By request I’ve been asked to write some thoughts and tips for walking the Camino.
FEET: Get the thin moleskin, not the padded foam kind. The padded mole skin had so much “give” to it that it tended to slip off during the day. We also discovered Compeed. This is a wonderful product available at any pharmacy on the Camino. Compeed is great stuff, pre-cut for all your various foot parts and it adheres well. I could leave it on for 2 days at a time and it was still firmly stuck.
I packed a tube of Super Glue. I then wrapped about 3 feet of duct tape around the tube for additional foot repairs, but never used either for my feet. Compeed rules! We did use the duct tape to repair a trekking pole and the Super Glue to repair some mesh on Marla’s back pack.
DEVICES: Marla used her Iphone 4S for a camera, email and to blog. I brought a phone, a 7″ Tab and a camera. I would just bring my camera next time for it’s zoom and picture quality and the 7″ Galaxy tab. I loaded the Tab with books, used it to journal and to email. It was much lighter than one book.
Make it your own Camino. We saw many solo women walkers. The Camino is safe and well marked with plenty of fellow travelers around. Everyone, just do it, but allow a few weeks. It’s 33 stages from SJPDP. With travel and rest days that’s an easy 5 weeks or 6 weeks. I wish we had taken 6 weeks to walk it. We had to make choices on what to skip to stay within our schedule. We talked with plenty of walkers who did the same, or let a transport take their bags for a few days, or give in for a taxi rather than destroying their feet and soul trying to make it to the next town. I felt better after a lady who had walked it 4 times said to “make it yours”. That and after seeing a host of hobbling pilgrims at a bus station at Logrono.
RAIN: Are you dressed for it? Sea to Summit water proof bags and a pack rain fly will give you the warm and fuzzy about staying warm and fuzzy. Rain jacket or Poncho? Ponchos looked great until it got windy. We went with Marmot Pre-Cip Jackets, (very light) and were fine.
ACCOMODATIONS: Take the stress out of finding a room or bed at the end of the day and book one the day before. There are phone numbers in the guidebook of the albergues and hotels. We saw many pilgrims being turned away when we arrived without reservations. At the end of the day you will be tired, fatigued and “trail drunk”. It’s nice to have a room or bed reserved for you. On a side note, we had most of our laughs at the end of the day just being silly with fatigue making jokes. Don’t forget your hiking poles outside the market or your sense of humor. Several times a day we would ask out loud ” Hey, where are we at?” “We are in Spain!”. Look around, enjoy the moment, it’s awesome.
About 20% of the walk is along un-photogenic roads, or entering and leaving a town. There are many beautiful sights, but be ready for the reality check of a big city.
Making a list, and checking it thrice:
I made several “donations” along the walk. I never wore my Long Sleeve thermal tee. Marla did though, plenty of times. I still had enough shirts to layer for the weather. After the last mountain crossing, I donated my thermal at the hotel.
Camera case and James Bond mini tripod were donated. The camera stayed in the Fanny pack, ( yay 1980’s), and there was always someone to take our photo when needed. We offered to do the same and met many people that way.The Universal sign language for this is to hold both hands in front of you and move your index finger up and down. You can squint one eye for added effect. It’s a great ice breaker.
I brought too much sunscreen. If you hit the trail before dawn, walk with the sun at your back all day, wear your hat and I seldom needed it for my delicate Irish skin. 3 oz of sunscreen lasted for the whole trip. I donated the rest.
Hand sanitizer- there was plenty of soap in the often newly remodeled, and very clean, bathrooms.
I also donated, a cup, a whistle, a clothesline, soap, shave soap, a razor, extra pole tips and my Cracker Jack magnifying glass. I left my de-coder ring at home.
These donations saved me another pound off the back pack weight bringing the pack down to 17 lbs.
I only needed my sleeping bag on 3 nights usually using only the sleeping bag liner. Both were sprayed with bug spray to ward off any bed bugs and that was comforting to have. I think you could go with just a bag liner in the Summer months and save weight and space in your pack. We also packed small pillow cases. We used leopard skin print to keep it real, and put our clothing in that for a pillow at night. This worked great to compensate for the thin pillows often provided for you at the albergues.
I never used my spork. But, I kept it because it was a spork!
DUMB STUFF WE LEFT AT HOME: Heavy aluminum water bottles, small aluminum flashlights ( we had head lamps), cotton tees, plastic ponchos and heavy boots. I did look rather dashing in this Outback canvas hat that I returned to Pro Bass shop.
GIVE THEM THE BOOT: You do NOT need boots on the Camino. Trail shoes are fine and much lighter. You are taking 2,000 steps per mile, 1 extra pound on your feet is like hauling an extra ton per mile. Let the trucks haul that weight, not your feet. We both wore Merrill’s Moab shoe.
In summary, I would estimate that 80% of the packs we saw were 40-45 liters. We had 30 liter bags. It was a tight fit for our goodies, but it made us pack light. Ask yourself before packing an item, “do I really need this?”. Hike more, carry less.