.
People who use them can become very attached.
I've seen people backtrack for miles to retrieve a staff left at a breakfast stop! 

Some folks carry theirs from far away places.
Some pick them up along the roadside.
Some buy them from local vendors. 
Some say they're not needed at all!

The first time I walked in 2006,
I purchased a dark wooden stick in St. Jean Pied de Port.

It was beautiful and strong..
and I don't know what wood they use to make these,
but the danged things are downright indestructible.

That was evident when I had a meltdown on the Meseta
and tried to break mine over a rock.

I succeeded in practically breaking my hand instead
and got so frustrated with the toughness of the walking stick
that I flung it far out into the dirt field,
where some lucky pilgrim probably picked it up later,
wondering at the blessings of the Camino!

Those sticks, called bastons or palos, work just fine! They come in all lengths. Some are plain. Some are decorated. Some have crooks, and some do not. Sold in nearly every village along the Way, all are quite functional and give you the stability you need to get across mudholes, up rocky paths and down wobby trails.

I saw one peregrina using two short ones,
just like trekking poles.
Each had a strap for the wrist,
and when I asked her how they worked,
she gave me the thumbs up sign.

Most are also discarded in the Pilgrim's Office 
once the walker arrives in Santiago, 
since it can be an issue to get one home via airplane.

I often wonder if these are recycled, or resold, or ???
Does anyone know what becomes of them?

I bought mine and used it until I threw it in the field. 
I then found another that someone abandoned in a bus station. 
It sat in the lady's room with a 'free" sign on it.  
I carried it the remainder of that Camino.

The plus side of using a local stick
 is that you are supporting the local economy 
by your purchase.

Because they are so inexpensive and so readily available, 
it is highly unlikely it will get stolen, 
and if it does, you're only out 3 to 5 Euros.
(Note: In 2014, they were still under €10)

They all come with a steel tip and they are biodegradable too!

Some people prefer to bring expensive trekking poles. Made by many companies, these can cost from $25 upwards to hundreds of dollars, depending on the bells and whistles.

A lot of folks use Leki poles:

Many people do not understand the correct way of using poles. 
If you aren't sure, 
there are many video lessons on YouTube 
on the correct use of trekking poles.


Having used a regular trekking pole for a few local miles, I decided to buy Pacer Poles for my 2009 Camino.  Ergonomically correct handles make them easy on the wrists if you suffer from carpal tunnel.  They give great support and I am in love with mine.

One nice thing about trekking poles is that they have exchangeable tips - rubber for walking on pavement, and steel tips for dirt path. They also come with baskets that will keep your poles from sinking into mud or snow.

If adjusted correctly, trekking poles can be very useful and save your joints from damage.

However, I was concerned more than once 
when I was not allowed to carry my poles into the albergue with me. 
This rule is for a good reason, by the way, 
according to one hospitalero.

Apparently, some pilgrims get violent and use them as weapons.

 No.. really.. that's what I was told!

Seems like this is one of those cases 
where one person does something stupid 
and the rest of us are made to pay for it.

Another hospitalero told me 
it was to avoid people tripping over them and breaking bones.

This actually made more sense to me. 
I can see how, in the tight spaces of an albergue, 
one careless pilgrim could cause an accident. 
But frankly, I don't know of this ever happening.

I only saw one place where I worried about theft. 
They wanted me to leave my poles in a barrel 
near an open door that went out to an alleyway in a large city. 
I didn't feel comfortable doing this 
so simply went to another albergue 
where they allowed me to carry in my poles.  

I also did hear of one set of Leki's being stolen... 
not by a local but by another pilgrim. 
BAD pilgrim.. BAD!!!  
I can only assume one reason you'd steal someone's stick!

Though many airlines will allow you to carry on your sticks
from the USA to Spain,
the issue seems to be getting them home.
More than one pilgrim has had their sticks confiscated
in Santiago and Madrid.

One good option is just to wait and buy sticks when you arrive.
St. Jean Pied de Port, Zubiri, and Pamplona
all have good pilgrim shops
where you can purchase sticks
as well as other items
You can email them and order ahead,
and have your sticks waiting,
or just wait and shop around once you're there.

Here is the link to La Boutique du Pélerin in SJPP:

Here is the link to Planeta Agua in Zubiri:

Here is the link to Caminoteca in Pamplona:

Do you NEED a walking stick on the Camino?
It just depends on you.

Here are some reasons you might want to consider a stick:

  • Three legs are more stable than two.
  • Four can be even better. It is in debate.
  • Sticks are helpful in keeping yourself balanced while walking with a pack.
  • They will save your knees and hips!
  • They are helpful for launching yourself over those deep sticky mud puddles in Galicia!
  • They are helpful for keeping your footing when traveling DOWNhill on steep rocky trails.
  • They are helpful for pulling yourself UP steep trails like the one to O'Cebreiro.
  • They are great for leaning on to catch your breath.
  • They're good for digging through leaves if you're looking for mushrooms.
  • It's something you can take home to remind you of the Camino and actually USE at home.
  • They are good for warding off dogs or (lately) crazy men exposing their privates. (Think billiards or T-ball!)

