The Well-Equipped Pilgrim


[Team Wombat]

A well-equipped Australian family on the Camino Francés in Galicia. Go Team Wombat!

“Just pick one and get on with it.”

I have to admit that’s been my reaction recently when I’ve read about people obsessing over what kind of equipment to take on the Camino or any kind of hike.

But now … I don’t actually have a plane ticket yet, but I did make my first Vía de la Plata purchases earlier this week, when I bought some blister pads and a travel toothbrush at the pharmacy. And it hit me: I’m really going. In less than three months, I’ll be in Spain.

So I dug through boxes to find my old equipment, and considered it.

Some things I obviously needed. Others—like the clothes for seriously cold weather—I could just as clearly leave behind. And it was relatively easy to create a list of replacement items, for things that I lost or wore out more than two years ago on the Camino de Santiago.

And then there are the things I can’t quite decide about, beginning with Big Item #1: the sleeping bag.

I picture my inner dialogue on this subject as one of those angel/demon cartoon situations, with each on one of my shoulders, whispering into my ear.

Demon of Doubt: You have a perfectly good lightweight sleeping bag already.

Ultralite-ish Angel: But it’s rated to -10 Celsius, which is totally redundant. You could get a lighter, smaller 7 Celsius sleeping bag for $40.

Demon: Those heat ratings are designed for men, who tend to be warmer, while you are possibly the coldest person on the face of the planet. You sleep with five blankets at home, so you’ll freeze in the lighter sleeping bag. And the weight difference is well under a pound. Do you want to be a dead peregrina?

(I should interrupt here to point out that I’m Canadian, and thus allowed to talk about degrees centigrade and pounds at the same time. We’re weird that way.)

Angel: So you’re not worried about being alone and female on route without pilgrim throngs. You’re not particularly concerned about traffic, which has been known to kill pilgrims. But you really think that, wearing all your layers, in your lightweight sleeping bag, inside a building, you could die of cold?

Demon: You never know.

Angel: And every ounce matters. Who was it that added an extra ten minutes to her walk the other day and went up a substantial hill with her backpack—and felt like dying? And that wasn’t even a serious climbing-out-of-Conques sort of hill.

Demon: I’m not convinced shaving off a few ounces would have affected that.

Angel: And the -10 sleeping bag is just too big.

Demon: Right. So there’s a reason for using the backpack you already have.

And thus we segue into Big Item #2: the backpack. The problem being that my only functional backpack holds 75 litres, which is of course too big. But it’s so comfortable! And so affordable! And….

Well, you see what I mean.

I remind myself that gear choices aren’t absolute. Spain is not a barren shop-less wasteland. When I was walking to Santiago from Le Puy, I discarded some items and picked up others as I moved from summer heat to autumn chill.

But it doesn’t help—much. My angel and demon keep on arguing.

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Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 11:57 am
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8 Comments

8 Responses to The Well-Equipped Pilgrim

  1. I love the fact that I didn’t even notice that you used km and lbs in the same sentence – thus giving away my own Canadianism. And the argument you named ‘angel’ and ‘demon’ must say something profound about your own thoughts on the subject – basically, you really want some new gear!

  2. Agnes says:

    How about -2 degrees sleeping bag? It’s a voice of human being. 🙂

  3. Inge says:

    Some things you just can’t rationalize. Listen to what your hear tells you (and what you really want): get a light weight, small sleeping bag, the -2 option sounds good. Get a new backpack (you could get a really light pack and make up for any extra sleeping bag weight if you really need to rationalize it :-).
    Like you, I get cold easily and love having my cozy sleeping bag with me. I love the comfort. A good night’s sleep will make the next day’s walk easier. See, I can rationalize anything if I have to.

    Happy travels.

    • Anna-Marie says:

      Thanks for the rationalization! I just ordered the small sleeping bag, but am still thinking about the backpack—since it is really nice to have room for food and stuff without squishing it.

  4. Karen Dedrickson says:

    Hi Anna-Marie
    Thought I’d drop a line, I too will be walking the Via de la Plata this year. Leaving Seville probably the 27 March. I’ll be with a friend, she walked the Camino Francis 3 years ago. I don’t think I could do it alone the first time. Anyway maybe will see each other on the path. Love your blog, very very informative and fun to read.

    • Anna-Marie says:

      I’ll be a few weeks behind you. It’d be great to meet you, though, if somehow we end up in the same place at the same time.