Monday, June 16, 2014

Camino Gear before and after

Its been a couple of weeks since i finished my walk and i have been reflecting on the gear that i took and if i was ever to do a Camino again how and if i would change things, Firstly i started at the end of April, If you are walking at any other time of year this would change as you need more in winter and different gear in summer, So for the Spring and Autumn walker here is what i took.

BACKPACK-Osprey 50ltr Atmos
This was one of the stars of my gear, It was very comfortable and did not let me down in any way, 50 Ltr is the largest i would recommend, The bigger the bag the more you are likely to carry, Osprey is probably the most used bag on the Camino and rightly so, One thing i would have liked would have been able to pack my sleeping bag in the base without taking everything out, Osprey do make bags like this, They have a new lightweight bag called the Exos and in a 48 ltr its over a pound lighter than my bag, 1 pound may not sound a lot but it is, This would be my choice if i were to do another Camino, I did see people with much smaller bags, Most had bags hanging off of them as there was not enough room inside, I like the 50 ltr size as i could get my boots in with all the other gear (just)
One thing of note was that a lot of backpacks come with a rain cover built in, Mine did not so i used a REI backpack rain cover and it worked great
To keep my backpack nice and clean when it went into the hold in the plane i used an Osprey backpack duffel bag, I shipped this forward ( see below)

I took 2 750ml bottle (uninsulated) and had these in each side of the backpack, I had Camelback extension tubes fitted to the bottles so i did not need to remove the bottle to drink or better still i did not need to take the backpack off to drink, You can never drink too much water so these tubes were a bonus and a talking point-Highly recommended

JACKET-Eddie Bauer Rainier
This was kindly donated for the walk by Eddie Bauer and was their top of the range jacket at over $300, Lightweight and made of a goretex/breathable material it ticked all of the boxes, I mentioned before that when i first received it it leaked badly and i had to reproof it, That solved the wet issue, I was very lucky with the weather and only used it a handful of times before one of the front packet zips broke, This was a big failure as water could get straight in, I had only used the pocket for ventilation so was shocked that a jacket that expensive would fail, I did manage to get the zip back together but its a big failure, What you need is a very lightweight waterproof jacket, Goretex or not, when its raining hard you will get condensation inside, Something like the Marmot precip would fit the bill and be cheaper, Just make sure the jacket has armpit zips for ventilation and you are good to go, Forget any jacket with a liner, Keep it as light as possible, Mine stayed in my backpack most of the journey so most of the time you will be carrying it (hopefully)

TROUSERS-Eddie Bauer convertible pants
Good and bad here but mainly very good, I took 2 pairs, Both had their buttons fall off in the first week, I found one button the other was gone, I sewed the button on with just a small piece of cotton and yet that stayed on the whole trip, This is clearly a machining fault, I would recommend the trousers as they are very light and dry very quickly, I even stopped putting my rain pants on at the end as after 10 minutes after the rain had stopped the trousers would be dry, I took 2 different colour trousers, If i were to do the trip again i would take 2 pairs of the same colour and just take 1 set of lower legs to save some weight so basically i pair of trousers and i shorts but with the ability of having 2 pairs of trousers
These i really like from the first time i wore them, Very nicely made and worked well, Not baggy but easy to put one with boots fitted, A zip at the bottom to help , Just a nice product, You will get some condensation from sweating but not much, You can buy over trousers with full length zips and you can zip down from the top to help with air flow (Northface do these) either way i would recommend these, Lightweight and work well

TOPS (base)-REI and Salomon
My favorite tops were Salomon long sleeve tops, They have a perforated look, Feel great, wash great and are very comfortable, Not cheap but i managed to find them at Dicks sporting goods for $14 in the sale, I bought 2 but only took 1, This was a mistake and 2 would have been perfect, I highly recommend these, I also took a tee shirt from REI, I love the material and again it was comfortable and washed great, They also do the same in long sleeve-recommended, I did take a 3rd top which was a tee shirt from Under Armour, very good but i would have liked to have 2 long sleeve tops and i tee shirt from the others above

TOPS (Mid)-Eddie Bauer
I took 1 Eddie Bauer lightweight fleece and it was great, washed well and dried quick, Very comfortable, I also took an Eddie Bauer microtherm vest which i love and are great for early morning walks, I have a Microtherm jacket and wished i had taken this instead for early morning walks and mainly for the evenings, Either one i would recommend and they are super light and well made and look great, I did have many people comment on the look/style of the Eddie Bauer gear

