Here is the first part of my long overdue gear report. I will divide it into three parts
- clothes (herewith)
- gear and equipment (see here)
- technology (to follow in separate post)
I think I must be quite hard on my boots, although this surprises me because I don’t think I am particularly heavy on my feet. I have needed a new pair every year. In previous years I have worn textile uppers with vibram soles, and the same areas always get worn, namely on the outer soles, on the outside edge of heel and to a lesser extent in the mid-section of the fore foot. The uppers normally remain in fairly pristine condition both inside and out, except last year when I walked a particularly long camino (over 1,300 kms) and they were completely wrecked.
This year I thought I would invest in a pair of leather boots and purhcased a pair of mid-height Ecco Xpedition III. The model I bought no longer seem to be current on the Ecco site. They were expensive (list price around £160 I think, although I paid 120 euros on Amazon). They are light enough at 1.086 grams and I liked the leather uppers which kept my feet very dry on almost all occasions, but again the soles wore badly – I noticed wear after only 500 km on the camino, which I feel really isn’t good enough.
So I have to invest in replacement soles at around £80 or new boots – decision yet to be made.
(64 grams, included in the weight of my boots above)
I use replacement insoles to provide support. The available options are many and confusing and for the last two years I have opted for ‘Pro II Orthotic Insole “designed to support and help re-align an over pronating foot“, ie plantar fasciitis amongst other things. Actually, as far as I am aware, I don’t suffer from these problems, but I do find these insoles very supportive. I guess they may be the cause of the hard wear I put on the heels of my boots. I may go for a stride analysis some time soon and order some personalised insoles.
I’m still wearing my Berghaus ‘Arkleton Shell’ for the third year running. It doesn’t get much wear between caminos, so I hope it will last a few years yet. I love it. It looks smart and washes beautifully. It doesn’t have the long ‘pit zips’ that my North Face jacket has, but I discovered that if I pull up the sleeves to above my elbows, so that my bare forearms were exposed, this regulates my body temperature and I didn’t overheat with my jacket on. I employed this trick most of the time, it didn’t matter if my arms got wet, it was rather refreshing.
I made a slight modification to it a couple of years ago when I cut small holes in the pocket linings so that I could thread my backpack waist straps through the pockets and fasten them inside my jacket. The reasons for this will become clear in my next instalment when I talk about my pack cover.
**New this year**
I quickly made these the day before I left for my camino. I was expecting plenty of rain on the north coast of Spain, particularly in Galicia, but in the event I was very lucky. I did use the gaiters a few times and discovered they are great for walking in thick mud as they keep a fair amount of it away from your boots and trousers. I made them with velcro fastening up the back which wasn’t very practical as they were fiddly to fasten at the back of my leg. I will make another pair for my next camino with side fastenings. I applied patches of velcro to the top and back of my boots to keep them anchored. And I used a pair of (multi-purpose) elastic knee supports to hold them up). I also discovered that they provided a considerable amount of warmth, which would be useful if it was particularly cold. When not in use I stored them in a small waterproof stuff sack that came with some other item – this was useful so that they could be stashed when wet and muddy.
(Total 164 grams)
Both ‘infinity’ style and normal. The long tube infinity Buff gets worn a lot, both as a sun and wind barrier and also as an extra layer of warmth on my shoulders and chest. The normal hat style Buff is worn less often, only on really cold days, but for its weight it is definitely worth having along for the ride. The infinity buff is shown below worn with sleeveless T-shirt and arm warmers up and down. For me, the perfect combination.
Made with a peak from a baseball cap attached to a strip cut from my buff as a sweat band, this item has been indispensable on four caminos and all my mountain walking in between. The peak finally started to disintegrate during this year’s walk and I have now remade it by stealing another of David’s freebie (they are freely given away at local fiestas) caps, and I reapplied the original strip of buff. This item is so useful and acts primarily as a sweat band and shield from the sun, but also serves to keep my hair from my face, the rain from my eyes, and keeps the hood of my raincoat from covering my face when I turn my head. When it’s chilly I can cover the tips of my ears with the buff band for an instant lift in body temperature (my ears seem to act as thermostat). It is an all-round must have as far as I am concerned. Photo evidence above.
**New this year**
Cyclist’s arm warmers
As you may know, in past years I have used fleece sleeves tucked into my T-shirt sleeves to keep my arms warm in the mornings, and then as I warm up I can remove them without need to take off my pack or jacket. This system has always worked well for me, but I didn’t realise that someone had already invented such an item, generally used by cyclists. I purchased a pair this year, make DHB Regulate Warm Arm Warmers and they were a great success, worn most mornings for various amounts of time. They feel a little restrictive at first as they are quite tight, but soon become very comfortable and the silicone strip around the inside of the top of the sleeve holds them up very securely. When not being worn they roll up to the size of a small fist and are easily slipped into a side pocket or waist pack. Highly recommended.
