Camino Debrief – What about all of that Stuff I brought?

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Me at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral on 7/14/13

First of all, I would like to say that my Camino de Santiago trip this summer has definitely been the trip of a lifetime.  I plan to debrief you on the various aspects of my trip by breaking it up into a few posts.  What most people who are planning their own Camino want to know is how did it go with all that stuff I brought?  One of the hardest parts about preparing was deciding what to bring with me.  I think that is something that most new pilgrims struggle with.I will start by sharing my favorite items of clothing I brought.

Favorite Clothes

My Favorite Clothes on the Camino

  • The North Face Flashdry long sleeve shirt and long tights – I wore the Flashdry shirt most days as it wicks so good it keeps you warm or cool and it was a good way to protect my skin from the sun.  It dries so fast that hand washing was easy.  The tights worked when it got cold as another layer with pants or a dress and sometimes I wore them in the bigger towns to dress up a bit.
  • Royal Robbins Urban Garden dress – This was perfect to wear in the afternoon after a shower.  It was comfortable enough to sleep in and on hot days it kept me cool.  I also enjoy feeling feminine and a dress is a nice way to do that.
  • The Columbia Windbreaker Jacket was extra light and it seemed to protect me from the rain about as good as my friends heavier Gortex jackets.  It felt like my skin could breathe in it, which many rain jackets don’t do well.  The hood was comfortable and didn’t block my view.  Note in heavy rain, you will still get wet as there is no good way to avoid it 100%.
  • My purple Columbia hat protected me from the intense sun and allowed people to see me from a distance with it’s bold color.  I needed the string under the neck to keep it from blowing away on windy days and it washes easily.  It also folded up nicely to fit in my backpack pocket within easy reach.
  • Darn Tough women’s wool socks – I liked most of my socks, but quickly ditched the sock liners as they seemed to pull on my toes and I liked using 2Toms to prevent friction better.  Darn Tough women’s socks were my favorites with Smartwool socks a close second.

Please note:  I have no relationship with these companies.  I just bought what I liked and I am reporting out on what worked for me and what did not.

Here are my favorite items in gear and personal care.

Favorite gear

Favorite Gear

  • Eagle Creek makes a Specter Cube Set of ultra light bags that were most useful in organizing my stuff.  I ended up creating a bag for tops, one for bottoms, another for my shower items and one for my sleep stuff.  This made it easy to find my stuff and not loose my stuff.  They even have fun zippers and handles that allowed me to hang them in the shower or on the corner of the bed post.
  • A friend got me a Baggalini bag as I gift when I was visiting her and it was wonderful.  I basically always had it across my chest and carried my passport, credential, money, credit cards, iPhone, headset, pen, chapstick and camera lens in it so it was always secured and within reach.
  • The Bucky 40 Blinks Ultralight Sleep Mask is soft and convex so it does not touch your eyes but keeps the light out to help you sleep.  The sun didn’t go down until near 10:45 PM in June and July and we often had to be in bed by 10 PM, so this mask helped me sleep.  I also felt more private when I couldn’t see others, but that is probably just a figment of my own imagination.  The mask was bendable and light making it comfortable to sleep in.
  • Diaper pins I got on Amazon worked well for popping blisters and attaching clothes or socks securely to my pack to help them dry.
  • 2Toms is a glide for blister prevention that worked great and it’s vegan.  It’s available on Amazon.com
  • My tiny adapter plug was fine for Spain and France.  Others had these huge universal adapters which weighed far more.
  • I found “No Jet Lag” homeopathy pills at the AAA office and decided to try them.  I had the best time changing time zones both ways, so this might have been the trick.  I also told myself mentally to “change my time pattern and just get in sync with the new time zone” which probably didn’t hurt either.
  • I took Dove Clinical Protection Deodorant and am glad I did.  Temperatures were in the high 80’s and 90’s most of the last half of the Camino and I was sweaty both from the heat and the climbs, so knowing odor was not an issue made me feel better.  At home I use a natural deodorant, but I appreciated something stronger for this trip.
  • By far my iPhone was one of the most valuable items on the trip!  I used it as my camera, to  post to Facebook and allow others to follow along on my trip, to email folks watching my cat and house, to read books, to listen to music, and to look up Spanish translations just to name a few.  People back home were amazed by the great photos I took using HDR mode and minor edits on the phone itself.  I also purchased the Ollioclip lens that allows one to take fish eye, wide angle and macro shots all with 1 lens.  It is tiny and weighs almost nothing.  Please note, this lens won’t fit on the iPhone with a case.  I went without a case which worked fine for me.  I also recommend the Photojojo University that helps you learn all the features of Smartphone photography for only $10.  It’s so worth it!  Many will want to unplug on their Camino and may choose to leave their Smartphone at home.  It’s all about what is important for you.

