But what do I bring?

Everything comes down to a titanium spork.

Deciding what to bring with you on your first grand adventure can, at times, be a daunting task. Always in the back of my head is the fact that I’ll be living out of a backpack for 45 days. That has required me to think small and light and to have a use for everything.

It quickly became apparent when I decided to do this trip that my backpack and my boots would be the two most important purchases I make. So began countless hours of internet research. As a journalist, I find a weird pleasure in research and dug into the Camino de Santiago Forums. Any question I had, some pilgrim has already answered. The trick is finding the answer through the hundreds of topics and thousands of replies.

Amazon has been another great resource. Customer reviews and my Prime membership have been a huge benefit in gathering the gear I’ll be needing. Almost everything I’ve ordered so far has been through Amazon, including my backpack. Yes, I plan on having an expert help fit it correctly but it just made sense to get the best price online. While I’m trying to go as light as possible, I’m also trying to save money wherever I can.

So my first purchase was my boots. In reading the forums I kept coming across the name Merrell. Five hundred miles can be pretty tough on a pair of shoes, and a bunch of pilgrims can’t be wrong, right? So I decided pretty early to go with Merrell. I found these Merrell Moab Ventilator mid-hiking boot and ordered them with the money I earned writing about hiking Hemlock Cliffs for this Indianapolis Monthly package. No better way to use freelance cash, in my opinion. I’ve gone on a few hikes with these boots, including through Ferdinand State Forest and around Patoka Lake.

I’ve been picking up the clothes I think I want to take with me piece by piece. I got these pants a while back, this rain jacket, and this really nice long-sleeve shirt — coincidentally all by Columbia — and have been pretty pleased with each so far. And I gotta tell you, Wigwam socks are as advertised. I’ve been trying to wear the pair out that I have, but they are holding up extremely well. I’ve already got a couple more pairs in the mail.

After I purchased my plane tickets over Thanksgiving weekend, my parents finally realized all my talk these last /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a93/78175462/files/2015/01/img_4355.jpgfew years was finally giving way to action. They decided to buy my pack for Christmas, which was definitely the best gift I got this year (rivaled only by a GI Joe Ernie Pyle doll). Again, on the forums I kept seeing pilgrims talk about Osprey packs. Through all this preparation I’ve been constantly bugging my college buddy Greg Scheaffer, who completed the Camino this past spring. He had a Gregory pack (loyal to the name, I suppose) but he said plenty of other pilgrims were rocking Osprey packs and seemed pleased with them. I was torn between the 50L or 65L pack until I interviewed a man who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail with the Osprey Atmos 50. I ordered it the next week and unwrapped it Christmas morning.

So now, in whatever free time I can find, I research the odds and ends of what I should fill my pack with. My Amazon wish list is full of trekking poles, quick-dry towels, med kits, more clothes, ear plugs, and travel-sized soaps and clothing lines.

And you can’t forget this awesome titanium spork. It may seem silly, but I need that thing.

Even though I’m leaving early May, I want to have my gear ready to go as soon possible. I’m still working full-time as a newspaper reporter and doing a little bit of writing on the side. I need to start training for this, going on more long-mileage hikes, as well. If I can get my gear in order and tested early, then that’s just one less thing I have to worry about later on.

Past and present pilgrims — what is one small item you definitely could not have done the Camino without? What is something you packed that you never even used?

Here’s hoping I can pull it all together.

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5 responses to “But what do I bring?

  1. I packed a jar’s worth of PB2 (powdered peanut butter–you reconstitute it with water), because peanut butter itself was too heavy. Reconstituting it was just enough of a pain that I never used it. I was VERY grateful for my eye mask.

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  2. Brought a spibelt that carried my cash & passport everywhere. Could even sleep with it on.

    Also surprisingly valuable:
    -small pot of Vaseline
    -6 lightweight clothespins
    -buff
    -largish silk handkerchief (tied at the corners, was my pillowcase each night)

    Almost never wore small lightweight jacket. Instead wore lightweight fleece everyday. Never used the clotheslines I brought. Rarely used headlamp (phone would’ve worked).

    Re: shoes. I wore trail runners instead of boots and was very happy. Dried MUCH quicker. Lighter weight. Not as hot.

    Had to buy an Altus poncho ($$$) in St. Jean bc my cheapy poncho wasn’t going to cut it. And, like a dummy, I had left my pack cover at home.

    Lastly, instead of a sleeping bag, I used a silk liner (ebay cheap) and thin Thai airlines blanket

    BUEN CAMINO!

    -Whitney
    July-August ’14

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  3. Jonathan, you are my kind of planner! I, too, enjoyed pouring over the comments in Camino forums and reading former/current pilgrims’ blogs, researching down to the last detail for my 2014 Camino Francés. I look forward to following your journey.

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  4. Jonathan, enjoy this part of the journey it won’t let you down.

    As far as my bit of input let me say that I too learned a lot from the Camino forums. Here are a few things that I learned there and on the trail. 1) Don’t take deodorant; it seems to be the first thing that people throw away once on the trail. 2) A Buff can server multiple purposes; for example I used mine as a pillow case over my fleece jacket which of course served double duty as my pillow. 3) I took safety pins and Mini Binder Clips. The clips worked the best and I would only take a dozen of those in the future. Small lightweight and good for not only drying cloths but attaching any items to the outside of the pack if necessary. 4) Tooth powder rather than tooth paste. I purchased Eco Dent tooth powder and only need to take a small amount in a small container. 5) Lush shampoo (and body) bar. This worked for showers and lasted nearly my entire trip. I would take an extra if I planned a longer trip or wanted to also use it for cloths washing. 6) Lightweight inexpensive stuff sacks to help organize things in your pack. Don’t forget an extra one for dirty cloths if you can’t wash them everyday. And finally 7) Mens lightweight technical underwear; (Patagonia Capilene in my case) you’ll be very glad you did.

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  5. I wish I were in your place and doing the Camino for the first time! Whatever you take, it will almost certainly be too much. And, whatever you wish you had brought can be purchased in Spain. So, pack light and your body will thank you. Best wishes!

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