They say that you avoid mistakes by gaining wisdom and you gain wisdom by making mistakes. I’ve got a running report of Muh Dumb Mistakes I’ve made during my Camino planning journey. So to be fair, here are some of the better moves I’ve made. (Hopefully I will be adding more to this list and not the other one!).
We don’t want to have to make all our own mistakes to gain wisdom, so it’s a good idea to let other’s fail first and learn form them! Several online resources and personal acquaintances have helped me think through things and raise questions I didn’t even know I should think about.
As I posted in Gram Geeking, I’ve gotten into weighing stuff. This led to one of my best moments: when I dropped over 2 pounds from my kit by getting rid of something I didn’t need for the Camino and gaining something I could use after it. I would not have noticed the weight difference without having the data in front of me.
Thinking of gear as a system and using that system while training has helped me discover a lot of potential pitfalls.
Waterproof tests have turned out to be very illuminating, and I have performed them on gear throughout my preparation. I have had several surprises (some good, some bad) and it was definitely better to get them at home rather than on the Camino!
Having an Amazon wish list is also great for both organization and making gear needs known. I know for me, it really makes holiday shopping easier when people just tell me what they want haha. Incredibly, I got my backpack as a very kind thank you for some consulting work I did when all I was expecting was a book! Also – keep in mind that you can add non-Amazon items to your Amazon wish list!
There is a delicate balance between waiting for good deals and getting gear when you need it. However, even my limited patience has sometimes paid off and I’ve saved quite a bit. For example, I basically got my Camino magic shoes for free by combining the $100 gift card I got from signing up for an REI Credit Card with their annual sale. I also found a good down jacket for only $110 – and then got it for half off of that after returning a $40 blanket it would replace. So I basically spent $17 to get a nice jacket instead of a blanket I probably wouldn’t have used after the Camino.
Speaking of returns, when something doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to be sure until you really use it. Although I try not to abuse return policies, they’re there for a reason. I’ve done some gear swapping through Bass Pro Shop, REI, Amazon, and even Wal Mart (almost always trading up and never after overusing gear). The trick has been to get gear that goes together at the same time so I can see how it works together before the return period ends. I blew it on my gaiters (which won’t work with the trail runners I discovered months after getting them for Christmas), but that was a rarity.