Personally, I think some type of walking stick(s) is indispensible, 
especially on those tricky sections 
going down into Roncesvalles, Zubiri, and Uterga,
but that's me. 
And each pilgrim must walk their own way.

Walking without a stick is perfectly fine. 
Many people do it. 
Some don't want to be bothered by trying to keep up with a stick, 
and they are often left at the cafe or albergue.

The choice of a stick (or none) is up to you. 
It's just another one of things you have to decide for yourself.
Whether you do
or whether you don't...
Buen Camino!

* * *
Note:  If you are interested in walking the Camino Santiago, 
but are not quite ready to go it alone, 
consider joining Annie
on one of our small, affordable Camino walks. 
For more information see our website 
at this link: AnnieWalkers Camino

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Camino Tips: Check the Free Box!

One of the best Camino Tips I can give you is this one:

Check the Free Box!

Almost every albergue has a Free Box. 
The Free Box is a box that contains items 
pilgrims dump when they realize 
bringing everything from home except the kitchen sink 
wasn't such a great idea. 
Sometimes it is a cardboard box out for everyone to see. 
Sometimes it is a shelf on the wall. 
Sometimes it is hidden in a closet behind lock and key. 
If you don't see it and you need something, 

Why do people dump things in the Free Box, you ask?
Pretend you've begun walking 
and your pack is heavier and heavier as the days go by.  
You begin to take items out and look at them and say, 
"Do I really NEED this?"  
(This is all part of being a pilgrim, so don't feel guilty).  

You make a pile of things that really, 
you can live without.  
You realize that you really didn't need to bring 
that heavy novel or that can opener, 
or the blow up mattress or the 3 fleece shirts, 
or the extra socks, 
or the 12 pair of underwear.

What do you do with this "stuff?"  

You could mail it home, 
but that would probably cost more than it's worth.

You could throw it in the trash... 
but please don't.
Insteaad, ask the hospitalera to put it in the Free Box. 
Someone will surely come along who needs it, 
and this is one way
"The Camino Provides."

It's always a good thing to check the Free Box 
as you walk along the Camino, also. 
You may find things you didn't know you needed!

Things I've picked up from the Free Box include the following:

A hydration system - complete with tubing and bite valve found on the road
A nice featherweight fleece shirt
A sports bra - mine broke!
A pajama top - used for sun protection
A hankerchief - used for peeing along the trail then washed with the day's laundry
A microfiber towel - I thought I'd like it better than my old worn out terrycloth-towel, but I didn't
A guide to albergues along the way - complete with notes!
Some German Dr. Scholl's type foot cream that saved my feet on the Aragones Route

Things I've left in the Free Box include:

My sleeping pad - I saw more of these than any other item in the box
A jacket - too heavy to carry
A pair of wool socks
A rain hat
A cheap poncho
Other items I can't recall - seems I was dropping weight daily!
Oh yes, my guide to the Via de la Plata which I'd sure love to have back if someone found it. It was specially spiral bound and left at the Convent in Leon!
Zip off trousers  

Things I've SEEN in the Free Box are too many to mention, 
including sleeping bags, pads, knives, stoves, 
camping dishes, tents, boots, all types of clothing, 
and on and on and on...

So... when you are doing your last minute check 
of the gear you're going to take... 
and you run across an item 
and are not sure if you need it or not... 
ask yourself this question:

Am I willing to spend the $$ it will take to mail this home?
Or will it end up in a Free Box!?

Then walk away and leave it ...
If you need it, it will show up along the Way.

Learn to live and step lightly on the earth!
Buen Camino!

* * *
Note:  If you are interested in walking the Camino Santiago, 
but are not quite ready to go it alone, 
consider joining Annie
on one of our small, affordable Camino walks. 
For more information see our website 
at this link: AnnieWalkers Camino

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite!

When I was a girl,
my grandmother said a little rhyme to me
each night when she tucked me in.
She said,
Sleep Tight!
Don't let the bedbugs bite!"

When I would ask her "What are bedbugs, Grandma?"
she'd just cackle and say,
"Girl, you are SO lucky that you don't know what they are!"

I guess I WAS lucky.
I had no idea what bedbugs were
or if they even existed,
until I walked the Camino.

If you get grossed out easy, you may not like this blog post.
But if you're planning on walking the Camino any time from spring to fall, you may find this information very helpful.

I began seeing pilgrims with horrid bedbugs bites 
about 4 days into my trek.
In fact, I had a bite on my neck, 
but had no idea what it was.
Just this HUGE painless welt, about the size of a quarter, 
on the side of my neck.
I dressed it, covered it, 
and waited for it to go away.
It took about 2 weeks to completely disappear.