A  bandana is one of the most used items I brought.  It held my hair back, can be used as a napkin, allowed me to wipe the sweat from my brow, was handy when I had a cold and also helped me stay cool on hot afternoons when I put it in water and tied it around my neck.  I brought 4, but lost 1 and gave one to a special man I met on the Camino.

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My “Must Have” Item

I let go of these items during the trip.

Items I got rid of on Camino

Items I got rid of on my Camino

  • Blue shirt was too thick to dry fast.  Quick dry really is a must as clothes dryers are not available in the majority of albergues and weather or arrival time can make line drying tough.
  • I had 2 types of friction prevention block and I liked the 2Toms best so I gave away the Bandaid brand Glide.
  • Hair conditioner only came in large containers in Spain, so I poured some of it down the sink to reduce weight.  I originally thought I could get away without conditioner, but my hair quickly turned to straw and I then bought shampoo and conditioner to fix that.  Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap was great for my hand washing and body washing, but too dry for my particular type of hair.
  • I donated the book I finished reading to other pilgrims.
  • I kept some of the simple make-up I brought for when we were in a bigger city, but got rid of the mascara as I got by with eyeliner instead.  Most folks don’t use any make-up on the Camino.  It is not necessary, but I did enjoy dressing up a bit in the larger cities myself.
  • I ate some of the food I had been carrying for a day or so.

These are items I did not use.

Items I didn't use

Items I didn’t use on my Camino

  • I preferred using a 500 ml Kleen Kanteen over the Platypous water bladder.  It just was easier to fill and not overfill and then I could have it by my bed at night if I was thirsty.
  • Because I met other people on the Camino, I didn’t need my Gorilla iPhone tripod for photos or video.  I am sure it will come in handy at some other time however.
  • The whistle was not used, but better to have it and not need it.
  • I usually wear contact lenses, but on this trip I ended up wearing my prescription glasses that have photo-chromatic lenses.  So the non-prescription sunglasses I brought were never were worn.  The only downfall to wearing my prescription glasses is they have progressive bifocals in them and it made walking downhill a bit hard to see clearly.

I only used the following items a couple of times.

Items I used rarely on my Camino

Items I used rarely on my Camino

  • Napkin – could have used my handkerchief instead.
  • Flashlight – used my iPhone for in the albergues, but I was glad I had this when we needed to start walking early and it was dark.  As you get closer to Santiago, the crowds were there doing the last 100 kilometers and people began to leave earlier and earlier to ensure they had a bed.  Most will prefer a headlamp over a handheld flashlight.
  • Earplugs – Used about 3 nights out of the whole Camino when snoring was real bad, otherwise I prefer not to sleep with my ears stuffed.  I didn’t realize you can wear them multiple times, so I brought too many.  About 4 sets would cover you well.
  • Tiny clothesline – Used once only as most albergues have lines up or places to hang things from the bunks.
  • Spork – Used it a few times, but light enough and came in handy enough I would keep it on the list.

I learned so much about how simple life can be and how little we really need in our daily lives.  Don’t get me wrong, I like my hair products and flatiron and fun outfits, but what a treat to have to simplify and let that go.

