As always, a camino isn’t fully written up until I have done the unpacking list. This is a brilliant tip for repeat pilgrims, walkers, travellers – packing lists are an idea, un-packing lists are cold hard reality. I am currently planning another trip and rereading this to pare down my load, trying to learn from my mistakes … Anyway, here it is:
A change from the Osprey line this time, brilliant as they are, because I knew it could/would get HOT and I wanted to see just how much of a difference a ventilated back would make. After some investigation, and being happy with the U-zip opening Gregory Maya, I came across a reduced-price last-years-colour Gregory Juno 30 panel loader and went for it. It is just the right size, stops me overpacking but is juuust big enough to stick my dismantled poles in so I can check the pack. Yes, I know, I have always advised that you don’t let your camino pack out of your sight and take it into the cabin if you can, but with the new brexit rules, shipping the poles by post is just too unreliable and expensive. Hence a checked bag, and hence getting a ventilated one with a lightweight frame, which can’t get squished into a smaller space. But in fairness the pack was brilliant and carried well, especially at just 6 kg before water! Stamp of pilgrim approval and would take again.
My new sidebag, an Arc’teryx Mantis (!) with a crossbody strap taken from another bag, also worked well, with room for my guidebook, notebook, passport, credencial, wallet/coin purse – with RFID protection to stop people skimming or reading your cards, it happens! – and mobile plus assorted bits and bobs. Always across my body when I walk, under the pack, so I can take the pack off and go straight into the bar with my sidebag safely in place. I particularly liked the small mobile slot pocket at the top/back where it is easily accessible without falling out.
I walked in black running tights, my second-hand pilgrim-forum-swap old-colour-purple Purple Rain Adventure skirt brought over by the fabulous Nanci – still *love* the skirts and pockets for walking and at home, in fact I am sitting in one now. I took a lightweight, quick-dry white SPF shirt for hot days; I keep wanting to throw the now worn and never flattering thing away, but it is perfect for hot walks. If not that hot, I walked in a thin merino mix T-shirt or long sleeve top. Top selection worked well, I sometimes changed halfway through the day if it got nice and hot and would take the same ones again. I’ll never get rid of that shirt …
I could have brought shorter tights as well, but then if it got cold and I walked in the long ones, I’d have had only short ones for the even cooler evening. I just folded them up to the knee or didn’t bother with them on a warm evening. Socks, bras and undies were all merino blend and all good!
My Hoka Speedgoats worked wonderfully as always and I have already snapped up another pair in the sales for spring. My Birkenstock EVA Madrid sandals, which I thought were safe in the kit, let me down when the dreaded plantar fasciitis flared up again for some unknown reason – we were walking slow and shortish stages. I needed more cushioning under the foot and ended up getting a colourful pair of Teva sandals in León. They are great, but not for slipping on your feet when getting up in the night, so I still need to find something better for my feet after walking. So far the best I can find for versatility and weight is a pair of Crocs (yes. Crocs.) Classic sandals, a cushioned and comfortable sole with double non-adjustable straps. They work with and without socks, in the shower, around town, for night time nips to the loo. I wear them at home all the time now and they are coming with me in September.
The stretchy Rab Kinetic wind and waterproof jacket was *brilliant*. Kept the wind and rain out, plus it looks good, feels soft and is very light. Really liked it and will take it again. For heavy rain I chose to bring the lightweight Altus poncho this time, and the ultralight rain trousers, but ended up buying an even lighter Sea to Summit poncho in St Jean that worked well on the few occasions when I needed it. That and the rain jacket are staying, as they give the most cover for the weight.
The Thermoball padded jacket worked a treat as always, it’s lightweight, versatile and warm even if damp. I had a pair of thin merino gloves I never used, a few buffs – the merino buff stayed at home – and a Tilley hemp sun hat which came in very very handy on the hothot days. My new Euroschirm UV-protective umbrella is a tad heavy at 450g, so I left it at home this time because weight saving was of the essence with the still-not-quite-right ankle.
For evening wear I had a black Fjällräven High Coast Lite dress which is light, cool, easy wash and quick dry and looks reasonably cute with a colourful Desigual scarf for evening finery. I wore it every evening, could have slept in it if necessary (always look for the dual purpose), and when I washed it in the evening it was dry in the morning. It has two small pockets that were minimal use, but I would definitely take it again. Over it I’d wear a light blue sun protective shirt as a light jacket, or the black Thermoball if it was cold.
I normally take one merino sports bra for walking and one normal one for after the shower, when putting on a sports bra correctly and without getting annoyed is a more challenging task. This time I took two Icebreaker Siren merino bras – no clip at the back! – and was very happy with that. Merino undies too; comfortable fit, dry feel, no stink, decent night wear, easy wash, quick dry.
Yet again my expensive, ultralight, beautiful Sea to Summit down sleeping bag did the job excellently. I only needed it for two nights – first night in St Jean and at auberge Borda – but took it out a few more times because I could. It packs small, opens up like a duvet, has zips from both ends, can be cinched up at the foot end or left open – just love, love, love it. The rest of the time we shared twin rooms.
