Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Where's My Hair!!??

I got all my hair chopped off for the Camino. 

No brush!
No product !

Just freedom. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What is in Annie's Backpack?

Well, only 2 more sleeps and I'm off to Madrid!
I'm really excited!

Today I called my bank ONE MORE TIME to be sure the Traveler's Alert was set.
I also got my backpack all packed up!
I thought you might be interested to see what I take on a 6 week Camino walk.

First, what I will be wearing:

Black Macabi Skirt
Money Belt (both in beltloops and another one sewn into my skirt - see Blog)
Black short sleeve shirt (to be discarded in Madrid)
Black fleece (old one to be discarded in Madrid)
Black fleece leggings (it gets COLD on those planes!)
Wool socks

Next, what will be in my pockets:

Change purse

Vogmask (Face Mask)
Flight Spray (nose spray to keep me from getting cold/flu)
NO JET LAG pills
(It all packs up into this little bag I made from a recycled sweater.)

In my backpack I have packed the following items:

Another Macabi Skirt
1 short sleeved merino wool tee
1 short sleeved gauze shirt
1 long sleeved tee
1 long sleeved gauze shirt (for sun)
3 underwear
3 socks

My Brierley Map Book
My Anniewalkers Walking Booklet
Bus tickets for my group

Sleeping Bag

Elastic Clothesline
Safety pins for hanging clothes
1/3 bar of cold water laundry hand wash soap

Liggets Shampoo bar
Scrubby cloth
Sea to Summit Wet Sack  (for taking electronics into shower with me)
Green and White Cotton Towel (see in last photo)

Extra glasses
Sleep Mask
Hearos Ear Plugs
Plug Adapter

Duct Tape
Deodorant (in tiny red case)
nail clippers (keep those toenails SHORT)
Small plastic jars of ibuprofin, gaviscon (reflux), and benedryl (sleep)
Fluimucil and Flumil packets (2 of each)
2 Bandaids
All of this will go in a tiny red bag you'll see further down.

Camino Buff
Cashmere hat
Rain pants
Altus poncho (in next photo - red)
Merino Wool Sweater (not shown)

 * * *

All this packs up into these various stuff sacks to keep it organized.

I am also taking a water bladder for the walk from Madrid to Sahagun,
but will most likely switch to bottles when I get up on the Camino Frances.
There are long stretches with no services on the Madrid route,
so I thought I'd better take a bladder.

And that's it!
Here is my pack, all ready to go!
And all of THAT goes into my backpack which weighs exactly 13 pounds!

It measures:

If I have to, I can take the sweater out and carry it.

One last thing will be in my pocket (the Macabi Skirt has HUGE pockets).
That would be my guidebook/journal!
I have begun making my own for these trips.
Inside I have all the information I need, including flight information, hotel reservations, calendars.
Everything has been printed at 50% and glued inside or handwritten.
It's my Camino Bible!
I paid $1 for the little book at Office Depot!

That's it!
I'm packed


Tomorrow will be last minute double-triple checking.
I'll pick up Joe and bring him to my house to spend the night.
Our friend, Patty Moak, who was on one of our 2012 Treks, 
has offered to drive us to the airport.

Getting close...

Buen Camino!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

DIY Hat Pocket

I have a Tilley Hat.
But honestly, I don't like it.
It's too heavy and doesn't crush small for packing.

I have an REI hat I like better.
But what's missing is the pocket on the inside.
That convenient little pocket for carrying the day's cash 
or copies of your passport and important credit card numbers, 
your room key,
or whatever...

So guess what I did?
Yup… that's right.
I sewed a pocket into my inexpensive REI hat.

Easy as pie and didn't cost a penny.

Here's how I did it?

First, I cut off a piece of inner lining fabric, 
18 inches long and about 4.5 inches wide,
and doubled it.

Next, I divided it into thirds and ironed it.
Then I folded down the top and ironed it.

Now fold up the bottom.
Fold down the top.

Then make the last fold.

Serge or zig-zag the side edges.
You now have a lightweight but strong pocket.

Place the pocket inside the hat.

Sew it in!

Here's what it looks like from the outside.
The photo makes it easy to see the stitching,
but in real life, it's pretty much invisible.

The pocket does not need a snap or zipper.
To use it, you put your fingers UP under the edge
and then DOWN into the pocket.
Anything you put inside is going to stay.

Cool Beans, huh?

Now go do it!

Buen Camino!

