Planning what to take on the Camino has been a real challenge, but at the same time, a great experience. After reading several accounts about how people brought way to much stuff on their Camino that led to pain and suffering, Caminos cut short and expensive packages of unnecessary items being shipped home, I took very seriously a book titled, Camino de Santiago: To Walk Far, Carry Less. Luckily I read it early in my Camino planning, so everything I considered to take with me, from my pack, to clothes, toiletries and tech gear was scrutinized for size and weight.
There are literally hundreds of packing lists you can use to guide what to take. It sounds boring, but there was a while there a few months back that I combed over these lists searching for any little tips I could glean from them. For me, it all comes down to:
Don’t carry your fears on your back.
This is actually perfect for me because one goal of the Camino for me is to learn to deal better with uncertainty. So, as I was assembling my packing list, anytime I justified an item (regardless of how light it might be) with, “But, what if…” I knew it was a likely candidate for the “Bucket of Shame” as I fondly called the bin where everything I wanted to take but couldn’t justify went.
Ideally I wanted my pack to weigh no more than 14 pounds without water (two 20oz bottle of water add another 3 1/4 pounds to that!). I started with a very light pack, an Osprey, Sirrus 36-liter, but still, it weighed in at 3.2 pounds empty! That gave me just a little over 10 pounds for everything else.
Following the advice in the “…Carry Less” book, I used my kitchen scale to weight absolutely everything, in grams. I put it into a spreadsheet and started playing around with it. About six weeks before heading out to Spain, I set everything on my sewing table in my project room. When friends were here visiting, they got to take a shot at reducing my load, but tossing things they didn’t think I needed into the Bucket of Shame. Only a few times did I dig the item out after they had gone.
Out went the nice lightweight puffy jacket I got especially for the trip, along with the Chaco’s sandals (also a special purchase for the Camino) I thought would be perfect to wear after a long day walking in my Oboz Sawtooth Hiking shoes. Instead, I ended up packing a very lightweight down vest (no sleeves means big weight savings!) and my very unattractive shower shoes will have to double as evening footwear.
After an unsuccessful “dry-run” with my poncho, I was convinced that the alternative rain jacket/rain pants combo would be the best way to go until I put them on the scale and discovered it weighed more than twice what the poncho weighed.
I am not skimping on my first-aid kit, but instead of packing everything I could possibly need for the whole trip, I am carrying just enough to get me to the next town where I can refill my supplies as needed. There will be “no hair and make-up” on the Camino so that represents a tremendous weight savings! Although, I did find a tinted lip balm that I will use instead of chapstick that I am convinced gives me a beautiful glow (please, agree when you see pictures of me ;-).
I am taking three sets of clothes, which is technically one too many, but a friend advised that at the end of the day, after taking a shower, I will really enjoy getting into non-hiking clothing, which I am dubbing “evening wear.” Three pairs of underpants it also excessive, but I have my limits!
One very controversial item, that many people suggested I not take is my sarong. On friend even tried to suggest that I could use my silk sleeping bag liner in the same way I would use the sarong…and she had a point. But, several female pilgrims had this as a must take on their lists, suggesting a sarong (not a sleeping bag liner!) can be used in dozens of ways from a wrap when getting out of the shower (my lightweight, quick-dry towel is just 12″ x 24″ and barely wraps around my thigh, let alone my body!), to a picnic table cloth, or a curtain when assigned a lower bunk bed, or a skirt to dress up when visiting a church and a scarf or wrap in the evening. No way! I am not giving up my Sarong! In fact, I have decided I will challenge myself to see how many ways I can use the sarong and will post those pictures to my Instagram feed.
Many years ago, long before Survivor, there was a real TV show (not a “reality show”) following people in a grueling race called the Eco Challenge. I remembered that the participants cut the labels out of their clothing to gain advantage over their competitors. So, I cut all of the labels out of my clothes and was surprised to see it amounted to a savings of 7 grams. Cutting the annoying fringe off of my sarong, reduced my pack weight by another 5 grams. A little here, a little there; it all adds up! Those 12 grams equate to almost a half an ounce.
The Final Cut
With just three days before I leave, I am still making last minute adjustments to my packing list. My bag sits at just over 16 pounds without water. The heat in northern Spain has been very high for this time of year (mid-80’s!) so maybe I don’t need that vest after all? Will my sleeping bag be too hot? But, here is my list as it stands today. I will definitely follow-up with a post Camino debriefing on what I brought that I didn’t use and what I wish I had brought but didn’t.