This is the biggy and everybody will see things differently, I took a pair of Salomon mid height goretex boots, I loved these boots BUT and its a big but, Goretex footwear will cook your feet!! I walked over 250 miles before my first blister so they are not that bad but when the weather gets warm-not hot just warm your feet will cook, Unless you want to keep stopping and letting your feet cool off  DO NOT TAKE GORETEX, Breathable is the name and although goretex is marketed as breathable and waterproof there has to be a compromise, I would take a hiking shoe not a boot, 99% of people i met with boots had blister problems, A good quality hiking shoe will easily be carried in your pack, I would recommend a pair of hiking shoes and a good thick soled training shoe which needs to allow airflow around your feet, You will use the trainer most of the trip, You could take goretex and only use them when it rains but use the trainer type shoe the rest of the way especially on the meseta, I met a 70+ year old Danish woman who was on her 5th Camino, She had a pair of Keen sandals and had a pair of trainer/tennis type shoes with a thick spongy sole, She had never had one blister on any walk and she walked 30km a day!! Keens sandals and sandals in general were very popular and those people did not get blisters (use with socks) The keens were good as they are closed toes and stop getting stones in, There will be nothing like footwear to cause an discussion with walkers, This is my personal opinion based on experience, I mentioned before that my boots had custom inserts and i would still recommend these for any type of long distance walking

GLOVES-Under Armour
Some mornings were  cold with a small amount of frost, I took lightweight Under Armour gloves and these were great, To save weight you could just use a pair of socks

SOCKS-Smartwool and Wrightsocks
I took 3 pairs of Smartwool ultra light hiking socks and 1 pair of the Wrightsocks which was a double layer sock and both worked well and i would recommend either

These are lovely in both feel and wear, Sweat is always a problem and i did suffer from a chaffed botty on a few occasions as did others, Either way these are very expensive underwear but worth the money in my opinion-recommended

HAT-Under Armour Peak Cap
I took a cap as i use glasses and a peak helps keep rain off of your face and glasses, By the time i got to Burgos it was apparent that also needed something to protect my ears as they were getting sunburned so i purchased a cheap wide brimmed hat, If i were to do it again i would take a wide brimmed waterproof hat like this

I had read that as you are always walking West i.e away from the sun that you did not need sunglasses, Well that is only partly true, Alot of the trail is very light in color and you get a lot of reflected light, I did not take sunglasses but would have liked some most of the time, I did always wear my normal glasses and these give UV protection-I would recommend taking eye protection of some type

Love them or like them, Take them or not take them, There are a lot of opinions, Mine would be to take them, There are some very steep accents and descents, Mine save me from falling a few times and when i had a bad knee and leg they certainly helped greatly, I would recommend either a pair of walking poles or a walking stick, Mine were Carbon so very light, Along the Meseta area i just used one, Remember of you do not use them you will carry them and its all weight, You do need to spend a fortune but the more expensive ones are lighter

I took a great sleeping bag from sierra designs, It was a 30 deg -1, Lightweight and well made, It was a mummy type but had lots of room, Problem was it was way too hot, The zip was always open and most nights the bag was completely open, If was to do another i would take an REI 55 degree travel sack , The problem was that the Germans, French, Spanish and Italians do not like to have a window open and become somewhat vocal if you even try to open one, Try sleeping in a room with 96 other people without any ventilation and see how hot it gets

I carried ALL of my toiletries in an Eddie Bauer Travex Expedition Hanging Kit bag, I was unsure of this but now would take it again, Its amazing how much gear this holds, Very well made and designed, I had this on my bed at night and could grab it in the morning and go into the bathroom it had everything i needed to get ready, I had my toothpaste and toothbrush, towel, meds, Moleskin(thick) and bandaids,shampoo,vaseline and soap, This is a great product-Recommended

Another great product, Simple and effective, I took one and left it in an Aubergue and then realised just how much i liked it, I purchased another (Camino Design) along the way and used it everyday

Sleeping in a room with a lot of people is not easy, Lots of snorers and farters (I count myself in for both) so i took earplugs, It soon become apparent that these were not for me, Uncomfortable and kept falling out, I had taken my iphone and used this every night to listen to music with earbuds, I would fall asleep to low volume music and awake during the night, turn the music off and go straight back to sleep. I only used the iphone for music, If i did another Camino i would take a lighter weight ipod or similar

I took a head torch and a very small torch, I used neither at all at any time, I could always use the light on my iphone if needed, Torches are a pain the butt, People get up very early and flash them all over the room, Very inconsiderate and if you were not on pilgrimage you would probably punch them!! Know where the bathroom is, grab all you gear and go in there QUIETLY so as not to piss people off, i sent my torches forward (see below)

I took both and never used them, Alot of people kept a diary, I took a lot of pictures and did a daily blog, Its up to you what you want to do (its all weight)

Great camera with lovely quality images, Bigger than most would want although there were people with bigger, The camera did 95% of what i wanted it to do , I would recommend it for those who want good quality photos in a smallish package, Also look at the Sony RX100 for quality photos in a pocketable camera, Most people seemed to use their phones, its a personal thing, Just remember that alot of the shooting will be in dark churches etc, a small compact camera will give better images than a phone although they have improved a lot,
I carried my camera in a Thinktank mirrorless 10 bag fixed to the waist belt of the backpack, Great quality bag with a great raincover, Think tank means quality, Not cheap but probably the best on the market
I also had a Peak Design Camera Clip attached to the shoulder strap on the backpack, See my blog for a review, I had my camera attached to this everyday for 10 days before it failed, I had clipped and unclipped my camera to it hundreds of times and love the product, The camera clip is held  on by 2 threaded bars with nylon/plastic caps, One of the caps came off and its game over, To me its a design flaw on an excellent product, The caps should be metal/aluminum or similar or even a one piece bolt, I would also like to see one without a quick release, On a trip like this i do not want somebody to be able to easily take it off and steal it, A great product with flaws

