Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Size Matters

Size does matter when you are making decisions on what to carry with you on the camino and what to put it in. My wife typically likes to lounge around in oversized t-shirts and baggy clothes. We all tend to do that - comfy is more important when relaxing at home. On the Camino de Santiago de Compostela - that is a whole new issue. For the camino we have to live diferently than we normally do - not only in size of garments and bulkiness - but also in our daily living. On the camino we will leave behind many of the daily comforts that we have grown to rely on - to make our lives simpler - less cumbersome to cope with. With that in mind we have had to look at our wardrobe and replace certain items - actually most of them. For a journey of this nature we have been forced to select very lightweight fabrics - trimmer cut - which are quick drying and wick perspiration away from the body. In the outdoors world this is known as technical clothing. With a fancy name like that also comes bigger than normal prices. We do have to admit - that after trying technical undies for starters - they are worth the money invested in them.

Normally - when we go away on a ten or fourteen day trip to Europe - we would pack ten or fourteen pairs of undies and socks. Now that we have been testing the quick drying lightweight fabrics - we have learned that we no longer need to pack as much - making for lighter weight baggage and more room for trinkets when we return home :) We have an European trip planned before we walk the camino - so we will put our new clothes through an actual test on the road. It will be interesting to see how we adapt to that. Wearing convertible slacks that convert to shorts with a zipper is another way to make one item multi-task and avoid extra garments.

In my previous post in which I showed a list of what we plan to carry - I mentioned that we will keep all of our extra clothes in a waterproof stuff sack - which we will use as a pillow - thus avoiding the need to carry a pillow with us. 

We selected the Sea to Summit 8 liter sack which amazingly holds every single piece of extra clothing that we need - undies - socks - shirts - pants. This is important because most likely we will encounter rain at some point on our walk and although we have a rain cover for our backpack - there is always the chance of getting the items inside the backpack wet. We want to avoid having to wear wet clothes at all costs - so the sack is a very good investment.

We also had to consider a sleeping bag versus a sleep sack - after trying both we determined that a 55F travel sack - sleeping bag was all  that we would need. We debated if we should buy the poly-fill one or the down filled one - but they both were the identical weight and size - so we selected the synthetic one since we possibly may never use it again and it was one-third the price.

I started this post by saying that size does matter - after doing the research and buying and testing and returning different items we ended up with our proposed list. The next small item we needed was a backpack to carry all of this plus our hydration bladder. We tried on different brands - the folks at REI had us walk around the store for half an hour with backpacks loaded with weight so we could see how they felt. After all that - we still were not sure which to buy - so we returned to online research armed with the information the REI folks gave us and we selected two bags - which we bought online from REI - since they had earned our business by their helpfulness. The bags arrived - we loaded them up - walked around the house with them and immediately knew we had purchased the wrong ones. Back to REI with our selections - they cheerfully took them back and made other suggestions. More online shopping since they didn't have the ones we wanted in stock - no problem. Within a few days the new ones arrived. Again we loaded them up - walked around and this time were pleased.

Deuter ACT Trail 32L 
Deuter ACT Trail SL 28L

There is a lot of discussion on the Camino forum about what size backpack. Some feel bigger is better - you don't squeeze everything so much - so they like 40 liter and bigger. Then there are those who go very small. We chose a 32 liter for myself - my clothes are bigger than Arlene's and she chose a 28 liter. When we added the hydration bladder - the sleeping bag - the stuff sack with clothes - the sack with rain gear and the remainder - we both have room to spare. We are not using all the space or the pockets - so we should be fine. Once packed - the backpacks may be cinched down to make them as compact and stable as possible. We are paying close attention to how we pack these - as keeping the weight evenly distributed will make a difference on how comfortable they are to carry for six hours a day or more. We are also trying to keep them as compact as possible to avoid them shifting around when we move and bend - to help increase our stability and avoid issues with our backs - hips - knees and ankles. Walking with trekking poles will help us achive our stability goals. The last time I weighed our bags - both came in around 12 pounds or 5.5 kilos. Everyone on the forum stresses that we want to stay at 7 kilos or less - so right now we are doing good. Hopefully it stays close to these weights by the time we actually leave. 

By keeping the bulk down - choosing lightweight technical items that are highly compressible - not worrying about wrinkles :) we should be in good shape.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene