Friday, January 25, 2013

The Begining

As with all things its best to start at the beginning and give you an idea of what, why and where.  I am 50 year old male born in Britain and proud of it, over the years I have lived in Northern France and Switzerland before moving to North Carolina in the USA 4+ years ago.
 I love to travel and so far have visited over 20 countries, I have 4 brothers of which 3 have suffered from various forms of cancer.  Over the last 3 years I have lost two of my brothers to cancer which has been incredibly hard.  It was after my brother Gerald passed that I decided that I would do something about it.  My brothers had been diagnosed with cancer in their 50's and now that I am 50 it was time to change my lifestyle. 
I had watched the movie 'The way' with Martin sheen over a year ago and after my 2nd brother died I found the movie on Netflix so I watched it again and an idea started to form.  After talking to my wife I decided that I would walk 'the Camino De Santiago' also known as 'The Way', an 800km pilgrimage across France and Spain.  I will be walking to raise funds for Cancer research (more of which in a later blog), I plan to start my walk in April 2014 and hope to finish in around 35-36 day.  I will be walking the Camino Frances which starts at St Jean Pied De Port in France and ends at Santiago De Compostela in Spain.  My Wife plans on meeting me in Sarria in Spain and walking the last 70 miles to Santiago.
I am not an overly fit guy and this walk will be the challenge that I need to get me back to fitness and drop a few pounds.  I started to walk/hike a few months ago and now walk 30-40 miles a week, I have to admit that I am thoroughly enjoying it.  I am lucky that I live close to a State Park with 26 miles of trails, I walk anywhere between 7 and 11+ miles 3 to 4 times a week and also do a couple of training sessions on a treadmill, after a couple of months I can see and feel the difference.  Training here in NC will be a challenge as the summers see high temperatures and high humidity.  So far I have have enjoyed the cool/cold winter mornings, I have been building up some hiking experience and have been testing a variety of gear and clothing,

Below is a list of the gear I am currently using and why

Backpack-Osprey Atmos 50 This more than big enough for the trip.  Its highly rated by other hikers and has some great features, I love that there is  suspension that keeps the pack clear of your back allowing air to flow and keeping you cooler, Its works well, I had it custom fitted at REI who measured my back etc.  For training i carry 25 pounds and have no problems at all( During the Camino walk I plan to carry a max of 15-18 Lbs). Its very comfortable and well worth the money-Its a keeper, Also check out backpacks from Gregory which are very similar (my wife has a Gregory Jade 28)

Boots-North face Verbera Hiker GTX Its very important to get boots that work for you. REI has a great returns policy, try and if they don't work bring them back-No questions.  Well after many 11 miles cross country trips over roots and rocks I have not had any problems like blisters which is the scourge of walkers, they took very little breaking in and give good ankle support. Not the lightest but for my training they work fine, I have to say that I do fancy some of the Salomon light weight hiking boots and may try some in the future.

Trekking poles-Black Diamond Now you either love poles or not, its the first time I have used poles and have to say that I am in the love category. The poles have saved my butt many times after tripping over roots and find that they really help going up and down steep hills. The poles I purchased are expensive although I got mine in the sales but they are beautifully made and extremely light.

Clothing-The North Face Varius Guide Jacket I wanted a lightweight waterproof jacket and this fitted the bill and budget. I got mine in orange/black for 2 reasons, firstly I walk through woodland during hunting season and secondly I will be walking in mountain ranges, any problems and I should be easily found.  After a long walk there is some sweat build up but not as bad as other jackets I have used, its certainly waterproof and used as part of a layer system it works very well.

Trousers-The North Face convertible pants I got these in the sales at REI for under $50 and they are nice and comfortable, I would also look at Eddie Bauer and REI's own make which look good, Lightweight and fast drying.

Layers-I have been using a variety of Eddie Bauer and Under Armour base and mid layers. I like the Eddie Bauer base and mid layers in their First Accent range like this and this.  One thing I have found is that if I use the Under Armour lightweight T shirts as a base layer and do a long walk I can sweat and its not wicked away making you cold.  In cold weather the Eddie Bauer base layers work great along with a fleece or micro therm jacket as a mid layer.

Socks-Again very important, I have been using Merino socks by Smart Wool and love them.  I have dabbled with the light weight Injinji socks as a liner and find them with the smart wool socks very comfortable, no problems, no Hot spots or Blisters so far.

Sleeping bag-Sierra Designs,I have purchased mine very early as it was in the sales and have yet to use it so cant make judgement except to say that its incredible light and packs into a 11LTR compression bag.  I did lay in it on my sofa and was amazed how warm it was for its weight.

That pretty much covers the essentials for the trip.  Things like a first aid kit and water bottles etc can be bought anywhere but are essential.  I always make sure I take plenty of water and some energy food bars.

For more info check out-The Camino De Santiago forum and The American Pilgrims

Please check back and read my reports on my training and also new gear etc