That being said, I am a work in progress.  If I had the trip to do over again, I now know how to hone my list even more.  I had only weighed my items one by one on a food scale, and estimated my backpack to weigh 15-18 pounds.  But, when I got home I had to know how much my backpack actually weighed.  Mind you at this point it was at it’s lightest with no water, no food and items I had released along the way now gone.  The only items I had added to the pack were 2 very light souvenir shirts.  I found out my pack weighed 22.5 pounds at it’s lightest, but with my boots.  So it likely was 25-28 pounds during most of my trip.  Good news is I didn’t get injured and I built up my strength, but next time I would go lighter for sure!

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At the 100 Km marker for Santiago

I hope this is helpful.  Please know you will get all kinds of advice on what to take and what you can leave behind.  You will need to decide what makes the most sense to you.  Know that Spain is not a third world country and most items can be purchased there.  Also know you can “donate” items you don’t want as you go.  Most albergues have a donation table or area where other pilgrims leave items they don’t need or select items that they do need.  Roncesvalles is a place where pilgrims get rid of a lot after their first day or two in the Pyrenees with all that uphill walking.  This is a great way to help others while letting go of what you no longer need.

Someone on the Camino said “If you pack your fears, your pack is too heavy” meaning don’t aim for perfection…just aim for what makes sense to you and work it out as you walk.  That is what the Camino is all about!

Buen Camino

10 Comments

  1. Anne Martin says:

    Thank you so much for the post trip analysis, complete with photos! Great tips as I prepare. You didn’t mention your tongue scraper & coconut oil, two items I wondered about in your Pretrip blog.

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    • I was glad I brought the tongue scraper as I use it daily and when you see what it cleans off, you know it is good to do. Also LOVED the coconut oil and ran out of it about 10 days before finishing. I used the coconut oil on my lips, feet, skin and it is wonderful. Here again a habit from home that made sense to take with me.

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  2. David says:

    This is great information Kathy…..

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    • Barb says:

      Kathy,
      What was the best….worse experiences?? Would you do it again? Different time of the year? What if you saw someting ( in town) you wanted to buy?? Was it hard to walk away from those treasures?

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      • Barb, I am writing a few more blogs that will cover much more…so will save best and worst for you to pull out of future blogs. I would love to do a walk like this again. There are several Caminos in Spain and other parts of Europe. What I loved about this was the clearly marked paths, the frequent albergues to stay in, the very low cost for food and a bed and the beauty of the areas visited. I averaged spending about 30 euros a day for meals and bed, so that is hard to beat and I wasn’t even focusing on being frugal. I am not much of a shopper. Having to carry all items you have for the 500 miles had me not wanting to buy anything unnecessary. You could ship stuff home or forward if you like to shop. My treasures are my photos. I did a daily update onto FB to share my photos during my Camino. I am now taking the photos to make a video put to music as a nice way to carry those memories forward and share them with others. I liked the time of year I picked. Only had 3 days of rain in the 40 days on the Camino. It was hotter than usual, but I tolerate heat better than cold.

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  3. spabettie says:

    so interesting to see what was necessary and what was not so much! It is really a great experience to simplify and live with a backpack for a while.

    Looking forward to more, and seeing the video!

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  4. Robin Pigott says:

    Great post analysis on the ‘stuff’, Kathy. I am sure others would appreciate your insights on this issue and that includes me! I am making notes for those ‘light’ shirts for we are planning to leave for our 3rd Camino after the Easter 2014 (instead of during the dead of winter!). I didn’t bring any make-up items but I know I must have the hair conditioner. If I don’t, I will look like a walking hair-ball! Not kidding! Did you not bring any ‘after-walking’ shoes? How did it work out?

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    • Wow, how exciting to be looking forward to your 3rd Camino. Nice to do Easter versus Winter as you said too. I brought my Birkenstocks which are well worn in as my after walking shoes. I was grateful I brought them as I actually hiked in my Birkenstocks probably 7 out of the 36 days I walked, due to blisters. I’ll have to find out more about your Camino plans next time I see you.

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  5. Great retrospective on gear. I really enjoyed it.

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