DIY Secret Pockets

So I have been alarmed at the increase in reports about pickpocketing and theft on the Camino.
I have tried various types of money belts and secret pockets and in the end I had decided I liked the kind that threads onto a belt (which goes around your waist) and hangs inside your waistline. But there is always the threat of someone cutting that off and grabbing it and what do you do with it at night, etc.

So I decided to sew some secret pockets into my Macabi Skirt.

This project would work on any skirt or hiking pant.
You just need to be aware of beltloops, and not sew over them.
I did that the first time around, and had to remedy it.

This entire project (with mistakes and corrections) took me a total of 20 minutes.
Here's how I did it.

First, you will need a "secret pocket" of some type.
I had several old neck versions like this:

You will also need some strong but flexible fabric 
to make the little extra "tab" that the pocket hangs from.  
I think some strapping or strong ribbon would work great.
However, I felt old wool clothes, and had some interfacing fabric I'd cut out of some pants
and so I used that.
You can see it under the pocket.

The first thing I did was cut the straps off the pocket.

Next, I folded a piece of the interfacing into a strip 4 thick.
It was very thin and I wanted it to be strong.
I serged this strip onto the top of the pocket,
being VERY careful not to cut the pocket itself.
If you don't have a serger, you could just zigzag this a couple of times.

Here is the pocket with the strip serged on.

Here is the front with the serged strip folded up.

Next, I serged the sides of the strip.
Here is where I made a mistake and serged down the closing tab of the pocket. 

Luckily it was easy to fix when I found it.
I just used a seam ripper and took out those stitches.

Next, I topstitched the strip onto the front of the pocket.

Here is the finished pocket with the strip sewn on,
and the mistake stitches removed.

It still opens nicely.
You have to be careful and be SURE you catch the top of the pocket
but stay VERY close to the edge so it will still open.

Here, I've placed the pocket on the inside of my skirt.
NOTICE the opening FACES THE inside of the skirt.
This is so when you flip it to the outside,
the pocket is facing outside.
You'll see...

This part is tricky.
You must sew the pocket onto the waistband of the skirt or pants.
You must be careful to stretch the waistband if it is elastic.
In my case, on the Macabi, the waist is elastic.
In some pants and skirts, it is not such an issue.
When stretching the bottom layer, 
you must hold BOTH layers and pull them apart,
and at the same time, keep your pocket in place.
It takes some sewing practice.

Here is the pocket sewn into my Macabi skirt.

This is what it looks like from the outside.
You can't even tell it's there.
I did make a second mistake and sewed across one of the belt loops.
I fixed that by sewing two short lines DOWNward on each side of the loop,
then removing the stitches going across.
Does that make sense?

Here is the pocket from the inside of the skirt.
The soft part is toward your body and the "pocket" part is facing the skirt.

Here is the pocket flipped to the outside.

Here is the pocket flipped to the outside when I'm wearing the skirt.
I'm so stoked!

Remember, this is NOT how you wear the pocket.
It should always be INSIDE your skirt!
I just flip it out to get into it when I'm in private, like in the bathroom.
NEVER in a public place.

* * *

After I finished, I rounded up another pocket I had laying around
and I put it into my black Macabi skirt.

I measured out some lining fabric and doubled it.

Here, I have made the Strip (using my serger)  from which 
the pocket will hang.

Here is the back of the pocket:

And here is the pocket flipped out for access.
I can't believe I haven't done this until now!

Again, this is just to show you how the pocket flips out.
NEVER take it out in public.
Access it in the privacy of the bathroom or your bedroom.
I'm going to put pockets in EVERYTHING!
Next, I have a blog on putting pocket in my HAT!

Of course, what this means is that I will have to 
remove everything from these pockets at night
and put them into the pockets I"m going to sew into my night clothes,
or ..
just wear the skirt or pants to bed and be dressed for morning!

Think it through,
but whatever you decide to do,


Tuesday, April 22, 2014


The suggested weight to carry (by most experienced pilgrims) is approximately 10% of your body weight. This means if you weigh 160, your pack, including water and food, should not weigh more than 16 pounds.

It's not as difficult as it sounds.

Here are some tips to keep the weight down. Some are my own, and others were given to me by some American Pilgrim on the Camino Facebook Friends.

Or if it is long, braid it.
But don't drag along shampoos, conditioners, and hair products.
Be free!
Just wash, shake it out, and go.
No comb, no brush, no problem!

For 6 lovely weeks, go natural.
Don't worry about makeup.
No mascara, no eyeliner, and please, no perfume!
You will be staying in close quarter with other pilgrims, many of whom may be allergic to your perfume.

