My Life as a Traveler

The Pack on My Back

First, I’m trying a new type of format for the blog that will integrate the pictures better with the prose. Let me know if you find it easier to read. I’ll be posting more pics while we’re on the trail, of course, and I’ll be able to add more of a story to each picture now. This program, Blogsy, seems to be better than the WordPress app that I used for my last post.

Now, back to the Camino.

Our schedule allows 32 days to walk the 500 miles across the north of Spain from St. Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. That’s an average of about 16 miles per day. Fortunately, we do not have to carry our own shelter or campstove to prepare food. There are plenty of albergues or refugios, hostel-type accommodations for pilgrims (we are pilgrims!) church-sponsored, city-sponsored, or private where we can stay with nearby restaurants offering discount priced pilgrim meals. But we do have to carry everything else.

How do you fit everything you need for a 30 day trip into a backpack?

Well, first you get a good backpack. Mine is 40 liters (because packs are sized in liters – something I didn’t know before) and seems to be able to hold everything. Then you fill it. The general rule of thumb is that the weight of pack (pre-snack and drinking water weight) is 10% of your body weight. Guess that means I get 15 pounds. I’ve been spending the last week and a half packing and unpacking it, trying to decide what to bring and what to leave home. After some rather grueling sessions going over each item with my travel buddies, I have narrowed it down to about 15 pounds of stuff. Here’s a picture of everything laid out on the floor:

The big red thing is my backpack. You can’t just buy any type of backpack, you have to find one that fits you best and have someone who knows what they’re doing (love you, REI) adjust it so that when you wear it, the weight is distributed evenly when full.

For clothing, I have two short-sleeved poly quick drying shirts, one long sleeved quick-dry shirt, and long quick-dry pants where the legs zip off just at the knees to make capris. They’re just above the short sleeve shirts. On the right of the shirts I have rain pants that go over whatever I’m wearing and a rain jacket with a hood. The orange bundle is the pack rain cover. There is rain forecast in Spain at the end of May and we walk rain or shine. I also have a scarf and a fleece jacket for warmth.

To the left of the shirts are my non-walking clothes. There’s a black and white nylon lightweight sleeveless ruffly top for evenings and a black skirt and some leggings to wear or sleep in, although many people sleep in the clothes they’re going to wear the next day. Three pairs of underwear, two sports bras, three pairs of socks and silk liners round out the clothes.

I bought my shoes last summer and have been walking in them whenever I can. They say you should put at least 50 miles in them to break them in. At first I had some heel pain, but since I bought some inserts, it has disappeared.

Blisters are one of the most common ailments on the trail and by wearing two pairs of socks – a silk liner and some Smartwool socks – they can be avoided. Yes, wool even in the summer. These socks are padded in the right places and are super comfortable. I have a needle and thread, special antiseptic bandages, and regular bandaids in case there’s a problem.

Toiletries must be kept to a minimum. Here’s my list:

Paul Mitchell MITCH all in one shampoo and conditioner. It’s men’s but it works! (blue containers), comb, hairbands.

Toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, earplugs.

Sunscreen, face sunscreen, night cream, neosporin, spf 30 lip balm, razor, partial bar of Dr. Bronner’s soap for laundry and body, plus a sleep mask bright green duct tape, and a clear zippered organizer.

About 20 Advils, one Tylenol pm, Oral rehydration salts, Immodium, q tips, Compeed antiseptic and regular bandaids.

I’m not sure I’m going to take the yellow scrubby thing, sort of a washcloth.

The dark thing at the top is my sleeping bag. I wasn’t sure whether it would be better than a sleeping bag liner, but it only weighs a pound, so I’m sticking with it.

My non-trail shoes are the grey Tevas, and I’m bringing these flimsy flip-flops from my last pedicure for the shower. I have a backpack for going out after we find our accommodations, and the green bag holds a quick-dry towel. I have a spork, too.

The book is the best Camino guidebook out there, listing every place to see and stay on the trail.

Many pilgrims make the walk without any electronics. They say that it is a more “real” way to travel as a pilgrim. Well, to each his own, I guess, because part of my pilgrimage is to document and share this journey with anyone who is interested. Therefore, I bring my new iPad, a keyboard, and the chargers for it. The iPad is my computer, my reading material (Kindle on it), my communication with those at home (Skype), music or podcasts to listen to, Netflix if I want to watch, and it can be a camera, although it feels like I’m taking a picture with a billboard.

I did bring a more portable camera, though, with it’s case, charger, an extra battery, and an extra SD card. To get pics from the camera to the iPad, I also have a little gizmo which will transfer images from my SD card to the iPad.

To communicate with Morgan without waiting for an internet connection, I am bringing my old cell phone with my current SIM card. Of course, it has a charger as well.

I have two US to European plug converters and a cloth to clean the iPad. Last but not least, I have a headlamp to use as a flashlight, a lightweight silk wallet, and a lightweight extra shopping bag.

Phew! I think that’s it.

What I don’t have is a pair of shorts. I’m trying to determine if I need them or will the zip-off pants and skirt be enough? What do you all think?

More on our preparation tomorrow. If you have any questions or want to know anything specific, please post in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!



4 responses

  1. Oh yeah, and I forgot some cord for clothesline and some safety pins!

    May 14, 2012 at 12:01 am

  2. Lucy Amarillo

    Hello pilgrims
    I’m a friend of Susi ‘s and I have really enjoyed reading the whole blog! I’ve prayeed for u guys for the last few days adjust wished I’d of started before the broken leg occurred! I have loved the pics and the comments! I will continue to lift ur up in prayer. One of my friends here in Italy has walked ” the way” and sends many blessings to u as well! Buen Camino!

    June 1, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    • Hi Lucy!
      Glad to have you aboard and thanks for your continued prayers!

      June 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm

  3. Brad

    In preparation for my walk next year I bought a travel towel (jumbo size) that can also serve as a lightweight blanket as well as a braided rubber clothes line, both from the Rick Steves travel store. The deal about the rubber rope is that you place your clothes between the braids and do not need a clothes pin. That being said, I will still probably bring a couple to hang socks off my backpack. Also an Army poncho to serve as ground cloth and bivy if I have to hunker down in a storm, and to cover my mattress in a refugio if I am overly concerned about bed bugs, as it can serve as a barrier. Definitely a cell for emergencies, but no iPad. I have read blog posts from pilgrims who used internet cafes. Not as good as yours, but good enough to check in. To compensate I will also carry a couple of notebooks to write my reflections and adventures in, to post later. You did everything right to prepare, I think. I have exactly 120 days until retirement. I am dying to stretch my legs. Tortilla de patatas became my go to food for the midday. Since my return I have learned how to make it, and it makes me homesick for Spain every time. Hasta pronto! (see you soon). Brad

    June 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm

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