Pacerpoles. Always. Wouldn’t go on any long walk without them and used them every day. Always in my hands, giving me a rocket boost up hills and providing handbrakes on the way down.
My Brita filter water bottle too is great, water always tastes better and it is just the right size so I can get it in and out of the side pockets without help. Imagine how many plastic bottles I have saved in the years I have had it!
The Matador soap bag, which actually lets soap and shampoo bars dry out without leaking into your bag – or rattling around in a tin, for that matter! Very pleased. If they came in different colours I’d have one for shampoo and one for soap. It is big enough for a 100 g Nuddy shampoo bar or a normal bar of soap and can be clipped to the outside of the pack if you want.
A spare coin purse we used as a kitty, adding the same amount of money to use for shared accommodation and when we were eating (or drinking, or food shopping) together and spent roughly the same, instead of always splitting the bill and owing each other money back and forth. Whoever carried the kitty, settled the bill, and we added more as needed. Also meant we had a spare stash of cash, which came in handy.
I took my foldable keyboard but clearly didn’t use it blogging along the way … Power banks are great but we were staying in rooms so didn’t bother with it, we would always have access to a charging point. Only packed chargers for mobile, Fitbit and keyboard, and made do with my mobile for everything electronic or digital. Planned to read on the Kindle app, listen to music etc but never found the time. Had all the important apps on it though: AlertCops, Google translate, Wise Pilgrim, Booking.com, ALSA, airline apps etc. And don’t forget to lock your phone and put a recent, recognisable photo of yourself and your emergency contact’s number on the lock screen!
In St Jean, a collapsible water bottle and a lightweight poncho – used the poncho, not the bottle. Left the buff with neoprene peak at home and then promptly bought a similar thing on a headband which I also didn’t really use; I clearly don’t learn. A thin, light scarf to cover up from the sun while walking. A light, white-ish strappy top to go under my white shirt, which allowed me to open it while I walked, it felt a lot cooler. A microweight packable Sea to Summit backpack for walking around town when you need to buy stuff or bring a jacket; I used my normal travel/packable bag as a wardrobe organiser in the pack, which worked well, but left me without an occasional bag. A pair of lovely, colourful Tevas! And a small bottle of shampoo after my shampoo bar seemed to dry my hair out with daily use. Also got a small bottle of Body Shop grape oil for hair which will be coming with me from now on. Much better than fiddling with solid conditioner or bringing another bottle of watery stuff.
But the best thing of all was a 0.5L water bag! Just a simple one with a karabiner and a sports drink top, but it fit perfectly in my skirt pocket. I used it mainly to pour cans of Aquarius into, so I didn’t have to drink it all at once but could top myself up during the day. Easily accessible, absolutely brilliant and am taking it again.
First aid kit, thankfully. My rain poncho and pants, which stayed in the bottom of the pack. Keyboard. My salt shaker – salt at one end, spicy salt on the other – which for reasons best known to some sort of illogical idiot part of my brain was always buried deep in the pack in the odds and sods bag amongst shoe laces, spare pole tips and elastic hair bands. Nanci had a tiny salt shaker *in her side bag* at all times and that’s where mine is going to stay next time! Also some tea bags, miso sachets etc, good idea but just never needed or wanted them when we had the facilities.
The shampoo bar that has had two opportunities to shine now and failed. Next time I take a different one, plus the hair oil.
For next time:
Considering I left rain gear, a sleeping bag and a keyboard languishing at the bottom of the pack, I could have taken the sun protective parasol anyway, and I wish I had. Or at least the Spanish fan to keep me cool after walks. With the recent heatwave I have fallen in love with a refillable travel size spray bottle, which I fill with cold water and a spritz of EdT and then spray on myself to cool down as needed. That (empty) bottle is coming with me to Spain from now on!
Nanci treated me to some Sport Beans about 1 km from Orisson and I immediately renamed them Magic Beans. I have already ordered, received and enjoyed some. Definitely taking a bag on my travels, along with a Clif bar or similar. Nothing worse than needing a pick-me-up and not finding one, or finding the wrong thing, like when all you need is a couple of sweet, fruity sports beans (with electrolytes) and all you have is a sun warm banana, or you just need a little snack and the smallest thing the bar has is a dry croissant. Electrolyte tabs are great but you still need a bottle or glass and water to dissolve it in. Sport Beans rule!
That’s pretty much it – I did sometimes wish I had something else to wear but that didn’t last long. At least I didn’t have to wonder about it, just put on whatever I hadn’t walked in, and go out to get a drink before dinner. Definitely going to keep packing this lightly – or lighter, minus the superfluous stuff – and the layering combinations worked well. With having to check my pack to bring the poles, I will probably take the ventilated pack for my next spring or summer adventure as well, as it is just as comfortable, but easier to pack and unpack than the Talon.
If you read all that, I hope that was enlightening in some way – feel free to ask questions, add comments or counter with better suggestions and clever solutions. I am all ears – tis prepping season and I have plans …