Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Weight Matters

In the previous post "size matters" - we mentioned that it was important  to limit the amount of gear that we would be carrying in our back pack. Taking lightweight compressible technical items will help to save weight and space - allowing us to carry a smaller sized back pack. At this point our list includes the following items and weights (in kilograms)
                  Item                                              weight/Kg - Arlene             weight/Kg - Dale 

1.  Back pack/rain cover/tubing                                  1.45                               1.45 
2.  Sleeping bag                                                          0.77                               0.77 
3.  Undies - 2 pair to carry                                          0.06                               0.145 
4.  Bra - 2 pair                                                             0.09                                 0
5.  Wool socks - 2 pair                                                0.196                             0.23 
6.  Wool liner socks - 2 pair                                        0.087                             0.107 
7.  Tech t-shirt short sleeve                                         0.14                               0.154 
8.  Tech t-shirt long sleeve                                           0.2                                0.293 
9.  Rain jacket/pants/stuff sack                                    0.541                            0.669 
10. Zip off convertible pants                                         0.32                             0.398 
11. Quick dry towel                                                       0.186                           0.186 
12. Toothbrush                                                              0.013                           0.013 
13.  Toothpaste                                                            0.028                            0.028 
14.  Headlight                                                               0.092                            0.092 
15.  Extra batteries                                                       0.031                            0.031 
16.  Guidebook                                                                0                                0.303 
17.  Canon Elph Camera + charger                                0                                 0.214 
18.  iPhone + charger                                                   0.195                            0.195 
19.  Down jacket   "puffy"                                              0.316                            0.450
20.  1.8L platypus biz zip bag only                                0.9                                0.9 

Total Kg                                                                        5.615                            6.628 
Total lbs                                                                      12.353                          14.582

 Water will increase the weight by 1Kg per liter - we will not completely fill the bladder - so we will add about 1.5Kg with water.

This list is constantly being reviewed and modified - as of today this is our list. A few items we will add when we we get to the Camino since we intend on carrying our back packs on the plane - so we cannot carry knives and some first aid supplies. We will buy in Spain and add then. 

From everything we have read on the Camino forum and elsewhere - our weight should be good - keeping the basic weight including the back pack to under 7 Kg.

We will update in future posts and publish a final list before we actually leave.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

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 

Equipment list

Today we are providing a list of the items that we will take with us on our camino. In regards to clothing - we will wear one and carry one. In order to keep the weight of our backpacks to a minimum we are forced to become minimalists - carrying as little as possible and as light as possible. The goal is to be able to walk as if you were carrying nothing more on yourself than the clothes you wear. 

Our List
backpack with raincover
sleeping bag
undies x 3
bra x 2
wool socks x 3
liner socks x 3
t-shirt short sleeve
long sleeve shirt
rain jacket
rain pants
convertible cargo pants 
walking shorts
quick dri towel
light weight sandals
travel toothpaste
extra batteries
camera + charger
iPhone + charger
safety pins
down jacket
1.8L platypus hydration bladder 
Passport + Drivers License
Insurance Cards + Travel Documents
Small wallet w/credit card + ATM card + money

As it stands this is all we will carry. No pillow? Our extra clothes will be carried in a waterproof stuff sack and we will use that as a pillow. Since we will be walking in August - September - October we can get away with shorts for most of the time except for early mornings when there is a chill. For those times we wear the convertible pants and convert to shorts as the day warms up or we wear our rain pants over shorts and remove them later in the day. If our t-shirt and long sleeve shirt does not provide enough warmth then we can layer on the down jacket and in worst case senario - add the rain jacket which will be a great windbreak and add warmth. Since Dale loves cooler weather - he will not have the same warmth issues that Arlene will. Layering with two shirts + down jacket + rain jacket should be more than enough to keep Arlene warm. 

In addition to the above items we do have the hiking boots, the trekking poles and a sun hat.
Food items will be purchased on the walk and should be readily available. Our iPhones will have music - and apps for language translator - daily Breviary.

As with everything - we are constantly evaluating - adjusting - so this list could grow a little or it could shrink - but right now we do not see anything that is excessive except the iPad. The iPad is coming along because we intend to do daily blogging and Dale will attempt to keep his Deacon blog posts current also - as long as we are able to find wi-fi.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Walking Aids

Once we settled on our hiking boots we learned that we should also use trekking poles. They are very similar to ski poles and if used properly help reduce the strain on the hips and knees. Some perrigrinos like to use a single walking stick - coming from a health care background - we knew it was better to do a proper balancing act - i.e. use dual poles. Trekking poles - we are told - are mandatory on the hills. They help you keep your balance on the uneven terrain - especially on the down hill descent. Our biggest concern is to maintain our balance - if we can accomplish that - we should be able to avoid any ankle or knee issues.