Later, I realized I'd had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bedbug, and being chemically sensitive, realized that most poisonous means of control were not in my repetoire. I took a trip to the local Farmacia and had a chat with the pharmacist. She gave me great instructions and I'm pleased to report that during the rest of my 2006 Camino and through my entire 2009 Camino, although I saw many bedbug bitten people and many bugs, I did not get one single bite.

Bedbug bites range in size according to how allergic the host is. For some people they're no worse than a mosquito bite. Other people can end up in the hospital. More people react than not, in my experience. Here is a sample of what bedbug bites can look like. For more photos, do a Google search on bedbug bites and have a look yourself!

Here  is what the pharmacist taught me.


The first thing I do when I go into a place is look on the wall above and around the bed. If there are bedbugs, you may see tiny dot dot dots, like someone took a black sharpie pen and made dots on the wall. This is their feces.
You should also pull back the sheet and check the mattress. Often, in the rolled seam, if you pull it back, you'll see these dots.
If there are holes in the mattress, sometimes the bugs hide in the holes. They're nocturnal so they hide from the light. Check around holes for sign.

Sometimes you'll see the bugs themselves, hiding in the mattress seams or in the seams of the bedframe.
Dot dot dot feces as well as bugs - are you itching yet?

bedbugs in the rolled seam of mattress

Bedbug sign on the mattress
Pull the mattress up and check the bed frame. On wooden beds, I look in the little recessed holes where the hardware that holds it all together resides. I check around the bed slats and even around the wheels.

If I see ANY signs like these, I ask if they know they've had bedbugs.

If they say, "We sprayed, they're gone" then I go to Step 2.
If I see NO sign, then I also go to Step 2.

2. SPRAY THE BED. When you get to the Camino, stop at a Farmacia and buy a mosquito repellant spray meant to spray on the skin to repel mosquitos. This is a pump spray and isn't expensive, maybe 6 or 7 euro. It allows you to spray a fine mist.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SATURATE THE AIR OR THE BED. Spray about 12 inches above the bed, 3 pumps, a fine mist. Mist top, middle, bottom. Then step back and watch for about 5 minutes.  (I'd probably do this when nobody is around. People will spray their deodorant or EO's but don't want you spraying repellant. I see less problem in doing this than in spraying a mosquito repellant or sunscreen onto your body in the same room.)

If there are bugs, they will run out to escape the spray and you will see them.

If you see them, I would not stay there, period.

If you do not see them, there's a good chance you won't get bit.

If you can stand to spray yourself, then do it. I am not able to spray myself without getting sick so I never did use the spray on my skin. I was never bitten.

This worked quite well for me.

Some people on the forum were concerned that the spray would make others sick. I suggest you do this early on in the day. The smell dissipates quite quickly.

In the winter, the bedbugs are not as much of a problem. They die off and are dormant until the heat of Spring, when they begin hatching again. Here are photos of the bugs in different stages of their lives.


If you DO get bitten
you must ASSUME your entire backpack is compromised.
You must follow certain rules to be sure
you do not spread these bugs along the Camino
everyplace you stop and sleep.

Method One
1. Take EVERYTHING out of your pack
2. Turn all pockets inside out
3. Lay it all out on the grass or dirt
4. Spray it ALL with insecticide
5. Let the sun bake it a while
6. Wash EVERYTHING (including your backpack) in HOT WATER
7. Dry in a hot dryer

Method Two
1. If it is impossible to wash everything, then you must take everything to a dry cleaners.
2. This includes your backpack!

Method Three
1. If it is summer you can take EVERYTHING out of your pack
2. Turn all pockets inside out.
3. Put everything in a BLACK garbage bag, loosely
4. Tightly close it
5. Leave it in the hot sun for several hours
6. Wash everything in hot water and dry in a dryer if possible.

You will need to examine all the SEAMS of your clothing, including inside pockets.
Examine all the seams of your backpack and of your sleeping bag also.

If you do not do this, 
not only will you spread bedbugs along the Camino,
you take the chance of carrying them home to 

This will not endear you to your family...
 By the way, bedbugs are not only on the Camino.
A quick Google search on Bedbugs along I-5
will give you a list of the California hotels
that are housing the little buggers.

They're everywhere!
Much like VAMPIRES!
Sleep tight!

