Saturday, October 26, 2013

Gear Reviews

When we began preparing to walk the Camino we went though a lot of trials and testing before we made our final decision on what gear to use. Now that we are back home - we can give a better review of what gear we decided to use.
     
                             Dale's Deuter ACT Trail 32L                                Arlene's Deuter ACT Trail SL 28L

The Deuter ACT backpacks were awesome - plenty of room for all our gear - very comfortable to wear - we both loved the hip belt which was wider than some we had tried. The hip belt is very important in displacing the weight from your shoulder to your hips.  The ladies is designed especially for women as their hips are different than men's - Arlene felt very comfortable since she is on the short side at 5'1" - both of us got to the point that we barely noticed we were walking with a back pack on. We saw many peregrinos with huge packs - we don't know what they were carrying - or hiding - but we were happy with our 32L and 28L packs.

PaceMaker Expedition Trekking Poles w/Cork Handles

The PaceMaker trekking poles we selected were excellent. They were not the lightest weight ones on the market - but we felt it was not worth spending an additional $200 to get ultralight carbon poles. Ours were made out of superior 7075 aircraft grade aluminum shafts with tungsten tips and weight of 10.5 ounces each.  The ultralight poles we compared these to came in at 8.5 ounces - not worth the money to save 2 ounces. The cork handles were much more comfortable than the rubber ones we had also tested and after 5 weeks look as good as new.

Vulcanized Multi-tip - Reminds Me of the Octopus We Ate

They also came with mud and snow baskets and two sets of vulcanized rubber tips. We used the multi-tip ones and after 400+ miles (650+ kilometers) still have 80% of their rubber.  Many peregrinos wore out their tips in a week or two - ours are like the Energizer Bunny - still going strong.

Our Shoes After Walking 400+ Miles

The Patagonia A/C Drifter - Gore-Tex shoes proved to be excellent choices. They were much lighter than the ankle height boots we started with - had excellent traction - very comfortable. Arlene had zero blisters - I - on the other hand did have an issue with blisters. In retrospect - hind sight is always so much better and makes you look smart - erred and switched both my shoes and socks - not the best thing to do - one week before leaving. I should have either worn a  thicker sock - done the double sock routine - or perhaps bought the shoes a half size smaller - the toe box which gave me the extra room I was seeking - was actually too big - that allowed my feet to slip inside and create the scenario for blisters to develop.
  
After 400+ Miles Lots of Thread Left
Darn Tough - Darn Comfortable

At the beginning of our trek I was wearing one pair of Darn Tough socks - then switched to wearing two pairs - and ended up for the last week with one pair at a time. The good news is that I did solve the blister issue after the first 10 days and remained blister free for the remainder of the walk. Socks are still in great shape. Arlene wore only one pair with no liner socks and did just fine - no blisters. 

REI 55F Travel Sack

Instead of a sleeping bag - we chose a 55F travel/sleep sack which was more than enough. Most of the albergues we stayed in had wool blankets - yes they were clean and free of bed bugs - many nights we used the sacks like sheets with the blanket on top - some nights the sleep sack was enough.  Although not cold - there were multiple nights - particularly at the end of September when we slept inside the sack for extra warmth. The big plus with this sack was it packed down very small and easily fit lengthwise in the bottom of our back pack.  If we had walked in warmer weather - June/July - we probably would not have needed this - definitely necessary in cooler months. 
                         Sierra Designs Rain Pant w/zippered legs          Patagonia Torrent Shell w/Hood & Pit-zips

After hauling the Sierra Designs rain pants and Patagonia Torrent Shell for the entire trip we began wondering why we had packed these two items - they took up space and added weight to our packs  On our last day of walking - it finally rained - we were not 100% happy with rain - but we were happy that we did have the rain gear. Both worked out very well. The torrent jacket had pit-zips to help keep us cool inside the jacket and the attached hood with the extended head bill kept the rain completely out of our faces. The pants were easy to put on over our shoes thanks to the zippered legs and were long enough to cover the tops of our shoes to keep water out. Unlike other rain pants we had tested - these were trim fitting - giving us less bulk to cope with. The questions now is would we carry a jacket and pants again or use a poncho.  The only down side that we saw with our jacket and pants was that - although our packs had self contained rain covers - the water running down the back of our jackets allowed the straps and front side of our packs to get wet.  A properly fitted poncho would not only cover us but the entire pack - straps and all - completely - but would we save on space and weight - probably not. 

Platypus 1.8L Bladder & Tube

One of the best choices we made was to use an internal hydration system rather than to carry bottles of water. We had read on various forums how dificult it was to fill and clean these systems - we had no issues.  We selected the Platypus Big Zip 1.8L system. Early on Arlene noticed a dark spot on her sip tube - a quick cleaning with a very long brush got to the problem and it never returned. Some people felt it was a hassle removing the bladder every day to fill and reconnect the tubing - we left the entire system intact - and using the wide mouth on the bladder - simply unzipped the opening while still in the backpack and poured fresh water out of a large bottle into each bladder and zipped back to close. Never had to remove the bladder during the entire thirty days we walked. Since we were drinking it almost empty each day we merely refilled with fresh water and never worried about washing and cleaning - no issues - no hassle. 
Camino Cross

The remainder of our gear - clothing - toiletries - first aid - camp towel - all worked out well. We have determined that instead of three extra shirts we would only carry two - the undies would stay the same - instead of four pairs of socks we would use three. We would leave the spork at home - we never used it - the extra tips for our poles - we would not carry now that we know they hold up so well - the clothesline - although used twice - we would not bring again.  We also learned that your clothes will not dry quickly unless you stop early in the day and hang them out in direct sun with a breeze.  Most nights we ended up tucking an edge of our clothes under the slats of the bunk bed above us - so  they would dry overnight.  Wool socks do not dry quickly - so we used safety pins to attach  them to our pack and let air dry while walking - eight hours in the breeze allows them to dry completely. We never had to pin undies to our packs as they are the only items that were always dry by the next morning or before. The technical shirts - shorts were not only light weight but very comfortable to wear and fairly quick drying. Instead of bringing a pair of shorts to sleep in we would either sleep in our undies or the shorts we would wear the next day. Everyhing was orgainzed into stuff sacks - color coded so we knew what was in each sack - green: rain gear - red: puffy - orange:toiletries & miscellaneous items and meds - white waterproof compression sack: clothes - blue: sleep sack. All the sacks were about the same size so we put the sleep sack in first - the clothes next - the muscellaneous next - then the puffy and finally the rain gear on top. The first aid kit went in Dale's pack since his was larger. In addition on top of everythig we carried oranges - apples - bananas - for quick retreival.  As mentioned above the only item we might replace would be the rain pants and jacket for a poncho - otherwise everything ended up being just what we needed. 

If you are planning your own Camino and would like to discuss this with us please send an email to either Dale at CaminoDale@Gmail.com  or Arlene at CaminoArlene@Gmail.com

Buen Camino
Dale & Arlene