Tag Archives: Equipment

A Matter of Weight


Pilgrim with pack in Santiago de Compostela.

When I first filled my backpack with books and hauled it around the neighbourhood, I figured it weighed at least 15 pounds, if not 20. I didn’t actually know, because I didn’t think I had any way of measuring.

I can be a little slow, but I eventually remembered I could calculate the weight of my pack by weighing myself with and without the pack, and doing a bit of subtraction.

It turned out the pack with the books weighed a mere nine pounds.

I didn’t believe it. Something must be off.

I tried again. The weight did go up this time—but only by 0.2 pounds.

A few weeks later, when I finally filled my pack with all my gear (and a few substitutes for things I didn’t have yet), it weighed 15.4 pounds, without water.

But here’s the weird part: it actually felt lighter than the 9.2 pounds of books.

I have developed several hypotheses to account for this odd phenomenon.

1. My scale is broken.

Of course, it would have to be broken in a strange sort of way, where it shows heavier things as lighter, and lighter as heavier.

On balance, this seems highly improbable.

2. A pound of books weighs more than a pound of anything else.

I figure it’s the densely-packed knowledge that does it.

Except, of course, that a pound is a measure of weight, so a pound of one thing can’t possibly weigh more than a pound of something else—as long as you’re using the same kind of pound, anyway. As it turns out, a pound of metal weighs less than a pound of most other things, but that’s only because metal is measured using a different kind of pound.

But as my scale wasn’t designed to weigh metals, I’m pretty sure it only deals in the one kind of pound, and the hypothesis is a dud.

3. Weight is relative.

As every pilgrim knows, a backpack that was feather-light in the mornings can feel like someone filled it with 100 pounds of lead (a mere 82.29 regular pounds’ worth, since lead is a metal) by the end of the day.

Or, as in the case of my books, the exact same amount of weight can feel heavier or lighter depending on how it’s distributed. I did make an effort, by stuffing a blanket in my pack, to keep the books closer to my back, but it would seem it’s still better to have items of varying weights than a bunch of heavy objects.

Absolute weight—the kind you measure on a scale—can’t be relative. That would be a contradiction in terms.

But when you’re carrying the weight on your back, the absolute is somewhat less important. Weight, like time, depends on how it’s experienced.

Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 3:59 pm
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1 Comment

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.

Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 11:57 am
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