Why Bedbugs and Vampires Are Exactly Alike 
(Thank you Rants from Mommyland)
  • They are both totally real.
  • They both come out at night.
  • They both suck your blood.
  • You should not invite them into your house (already established).
  • They CANNOT be killed by silver bullets, that's werewolves, as you damn well know unless you are illiterate or don't have cable.
  • Once they get in your house, it takes an act of God or possibly Fairies to get them out. Also, fire.
  • If either bedbugs or vampires start coming in your house you should probably just move far, far away.
  • They hide under the bed and some of them are telepathic. 
  • You can tell the telepathic ones by their artfully tousled hair.
  • You can catch them in hotels, so don’t go to hotels.  Especially in Cincinnati.  
  • They climb in bed with you while you’re sleeping and do unspeakable things.  
  • If you let them bite you on purpose, you might want to get a check up from the neck up.
  • Parents disapprove if you try to date one.
  • They have Kings and Queens and a rigid hierarchy with swift and final justice for wrong-doing.
  • The Health Department should be called immediately if you suspect an infestation though the Health Department may be slightly less effective with an infestation of vampires.
* * *

Back to the Camino.
Don't let this information on bedbugs ruin your trek.
Just pay attention
and you'll be fine.

Sleep tight!


Since walking the Camino in 2011, 
I have returned many times, 
and over the years, the bedbug problem
has gotten worse, 
not better.


I now suggest you spray the OUTSIDE of
both your backpack
and your sleeping bag
with Permethrin Spray before leaving for your trip.

The brand most used in the USA is SAWYERS
and it can be found at REI.
I have also found permethrin spray 
at farm supply stores and vet supply stores.

Simply hang up the backpack 
and the sleeping bag on a line outside.

Now spray the OUTSIDE of both well.
Let it dry before taking back inside.
It is odorless once dried.

This only has to be done once before your Camino.
No need to carry permethrin with you.


Upon returning to the USA,
whether or not you saw one single bedbug,
Even if you have not had one bedbug bite,

Have whomever is picking you up from the airport 
bring a large garbage sack with them.
Do not put your backpack into their car trunk
until you tie your pack up tightly in the sack.

When you get home, 
Leave it in the plastic bag,
outside or in the garage.

Go inside, 
undress and immediately take your Camino clothes
and put them in the plastic bag as well.

When you have time,
next morning, hopefully,
open the sack,
dump the contents into the plastic bag
and spray both the contents and your backpack
with insecticide,
then tie everything up for a few more days
inside the plastic bag.

When you have the time,
take out your clothing and wash EVERY piece of clothing in HOT water.
Dry in a  HOT dryer.

Inspect every single item,
including books/journals
page by page.
The bugs hide in dark places.
Inspect every seam of every piece of clothing.

If you can afford it, 
have your backpack dry=cleaned.

Only now is it safe to bring items into your house.

If you don't think you have time to do this,
then I invite you to Google 
bedbug infestation 
and read stories of the thousands of $$$
it costs to rid yourself of this pest
if it gets into your home.

This is easily avoided
by taking the above-mentioned steps.

Pilgrims, lavender oil will NOT kill bedbugs.
You may know someone who used it.
They may not have been bitten,

But the majority of pilgrims are NOT bitten!
They were just LUCKY.

All of those posts on the web about lavender oil killing bedbugs have been copied, 
and recopied, and recopied. 
There is No science showing lavender oil kills bedbugs .

However, lavender people insist it helps.
They say the oil does repel bedbugs, 
and perhaps it does.

If it makes you fell better, go for it.

I don't like pesticides either.

I have MCS.

However, recognizing the signs and possibly permethrin
are the ONLY ways to be SURE you will not get bitten.

So either spray your pack and bag with permethrin
(if you do it correctly it WILL work)
or slather on a mosquito repellant each night
(which also may not work, by the way).

And if you carry even one bedbug into your house,
you could be in for nightmare
that will feel undending.


Just be responsible up front.
Spray your gear!

And Have a Buen Camino!

* * *

If you'd like to walk the Camino
but aren't quite ready to do it alone,
see my website:
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe

Gearing Up for the Camino Santiago

(Updated February 2014)

One of the few treatments that works for Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
 is distance walking. 
Walking daily at a steady rate
 helps chelate the chemicals that build up 
in organs, bones, and tissues 
without causing the liver and kidney damage
 associated with chemical chelation processes.  

My favorite long distance walk is the Camino Santiago de Compostela, 
fondly referred to by many as The Way. 
Since 2006, I have tried to walk every year, 
and sometimes more than once a year.
 I also began walking with small groups in 2012.

When I talk to people who are walking for the first time, 
one of the first questions walkers ask is
 "What equipment will I need, and where do I get it?"

Walking the Camino can be as expensive or inexpensive as you make it. 
Some people will want to stay in 5 star hotels 
and have a transport company carry their luggage. 
Other pilgrims will carry a lightweight pack 
and sleep on benches and mats or in albergues along The Way.
Some will buy the latest expensive technical equipment.
Others will simply pack from the clothes in their closet.

Every Pilgrim, rich or poor, 
will need a certain amount of standard equipment. 
If you would like to purchase some equipment, 
here is a list of my Camino gear with explanation of why I chose each.

