Firstly, this blog was written each night on my iPhone as I lay in bed in albergue. So I apologise for the many spelling and grammatical errors. But hey, it keeps it real, right!
Starting at the most important piece of kit, James and I both wore Hoka trail runners. James wore Challenger ATR 6, I wore Speedgoats. James wore Macpac wool socks, I swapped between Injinji toe socks and the Macpac. He only ever tied the laces on his shoes once and he never wore them in. He had one tiny blister. Yep, one! I had two tiny blisters that I treated with compeed patches and the needle & cotton method. They were gone in about a week and I never had any more issues. I did take the advice of Rob from Rob’s Camino YouTube channel and put Vaseline on my heels.
My shoes were waterproof. In my opinion, you don’t need waterproof shoes. My feet sweated too much and my feet got hot. James had seal skin waterproof socks ready if needed. Having said that, if we had to walk day after day in rain, maybe I would be giving unreserved support and love for waterproof shoes. That’s the Camino.
James’s second set of footwear were slides. He had a pair that he brought from home, but he promptly lost one and so we had to buy a new pair in Pamplona. On day 2 we did see a you guy scooting along in slides and socks, though I wouldn’t want to do that for too long.
I had a pair of crocs. They are light, dry quickly and are super comfortable. The only downside was if I did get blisters, I wouldn’t be able to walk too far in them. So, what’s the alternative? Tevas seem to be a good option if you are worried about blisters with your boots/shoes and need a fallback option to keep walking. The downside of Tevas is that they take some time to dry and are quite heavy.
WARNING: The next bit may trigger some puritans!
I have Scarpa hiking boots. They are beautiful full grain leather and about the fifth pair I have owned. I wore a pair to Mt Everest Base Camp. They are great hiking boots. But, they are stiff and weigh a ton. I did well over one million steps and I am so glad I did it with super light trail runners. If I had to carry a load, say 20+kg, I would wear my Scarpas. But on the Camino you want the lightest pack you can, the rule being that it should be less than 10% of your body weight. So for me it’s a no brainer, trail runners every day. Okay, send the hate boot puritans!
As for packs, James had a Macpac that I got for him a few years back. It has a built in rain cover and was a perfect size. I had an Osprey Exodus 38 litre. It was a great pack for the walk.
For rain gear/shell we both had Macpac jackets and pants. They are great and people from the northern hemisphere who have never heard of Macpac were very impressed. We also had lightweight Macpac down jackets. Here we made an error. It was a lot colder than we thought. Down is great but once it gets wet it is useless. The solution was to buy James and I some lightweight fleece jackets. They wick sweat away from your body and they worked great. If you are planning a Camino in early spring or autumn, check the forecast before you go and pack accordingly.
Mikael and Mads wore Nordisk and Loow gear and it looked to be excellent quality gear. I’m sure we’ll buy some in the not too distant future.
We both had Macpac woollen thermals. For clothes we had 2 lightweight long sleeve shirts, a t-shirt for Albergue use, shorts and 2 pairs of long pants. The spares were in case we got wet. All in all our packing was about right.
James wore a Midnight Oil cap and I had a Tilley hat.
We both had Macpac woollen boxer shorts which again worked well, though mine wore through. I would probably have the wool shorts for night wear and some synthetic boxers for walking.
I took a scarf but didn’t need it.
We didn’t have any elaborate hydration gear, simply 2 x 750ml plastic water bottles. Other people had bladders which they said worked really well other than you can’t see how much water is left. I like and have used bladders, their cleanliness over 5 weeks turned me off.
Checking the weather before we left meant sleeping bags were essential. We both had Macpac Escapade 150 down bags. They pack small and are light and but for one or two nights, we’re used the whole way. That said, if we were walking in summer, we would probably not carry these. We also had Sea to Summit silk liners that were barely used as we were given mattress and pillow covers at almost every albergue.
Okay, now for the big question – would we have done anything differently?
Even though it was cold, we could have easily had two pairs of lightweight long pants. We each had a second out of what I’ll call heavy long pants. I never wore mine. I think James wore his once. They are bulky and weigh 3 times as much as our Macpac Boulder pants.
James’s pack was really not made for long distance walking as the pack sat flush against his back meaning he sweated a lot. My pack had webbing that kept the pack well off my back. Next walk, James will need a different pack.
As I said above, we needed fleece from the start. There were a few days where we had to walk in wool thermal tops, down jackets and shell jackets because of the cold and the wind. Once we got a sweat up, the down jackets lost their thermal properties and made us cold. You can buy waterproof down gear, but it is crazy expensive, usually too bulky and lightweight fleece does a great job.
Other than that, I was impressed with all of our gear. I lost a few things along the way by accident and threw out my moleskin journal in favour of blogging direct to my phone.
James and Leo, our Aussie mates, cut pages from the Brierley guidebook as they went to reduce weight. I carried the whole thing the whole way, mostly to keep finding errors. I love maps and books, but if I was pushed, I’d leave the guidebook at home and use an app like Camino Ninja. It was a fantastic tool for planning and booking. You can always take photos of the guidebook maps and have them on your phone if needed.
I should say that I love the Brierley book. It is full of great tips (like Granon) and I love having something tactile to flick through and remember places.
So there it is, all the boring, technical sh*t for anyone interested and for me to read before I walk again so I don’t make the same mistakes. We adventurers (LOL) often say that there is as much joy in the planning as in the doing. Our Camino was many years in the planning and that is an enjoyable process, but there’s nothing like slinging your pack and walking out the front door knowing you won’t be returning for a while and not knowing what lies ahead. You never return as the same person who left and that is a great joy of the journey.