Now that my foot is still bruised and I haven’t been able to do all the training walks I wanted, I really have to think about the weight I am putting in my pack. I want to carry it, because it gives me freedom and flexibility and also because it works as a brace to help support my lower back – and because it’s what I am used to and would like to do. But I also have to pack for all weathers from burning hot meseta days without shade, to bitter wind and cold, driving rain and everything in between. And I will need two mirror outfits: If it is burning hot during the day, I need something cool and clean to wear after my walk as well, and ditto for cold and wet days. I basically have to make every little thing work extra hard, and do at least two things. For example:
I was going to take one long and one short pair of running tights, which would be very light – but it would also leave me with the short ones after a cold and/or wet day, which sounds miserable. So I was looking at two long and one short, adding more weight. Then I had a brainwave and checked the stretch on my long ones, to see if they can be folded up to the knee without getting too tight. Two of them can – that essentially makes two long and two short without adding a pair, and no changing half way through the day! They are also interchangeable so if one pair isn’t clean or dry, I will simply take the others. On a warm afternoon I won’t need them and can wash both while the drying is good. Saving: 165 grams.
That made me think; I was going to take two long sleeve and two short sleeved merino tops, plus a tank top to sleep in. But the sleeves on the long sleeve tops can easily be pushed up to the elbow for some temperature regulation … and my own un-packing list even points out that I brought two merino T-shirts and never used them, so I have taken them out. The merino tank top is fine as sleep wear, and also under the long sleeved tops on cold mornings. Saving: 2x 125 grams.
Now, sunny weather clothing: Last year I swore I would never take the stupid white button-up sun protective shirt again because it makes me look like I have taken a wrong turn on my way to the office, and the Craghoppers model I use tends to look very dingy by the end of a long walk. However, it is very good at protecting me from the sun, and feels very cool and comfortable to walk in – I can even soak it in water on a hot day. And the buttons mean I can also open it up completely and use it as a very light jacket for travelling and evening wear. In fact, I could wash it before hitting the shower, hang it in the sun – it even has built-in drying loops – get cleaned up and pretty much put it back on again, that’s how quick it dries. So I have decided to take it, but buy a fresh new one, possibly in a nice colour instead of white this time. The tech top I was going to replace it with is the same weight, but it’s no match for a multi-use shirt. So I will leave the tech top and also the thin merino evening cardigan. Saving: 220 grams.
I was thinking of adding a wide brimmed hat to protect my head and face from the meseta sun, but I don’t really like hats. If you use a baseball cap, there is a proud pilgrim tradition of putting your towel – wet or dry – on your head under the cap instead and get the same, if not better, protection. I don’t wear caps either but a towel + buff combo is a good and lightweight solution using stuff that is in my pack already (and also camino chic). Saving: 120 grams.
I was also going to bring some very light and quick-drying Ex Officio underwear to use when or if I should come across a pool; they would come in handy if I want to put Everything in the washing machine too. Though they are lightweight they won’t be any use in April and May, and if I do want to go for a swim anywhere I will do so in my sports bra and undies. Saving: 90 grams.
Next, keeping warm: The last time I went walking without rain trousers I also swore I would never do that again, but thinking back I can only remember getting caught in a bitter, brutal wind and peppered with hail and icy rain one – 1 – day. At the time I was in my capri tights thinking skin dries faster than clothes and ended up very, very miserable and cold. But I survived. (And also had a fabulously fun pit stop with flaming cocktails!) So yes, I am going to leave my lovely, breathable rain trousers at home again. I can always take shelter at a café again. Saving: 270 grams.
I could go ultralight on the weather protection again as well and just take my 230 gram Altus poncho-raincoat with room for the pack, and a 140 gram Rab Vital wind jacket for cool mornings and gusty walks. That leaves me without a proper rain jacket for evenings and rest days though, and my 320 gram Rab Kinetic stretch rain jacket feels so light and comfortable I can use it as a fleece, wind jacket and rain jacket all in one. Saving those 180 grams seems like a false economy … but it is a thought.
This time I will only need a sleeping bag twice at the very start of the trip, so I thought about alternatives to carrying a sleeping bag all the way. But – it’s the camino, so who knows what might happen? Sleep is 1/3 of pilgrim life, and I don’t sleep properly if I am cold, so I might need it even in private rooms. Or to put around me to sit outside and stargaze … So instead I am leaving my zipped silk bag, since I am not sleeping in the down bag every night. Saving: 155 grams.
I also had a look at my packing habits, like how I always separate stuff into drybags: One for underwear and socks, one for walking clothes and one for dry clean evening wear. This time I will not need my shower bag system as I won’t be in albergues, so after using my ultralight packable messenger bag as hand luggage for the journey over to France, I will use it to replace the other bags: Underwear in the front zip pocket, all other clothing in the main bag, clothes line and clips in the tiny pouch inside which the whole bag packs into. So instead of four packing bags, I will have one. Every little helps – and it actually makes it easier to just get the clothes bag out of the pack when I arrive. Saving: 115 grams.
So far that is a saving of 1,385 grams – more than a kilo, or the weight of a litre of water and an al fresco lunch! And I am not being deprived of anything at all, just tweaking what I have and making sure everything earns its keep and isn’t just adding weight. After weeding out spare laces, pole tips, shower gel, power bank (mine got confiscated and I just haven’t replaced it), not to mention slowly using up the full tubes of toothpaste, Gehwol, sun cream etc, I will have saved more than 1.5 kg off my pack. I won’t even need to leave my 180 gram foldable keyboard at home to do it.
The moral of the story is – there is always a lighter way. Some things are essential, but keep a watchful eye out for spares, doubles and extras, and if you really want to, you can manage with little – or even less.