First Purchase is SOCKS:

I take with me 2 pair of wool socks and 2 pair of liners.
These liners separate toes - not necessary but cool
I love Smart Wool - they are cushioned
I suggest you purchase mid weight woolen socks, like SmartWool.  
Wool socks only have to be washed once each week. 
You will wash the liners nightly. 
The photo shows liners with separated toes. 
This is not necessary. 
In fact, I've heard these actually CAUSE blisters, so I'd avoid them. 
I just thought the photo was interesting :)

I do not always WEAR the wool socks. 
If it gets hot, I often only wear the liners. 
But my feet like the variety.

If you are walking in hot weather, June through August, 
you may decide to pick up some inexpensive cotton socks 
in one of the many China stores or open markets along The Way.  
But I always suggest people begin their Camino with wool, 
even in summer.
 Until your feet get used to walking 20-plus kilometers per day, 
they will appreciate the cushion.

Buy your socks before you go to try on shoes.

Second Purchase is SHOES.

On the Santiago Camino Forum there is a constant discussion 
about whether or not the Camino warrants wearing hiking boots.
 Each person has their own preference. 
I can only give you my opinion.

To me, the Camino is not a mountainous hike.. 
it is a "trek."  
It is nothing like the Pacific Coast or Appalachian Trails. 
There are not many places where you are scrambling 
up and down rocky slopes. 
Most of the time, 
you are ambling along at a comfortable pace on grassy or dirt pathways. 
There are some stony places, and some steep places. 
But not enough of those to warrant heavy hiking boots. 

70% of the pilgrims I've met who ended their Camino early 
ended it because of horrendous blisters.  
The blisters were caused by ill-fitting shoes.

I can not stress this enough.
You must have appropriate shoes.

This means shoes that FIT and shoes that are BIG ENOUGH -  
because your feet ARE going to swell. 
And then there are the little places that rub... and rub... and rub. 
You know what I'm talking about. 
Sometimes it is the heel. 
Sometimes it's where the shoe ties.

Often, with trekkers, 
it's the toe rubbing on the front of the shoe as you walk down a steep incline. 
If you'd like to see what can happen to feet when proper shoes aren't worn, 
do a Google search on "foot blisters!"  
Here's a good example:

You want a FLEXIBLE shoe that has good support, 
has a cushioned sole, 
and which has a large toe box. 
You also want a shoe that dries quickly. 
There's nothing worse than putting on 
a pair of cold, wet, stiff leather boots first thing in the morning.

For these reasons, I choose New Balance trail running shoes. 
New Balance makes a shoe on a shoe last with extra toe space - 
it is called SL-2.  
For an explanation of shoe lasts, see the following link. 
Please do not pass over it, it is important information: 

If you have narrow feet, this may not be important. 
But my feet are wide and short. 
The SL-2 show last has a narrow heel, 
so the shoes don't slip, 
and a wide, deep toe box
 so the toes don't rub against each other.

With the wonderful fit of New Balance, 
you can walk out of the store and directly onto the Camino 
with no time for breaking in the shoes. 
They fit from the first moment you put them on. 
I had only one blister on the Camino. 
It was after my first trek over the Pyrenees 
and it was because I did not wear my liner socks.

This year (2014) I bought the New Balance 1210.  
It comes on the #2 Shoe Last. 
It is extremely lightweight and comfortable. 
Not waterproof, but if these trail runners do get wet, 
they will dry by morning.

Whatever shoe you decide on, try the shoes on over both pair of socks. 
You want them to fit comfortably, with no tight places. 
You want a LARGE toe box so your toes can spread when you walk. 
 This is not like walking to the grocery store. 
Your feet are going to be hitting pavement 6 to 8 hours each day 
 and those toes will want to spread, 
something they're not used to doing in our regular, 
walk-to-the-refrigerator world. 
A large toe box giving your toes room to spread 
will prevent them from rubbing together and causing blisters.

I buy my shoes 1.5 sizes larger than I generally wear. 
The shoe salesperson will try to talk you out of this. 
Do not listen. 
Your feet ARE going to swell. 
You can always put on another pair of socks, 
but you can't make your shoes larger.   
I generally wear a size 6 and I buy a 7.5 for the Camino. 
They work great.

Third Purchase is GEL INSERTS.  
To me, gel inserts are a must!  
They protect the bottom of your feet from the constant pounding 
and from pebbles on the path. 
I buy Motion Control by New Balance. 
They are not inexpensive. 
I think I paid about $40 this year. 
They're worth every penny!

I like Motion Control inserts 
because they also keep your foot aligned in the shoe 
and this protects your ankles from turning in or out. 

To use, pull out the standard insert in each shoe 
and replace it with the gel insert.
If necessary, trim them, but beware… 
if you trim them too small, 
you'll create a place where your skin will get pinched so take care.

Doesn't matter which gel insert as long as it's made to cushion your feet against rocks

I pay between $65 and $125 for my shoes.
 I pay another $35-40 for the gel inserts.

because if your feet fail, 
your entire walk is over. 
Don't try to cut corners on shoes. 
Spend what it takes.