PaceMaker Poles **Note The Tips 

There are a lot of different trekking poles available. To start with we purchased some inexpensive ones - we are testing those and learning how to properly use them. There is a technique to get the maximum benefit from them. We may upgrade to better poles as we continue in our training - for now what we have seem to suffice. There are some ultralight - compact poles that we may take with us - our concern is being able to carry on the airplane - as many airlines insist they must be checked. We have time to figure this issue out.  **Shown above are the poles we decided to use - lightweight - cork grips - multi-tipped tips. 

The other important walking aid is a water container. The two options are carrying a water bottle or a hydration bladder. The bottle slips into a side pocket on the backpack - the hydration bladder fits inside the backpack with a drink tube that snakes its way along the backpack straps and hangs by your chest. We tried both and selected the hydration bladder. It was too difficult to reach around our backs to insert the water bottle into the side pocket after drinking. The bladder keeps the drink tube right at chest level and is more convenient. 

We purchased the Platypus Big Zip which fits nicely inside our backpack. It is easy to fill and holds 1.8 liters (60 ounces) of water which should be more than enough as water is readily available along the Camino. 

Keeping our balance by making sure the weight of our backpack is evenly distributed and using  trekking poles as we walk and having a readily accessible source of water to keep us hydrated will help assure that our Camino will be successful.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hiking Boots

The most important piece of equipment that we need to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela is a very good pair of hiking boots. When we were researching information we learned that this is one of the hottest topics - boots - shoes - sandals - barefoot? Yes we have read that every once in awhile someone attempts to walk the Camino barefoot. Unless you have been raised all your life going barefoot - or are one of those African runners who have unbelievably well conditioned feet - I would not even think about going barefoot on the Camino. Over the course of 790 kilometers - i.e. 500 miles - we will walk on asphalt (in the hot sun - need I say more) - gravel - grass - mud - and everything in between. We will walk on flat terrain - hilly terrain - over streams - wooden walkways - rocky mountains. If we were much younger - we might attempt this walk with a good pair of athletic shoes - but alas - we are older - and hopefully wiser. The shoe of choice by the majority of older peregrinos - is hiking boots. Even in this category - there is a choice between lo-cut, mid-height - full height. To make it more interesting you also have backpacking boots - hiking boots - trail boots and lightweight and heavyweight. As you can see - this is not a choice made lightly or quickly. We did know we wanted a boot that would give us ankle support for going up and more importantly going down hills - also with a hard sole - i.e. Vibram - that would be able to stand up to the varying terrain and last the entire 500 miles.  

Luckily we were aimed at REI - what began as a group of 23 mountain climbing buddies is now the nation's largest consumer cooperative - focusing on outdoors sports - equipment - supplies. The one thing about REI that we have grown to love is their 100% satisfaction return policy. This means that although both of us are now on our third pair of hiking boots - we have not lost any of our investment in this particular item. There are other products that we have purchased - took home - weighed - packed into our backpack - and decided to return - either for a different model - size - brand - or just decided that we really didn't need it in the first place. Equipping yourself for the Camino is a lot of trial and error - we are learning quickly - how much trial and error. 

At this time we both ended up with Vasque Breeze 2.0 Mid GTX Hiking Boots which seem to be working out just fine. 
Along with the hiking boots we purchased wool socks. I had no idea that wool - especially merino wool - is the preferred sock that hikers wear. For especially long hikes - like the Camino - it is recommended that you wear a thin wool liner sock inside the wool hiking sock. So far - so good. As soon as the temperature gets a bit warmer we can resume our outdoors training - so for the time being - we wear them around the house - and spend our walking time on the treadmill at Planet Fitness.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Buen Camino

If you read anything on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela you will notice very often the article or post will end with "buen camino". So what does that mean? Buen in Spanish means good. Camino has numerous meanings - 
manera, forma, camino, modo, medio, vía
carretera, camino, calle, ruta, calzada, firme
camino, trayectoria, sendero, recorrido, paso, pista
viaje, camino, trayecto, ruta
pista, vía, rastro, trayectoria, camino, huella
sendero, rastro, camino, pista, recorrido, estela
camino, senda, acera, vereda
curso, transcurso, rumbo, camino, proceso, trayecto
línea, fila, cola, renglón, vía, camino
avenida, camino, rambla
carril, calle, vía, camino, banda, callejón

