Wow, it does NOT seem like a year since I started planning to walk the Camino and started this blog to keep me focused and motivated. Looking back, I can see that I have learned a lot and made a lot of plan changes since then! Here are some of the significant ones.
Without question my biggest gear decision has been which backpack to bring. Between being gifted – and then having to sell – a pack that was too big, the numerous reviews that followed that decision, and several test hikes, I finally settled on the Osprey Atmos Ag 50 – only to discover that it would not fit in carry-on. Now I am oscillating between it and my Mountainsmith Zerk 40 (review forthcoming). Two totally different packs with completely different features. But at least I know it will be one of the two!
Close on the heels of the backpack decision was how to handle photography. Do I go minimalist and just use my phone? Do I go full quality and bring the DSLR? Do I split the difference with a good pocket camera? After using all three on various hikes and judging the relative quality:hassle ratios, I decided that since I am not trying to make a documentary or submit photos to a prestigious magazine, the DLSR (and attendant gadgets) wasn’t worth it. It would be like carrying a football with me everywhere I went (and I would have to take it everywhere I went for fear of loss). But I also was not willing to settle for my (cheap) phone pics. So as a compromise I am bringing the Olympus TG5. It’s compact, weatherproof, and takes decent shots without any heavy additional equipment.
Jackets vs. Jackets vs. Poncho. . . Rain Pants vs. Kilt . . . Waterproof Socksvs. Regular Socks . . . Waterproof shoes vs. Regular shoes . . . So many decisions! Final choices became a bit easier once I tried all these options out. I was surprised at how well the weatherproof Altra Lone Peaks did, and even more surprised at how nice the waterproof socks performed. So I decided to include both (I will bring the socks as a third pair for sleeping / bad weather days, and regular Darn Tough hiking socks for the other two). I am also going with a poncho. I like the breathability, optional backpack coverage, and the fact that I can take it on and off without having to drop my pack. I may also bring my Marmot rain pants in case it gets really bad.
My Camino rock was originally going to be the key to my old office at SES (the seminary where I worked for over a decade) inside a geode. Totally over-the-top, I know – but it was supposed to be the big symbolic catharsis thing. Then one fine day I realized it wouldn’t be. After years of bitterness over issues that arose (and continue to transpire) at my alma mater and longtime-workplace, I just stopped caring. There was no big, dramatic moment where I managed to convince myself that I was over it – I just was. And I continue to be. More importantly, though, this Camino was never about the school or those involved in its problems – and I didn’t want it to be. So, although the “key rock” was a cool idea, I’ll find some other way to relieve myself of it. So what am I bringing for a Camino rock? I don’t know yet – but it won’t involve SES!
I knew from previous experience that I did not want to deal with a bladder on my Camino. Although I love them for day hikes, I did not want to deal with cleaning / lack of mixing capability / filling difficulty / etc. So I went and got the OG of hiking bottles – a Nalgene (specifically, a huge blue one LOL). Wow – although they’re great for filling/mixing, talk about overkill! (So heavy!) Plus, unless you get an adapter, they’re a pain to drink from. So then I decided to use my backpacking go-to: a Smartwater bottle. However, although these are super light and have cool clips for backpacks, they run into many of the same filling/mixing issues that a bladder does. So I think I am going to split the difference with a Camelback Chute – it’s got the benefits of a wide mouth bottle but it is also spouted for drinking. It carries a liter and weighs the same (7 oz.) as my Nalgene and my collapsible bottle, but my base weight is still under 15 pounds, so I’ll trade weight for the convenience.
Conclusion (For Now)
So that’s where I’m at as of one year and one day after I began. Thanks for taking this trip with me, and of course . . .