**New this year**
Home-made hiking skirt
Made in the style of the popular make ‘purple rain’, with some lightweight showerproof fabric and a yoga style waistband. I only wore it a couple of times for hiking. It was lovely to feel a breeze in places that don’t benefit when wearing shorts, but I didn’t really feel comfortable in it, although it was actually very comfortable to wear. It swayed too much as I walked (rather like the movement of a well made kilt worn by a marching guardsman) and I was very conscious that I looked rather silly with a swingy skirt and heavy hiking boots. I actually made it because I thought I might want to wear runner’s tights for walking this year (I was expecting it to be a bit colder than it was) and I wanted a bit more coverage than they would provide and planned to wear the skirt on top. I did wear it a few times in the evening and I still think a hiking skirt is a good idea, but not one that has such a flare. I may try my hand at making another, but much narrower style. Watch this space.
Third camino for these Ex Officio (BugsAway Convertible Ziwa) zip-off hiking pants, mostly worn as shorts. Just the one pair, as last year. They are very light-weight and quick drying and don’t need washing too often. In my opinion they have perfect pocket placement, which is a vital requirement as far as I am concerned. Although priced at 100 dollars in the above link to the US Ex Officio site, I actually purchased them in a UK ‘Orvis’ outlet shop for something like £25. I am dreading the day when they wear out – hopefully not for a while yet. Obviously not modelled by me in this picture, but I am wearing them in most of the photos above.
**New this year**
Purchased from Marks & Spencer, probably not very technically advanced. In the event I didn’t wear them at all for hiking, but did wear them many times in the evening (under my skirt) when it was rather chilly and even in bed on a couple of cold nights. I would take them again.
Short sleeve merino which has been worn on all four caminos, although not so much on the last two, since I have taken to wearing a sleeveless merino T-shirt (148 grams). I very much like not to be restricted in the armpit area and much prefer something sleeveless on anything but the very coldest day. Merino wool is great at not getting too whiffy and although it is ideal to wash on a daily basis, they can actually go several days before becoming a health hazard.
Brand Triumph, style Triaction, purchased from a discount store as a twin-pack, one black, one white. Worn for the fourth year running, not pretty, but comfortable and one of the few sports bras that have a hook and eye back fastening. I can’t be doing with pull on bras – way too difficult to cope with in a mixed dorm situation (or at any time as far as I am concerned). I hope to keep it going for a few more years. Big tip – take only dark colours – white doesn’t stay white when you are only able to launder by hand. First year I took both black and white bras, but soon learned better. From year two onwards I took one black sports bra for walking use and one normal bra for evenings which was comfortable enough to wear during the day if necessary.
pants (knickers) x 2
(total 116 grams)
Merino wool – large and grey, not likely to disappear from the washing line! Brand – Montane, quite an investment – I have never spent so much on pretty underwear!
(Total 92 grams)
Smartwool merino low rise x 2. These had to be replaced for my latest camino but I bought the same make and style as previously. Low rise to minimise the silly sun-tan marks. They seem to last a couple of years of heavy use.
+ liner socks
(38 grams) A ‘just in case’ item, merino, which I wore in the evenings when necessary, but not for hiking.
An absolute necessity for me some mornings. It can be very cool before the sun comes up and my hands do not operate well when they are too cold (and if you are using hiking poles the hands are always exposed).
**New this year**
Ultra light ‘Uniclo’ down jacket. I love this item. So lightweight and packs very small into its own stuff sack. It got a lot of wear and will definitely go again.
Bag for valuables
Waterproof tote so I can take my valuables into the shower cubicle with me. Also useful for food shopping and for a laundry bag. Now resides as an emergency shopping tote in the bottom of my handbag. I bought it new this year, only because I was bored with my original bright turquoise bag that I have used for the last three years.
Light-weight cargo pants
They have served me very well over four years. May replace them next year.
Purchased from a charity shop, nice and bright and much admired by female pilgrims along the way. If I make a new hiking skirt for my next camino, I would probably not bring an additional skirt for leisure wear.
A cosy red merino cardy to keep me warm. Next year I think I will buy a ultra-light full zip fleece, which will be warmer and probably lighter, and certainly harder wearing and easier to wash.
Colour coordinated to match my evening clothes and doubled as pillow case if necessary.
(total 144 grams)
Vest tops/camisoles x 2 for evening and sleep wear.
Normal bra comfortable enough to wear for walking if necessary.
(Total 90 grams)
Three (yes, three!) pairs of normal lightweight pants for the evening. I don’t see the point in having less as they weigh so little. I put on a pair after my shower, wear them to bed and change into the woollen granny pants in the morning. So I will always have a clean pair for after my shower and a spare in case the worn pair has been washed and not dried.
Crocs, Huarache style. Well tried and tested and absolutely fit for purpose.