I belong to a club called The Clymb.
They offer 70-80% discounts throughout the year
on various types of gear.
If you join (joining is free) and send out invites to your friends,
and if your friends make a purchase,
you get credit toward your next purchase.
Here is an invite from me:
Invite to The Clymb

An example of the money you can save:
This year I paid $160 for a pair of shoes.
Then, I found the exact same pair on The Clymb for $45!
I bought a pair for next year's Camino!

Your next major purchase will be your backpack.
 I went to REI and other mountaineering shops
 and tried on many packs before I settled 
for my Arcteryx Khamsin Backpack. 

It is 30L and that is plenty big!
Good backpacks come in several lengths, 
which was important for my 5'3" frame. 
Mine has an internal frame and holds the weight close to the back comfortably. 
The shoulder straps are nicely padded, as is the waist belt. 
This is a top-loading pack 
with only one zippered compartment on the outside 
which I used for my Nysil pack cover. 
The attached adjustable straps were convenient places
 to carry my water bottles and trekking poles. 
There is no place for a hydration system on this pack.
 I choose to carry a bottle and fill it along the way.

Some people like lots of zippers and sections in their pack.
 I prefer one big top-loading bag. 
I then organize my items in easy-to-grab stuff sacks. 
There are less zippers to fiddle with and less weight to carry.

Joe, my walking partner, chose an Atmos 40L pack. 
It does have a place for his hydration system 
and he was very happy with the pack.

When you're shopping for your backpack,
 this will be a part of your body for the next 6 weeks, 
so it needs to be VERY comfortable.

Tell the sales person that WEIGHT and COMFORT 
are the two major considerations. 
You want a lightweight pack and you want one that FITS.

Try the packs on FULL. 
You should try each pack on with at least as much weight as you plan to carry.
 I suggest 10% of your total body weight.

A good gear shop will have weights for you to put into your pack 
so you can see what it feels like.
 Put the weights in the pack, put it on, 
and walk around the shop for at LEAST 10 minutes, 
noticing things like "Where does it rub?" 
There will be a blister there in a few hours!  
"Does it pinch me anywhere?" 
Another blister! 
 "Does it pull down on my shoulders?"  
Muscle cramps!

Most of the weight should fall on your hips, not your shoulders.
 Ladies, find a pack that has an adjustable strap in the front 
that is comfortable above your breasts. 
This is VERY important.

If you feel any problems at all, 
take the pack off and try another.
 I can't stress this enough. 
If you have to visit several stores to find just the right pack, do it.

You won't be sorry.

If the salesperson seems clueless or pushy, 
ask for another salesperson with more experience.

Don't be talked into a purchase that doesn't FEEL right.
 Listen to your body. 
A small problem now will become a huge issue on the Camino.

NEVER buy a pack online
unless you have tried it on in a store first. 
You must try it on with weight in it to know it will fit.

Is the pack waterproof? 
If not, you'll want to buy a nysil cover,
 especially if you're walking in the spring. 
There WILL be rain in Galicia. 
Covers run around $30. 
It should fold up very tiny and fit into the front pocket of your pack 
where you can quickly access it.

Once you have found a pack that feels comfortable,
 take it home, fill it up, 
and wear it around the house for a couple of hours. 
If you find any problems, take it back and start over!

Your next item of expense will be the sleeping bag. 
How heavy a bag you need depends on the season. 
My first Camino was from September to November. 
I get cold easy and I found my Marmot Pounder Plus to be perfect! 
Weighing in at 1.5 pounds, and costing $130, it was easy to carry.

I originally bought the Marmot Pounder which only weighs one pound. 
Although this would be a great bag for a summer walk, 
I felt it was too lightweight for September 
after testing it on my front porch in Oregon.
Marmot Pounder Plus weighs 1.5 pounds
 Joe simply took a $35 micro fleece liner and he was plenty warm.
Joe's fleece liner weighed about 1/2 pound

I've since found a down bag works great for me.  
It hurt my heart, but after a few years of carrying the bag, 
I cut off the hood and zipper (which I never used) and now I have a down blanket. 
I love it!

In the summer, I'd consider simply carrying a silk liner.
I've seen them on Ebay for as little as $19.
Silk liner weigh only a few ounces and pack up smaller than a cigarette pack
That said, last year in June on the Camino, 
I almost froze when the albergue in Obanos 
where the hospitalero wouldnt turn on heat or give us blankets
 and again in Santo Domingo when I stayed in an unheated convent. 
 If you do get cold, you can always wear your clothes to bed 
or stuff the foot box of your bag with clothing.  
I've also covered myself with my ALTUS poncho and stayed warm.
 Many albergues supply a blanket
 but you can't count on it.

If you are walking with AnnieWalkers, 
consider a lightweight fleece, 
as you will mostly be staying in places that provide linens and blankets.