Pilgrims - in Spanish - peregrinos - offer this greeting to each other as they pass by - wishing their fellow pilgrims a safe and happy journey. This greeting is not just for The Way of St James in Spain - it is very apropo - fitting - to offer this to anyone - as all of us are on some kind of journey as we pass by each other in this life.  Buen camino = good journey.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene - peregrinos in training

Getting Organized

It was very important to us that we gather our thoughts and spend time organizing the tasks that we had before us. Our first impulse was to run out and start buying gear once we knew what we needed. That was our first impulse - the second impulse was to stay away from the stores and focus instead on the training. Again we wanted to jump right in and start walking and cross-training - that was an initial impulse - the better decision was to ask just what we hoped to accomplish with our training routine and then research and design a proper program. After reading numerous posts on the Camino Forum we had a good idea of how to train. We quickly realized that the training would be the most important task on the project. After all - we could go to the health club and do a workout - then go shopping. Better to train first - shop second. We already had all the workout clothes since we have belonged to a health club for the last five or six years - so that was easy.  Let me pause here and say that our current club is Planet Fitness.

We really like this place. It is inexpensive - open almost 24/7 - but most of all they promote the idea of "the judgement free zone". It is clean and modern - loaded with everything you would need - and the atmosphere is excellent. Neither of us loves working out - it is unnatural to exercise - there are a lot of other things that most people would rather be doing.  At Planet Fitness nobody is judging you - how fast you run or walk - how much weight you put on a machine - how you are dressed. It truly is a no judgement zone - basic fitness in a friendly and healthy environment.  That makes it easy to focus mainly on our routine.  We do aerobic exercises and some weights. Building endurance and stability in the joints - especially the hips,knees and ankles - is our goal. In the process we will lose some weight - which will be nice to help offset the weight of the back packs that will become a permanent part of us for those six weeks. We spend anywhere from sixty to ninety minutes at the club - four days a week. Right now during the mid-western winters we will do the majority of our training inside. As soon as it warms up - we will hit the trails and hills.

The training will continue for the next six months up until we board the airplane. In the meantime - we also are testing gear and making final decisions on what to keep and what to return.  Next - the gear.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Monday, February 4, 2013

Our Plans

At the beginning we will not be making daily posts on this blog. We will continue to fill you in on where we are - what we have done - what we intend to do. We will discuss all the important aspects of preparation - how we plan to train - with updates on how the training goes - equipment lists and the selection process. We will also be recommending some products - and giving reviews on how they hold up during training. The final part of this experience will be the actual walk. Our plans are to make daily posts with pictures - assuming we have an internet connection - so those at home can follow our progress and experience the Camino with us. On our return we will prepare a presentation that will cover everything.

Pilgrims on the Camino

Over the course of the next week or so we will be doing numerous posts to bring you up to our present point. Once that task is accomplished - the posts will probably be once or twice weekly until we arrive at our start day. So enjoy our posts and feel free to make comments and ask questions. This should be interesting - to say the least - for all of us.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Way

All this started after my wife and I viewed the movie "The Way" by Emilio Estevez and starring his father Martin Sheen. It was a good movie - I enjoyed watching the characters develop as the movie went on. I also found it inspirational for a number of reasons. Almost as soon as it ended - my wife turned to me and asked if I wanted to walk the Camino. My first reaction was to go to my computer to look it up and verify that it was real and not some fiction invented by Emilio. To my surprise - it was true. I then asked her if she was serious - to which she replied - yes.  And thus began our journey. So far we have watched the movie five times - each time we notice different things about the terrain - the hills and valleys. In addition we have been reading - books and guides to assist those who are preparing for "one really long walk". We have also joined a Camino Forum and have been reading comments and helpful hints by those who have walked before us.

El Camino de Santiago Sign

We have been researching equipment - what we need - comparing reviews - verifying the quality. The most critical component of all these items is the weight. To carry enough to survive for approximately five to six weeks - while maintaining a light load - is the big challenge. We have bought and returned numerous items. We started with one back pack only to return for another. Both of us are now on our third pair of hiking boots. Some items like wool socks and sock liners are easy to purchase and keep. Other items need to be tested and tried over and over again to make sure we select the correct one.  It is a bit exhausting - but we are making headway. Through it all we are making progress - as we will experience on the Camino itself - one step at a time.

Buen Camino 
Dale and Arlene


The Journey Begins

Today begins our official journey - at least on this Blog - sharing our experiences about preparing to walk the Camino. We are in the early stages of training and selecting equipment and supplies. Future posts will cover everything that we are doing to prepare for our journey this fall of 2013.

Just to give you a little feel I am including this video from You Tube from a pilgrim walker from this past July 2012. I think it captures some of what the Camino is all about. Please click below. 


Buen Camino
Dale & Arlene