Both are free.
Both are great skin conditioners.
Grab extra at dinner!

Instead of heavy SUNSCREEN...
Wear a hat and carry an umbrella.
Doubles for sun/rain.


Deodorant.  I have used two types of deodorant on the Camino.  One is a deodorant stone, which I break into a smaller piece.

I'm old enough to remember using paste deodorant. It is easily applied with fingers.  Last year I cut off a piece of regular SECRET paste deodorant and smashed it into a tiny lightweight plastic container. That worked great. Just rub your fingers over the top and apply. You don't have to see it on your fingers for it to work. Solid or gel, either would work. You don't need much. My container is about 2 inches wide and maybe 1/2 inch deep.

Toothbrush and Paste.

Ann Brooks suggested cutting the handle off your toothbrush to save weight.

I prefer a lightweight foldable brush you can buy at the drugstore. The handle is hollow so it is very light and folding it keeps the brush clean.  I bought mine at Walgreens Drugstore.

For toothpaste, I take a tiny travel tube. When I run out, I either buy another travel size or just use salt, which is a wonderful cleaner and toughens the gums!


Helen Beletti suggests a tiny travel size floss container. If you can't find it at the drugstore, ask your dentist. They always have samples.

Duct Tape

Tim McElhannon suggests, "Warp duct tape around trekking poles to use for emergency repairs to shoes and clothing."  This is an excellent idea! I used duct tape last year to hold my shoes together the last 100 kilometers.  Here is a photo of someone using pink duct tape, which also marks your poles and discourages thievery. Notice the mailing tube for checking poles on the airplane.

Tenacious Tape and ONE Medicine Bottle

Lisa Morales says, "My first aid kit is an empty medicine (pill) bottle with just the essentials. I use a small roll of Tenacious Tape instead of duct tape. Waterproof and no sticky residue. Fixes tents, tarps, sneakers and blisters. "

Featherweight Undies

Lucy Fox posted, "I have discovered a women's underwear that weighs NOTHING. Hanes Smooth Stretch hipsters. They take up almost no room. Best of all, they are super comfortable and very quick drying, you can wash 'me out, they are dry in a few hours, and you can probably do fine with a 3 pack which sells for about $7.50 on Amazon."

Dr. Bronners
Nancy Rich said, "I shave my Bonners Soap into a small squirt container that I carry instead of the bar of soap. Each time I am going to use it I add water....shake............and squirt out soapy liquid for hair-body-clothes washing. Once the liquid is out it is lightweight again until the next time I need it and add water again. Lasts a long time."

Try a Shampoo Bar
Personally, I'm hooked on shampoo bars.  I don't like the idea of something spilling into my pack.  You can use the bar for shampooing your hair as well as for bathing. Lightweight and small, I prefer Liggets Bar.  I cut one in half for 6 weeks of Camino. Share with a friend or save for your next Camino.

Aveeno Face Pads
Debbie Garth cuts Aveeno Face pads into halves and carries them in a ziplock bag. Lightweight and convenient!  Count the number of days you need and divide by two!  She also puts vaseline in a ziplock.

Clothing should be lightweight and quick drying for the Camino. 

If you are taking a smart phone, consider a guidebook app instead of carrying a physical book.  "Melanie" sells a great one for the Via de la Plata. I'm sure there are apps for the Camino Frances as well.

Take a dozen big safety pins instead of clothespins. They are smaller, lighter, and will discourage clothing thieves.  

I take an elastic clothesline and hang my clothes around my bed for privacy in busy albergues.

For handwashing, take 1/4 of a bar of Fels Naptha in a ziplock. Or wait until you get to Spain and buy and split up a bar of cold water washing soap they sell there in every market.

If you plan on using washing machines, don't bother taking laundry detergent. It comes with the price of the load.

LAYER CLOTHING and Multi-task Clothing
Because you are walking through so many varied microclimates on the Camino, it's best to pack lightweight clothing that can be layered. Instead of a heavy coat, take a featherweight fleece and a featherweight windbreaker/raincoat. Or a fleece and an ALTUS poncho (which blocks the wind nicely).  A lightweight pair of long underwear can double as pajamas or leggings under shorts. A rolled up jacket can double as a pillow. 

A lightweight sarong can double as a towel or a skirt in a Cathedral.

Here are a couple of cool videos that will show you how! Some really cute ideas!

These are just a few ideas of how to keep the weight down.
I'll add to them as people post.
Or message me if you have your own and we'll add them to the blog!

Buen Camino!