Rain Gear
Many Pilgrims simply carry an inexpensive poncho.
 For me, this did not work. 
I tend to get cold, especially in the hips,
 and needed protection from the water so I didn't get chilled. 
The first time I walked, 
I found a featherweight set of rain pants and jacket made by Marmot.  
They kept me warm and were comfortable.

The second time I walked, I discovered the ALTUS PONCHO. 
I'll never look back!

Altus Ponchos come in 3 colors
Made of heavy plastic cloth, 
this poncho covers you and your pack from head to ankle. 
It has heavy snap closures and comes with its own stuff sack. 
Unfortunately, I've not found a place to order it in the United States, 
but you can order it from the sports shop in SJPP 
and pick it up when you arrive. It costs around €45 now.  
If you are walking with AnnieWalkers, check with me for the latest information. 
Whatever it takes to get, this is one of the best things you can buy for trekking. 
It keeps you and your pack DRY.

Trekking Poles
Your last big expense is optional. 
Many pilgrims, including myself, purchase walking sticks along the Camino. 
Made by the locals, they are absolutely indestructible and finely made sticks. 
You really need nothing else. 
You will find them all along the way anywhere from 4 Euros up, 
depending on their decor. 
They make a wonderful keepsake.
Fancy and Plain Sticks
The first time I walked the Camino Frances, 
I bought one of these sticks. It worked fine.

The second time, 
I was having issues with my wrists so I purchased Pacer Poles.
I'm sold on Pacer Poles!
There were positives and negatives to both.  
The sticks you purchase along the way are sturdy, inexpensive, and disposable.
 If you lose one, it's no problem, you just buy another. 
The pacer poles were great for my wrists. 
I liked having two sticks on the rough terrain. 
However, other times I felt they were overkill. 
That said, they were easy to fold up and strap to my pack for carrying. 
The biggest downside was the fact that some albergues will not allow poles inside, 
no matter how expensive, 
so you take the chance of having them stolen 
by leaving them outside or downstairs in a barrel.
 I didn't like that option and more than once, 
moved on to a different albergue so I could carry in my poles.

If I were short on cash, 
I'd bypass the trekking poles and just pick up a stick on the Way.

Other less expensive but necessary gear include the following:

Do not even consider walking without a money belt. 
I've watched in Italy as a thief sliced a woman's pack, 
grabbed her passport and wallet,
 and got away while she continued walking, not knowing she'd been robbed.  
Then there was the vomiting thief on the bus in Rome! (Ask me)

A money belt is the only safe place to keep your cash, 
your credit card, and your passport. 
Keep it on you AT ALL TIMES.  
Carry it to the shower with you, 
putting it in a ziplock bag to keep it dry.

 Never let it out of your sight, and never access it in public. 
Carry a small change purse for today's money. 
Keep the rest in your money belt. 
You can buy these online or at travel stores. 
Do not buy the ones that loop around your neck,
 as they are easy to cut, grab, and run. 
Buy the ones that go around your waist 
or the ones that fit over your belt loops and tuck inside
your skirt or pants.
Buy a money belt and USE IT!

This year (2014) I bought two different types of money belt; 
one by Tom Bihn that I love for extra cash.  
It looks just like a belt, fits into the belt loops of my Macabi skirt, and holds many folded bills.
 Here is one link to that belt: Money Belt Tom Binh
Now that I'm wearing my Macabi skirts,
 I have belt loops and I've changed over 
to also using this type of money belt with loops that fit over your belt.
 I love it because it doesn't bind my waist, and it is very easy to access.
Wearing two types of money belt gives me the option
of splitting up my cash
in case of theft.
Theft is not common on the Camino
but it does happen.
Wearing two types of money belt is a simple way to split up your cash.

 Depending on the season, you will need a hat.
 I have two hats. 
One is a Tilly Airflow Hat.
 I like it because it can be stuffed into my pack, i
t is good for sun, and it's also good for rain.
 I wear it UNDER the hood of my Altus Raincoat to make visability even better. 
Cost was about $35 on sale. 
You can often find them second-hand on Ebay.
My Tilly Hat - a ball cap is just as affective
My other hat 
is a featherweight Mountain Hardware Butter Beanie to keep my ears warm.   
The Mountain Hardwear Butter Beanie
 is great little headpiece to throw on or toss in your pocket for a ride or hike. 
It's super stretchy, and has the softness of well-worn flannel. 
The inner surface is lightly brushed and warms as soon as you slide it on. 
That same slight brushing on the inner surface 
serves to actively wick perspiration away from your skin.

The material that makes up the Butter Beanie is warming yet it has negligible bulk. 
The fabric is thin and the seams lay perfectly flat and don't bunch. 
The entire beanie is stretchy which helps it cling to your head. 
The almost unnecessary stretch band that goes around the bottom of the headpiece
 just seals the deal.
 In contrast to other beanies, this band is slight and doesn't bind around your forehead. 
Cost was about $20 on sale.

a ball cap is just as affective as the Tilly to keep sun off your eyes, 
but I love the Butter Beanie. 
It's amazingly warm and lightweight.

