How Did the Gear Stack Up?

Before we left, I published a list of our camino gear. Now that we've returned I want to comment on how well it all did its job, and the answer is, by and large, very well indeed. There are a couple of changes I will make before the next time though, and yes, there will be a next time.

1 Osprey Talon 44 pack, with hydration bladder, pack liner and pack cover
This pack is brilliant. With its soft structure and plethora of overly long adjusting straps it is not the prettiest pack in the world but it is light, comfortable and robust enough for the Camino Santiago. I carried about 7 kg, which would have just qualified as carry on luggage had I not been carrying a large folding knife. Next time, I will buy the knife in Spain and mail it home to myself at the end. For checking them into an aircraft hold, I fitted the pack covers to the packs backwards - that is, over the straps - and tied them with a length of rope. It kept the straps safe from jamming in the automatic luggage system and gave a measure of security.

Clemency's pack was a German made Vaude Tour 50. It was OK, but it has a cunning adjustable trampoline type frame which was either badly designed or badly assembled, probably the latter. The adjustment mechanism dug into her back until I disassembled it with the aforementioned large folding knife and put it back together in what was probably the factory approved manner. The shoulder and waist straps on this pack  were too thin for her, and needed supplementary padding.

1 pair Asics Gel Arata shoes and 3 pair socks
I had very little trouble with blisters  because of these great shoes, and the perfect socks which went inside them. I used 1000 Mile walking socks, which are woolen outer socks with a thin inner sock fitted inside them. It takes a bit of adjusting to get them smoothly in place in the morning, but they reduce friction and kept me blister free. The shoes are Goretex which managed to keep me dry except on the day we had sustained, prolonged rain.

Clemency wore Smartwool medium walking socks and Adidas walking shoes, which was also a winning combination.  The shoes are very light weight and not at all waterproof, but this is not really a problem on the Camino as the wet days were quite warm. 

The only time we had any problem with our feet was the day we used different socks. A product Verna Rutherford gave us, Blistex was very helpful here. It is a spray on plastic coating which prevented small proto blisters from developing any further. 
1 pair Teva sandals
These sandals were also perfect for their job: comfortable and able to stand up to an hour or two strolling through the cobbled streets of an ancient Spanish town. They are an alternative to regular walking shoes, and  it is quite possible to walk the whole Camino in Teva sandals, as one or two people we met had done. Clemency took jandals (aka flip flops, thongs) which wasn't a great idea. Jandals are OK around an albergue but try walking a kilometre over cobblestones in them and you'll soon be wishing you forked out for a pair of Tevas.

2 pairs lightweight hiking pants with zip off legs.
Kathmandu and Mountain Designs brands, no issues with these. Light, comfortable, durable and, most importantly, dry quickly.

I also took a couple of tramping shirts. One Mountain Designs polyester was brilliant. A Kathmandu polyester/modal shirt was not so great: it tended to soak up moisture like blotting paper which is hardly the point with a hiking shirt.   

3 T shirts (1x merino, 2x polypropylene)
3 pairs underpants (polypropylene)
Perfect. Comfortable, quick drying. There is no functional difference between polyprop and merino, so go for whatever is cheaper.

1 lightweight merino pullover
Perfect. Kept its shape and dried quickly when washed.

1 lightweight polarfleece jacket

Waterproof jacket (Mountain Designs )
Waterproof overtrousers
Next time, the heavy New Zealand style rain gear will be staying at home. I used an Australian Mountain Designs Melaleuca jacket and Clemency had a Macpac. Both kept the rain out but also kept the perspiration in, so we ended up sodden anyway. The Spanish Altus brand poncho, which costs about 40 Euros seems to be a far better option than a $300-700 Goretex jacket. And leggings were pretty much useless. The Spanish have ankle to knee gaiters which make a perfect complement to the poncho, but given the warm weather, wearing shorts under the poncho is probably even better.

1 season sleeping bag (packs down REALLY small)
These Kathmandu brand sleeping bags have performed very well in both Spring and Autumn. They are still in very good shape. Some people dispense with sleeping bags altogether and use only a silk sleeping bag liner, or rely on finding blankets in an albergue. The few people we met who had problems with parasites were those who adopted this strategy. 

2 neck scarves
Large enamel mug
Folding cutlery set
Lightweight hiking towel
Cell phone and charger
Camera and charger
1 well worn copy of John Brierley's Camino de Santiago Maps
Various documents
Small medical kit to treat blisters, headaches and other ailments I might be prone to.
 Out of all this stuff, there is nothing I would change. I didn't use my sunglasses or the sunscreen but I would still take them. I took my Kindle, didn't use it, and brought it home with a broken screen; enough said. The headlamp, an Eveready, was great except that the switch was prone to being accidentally knocked on. It spent a lot of time illuminating the inside of my pack, but even so, the batteries lasted for 3 weeks and would probably go on for a lot longer yet.


Katherine said…
This is such a useful post!
I'm going to the UK and Europe in 2014. (Saving hard, painting hard...) I want to do lots of walking, and had already decided to travel very lightly (it's so much more fun). So, thanks for these excellent 'walking easy' tips VenDr.

I may have to take a little more for colder weather, but I am determined to keep it to a minimum.

I want to do a coastal footpath somewhere, and a mountain one too. Plus lots of little day walks in between.

So, you and Clemency haven't had enough pilgrimming yet? When is your next trip?

There are pilgrim trails all over the UK too, aren't there?
VenDr said…
Have you thought of the coast to coast in Britain? About 200 miles, staying in B&Bs. Or the old pilgrim way from London to Canterbury?

We are starting to think of a very ambitious next time around. I would like to do the Camino Norte, along the coast. Clemency is keen on repeating the Camino Frances. So why not both? There along one and back along the other. It sounds pretty daunting, but a surprising number of people make the return trip. We will be cracking on by the time we get around to it though.
VenDr said…
If you have to choose only one coastal walk in Europe it MUST be the Amalfi coast walk in Italy.

Or take a bike and follow the Rhine from its source to the sea. You start in Switzerland and end up in the Netherlands. And it's downhill all the way.
Katherine said…
Thanks for these suggestions. I'll check them out. I love biking too. Did you know I have a connection with the Tour de France? (totally non-drug-related).

'Cracking on' - what, like 'cracking toast, Gromit'? Sounds very positive to me.
Anonymous said…
Cracking up ???
VenDr said…
Like cracking on a bit. Getting older. And yes, I suppose cracking up. At least parts of me.
Anonymous said…
Mobility Scooter ?
Anonymous said…
For anyone who may be interested:
Robert White said…
Thanks for sharing the great information. It is well written!!

Rain Poncho Australia