This is a luxury item and adds weight, Most people can use their smart phones for facebook/skype etc, I wanted to be able to see and download my images, Write a blog, Check e mails and skype, I took an Asus T100 convertible laptop/tablet, Worked great and was a joy to use, Weighed over 2 lbs and thats a lot, As i said a luxury item and would recommend a smart phone or very small tablet for most people

What with the camera,phone and laptop i needed to carry a power adapter, I got one from Brookstones which had 2 usb ports, This was taken/stolen after a few days, One thing you will see in the bigger towns and cities are Chinese stores, These sell EVRYTHING and are incredibly cheap, If you need anything from power adapters to shampoo/deodorant go here first, I paid 9 euros for a under arm deodorant in a farmacia, In the Chinses store they were 1,50 euro's. I paid 5 euro's for a world wide power adapter

I took a tiny Leatherman multi tool, This was one of my prize possessions, I used it daily especially when i had blisters, I cannot recommend this product enough

I took a large S carabiner asi had about the bed bugs and thought that i would use it to hang the backpack off of the ground-never used it, My backpack and sleeping bag were sprayed with Permethrin incase there were bed bugs, I did not have any issues or did i hear of anybody else having bed bug issues

Along the way i purchased Ibuprofen 600mg to help with swelling and pain, These were known as Santiago candy as everybody was taking them, Use carefully, max 3 daily i normally took 1 or 2 after food, Work great
Knee brace, Lots of people suffered with bad knees through the long steep descents especially down to Roncevalles, Zubiri and after the Crux de Ferro-Get from Farmacia be careful as i was asked for 45 euros in one and got one for 12 euros in another
Ankle Brace/compression sock-Again lots of people wore these me included, 4 euros from a farmacia, Work as a sock liner to prevent blisters as well

The Camino is mostly well marked but its nice to have an idea of topography and distance between towns etc, I like most others used the Brierley guide and would recommend it

That's pretty much everything i carried or would carry, I think everybody on the first Camino carried to much, I know i did, There is a rough guide that says 10-15% of body weight for you back pack and most people only mention the 10% part, I heard of a small young Japanese girl carrying a 60lb pack!! Mine started around 27lb and i trimmed it to around 24lb, Remember i had over 6lb in camera and laptop equipment, I would say that you should aim to carry no more than 20lb including water, Remember that when your backpack id strapped around your waist that the weight will be transferred to your legs,knees and feet, Any weight that you can save will make life easier and more enjoyable for you

I mentioned above that i carried to much and shipped some gear forward to Santiago, You can do this by joining the Camino De Santiago forum (Highly recommended) and sending your excess gear to Ivar who runs the forum and lives in Santiago, He has a storage area in the town and for a small fee will keep your gear for weeks, You will get a conformation e mail when he receives your gear, I sent mine from Pamplona and he received it the next day, Details here

You will see from the above that i use a lot of Eddie Bauer gear, Apart from the free jacket i have no affiliation with them, Its just good gear, I rate it alongside The Northface but cheaper and when they have their sales the clothing etc is a bargain (i only buy in the sales) Their are a lot of excellent outdoor clothing companies, Just go into an REI if you live in the states and you can get pretty much everything from every manufacturer,



  1. Hi Dave, just another note of thanks for your excellent blog.
    I did go for the Sony RX100 as you know, and consider it an excellent choice. It is flawed in that the wide angle isn't wide enough and I did develop a bit of telephoto envy when I saw some of my fellow pilgrims' photos. I struggled with macros too. I think the RX100 mk 3 will address the wide angle end. The Lowepro camera back fixed to the backpack shoulder strap with Velcro. Unfortunately the rain cover on the Lowepro bag leaked so much that I just put the camera in my rain jacket cover.

    I used mainly Rohan clothing, including a very lightweight rain jacket with large pockets - it performed very well.

    I now agree with you about shoes. My boots were comfortable but much too heavy.
    I went to see a podiatrist today and he has ordered my custom made orthotic insoles. He is also a keen walker so understands what we need. I hope this will enable me to walk many moremiles, including some more caminos!

    It was great to meet you and share a few cervezas.

    Buen Camino!

  2. Hi Gideon
    The Sony RX100 is an excellent camera and the new one looks even better, There is no perfect hiking camera but some come close, As with all things in life its a compromise
    Enjoy your orthotic's and it was very nice to meet you on the Camino and share some time