I also recently purchased a BUFF!

If you have never heard of this great piece of gear, 
go to this link and check out the video:  Ways to Wear a Buff

I used to take two pair of pants. I would wear one and carry one.

What's important is that these are lightweight, quickdrying, and comfortable. 
They must not be binding. 
Personally I like the travel pants with zip off legs. 
I find them for under $6 in the Activewear section of Goodwill here in Portland.

Macabi Skirt
Last year I wore two Macabi skirts instead of pants and I'll never look back. 
I'm in LOVE with these skirts. 
They are comfortable, cool, warm, have HUGE pockets 
that will carry guidebooks, water, and anything else you need for the day. 
They have a secret zippered pocket for cash and belt loops for my belt.  
Here is a link:

These skirts are incredible! 
I probably could have gone the entire 3 months with only one skirt! 
They NEVER get dirty.
They just don't hold dirt. 
When you DO need to wash them, they dry in 1.5 hours. 
They're tough, comfortable, and versatile. 

I love my Macabi! 
Here is a link to the community of women wearing Macabi skirts 
so you can read what they have to say 
and see the various colors and lengths they offer: 
If you buy one, please tell them "anniesantiago sent me!"

I take three shirts. I wear one and carry two.
 I take one long-sleeved shirt for sun or cold weather and two short-sleeved shirts. 
These come in all styles. 
What's important to me is that they are lightweight, quick drying cloth.
 I choose to have no buttons or zippers (weight). 
Lately I've been wearing merino wool teeshirts. 
They are warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. 
They also never seem to need washing. 
Hanging and airing each night seems to take away any smell 
and I wash my shirts maybe only once a week when on the Camino.

I carry one heavier micro-fleece shirt to layer if I get cold. 
These often have a zipper at the neckline.
I carry a featherweight hooded jacket to layer for wind and cold. 
If it is extremely cold, 
I put on my Altus Poncho over everything and stay toasty.

I carry one pair of cuddle duds or silk long johns.
 I get them at J. C. Penneys. 
You can find silk long johns online or at REI or other outdoor shops.

Keep these to a minimum, where possible.
 Remember, anything you need you can buy on the trail. 
Spain is a modern country with plenty of shopping malls in the larger cities. 
Here is what I take:

Deoderant crystal - 
I break a regular crystal and take one of the smaller pieces. 
Water will soften the sharp edges.

Liggett's Shampoo Bar - 
I use this for showering and washing my hair. 
Buy it online and keep it in a plastic soap case.

Fels Naptha - 
Used for the cold water hand laundry you'll be doing along the Camino. 
You can pick it up in any Spanish Tienda
 if you can't find it in your town or online.
In Spain, there are several varieties 
of cold water clothes washing bars.
 Cut it into about 4 or 5 pieces and share with other pilgrims.
 One piece will last the entire trip, usually. 
In a pinch I've used it for showering with no problems.

That's it for sundries, unless I've missed something.
I take no comb because I cut my hair very short.
I wear no make up
I certainly wear no perfume 
PLeASE do not wear perfume!
It's really difficult for people with allergies
to be stuck in a room with 
heavily perfumed people.

If I need lotion I use olive oil I find on the way
If you're a guy, 
carry a plastic razor and use your liggets to shave with… 
works great!

If you're a girl, consider giving shaving a break
and let those legs get hairy!

That's all I can think of for now except for the guidebook.
If I had to choose a single one, it would be this one.
Mine is dark blue - an older issue - and I still use it.

I have a system of packing that works great for me. 
I stuff my sleeping bag into the bottom of the pack, 
not bothering with a stuff sack. 
On top of that go separate nylon or net stuffsacks containing clothing.

Important Note:
 Please ignore any advice 
to carry your clothes in plastic grocery sacks and use cloth. 
The rattling of sacks in the dark morning
 is the bane of the pilgrim
 and you won't make a lot of friends in the albergues. 

For the same reason, please leave the headlamp at home.  
A bright headlamp in your eyes at 5 am doesn't put you in a good mood!

My cold/rain gear goes on the very top for easy access.
The underneath zipper compartment holds my toothbrush, soap, and towel.

My water bottle and guidebook go in the pocketa of my Macabi skirt!
My daily cash goes in a small change purse (maybe €20 for the day)
My big cash is split up between my two money belts.

That's it!
If you choose to take electronics, 
well, that's another post.
Consider leaving it all behind...
In the end, you want to look like this:

 NOT this!

Please feel free to ask questions or remind me if I've missed anything.
You're going to have a wonderful time!

Buen Camino!

NOTE! Please see the updated Gearing Up post at this link:

* * * 
If you'd like to walk the Camino
but aren't quite ready to do it alone,
see my website:
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe