Homer's Travels: Camino 2013: A Few Packing List Lessons

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Camino 2013: A Few Packing List Lessons

Well, I'm almost packed for my upcoming Camino.  Only 37 days before I actually leave.  You can never pack too early.  As I've accumulated the items I will be traveling with, I have managed to shed nearly 6.5 lbs (2.95 kg) - this is a guesstimate since by some lapse I never weighed my final Camino 2011 pack before I left.  I like to think that I learned a lot on my last Camino.  Here are a few of those lessons:
  • I am replacing my Golite Litespeed pack with a Golite Jam 35L.  The Jam is a bit smaller and lighter than my old one.  The slightly smaller size may make it a bit more challenging to pack but I have managed to get everything jammed in.  Most importantly, the bag is small enough I should have no problem carrying it on the airplane - no lost luggage this time.
  • I am switching from long sleeve "fishing" shirts (similar to this Cabelas shirt) to Icebreaker T-Shirts.  The T-shirts are lighter and pack smaller than the long sleeve shirts I took last time.  Those who know me know I practically live in t-shirts so I figure I should feel more comfortable.  Icebreaker T-shirts are made of merino wool which wicks moisture and is antibacterial.  I have heard about people wearing them for over a week straight while hiking and the t-shirts never smell.  This will reduce my need to launder shirts so often.  They also dry very fast which is always a good thing.  I wore Icebreakers during my China/Nepal/Bhutan/India trip and I really liked them.  I am taking a merino wool long sleeve half-zip on those days when it starts out chilly and for the evenings.
  • I am changing my electronic gear this Camino.  Last time I took a camera, camera bag, GPS, and enough lithium batteries to power both units the entire seven weeks.  The result was a total weight of around 3 lbs (1.4 kg).  This time I'm carrying a smaller camera that is waterproof and shockproof (no camera bag needed).  The camera also has a gps built in.  The camera uses rechargeable batteries so I will be carrying two extra batteries and a charger.  I am also carrying a small plug adapter and a 6" extension cord - the charger may cover more than one outlet and the adapter and cord will allow me to use the charger without blocking outlets.  Outlets in albergues can be a precious commodity in this day and age.  Total weight for all of this is around 1 lb (469 g) or almost 2 lbs lighter.  The one small downside is that the gps tracker in the camera is not the best.  It will be interesting to see if I can post walking maps like I did last time.
  • I am changing my shoes (some people reading this are chortling right now - family joke).  I am going from a high top walking boot to a low top hiking shoe.  Specifically a New Balance 956.  I am hoping the low top will reduce the chances of getting ankle tendonitis like I did last time.  I am using custom made insoles in the shoes.  The insoles help correct my overpronation and hopefully will reduce the stress on my ankles and knees.   I will be bringing a couple different pads in case I have issues with ball-of-the-foot issues.  I have a couple different types, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
  • I am taking a pair of beach sandals (Teva Barracuda) instead of the flip flops I took last time.  These will serve as both shower shoes and after-walking shoes.  The advantage of sandals is that you can wear socks with them - not the most fashion forward but at least my feet won't be cold.  My flip flops, while lighter, were a major source of inconvenience on my first Camino.  I can fit the sandals in my smaller pack but I will probably hang the sandals on the outside of the pack to free up some room.
  • Another foot related item will be toe bandages.  Toe bandages are padded tubes that slip over the toes to protect from blisters.  I have two types - foam and gel.  I have found that the foam pads are good for some things (protecting my soft corn for example) while the gel tubes are better for others (blisters on the toes).  There really isn't any universal fix for blisters but I think I am narrowing down my options to things that work for me.  Your mileage may vary.
  • Some changes are small like taking a larger towel.  I know this sounds minor but towels can serve more than one purpose.  Besides drying yourself off after a shower, a towel can be used to dry laundry.  Merino wool t-shirts can't be put in the dryer.  To speed the drying you lay the shirt out on the towel, roll the towel, and then press, wring, and stomp on the rolled towel.  This will suck the water out of the shirt and allow it to dry faster.
  • I am packing a set of base layer bottoms to sleep in.  Last Camino I nearly froze a couple times before I realized that many albergues had blankets if you just asked.  This time I will be prepared.  Why not just ask for the blankets?  Bed bugs.  Early in the year there is not much of a bed bug problem ... at least there wasn't much of one when I was there last time in May-June.  Later in the year, like the Sept-Oct time frame when I will be returning, is totally different.  By then over a hundred thousand pilgrims will have moved through the albergues.  The chances of bed bugs will go up and I doubt those blankets get washed very often.  The base layer should preclude having to use a blanket.
  • Speaking of bed bugs, this time around I will be treating my sleeping bag liner and the inside and outside of my backpack with permethrin.  The insecticide is long lasting and is often used to treat the clothes and sleeping bags for hiking and camping.  I think that one application should last the entire camino.
  • I carried liquid camp soap last time.  This time I may carry a solid laundry bar soap instead.  No need to carry the extra water in the liquid camp soap.
  • I carried a headlamp last time.  This time I'll replace that with a small battery LED flashlight with an extra battery.  I only used my headlamp twice and I kind of used it like a flashlight.  The flashlight is about half the weight of the headlamp.
  • I'll be taking trekking poles this time to help relieve some of the stress on my legs and to give my upper body something to do.  I will be taking a pair of ice breaker glove liners on those cold mornings.
  • I'll be replacing my versatile, but heavy, leatherman skeletool with a smaller one.  The only tool I used was the knife.  My smaller version has a knife but, instead of pliers, has scissors.  The scissors will come in handy cutting medical tape and gauze as well as trimming my moustache.  It also weighs less than a third of the one I took last time.
After I made this list I realized that I'm changing my packing list quite a bit.  While a few things will not change, most of my new stuff is lighter, smaller, and often has more than one function.  My new pack is smaller than my last and will be a tighter fit.  A lot of the changes - shoes, insoles, toe bandages, trekking poles - are all aimed at reducing the leg and foot issues I had last time.  I really hope the changes I'm making will help.

Things will continue to change, of course, as I refine and rethink everything ... multiple times ... but I think I've got a pretty good handle on what I'll be carrying.

Those 37 days can not fly by fast enough!


  1. This is so exciting!! You've really thought it through. I am crossing my fingers that you won't have any pain-related issues this time. And hopefully no bedbugs either. Ew. But you're smart to plan for all this stuff!

    1. Miss McC: Thank you for the crossed fingers. Hard to believe it's less than three weeks away.